mustapha_mond wrote:I'm facing the exact same decision as OP right now. The struggle is real.
I know it's illogical to even consider Harvard, but momentous life choices are often driven by emotion. I'm sure that for those of us who dreamed of a legal career as kids, we imagined beginning it at Harvard, not NYU. Harvard is just so sexy, and I think the sixth category of people who attend are those who are seduced by their dream.
So far, the message I've gotten from talking to practicing attorneys can be summed up as: "There is no right answer. A Harvard degree is special and always receives special consideration, but that debt will limit your decisions for at least the next decade."
I can do math. I keep a budget. I pay my own bills. This is an adult decision, and I am painfully aware of just how much $200k debt will suck. I keep trying to remind myself of lapolicia's point about being able to actually buy a Manhattan apartment on NYC BigLaw salaries a few years after NYU. The prospect of achieving life goals like that sooner puts this decision and the debt in very real terms for me, but still I can't shake the allure of a Harvard JD!
Lawyers and lay people alike tend to assume you went to the best law school you could, and I can't put "turned down Harvard Law" on my resume. Maybe that's worth $200k of indentured servitude to OP and me? Which piece of paper in our offices for as long as we practice law
talk some sense in to me
Disclaimer: I go to NYU. Five comments on what you've said. First, people do not always assume that you went to the very best school to which you were admitted. There's a lot of movement within the bands (Top 3, CCN) and more movement than you might assume (from the outside, as an applicant) within the T6 and T14. We have a not insignificant number of people here who got into YHS and opted for NYU because of scholarships (virtually every RTK, Furman and IILJ recipient and a fair number of Ann Bryce Scholars) as well as a smaller, idiosyncratic group that picked NYU for subjective reasons (either they liked the school better or had family ties). All of which to say, the data are not as cut-and-dry as "law students went to the best school to which they were admitted." Anyone who's been to a top law school knows that. Second, I'm more than a little surprised to hear that practitioners are telling you there's a meaningful difference between NYU and H degrees. The data we have on Biglaw and BigFed don't support that conclusion. NYU placed more students in Biglaw than Harvard this year, as it has for many years in the past. Columbia ranked first overall in Biglaw placement for the second year in a row. If you're look at the legal field (and your reference to practitioners makes me think that you are) there is simply no ground to believe that H is better than NYU. Anecdotally, I went through OCI (we call it EIW) in 2013, when the market was still depressed, and got a job at a V5 firm despite not being at the top of my class. I have no doubt that the outcome has little to do with me (except inasmuch as I had taken time off before law school and had work experience) and everything to do with a combination of luck and respect for the NYU degree in Biglaw. Third, and more to the point: your resume will indicate that you were recruited by NYU (I'm assuming you received the Vanderbilt Scholarship and will be able to write as much on your application materials) and that you could have gone to other schools, including H. If you're talking about lay people when you mention not being able to say that you got into Harvard (though they probably wouldn't see your resume, I imagine), that's a different story and seems to me to have more to do with pride (which I don't mean to delegitimize) than other substantive considerations. Fourth, portability: yes, outside of the legal field and abroad your degree from H will carry more prestige. That is undoubtedly true. I would ask you, though, to question the link between prestige and opportunity. As others have said in various threads, your professional reputation will account for much more of the opportunity you get mid-career than anything else. Prestige will be a component of professional reputation, but a vanishingly small part. Lastly, I can't quite figure out whether you actually believe that H is worth 200k more ("A Harvard degree is always special") or whether you prefer it subjectively ("talk some sense in to me"). I think you have to commit to one or another position and reason from there. If you prefer H for subjective or idiosyncratic reasons but try to defend your choice in cost-benefit terms, the argument will fare poorly because wrong.