What's the deal with Harvard students?

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LetsGoMets
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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby LetsGoMets » Wed Mar 18, 2015 10:15 am

bklynlady wrote:
Tiago Splitter wrote:
LetsGoMets wrote:Does anyone, possibly the HLS students who have dropped in, want to comment more on how Harvard's fairly generous LRAP (aka LIPP) factors into these calculations? Thinking back more that was definitely an answer I got from a few of the kids I talked to, who said something along the lines of "well, Harvard doesn't give merit aid on the front end, but they help you on the back end by paying off your loans through LIPP", which sounded questionable to me, but may not be totally baseless. I haven't spent a lot of time looking at other schools' LRAPs, but one point the financial aid reps hammered on in their presentation was that unlike at other schools, LIPP isn't tied to any government programs (PSLF, PAYE, etc), covers any JD-required job, lets you go in and out of the program as needed, and is calculated simply on how much debt you have and what your income is.

It sounded a little too good to be true, and looking deeper into the information they gave it definitely looks like there's a donut hole of sorts where you can be making too much to qualify, but not enough to make your loan payments and still have a livable amount of take-home pay. Nonetheless I was surprised by how generous it sounded overall, particularly in the sense that it might remove some of the pressure to stay in a Biglaw job because of debt, since in theory if you go from 160k to 60k, you can immediately start getting LIPP assistance.

It's great if you aren't planning to go into biglaw and then do the traditional private sector post-biglaw stuff a lot of people do. If you are planning on that path then odds are very high you'll have to pay it all back out of your own pocket anyways.

bklynlady wrote:What about turning down a Butler (1/2 tuition) at CLS to go to HLS? Throw into the equation that I live in NYC and cost of living would be much less for me than moving to Boston. And how would an approx. 3/4 tuition scholarship at NYU size up against HLS?

Both are preferable to H if you plan to get a job where you'll need to pay back all your debt.

To echo Mr. Met, how does LRAP figure into that? And for LRAP, do they include spousal income into paying that back? If so, if your spouse makes a decent salary and you decide to ditch biglaw, you may still be stuck with the debt...anyone know anything about this?


I do remember specifically that with Harvard's LIPP, if you are or get married while in the program, they use the average of your and your spouse's income to calculate your contribution.

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby Gucci Mane » Wed Mar 18, 2015 10:17 am

You are underestimating how much prestige and name recognition matters to most top law school students. I went to Harvard's ASW too and received variations of "It's Harvard!!" as the most common reason for attending over scholarships at lower-ranked schools. Admittedly there is probably some self-selection for people who could afford to travel to Cambridge in the middle of March and take off at least one weekday. Also, I am choosing between H and CCN scholarships, and can testify that the vast majority of people of all education levels have recommended me to take Harvard because "it's Harvard!". Don't underestimate the power of social influence.

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby LetsGoMets » Wed Mar 18, 2015 10:19 am

Tiago Splitter wrote:
LetsGoMets wrote:Does anyone, possibly the HLS students who have dropped in, want to comment more on how Harvard's fairly generous LRAP (aka LIPP) factors into these calculations? Thinking back more that was definitely an answer I got from a few of the kids I talked to, who said something along the lines of "well, Harvard doesn't give merit aid on the front end, but they help you on the back end by paying off your loans through LIPP", which sounded questionable to me, but may not be totally baseless. I haven't spent a lot of time looking at other schools' LRAPs, but one point the financial aid reps hammered on in their presentation was that unlike at other schools, LIPP isn't tied to any government programs (PSLF, PAYE, etc), covers any JD-required job, lets you go in and out of the program as needed, and is calculated simply on how much debt you have and what your income is.

It sounded a little too good to be true, and looking deeper into the information they gave it definitely looks like there's a donut hole of sorts where you can be making too much to qualify, but not enough to make your loan payments and still have a livable amount of take-home pay. Nonetheless I was surprised by how generous it sounded overall, particularly in the sense that it might remove some of the pressure to stay in a Biglaw job because of debt, since in theory if you go from 160k to 60k, you can immediately start getting LIPP assistance.

It's great if you aren't planning to go into biglaw and then do the traditional private sector post-biglaw stuff a lot of people do. If you are planning on that path then odds are very high you'll have to pay it all back out of your own pocket anyways.


Interesting, thanks. For those specifically on a public sector path, it does sound like it changes the calculation a bit (although it's clear the number of people that ultimately end up going that way post-OCI versus the number who planned to do it as 0Ls is relatively small).

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby Tiago Splitter » Wed Mar 18, 2015 10:31 am

If you're on the low paying PI path, like public defender, you're not going to pay much if any of your loans so the debt doesn't matter. If you're on the medium pay path, like government, the debt could suck for ten years because you'll likely have to pay a pretty big chunk until PSLF wipes it away. But Harvard does increase gov odds so it's a little tricky. If you're on the private sector path full debt for Harvard is straight up insane.

And yes everyone claims to not be on the private sector, get a job via OCI and coast for two years, path when they start law school. If you're one of the small percentage who is serious about this then maybe Harvard is for you, but you need to be brutally honest with yourself. The path of least resistance is usually just too appealing.

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby UnicornHunter » Wed Mar 18, 2015 10:39 am

Tiago Splitter wrote:If you're on the low paying PI path, like public defender, you're not going to pay much if any of your loans so the debt doesn't matter. If you're on the medium pay path, like government, the debt could suck for ten years because you'll likely have to pay a pretty big chunk until PSLF wipes it away. But Harvard does increase gov odds so it's a little tricky. If you're on the private sector path full debt for Harvard is straight up insane.

And yes everyone claims to not be on the private sector, get a job via OCI and coast for two years, path when they start law school. If you're one of the small percentage who is serious about this then maybe Harvard is for you, but you need to be brutally honest with yourself. The path of least resistance is usually just too appealing.


Even here, I still think that the slight increase in odds is outweighed by the huge boost to flexibility of minimizing debt. Maybe it makes sense to rely on repayment programs if you're 100% committed to being a PD, but if you want to be a federal prosecutor or do regulatory work a normal career will have you doing time in both the private and public sector.

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Tiago Splitter
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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby Tiago Splitter » Wed Mar 18, 2015 10:43 am

Yeah I'm thinking the odds boost could be worth it for someone who doesn't have a full ride. Paying 10-20k tuition plus living expenses still puts you in a tough spot.

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby bklynlady » Wed Mar 18, 2015 10:45 am

TheUnicornHunter wrote:
Tiago Splitter wrote:If you're on the low paying PI path, like public defender, you're not going to pay much if any of your loans so the debt doesn't matter. If you're on the medium pay path, like government, the debt could suck for ten years because you'll likely have to pay a pretty big chunk until PSLF wipes it away. But Harvard does increase gov odds so it's a little tricky. If you're on the private sector path full debt for Harvard is straight up insane.

And yes everyone claims to not be on the private sector, get a job via OCI and coast for two years, path when they start law school. If you're one of the small percentage who is serious about this then maybe Harvard is for you, but you need to be brutally honest with yourself. The path of least resistance is usually just too appealing.


Even here, I still think that the slight increase in odds is outweighed by the huge boost to flexibility of minimizing debt. Maybe it makes sense to rely on repayment programs if you're 100% committed to being a PD, but if you want to be a federal prosecutor or do regulatory work a normal career will have you doing time in both the private and public sector.

Maybe this is a stupid question, but if I am 100% to being in the public sector, why would I bother at all with HLS? And to give up a Hamilton? I thought the big deal with H was to go into either biglaw or government.. Also, back to a earlier topic, what happens to the Hamiltons that are given up to go to H? Has anyone every been able to re-negotiate with CLS to upgrade a Butler to a Hamilton with acceptance to H as the bargaining point?

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby UnicornHunter » Wed Mar 18, 2015 11:00 am

bklynlady wrote:
TheUnicornHunter wrote:
Tiago Splitter wrote:If you're on the low paying PI path, like public defender, you're not going to pay much if any of your loans so the debt doesn't matter. If you're on the medium pay path, like government, the debt could suck for ten years because you'll likely have to pay a pretty big chunk until PSLF wipes it away. But Harvard does increase gov odds so it's a little tricky. If you're on the private sector path full debt for Harvard is straight up insane.

And yes everyone claims to not be on the private sector, get a job via OCI and coast for two years, path when they start law school. If you're one of the small percentage who is serious about this then maybe Harvard is for you, but you need to be brutally honest with yourself. The path of least resistance is usually just too appealing.


Even here, I still think that the slight increase in odds is outweighed by the huge boost to flexibility of minimizing debt. Maybe it makes sense to rely on repayment programs if you're 100% committed to being a PD, but if you want to be a federal prosecutor or do regulatory work a normal career will have you doing time in both the private and public sector.

Maybe this is a stupid question, but if I am 100% to being in the public sector, why would I bother at all with HLS? And to give up a Hamilton? I thought the big deal with H was to go into either biglaw or government.. Also, back to a earlier topic, what happens to the Hamiltons that are given up to go to H? Has anyone every been able to re-negotiate with CLS to upgrade a Butler to a Hamilton with acceptance to H as the bargaining point?


I mean, I guess it depends on what you mean by "public sector" but yea, I can't think of too many reasons I would pay significantly more money to go to H than to Columbia ($15-20K a year, max, sounds about right to me).

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby Tiago Splitter » Wed Mar 18, 2015 11:03 am

bklynlady wrote: Maybe this is a stupid question, but if I am 100% to being in the public sector, why would I bother at all with HLS? And to give up a Hamilton? I thought the big deal with H was to go into either biglaw or government.. Also, back to a earlier topic, what happens to the Hamiltons that are given up to go to H? Has anyone every been able to re-negotiate with CLS to upgrade a Butler to a Hamilton with acceptance to H as the bargaining point?

You'll still be 60-70k in debt for living expenses, which won't be paid off with a 40-50k salary for ten years.

I haven't heard of anyone getting a Hamilton if they weren't offered one with their acceptance. The ABA disclosures show just 13 people in the entire school getting full tuition.

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby abl » Wed Mar 18, 2015 12:18 pm

TheUnicornHunter wrote:A lot of experts in the burgeoning field of law school and economics ITT.

At the end of the day, I think jbagel's got the strongest normative and descriptive argument*. If you want to maximize flexibility, minimizing debt (or if you're rich, maximizing savings**) is the best way to do it. The stats speak for themselves: the overwhelming majority of T6 grads end up at the same places. It might be easy to say you value some unicorn outcome (say AUSA) at $1,000,000+ or whatever our law school and econ experts think would justify sticker at H> a ruby before you've even looked at the AUSA payscale,*** but it's much harder to do when you're looking at $300,000 of debt. Given that most AUSA's only stay in their positions for 5 years or so, you can't even say "but PSLF". The argument against unnecessary debt is even stronger when you consider that a lot of the unicorn jobs people want coming into law school (politics, art, sports, small/mid market firm work) are NOT PSLF eligible. By taking on additional debt in order to "keep doors open," people are actually reducing the odds that they'll end up in one of these fields. To answer OP's original question, the only way to explain the vast majority of H students who turned down full-rides at CCN is that they either didn't take the time to fully understand what they were getting into or that they're coming from rich families and it really didn't matter.



*Yale's LRAP is so broad that my argument might not apply to it.
** I don't understand why TLS treats no debt as synonymous with no cost. Even for relatively wealthy families who have saved up enough to pay for law school, $200,000 is going to be a significant amount of $$$ for most.
*** Spoiler alert: it's shitty.


A couple of points:

1. I think we probably all agree that on the margins, less debt = more job flexibility. The question is whether (and when) that outweighs the marginal increase in job possibilities that comes with attending Harvard over Columbia. Like everything else, it's a spectrum--for most people choosing between a $145k job and a $160k job, having $10,000 in student loans will have a vanishingly small impact on their decisions. On the other hand, for most people choosing between a $40k job and a $160k job, having $200,000 in debt that they have to repay will play a very significant role in their decision. The complicating factor here is that few, if any, HLS students who are $200,000 in debt who make $40k actually have to repay any of their debt. Thus, looking just at debt and salary misses what's really important: monthly or yearly loan repayment demands. Harvard's loan repayment program essentially makes those demands $0 for many (most?) folks going into public interest--which makes the effective difference between Harvard at any amount of debt and Columbia at no debt close to $0. I'm arguing that because relatively few legal jobs either pay too little to service Harvard-level debt or pay too much to qualify for Harvard LIPP benefits, the loss of job flexibility due to debt is reasonably small. (Even looking at those few jobs that do fall into the sweet spot, the availability of the federal loan repayment options decreases the loan repayment burden sufficiently that even these jobs may be realistically financially available to a law student with massive debt.) The question is not whether $180k is a lot of money -- it's whether the actual repayment burdens associated with $180k in Harvard Law School debt, given LIPP and PAYE and the actual salaries of desired jobs, is sufficient to financially constrain the job choices of Harvard graduates. I think the answer is that it is generally not.

2. You also argue that because "the overwhelming majority of T6 grads end up at the same places," whatever advantages are conferred by Harvard must be minimal. First, I disagree with your statement -- the employment outcomes of Harvard and Columbia are, at the very least, noticeably different. Harvard students are about 2.5x more likely to land federal clerkships and about 3x as likely to land prestigious PI positions like Skadden Fellowships--and are about 20% less likely to end up in biglaw. Moreover, even within these broad strokes, the numbers mask much of the difference. Not all NLJ 250 firms, federal clerkships, or public interest employment are created equal, and I am confident that if the numbers existed, it would be evident that Harvard students are more likely to get better positions within those broad groupings than Columbia students--e.g., more likely to be at the most desirable vault firms, have the most desirable fed clerkships, get the most desirable PI positions, etc. Because the numbers don't exist, I'm not going to venture a guess as to what the difference is: but I think it's safe to say that the numbers are almost certain to understate the difference.

Second, and even more importantly, even if the numbers reflected the employment situation exactly as it is, looking broadly at the numbers to a large extent misses the point. A large number of students at Harvard and Columbia choose biglaw. I suspect that nobody on this board is going to dispute that for a Harvard or Columbia student, biglaw is the easiest employment option to find yourself in--the jobs are prestigious, pay well, and pipeline is strong. As a consequence, for a large swath of the Harvard and Columbia student body, biglaw is their first choice. Including these students in the denominator understates the difference between the schools: these students are not seeking non-biglaw options, so the fact that they ended up in biglaw doesn't indicate that they couldn't have gone elsewhere. Moreover, we are not arguing about these students--I think we all agree on this board that for the prospective student who wants nothing more than biglaw (and is only outcomes-driven, etc), the marginal advantage of Harvard does not justify $180k in debt. (It's probably worth noting that only a small minority of Harvard admits are actually choosing between Harvard at full tuition and CCN at full scholarship.) The relevant question isn't how many folks at Harvard end up in biglaw relative to Columbia. It's how many folks at Harvard end up in biglaw despite preferring a different career path relative to Columbia. Once again, the numbers just don't exist for this--but I think it's safe to say that the numbers that do exist understate the difference between Harvard and Columbia. (For example, if we assume--very conservatively--that only 25% of Harvard and Columbia students actually prefer biglaw, that means that 40% of Columbia students (65%-20%) end up in biglaw as a sub-optimal choice, while 28% of Harvard students (53%-25%) end up in biglaw as a sub-optimal choice. Thus, according to this conservative estimate, going to Columbia rather than Harvard increases your chances of this sub-optimal route by 160%. If the actual number is closer to 50%, that leaves you with 15% of Columbia students who are doing biglaw as a second choice as compared with 3% of Harvard students. I would argue that the best indicator of what percentage of these student bodies actually prefers biglaw is to look to Yale: ~40% (which would indicate that about 25% of Columbia students end up in biglaw when they would prefer to be elsewhere, whereas only about 13% of Harvard students do).)
Last edited by abl on Wed Mar 18, 2015 12:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby Tiago Splitter » Wed Mar 18, 2015 12:24 pm

Why are we assuming everyone from Harvard who clerks after graduation doesn't go on to biglaw?

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby abl » Wed Mar 18, 2015 12:30 pm

Tiago Splitter wrote:Why are we assuming everyone from Harvard who clerks after graduation doesn't go on to biglaw?


The question here is what value does Harvard add over Columbia. For many, a federal clerkship has substantial value (that would justify a greater level of debt). It therefore counts as an opened door that adds value--and this is true whether or not a clerk enters biglaw post-clerkship.

This gives rise, of course, to the follow-up question: how much value does a clerkship add (and what level of additional debt would it therefore justify). But this is a question of subjective valuation, and we're generally--wisely--trying to avoid those questions in this thread.

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby Desert Fox » Wed Mar 18, 2015 12:35 pm

abl wrote:
Tiago Splitter wrote:Why are we assuming everyone from Harvard who clerks after graduation doesn't go on to biglaw?


The question here is what value does Harvard add over Columbia. For many, a federal clerkship has substantial value (that would justify a greater level of debt). It therefore counts as an opened door that adds value--and this is true whether or not a clerk enters biglaw post-clerkship.

This gives rise, of course, to the follow-up question: how much value does a clerkship add (and what level of additional debt would it therefore justify). But this is a question of subjective valuation, and we're generally--wisely--trying to avoid those questions in this thread.


Bullshit, it's just a way to justify prestige whoring. OH the CLERKSHIPS! I MUST DO ONE, NOW DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO TURN DOWN 150k?>

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby abl » Wed Mar 18, 2015 12:41 pm

Desert Fox wrote:
abl wrote:
Tiago Splitter wrote:Why are we assuming everyone from Harvard who clerks after graduation doesn't go on to biglaw?


The question here is what value does Harvard add over Columbia. For many, a federal clerkship has substantial value (that would justify a greater level of debt). It therefore counts as an opened door that adds value--and this is true whether or not a clerk enters biglaw post-clerkship.

This gives rise, of course, to the follow-up question: how much value does a clerkship add (and what level of additional debt would it therefore justify). But this is a question of subjective valuation, and we're generally--wisely--trying to avoid those questions in this thread.


Bullshit, it's just a way to justify prestige whoring. OH the CLERKSHIPS! I MUST DO ONE, NOW DOES IT MAKE SENSE TO TURN DOWN 150k?>


What are you calling bullshit? Are you saying clerkships do not have objective value? Or that people who say they subjectively value clerkships are lying? Why does it even matter? If Joe Schmo places personal value on the prestige of the name "Harvard," he should pay more to attend Harvard. Ditto clerkships. You may disagree with Joe, and demean his personal preferences, but that does not render his choices irrational or inappropriate. Or, are you saying that few law students actually place any value on clerkships?

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby Desert Fox » Wed Mar 18, 2015 12:56 pm

I'm saying people on TLS use the difference in clerkship placement to rationalize prestige whoring. I also think law students way overvalue clerkships in general. It's a great thing to have on your resume, but not worth a lot of debt. You already lose money doing one due to lost salary.

I'm not sure what clerking's value is, but a dumb ass 0L sure as hell doesn't know. I see a bunch of idiots say, oh you want to clerk, then HARVARD! It is a one year gig and it doesn't revolutionize your career. Almost all just go back to the same firm they were already going to. I'm sure it's a good plus.

I also doubt that the ability to get a clerkship from HLS and CLS is as different as the numbers of people who do clerkships suggests. School culture seems to have an impact on the number of people who even apply for clerkships. A ton of people at schools who probably can get clerkship, don't even apply. It wouldn't surprise me that at Columbia, the focus on the transactional nyc firms depresses clerkship application numbers. There is no reason to clerk if you are doing transactional work. And I bet over half of CLS students going NYC biglaw are doing transactional work.

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby jbagelboy » Wed Mar 18, 2015 1:10 pm

Desert Fox wrote:I'm saying people on TLS use the difference in clerkship placement to rationalize prestige whoring. I also think law students way overvalue clerkships in general. It's a great thing to have on your resume, but not worth a lot of debt. You already lose money doing one due to lost salary.

I'm not sure what clerking's value is, but a dumb ass 0L sure as hell doesn't know. I see a bunch of idiots say, oh you want to clerk, then HARVARD! It is a one year gig and it doesn't revolutionize your career. Almost all just go back to the same firm they were already going to. I'm sure it's a good plus.

I also doubt that the ability to get a clerkship from HLS and CLS is as different as the numbers of people who do clerkships suggests. School culture seems to have an impact on the number of people who even apply for clerkships. A ton of people at schools who probably can get clerkship, don't even apply. It wouldn't surprise me that at Columbia, the focus on the transactional nyc firms depresses clerkship application numbers. There is no reason to clerk if you are doing transactional work. And I bet over half of CLS students going NYC biglaw are doing transactional work.


This is all true. Two other substantial factors other than the transactional part: geographic - CLS students who do try to clerk directly after graduation tend to focus overwhelmingly on 2nd Circuit, SDNY, EDNY and 9th Circuit. Random flyover districts have low value add for CLS students going to major markets. By contrast, clerkship data indicates Harvard and Chicago students play the map more broadly. Secondly, a lot of judges in these districts want post-law school WE, which means people's clerkships lined up for a year after grad aren't reflected in the 9-mo ABA data.

Also, abl's math is wrong. Harvard has traditionally averaged 15-18% clerkships at graduation. CLS and NYU average 7-10%. It's at most x2, sometimes as low as 1.5. And as a sidenote, Chicago posts clerkship numbers within the margin of error of Harvard's. Only Stanford and Yale can seriously claim a significant clerkship advantage over the rest of the T14.

Re: abl's comment about H students having better results within biglaw as a bracket -- elite NY summer associate class numbers don't play this out at all. CLS and HLS send students to top firms in the same proportion to their student population (see recent threads on this). And you can't argue self selection out of firm work here, since H students clerking or going to Gov/fellowship are still spending their 2L summer at large firms.
Last edited by jbagelboy on Wed Mar 18, 2015 1:14 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby hdunlop » Wed Mar 18, 2015 1:12 pm

I'm pretty pro-clerking but this all makes sense to me, because as I understand it the value of clerking -- exposure to lots of law and interesting cases, more time honing research and writing skills, seeing how judges work, and a relatively light workload compared to firm misery -- is there regardless of how prestigious the clerkship is.

The top 3 make it easier to get prestige clerkships but those don't seem to add any practical value except academia maybe, in which case it's already a different conversation. I know you can go at least to Penn and still get clerkships pretty deep into the class if you want them if you're doing it because you really care about the experience and not just prestige whoring; I assume that's true to some extent through the rest of the T14.

So I think the right question isn't, "is a better chance at a clerkship worth $100K" or whatever, even for someone who cares (or thinks they care) about clerking. It's, "is a better chance at not having to live somewhere less desirable for a year or clerk at a state supreme court" or whatever worth $100K. I guess to some extent there's not much value in clerking for the Idaho supreme court when you want to practice in NYC so maybe this isn't completely true, but it gets to the idea.

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby abl » Wed Mar 18, 2015 1:28 pm

Desert Fox wrote:I'm saying people on TLS use the difference in clerkship placement to rationalize prestige whoring. I also think law students way overvalue clerkships in general. It's a great thing to have on your resume, but not worth a lot of debt. You already lose money doing one due to lost salary.

I'm not sure what clerking's value is, but a dumb ass 0L sure as hell doesn't know. I see a bunch of idiots say, oh you want to clerk, then HARVARD! It is a one year gig and it doesn't revolutionize your career. Almost all just go back to the same firm they were already going to. I'm sure it's a good plus.

I also doubt that the ability to get a clerkship from HLS and CLS is as different as the numbers of people who do clerkships suggests. School culture seems to have an impact on the number of people who even apply for clerkships. A ton of people at schools who probably can get clerkship, don't even apply. It wouldn't surprise me that at Columbia, the focus on the transactional nyc firms depresses clerkship application numbers. There is no reason to clerk if you are doing transactional work. And I bet over half of CLS students going NYC biglaw are doing transactional work.


These are all really side points going to what value prospective students should place on one of the various factors differentiating Harvard and Columbia--clerkship placement (which I actually have been citing, along with Skadden figures, more as an indicator of the sort of doors Harvard opens rather than as a specific reason to go to Harvard (although I also do think it's a reason to go to Harvard)). I think it's possible to make a similar argument that the value of NYC biglaw is overstated (for similar prestige reasons + QOL) and that therefore Columbia's NYC placement is really a fairly substantial negative factor that should be considered. I don't think that these sorts of discussions are super productive. Everyone is going to value different things differently. You'd probably have to pay me double market to get me to work at Wachtell--but on the other hand, I'd be happy to give up hundreds of thousands of dollars of future earnings to clerk at the Supreme Court. We could argue about these things until we're blue in the face and still not get anywhere -- because when push comes to shove, different people have (and probably should have) different priorities.

Maybe clerkships tend to be overvalued. I don't think so. You do. (I would actually argue that clerkships are undervalued.) That could be an interesting discussion for another thread. But I think it's a point that everyone here could probably agree that reasonable minds could disagree on.

Incidentally, I've heard this school culture bit thrown around. There might be some truth to it--e.g., Chicago, which is known for being fairly clerkship-focused, may place 50% more of its students (11% vs. 7%) than Columbia due to this self selection. I'm skeptical, though, that it even comes close to accounting for the difference between Columbia and Harvard (let alone the difference between Columbia and Stanford or Yale). I think there are other much more powerful factors at work--such as school size, geography, different grading systems, and differences in institutional support. The fact that NYU (which is not known as being a particularly transactional-focused school) places just about the same as Columbia (which is) implies that cultural differences between schools have at most a very small impact on clerkship rates. So, for example, I do think there's a good chance that Columbia and NYU are geographically hurt--the judges to which the schools are most connected are also some of the most competitive judges in the country (SDNY/EDNY/2nd Cir). Connections matter a fair amount in clerkship placement. Ties, too, can matter in less standard locations--especially outside of big cities. Yet, the region to which Columbia students are most tied is also the region in which ties matter the least. This likely also partially explains why Virginia, Vanderbilt, and Alabama all relatively overperform.

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Desert Fox
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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby Desert Fox » Wed Mar 18, 2015 1:38 pm

How much do you think a clerkship is worth? in dollars.

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby jbagelboy » Wed Mar 18, 2015 1:39 pm

I think you're right abl to some extent about institutional support differences, but in my mind that doesn't speak to the value of the name/degree as to the individual motivation and persistence required to go through what we both know to be a pretty intimidating/harrowing process. As another poster noted about Penn, at several other top schools, many more students could clerk but don't necessarily see the value given the effort. It shouldn't play as large a role in the decision making process between schools for this reason since its so individualized: if you have decent grades and strong connections with a couple faculty, you could make a push for AIII, and this applies regardless.

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby abl » Wed Mar 18, 2015 1:43 pm

hdunlop wrote:I'm pretty pro-clerking but this all makes sense to me, because as I understand it the value of clerking -- exposure to lots of law and interesting cases, more time honing research and writing skills, seeing how judges work, and a relatively light workload compared to firm misery -- is there regardless of how prestigious the clerkship is.

The top 3 make it easier to get prestige clerkships but those don't seem to add any practical value except academia maybe, in which case it's already a different conversation. I know you can go at least to Penn and still get clerkships pretty deep into the class if you want them if you're doing it because you really care about the experience and not just prestige whoring; I assume that's true to some extent through the rest of the T14.

So I think the right question isn't, "is a better chance at a clerkship worth $100K" or whatever, even for someone who cares (or thinks they care) about clerking. It's, "is a better chance at not having to live somewhere less desirable for a year or clerk at a state supreme court" or whatever worth $100K. I guess to some extent there's not much value in clerking for the Idaho supreme court when you want to practice in NYC so maybe this isn't completely true, but it gets to the idea.


The numbers don't support your points: http://excessofdemocracy.com/blog/2014/5/law-school-microranking-federal-judicial-clerkship-placement-2011-2013. There's a big difference between Harvard's three-year average (17.0%) and Penn's (9.6%). I also partially disagree with you about all clerkships being created equal. The experience on an appellate court, for example, is materially different than on a district court. Both have their pluses and minuses, but the experiences are far from fungible. Also, although there are tons of amazing judges in "flyover" districts, the percentage of not-so-great judges is, without a doubt, higher in less desirable districts and circuits. The experience of clerking is VERY dependent on the judge that you clerk with, and going to HYS gives you far more choice in that area than going to Penn (for example). Looking at who gets feeder clerkships is just probably the easiest way to see who has the most ability to choose a clerkship. Obviously if there was some list of the "great experience" clerkships, this would be a better way--but there's not.

Finally, two responses re jdbagelboy.

First, I strongly disagree that random flyover districts have low value add for CLS students going to major markets. I'm also skeptical that clerkship data indicates that Harvard students are more likely to take less desirable clerkships than CLS students (but I've never seen that data). At some point, though, I do recall seeing data from one of YS on the subject, and in the instance of that school, I was very impressed by how concentrated clerks were in desirable circuits/districts, in appellate clerkships, and with desirable judges (In fact, I'm pretty sure that this YS had a comparable percentage of its class doing federal appellate clerkships as Harvard did doing any fed clerkships). Given that YS seem to place not only higher percentages of their classes in clerkships, but higher percentages of clerks in desirable clerkships than other schools, I don't know why Harvard would be any different.

Second, I would argue that elite summer NY summer associate class numbers are maybe the worst indicator of quality of employment--NYC biglaw is not generally the most desirable outcome in my experience. I'd look instead to the elite DC firms (or maybe SF), which is a small, but highly sought-after, market (that also wouldn't have any "home" effects tilting the balance either way). I have no idea what the DC numbers are, incidentally.

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby jbagelboy » Wed Mar 18, 2015 1:48 pm

Desert Fox wrote:How much do you think a clerkship is worth? in dollars.


Abl probably values his/her clerkships in multi-millions of dollars or priceless, since he/she attributes the very prestigious and selective career track that has followed (and all the happiness/satisfaction in life accompanying this career track) to them. I don't think this should be the operative question in a full ride v sticker debate at all though.

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby jbagelboy » Wed Mar 18, 2015 1:56 pm

We made basically the same point about geography in different posts, just with a different inflection.

You're right many more Harvard students go to DC, and if you need to be at a DC firm doing appellate litigation then HLS is worth more over other schools than it is for other markets.

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby abl » Wed Mar 18, 2015 2:00 pm

Desert Fox wrote:How much do you think a clerkship is worth? in dollars.


It totally depends on the clerkship.

Personally, for my clerkship(s)? It's difficult to quantify. Looking at the effect on my career, I got a job I wouldn't have were it not for my clerkship(s). Ironically, I left nearly $200,000 on the table in my first year salary (plus bonus) alone to take my current job (and will probably leave about $500,000 on the table over the next 10 years--assuming I will stick with this job and would have stuck with my previous job). I in no way regret my decision, though, which I think safely means that I value my current job at over $200,000 than what I would have done had I not clerked. So, it's pretty impossible to say what the financial impact of my clerkship was, given that it technically had a (very welcome) negative financial impact on my career (although obviously it nevertheless had a positive added career value--since I value the career that I am in now substantially more than the salary difference).

Moreover, the particulars of my clerking experience were such that I left money on the table simply to clerk (as most clerks do). I would guess that when everything was said and done, I probably would have made well over $100,000 more in the time that I would have spent doing other work. If I had a choice, would I choose to have made that extra $100,000 at that job and not clerked? Absolutely not. Once again, it's an easy call. So I'd be pretty confident in saying that the value in my clerkship(s) to me was well over this $100,000 (and I'd be confident in saying that most clerks, who generally face a similar tradeoff, would wholeheartedly agree here).

Beyond that, it's really hard to say (other than, as jdbagelboy points out, my additional valuation beyond the above is likely both remarkably high and fairly unrepresentative, given the role that my clerkship(s) played in landing me my current job).

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Re: What's the deal with Harvard students?

Postby metroidbum » Wed Mar 18, 2015 2:08 pm

Did this thread really go 5 pages just to say that for NYC Biglaw/Clerking Columbia and NYU are essentially the same as Harvard, but outside of NYC Harvard begins to take on (some) added value?




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