Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

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eddielinsanity

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Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby eddielinsanity » Wed Nov 16, 2016 11:56 pm

I've been interested in becoming a trial lawyer for a long time and I was wondering how the rank of the law school affects opportunities for trial law? I'm asking this because I am currently an undergrad student (in my second year) at my state's flagship school and I've heard that GPA's and LSAT scores matter far more than the prestige for undergraduate institution. I was wondering if transferring to another local state school (less prestigious to have a higher gpa and thus higher chance for a good law school (or more good scholarship money) would be worth it if I'm interested in trial law? Do you think sticking to a more challenging undergrad is worthwhile for better lsat scores or have hidden benefits that people often don't discuss? Or would it be better to transfer to get a higher GPA to get into a better law school/earn some scholarships for perhaps better trial law opportunities?

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby Nebby » Thu Nov 17, 2016 12:55 am

If you're at the run of a mill big state school, then you should be able to do as well in classes than if you went to another state school, imo. Yes, GPA and LSAT are the most important part of the law school admissions process.

Law school rank affects what post grad job opportunities are available to you. Higher ranked schools open more doors at private law firms, and the prestige gives a small boost if you decide to work for government or a nonprofit instead. Law is one of the few professions where your school matters even 20 years after graduating. (whether it should is another question but that's the reality)

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby cavalier1138 » Thu Nov 17, 2016 6:11 am

Everything Nebby said is spot on.

But what do you mean by "trial law"? That's like saying you're interested in writing briefs. It's a very broad term that doesn't tell us anything about where you want to practice and what kind of law you're interested in.

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby Teoeo » Thu Nov 17, 2016 9:09 am

eddielinsanity wrote:I've been interested in becoming a trial lawyer for a long time and I was wondering how the rank of the law school affects opportunities for triallaw? I'm asking this because I am currently an undergrad student (in my second year) at my state's flagship school and I've heard that GPA's and LSAT scores matter far more than the prestige for undergraduate institution. I was wondering if transferring to another local state school (less prestigious to have a higher gpa and thus higher chance for a good law school (or more good scholarship money) would be worth it if I'm interested in trial law? Do you think sticking to a more challenging undergrad is worthwhile for better lsat scores or have hidden benefits that people often don't discuss? Or would it be better to transfer to get a higher GPA to get into a better law school/earn some scholarships for perhaps better triallaw opportunities?


FTFY. Law school rankings matter for all areas of law. Do whatever you can to maximize your GPA/LSAT.

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby KissMyAxe » Thu Nov 17, 2016 10:04 am

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby Teoeo » Thu Nov 17, 2016 10:10 am

KissMyAxe wrote:
Teoeo wrote:
eddielinsanity wrote:I've been interested in becoming a trial lawyer for a long time and I was wondering how the rank of the law school affects opportunities for trial law? I'm asking this because I am currently an undergrad student (in my second year) at my state's flagship school and I've heard that GPA's and LSAT scores matter far more than the prestige for undergraduate institution. I was wondering if transferring to another local state school (less prestigious to have a higher gpa and thus higher chance for a good law school (or more good scholarship money) would be worth it if I'm interested in trial law? Do you think sticking to a more challenging undergrad is worthwhile for better lsat scores or have hidden benefits that people often don't discuss? Or would it be better to transfer to get a higher GPA to get into a better law school/earn some scholarships for perhaps better trial law opportunities?


FTFY. Law school rankings matter for all areas of law. Do whatever you can to maximize your GPA/LSAT.


Fixed it back. Teoeo, your opinion is bad and you should feel bad. Depending on the trial work OP wants to do, rankings may be absolutely irrelevant. Actually, I'd argue that outside of a few jobs (biglaw, clerkships, academia) rankings are pointless most of the time any way. Outside of Yale and Harvard, all schools have spheres of influence in which they do well in. Sure, a school like George Washington might do OK in the DC, Virginia area, but if you want to practice elsewhere, you'd be stupid to choose it over a good regional school in the region you do want to practice. Similarly, if someone wants to do trial work at the state level, going to that state's flagship school is probably the best move. For example, if someone wanted to be a state trial attorney in Georgia, it would be insane to go to Cornell over UGA (where you presumably have a very large scholarship). T14s are not meant to train attorneys for trial work, but corporate law and academia. One of my profs, a very well known professor, predicted that our class of 60 would have less than 20 trials total in their entire career.

Now, rankings do start to matter if we're talking about high level appellate litigation. But in the scenario you landed one of these competitive boutiques (in which case you probably attended HYS, kicked ass, and landed a COA clerkship), you probably won't be the one doing the oral arguments, and that level of work is 99% paperwork.

So yeah, with few exceptions, trial work, whether you're going to be a prosecutor, a public defender, or a small firm lawyer, really depends more on connections and dedication to the cause than the arbitrary ranking of your law school.

But I do agree you should maximize your GPA/LSAT, in order to know all your options and to get more financial aid. OP, if you like your current school though, I wouldn't transfer just for a shot at a higher GPA.


Law school rankings always matter. The degree to which they matter varies. I have been a trial lawyer for three years, first at the state, and now at the federal level. At the state level, I was on hiring committees. Although your mileage may vary, I can assure you that where an applicant went to law school absolutely had an impact on their chances. This is also backed by readily available employment data. Whether or not things ought to be so is a different question. What exactly do you base your opinion on?
Last edited by Teoeo on Thu Nov 17, 2016 10:22 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby grades?? » Thu Nov 17, 2016 10:12 am

KissMyAxe wrote:
Teoeo wrote:
eddielinsanity wrote:I've been interested in becoming a trial lawyer for a long time and I was wondering how the rank of the law school affects opportunities for trial law? I'm asking this because I am currently an undergrad student (in my second year) at my state's flagship school and I've heard that GPA's and LSAT scores matter far more than the prestige for undergraduate institution. I was wondering if transferring to another local state school (less prestigious to have a higher gpa and thus higher chance for a good law school (or more good scholarship money) would be worth it if I'm interested in trial law? Do you think sticking to a more challenging undergrad is worthwhile for better lsat scores or have hidden benefits that people often don't discuss? Or would it be better to transfer to get a higher GPA to get into a better law school/earn some scholarships for perhaps better trial law opportunities?


FTFY. Law school rankings matter for all areas of law. Do whatever you can to maximize your GPA/LSAT.


Fixed it back. Teoeo, your opinion is bad and you should feel bad. Depending on the trial work OP wants to do, rankings may be absolutely irrelevant. Actually, I'd argue that outside of a few jobs (biglaw, clerkships, academia) rankings are pointless most of the time any way. Outside of Yale and Harvard, all schools have spheres of influence in which they do well in. Sure, a school like George Washington might do OK in the DC, Virginia area, but if you want to practice elsewhere, you'd be stupid to choose it over a good regional school in the region you do want to practice. Similarly, if someone wants to do trial work at the state level, going to that state's flagship school is probably the best move. For example, if someone wanted to be a state trial attorney in Georgia, it would be insane to go to Cornell over UGA (where you presumably have a very large scholarship). T14s are not meant to train attorneys for trial work, but corporate law and academia. One of my profs, a very well known professor, predicted that our class of 60 would have less than 20 trials total in their entire career.

Now, rankings do start to matter if we're talking about high level appellate litigation. But in the scenario you landed one of these competitive boutiques (in which case you probably attended HYS, kicked ass, and landed a COA clerkship), you probably won't be the one doing the oral arguments, and that level of work is 99% paperwork.

So yeah, with few exceptions, trial work, whether you're going to be a prosecutor, a public defender, or a small firm lawyer, really depends more on connections and dedication to the cause than the arbitrary ranking of your law school.

But I do agree you should maximize your GPA/LSAT, in order to know all your options and to get more financial aid. OP, if you like your current school though, I wouldn't transfer just for a shot at a higher GPA.


Wrong. You clearly don't go to a t14. While t14s generally have a lot of corporate class offerings, a significant portion of my class is going straight into trial litigation, mostly in govt jobs. In fact, I think t14s do train trial lawyers, or they wouldn't offer a ton of trial practice, pre-trial lit, etc classes. If they didn't care about training trial lawyers, why spend the money for those classes to be taught? You just do not know what you are talking about.

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby Specter1389 » Thu Nov 17, 2016 10:47 am

grades?? wrote:
KissMyAxe wrote:
Teoeo wrote:
eddielinsanity wrote:I've been interested in becoming a trial lawyer for a long time and I was wondering how the rank of the law school affects opportunities for trial law? I'm asking this because I am currently an undergrad student (in my second year) at my state's flagship school and I've heard that GPA's and LSAT scores matter far more than the prestige for undergraduate institution. I was wondering if transferring to another local state school (less prestigious to have a higher gpa and thus higher chance for a good law school (or more good scholarship money) would be worth it if I'm interested in trial law? Do you think sticking to a more challenging undergrad is worthwhile for better lsat scores or have hidden benefits that people often don't discuss? Or would it be better to transfer to get a higher GPA to get into a better law school/earn some scholarships for perhaps better trial law opportunities?


FTFY. Law school rankings matter for all areas of law. Do whatever you can to maximize your GPA/LSAT.


Fixed it back. Teoeo, your opinion is bad and you should feel bad. Depending on the trial work OP wants to do, rankings may be absolutely irrelevant. Actually, I'd argue that outside of a few jobs (biglaw, clerkships, academia) rankings are pointless most of the time any way. Outside of Yale and Harvard, all schools have spheres of influence in which they do well in. Sure, a school like George Washington might do OK in the DC, Virginia area, but if you want to practice elsewhere, you'd be stupid to choose it over a good regional school in the region you do want to practice. Similarly, if someone wants to do trial work at the state level, going to that state's flagship school is probably the best move. For example, if someone wanted to be a state trial attorney in Georgia, it would be insane to go to Cornell over UGA (where you presumably have a very large scholarship). T14s are not meant to train attorneys for trial work, but corporate law and academia. One of my profs, a very well known professor, predicted that our class of 60 would have less than 20 trials total in their entire career.

Now, rankings do start to matter if we're talking about high level appellate litigation. But in the scenario you landed one of these competitive boutiques (in which case you probably attended HYS, kicked ass, and landed a COA clerkship), you probably won't be the one doing the oral arguments, and that level of work is 99% paperwork.

So yeah, with few exceptions, trial work, whether you're going to be a prosecutor, a public defender, or a small firm lawyer, really depends more on connections and dedication to the cause than the arbitrary ranking of your law school.

But I do agree you should maximize your GPA/LSAT, in order to know all your options and to get more financial aid. OP, if you like your current school though, I wouldn't transfer just for a shot at a higher GPA.


Wrong. You clearly don't go to a t14. While t14s generally have a lot of corporate class offerings, a significant portion of my class is going straight into trial litigation, mostly in govt jobs. In fact, I think t14s do train trial lawyers, or they wouldn't offer a ton of trial practice, pre-trial lit, etc classes. If they didn't care about training trial lawyers, why spend the money for those classes to be taught? You just do not know what you are talking about.


KissMyAxe goes to Yale actually...

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby zot1 » Thu Nov 17, 2016 10:52 am

Teoeo wrote:
KissMyAxe wrote:
Teoeo wrote:
eddielinsanity wrote:I've been interested in becoming a trial lawyer for a long time and I was wondering how the rank of the law school affects opportunities for trial law? I'm asking this because I am currently an undergrad student (in my second year) at my state's flagship school and I've heard that GPA's and LSAT scores matter far more than the prestige for undergraduate institution. I was wondering if transferring to another local state school (less prestigious to have a higher gpa and thus higher chance for a good law school (or more good scholarship money) would be worth it if I'm interested in trial law? Do you think sticking to a more challenging undergrad is worthwhile for better lsat scores or have hidden benefits that people often don't discuss? Or would it be better to transfer to get a higher GPA to get into a better law school/earn some scholarships for perhaps better trial law opportunities?


FTFY. Law school rankings matter for all areas of law. Do whatever you can to maximize your GPA/LSAT.


Fixed it back. Teoeo, your opinion is bad and you should feel bad. Depending on the trial work OP wants to do, rankings may be absolutely irrelevant. Actually, I'd argue that outside of a few jobs (biglaw, clerkships, academia) rankings are pointless most of the time any way. Outside of Yale and Harvard, all schools have spheres of influence in which they do well in. Sure, a school like George Washington might do OK in the DC, Virginia area, but if you want to practice elsewhere, you'd be stupid to choose it over a good regional school in the region you do want to practice. Similarly, if someone wants to do trial work at the state level, going to that state's flagship school is probably the best move. For example, if someone wanted to be a state trial attorney in Georgia, it would be insane to go to Cornell over UGA (where you presumably have a very large scholarship). T14s are not meant to train attorneys for trial work, but corporate law and academia. One of my profs, a very well known professor, predicted that our class of 60 would have less than 20 trials total in their entire career.

Now, rankings do start to matter if we're talking about high level appellate litigation. But in the scenario you landed one of these competitive boutiques (in which case you probably attended HYS, kicked ass, and landed a COA clerkship), you probably won't be the one doing the oral arguments, and that level of work is 99% paperwork.

So yeah, with few exceptions, trial work, whether you're going to be a prosecutor, a public defender, or a small firm lawyer, really depends more on connections and dedication to the cause than the arbitrary ranking of your law school.

But I do agree you should maximize your GPA/LSAT, in order to know all your options and to get more financial aid. OP, if you like your current school though, I wouldn't transfer just for a shot at a higher GPA.


Law school rankings always matter. The degree to which they matter varies. I have been a trial lawyer for three years, first at the state, and now at the federal level. At the state level, I was on hiring committees. Although your mileage may vary, I can assure you that where an applicant went to law school absolutely had an impact on their chances. This is also backed by readily available employment data. Whether or not things ought to be so is a different question. What exactly do you base your opinion on?


I worked for a DAs office in SoCal and they could seriously care less about where you went to school.

The federal government also cares, but most attorneys in the hiring committee will likely still give you a chance if you're top 30% and have a good writing sample and resume. This is slightly less true for DOJ where the bulk of federal litigation happens.

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby KissMyAxe » Thu Nov 17, 2016 10:55 am

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Nov 17, 2016 11:11 am

As someone who went to one of the state schools... I agree that defining "trial lawyer" matters here (and, as always, where you want to practice). We don't really know what OP means by wanting to be a trial lawyer. But, FWIW: You absolutely can go to a state flagship and get a trial lawyer job in the sense that you can get a local DA/PD/legal aid job or a job at a small/mid-sized litigation firm. Whether it will benefit you to go to a T14 depends on a number of factors - primarily things like your ties and that entity's hiring practices. In my insular (but desirable) law school market people who were from the state but went to a T14 tended to do pretty well, but if you went to a T14 without ties and then wanted to work in that state you'd probably face an uphill battle. And really the firms that cared most about T14 or school prestige were the biglaw firms, not the local DA/PD/small/midlaw etc.

My law school state PD (which is nationally respected) doesn't care about grades and doesn't much care about school - it cares about dedication and experience. It hires tons of people from the local flagship as well as from around the country (from non T14s) who have good PD experience. Going to a T14 isn't, in itself, a plus, and could be a minus in that you might find it harder to make connections with my state's PD from far away (interning there helps, though isn't required, and there aren't T14s close by). Conversely, my anecdotal understanding is that the Public Defenders in DC or maybe the Manhatten DA is going to care about your school.

tl;dr - If by trial lawyer you mean biglaw litigation, then yes, go to a T14. If you mean a more local trial job and actually being in court all the time, you don't *have* to go to a T14, at all, but whether a T14 will help or not depends on the hiring quirks of a given employer.

(Of course if you're concerned you might want other options then a T14 is beneficial. And all this has to be considered in light of costs - a state flagship for free for local trial law is probably better than a T14 at sticker since those jobs don't tend to be top paying. If you have scholarships to T14 then that's probably worth it for the wider range of opportunity it opens up, but again, the T14 degree isn't *necessary* for certain jobs. And to some extent if you can't get a local trial law job out of the state flagship you're unlikely to be more successful coming from a T14, because in many cases that will be on you and your experience and ability to network, not your school. But it will depend on the T14 and the market and so on.)

Now if you want to be Garry Spence that's much less about what school you go to and what you do with your experience, I think. But very few people are going to be Garry Spence.

Last point: OP, LSAT and GPA matter more than school reputation unless at the very extremes on the margins. But you're not guaranteed a better GPA at a different state school. If you like your school and you're doing well staying there makes sense.

(Okay, other last point: degree to which AUSAs go to trial depends very much on district. And the guidelines being advisory makes it different from when they were mandatory. But it's true that most feds aren't going to be in court like state DA/PDs/legal aid are going to.)

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby nealric » Thu Nov 17, 2016 11:13 am

First, I think it would be helpful to understand what you mean by "trial law." Do you just want to do some sort of litigation, do you want to do criminal trials, or do you want to be a personal injury lawyer? Does it matter to you if your practice is legally sophisticated? It's worth remembering that actual trials are becoming more and more rare. Even many lawyers who call themselves "trial lawyers" may do one trial a year if that.

As for schools, whether a school offers "trial clinics" and such is only going to be tangentially helpful to becoming a good trial lawyer. First and foremost, you need to get a job out of school where you do trials. Nothing you learn in the classroom matters if you don't get the right experience.

Going to an expensive T14 over a full-ride lower down may not make sense if your goal is to run a solo personal injury practice as soon as possible. On the other hand, if you want to work on complex commercial disputes, a lower-ranked school probably won't get you there.

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby eddielinsanity » Thu Nov 17, 2016 3:52 pm

Thanks for the responses you all, I was interested in doing business litigation however I am open to other fields such as appellate, civil rights (perhaps later down the road), etc. And I know some lawyers who get in high debt, so another reason I was thinking for a transfer would be to get a better shot at a scholarship. Most of my friends at colleges im looking to transfer to that have much higher gpas than myself and my friends (perhaps a .3-.6 who go to my current college.
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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby cavalier1138 » Thu Nov 17, 2016 4:08 pm

eddielinsanity wrote:Thanks for the responses you all, I was interested in doing business litigation however I am open to other fields such as appellate, civil rights (perhaps later down the road), etc. And I know some lawyers who get in high debt, so another reason I was thinking for a transfer would be to get a better shot at a scholarship. Most of my friends at colleges im looking to transfer to that have much higher gpas than myself and my friends (perhaps minimum of .3 or .4 who go to my current college.


For the fields you listed, yes, your school reputation matters.

And you would do better to focus on your LSAT than to transfer on a hypothetical GPA bump (your bump, incidentally, would be much less than .3-.4, because your current school's grades are still factored in by LSAC).

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby zot1 » Thu Nov 17, 2016 6:45 pm

Yes, with the added info, your school will matter tons.

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby BigZuck » Thu Nov 17, 2016 7:15 pm

Appellate and civil rights law are probably both A) Not what you really think they are and B) Not very attainable regardless of what they actually are. You need to do a lot of research before applying to law school. But that shouldn't be a problem, sounds like you have plenty of time. For now I think you should focus on getting good grades, focus on having a ton of fun in college, and get a job for a few years after law school to see what that's like. Then, if you still want to go to law school and you've done all your research on what being a lawyer really entails and how likely it is to break into certain career paths, by all means apply to law school.

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby Johann » Thu Nov 17, 2016 8:01 pm

appellate trial law is damn near impossible to get into and if you are at local state U right now instead of prestigious ivy, that ship has already sailed most likely.
if by civil rights trial law you mean constititutional trial law, see above. that ship has alreayd sailed and never really existed to begin with.

if by civil rights trial law you mean police brutality cases and other trial lawyers like personal injury, then yeah school ranking doesnt matter that much. id probably just go wherever is cheapest.

but most likely you dont know what you want to do with your career right now since you dont know anything about legal careers, and so you should go to the best school with the best broad employment opportunties in case your mind changes.

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby zot1 » Thu Nov 17, 2016 8:48 pm

Is "appellate trial law" even a thing?

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Thu Nov 17, 2016 9:43 pm

zot1 wrote:Is "appellate trial law" even a thing?

:lol: I was wondering that too.

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby Teoeo » Mon Nov 21, 2016 11:04 am

I would like to clarify that what I meant was the law school rankings are relevant, but not dispositive. I certainly didn't mean that people go around with a US News ranking in hand. AKA, if someone went to UCLA it will likely give them some advantage over someone who went to UC Hastings.

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby Veil of Ignorance » Tue Nov 22, 2016 8:55 am

KissMyAxe wrote:And you need to realize that there is a massive push away from going to trial in the federal government. Even AUSAs, traditionally among the Fed groups with the most trials, with the addition of the minimum sentencing guidelines, are strongly encouraged to force pleas. I had lunch a couple weeks ago with a district judge who was an AUSA. He said in the 1960's, many AUSAs would do 10 trials a year. In his 15 years after the guidelines, he did 11 total. Now, he says some will never have a full trial in their career, while some others will do less than 5. They're litigators, but I don't consider them trial attorneys. The simple fact is, for most T14s, with a strong slant toward Biglaw and Big Fed, there's no point in teaching trial work. Another judge said that teaching trial skills is like teaching someone to hunt dinosaurs. Virtually all trial attorneys are now at the state level, where to a large degree, rankings do not matter at all.


From what I can see in the Bay Area, many of the Deputy District Attorneys when to Harvard, Berkeley, and Stanford. It's pretty surprising actually. So maybe NorCal is an exception? Also, wouldn't a lawyer at a place like Keker & Van Nest or Quinn Emanuel get lots of trial experience?

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby Nebby » Tue Nov 22, 2016 9:13 am

Veil of Ignorance wrote:
KissMyAxe wrote:And you need to realize that there is a massive push away from going to trial in the federal government. Even AUSAs, traditionally among the Fed groups with the most trials, with the addition of the minimum sentencing guidelines, are strongly encouraged to force pleas. I had lunch a couple weeks ago with a district judge who was an AUSA. He said in the 1960's, many AUSAs would do 10 trials a year. In his 15 years after the guidelines, he did 11 total. Now, he says some will never have a full trial in their career, while some others will do less than 5. They're litigators, but I don't consider them trial attorneys. The simple fact is, for most T14s, with a strong slant toward Biglaw and Big Fed, there's no point in teaching trial work. Another judge said that teaching trial skills is like teaching someone to hunt dinosaurs. Virtually all trial attorneys are now at the state level, where to a large degree, rankings do not matter at all.


From what I can see in the Bay Area, many of the Deputy District Attorneys when to Harvard, Berkeley, and Stanford. It's pretty surprising actually. So maybe NorCal is an exception? Also, wouldn't a lawyer at a place like Keker & Van Nest or Quinn Emanuel get lots of trial experience?

They get lots of litigation experience, but there aren't a whole lot of trial opportunities.

If you are interested in trial experience, I recommend public defense, state prosecution, and impact litigation nonprofits. Biglaw and DOJ/USAO's don't get much trial experience, for the reasons touched upon by Axe. Small law offers opportunities for trial, but that kind of work is surprisingly hard to get into without strong ties and connections. A HLS grad with no connections won't get the job when a TTT student with connections will.

Though YLS doesn't, other T14 schools offer trial seminars/classes. CLS has a couple of offerings that people I know who took them really like.

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Re: Does rank of Law School matter for trial law?

Postby jdcumlaude » Tue Nov 22, 2016 12:42 pm

Here is the hierarchy that burned the crap out of me at Campbell Law in NC

This is the one that was advertised to us before and while in school

1) rigor of the law school
2) your grades/class rank
3) Internships
4) passing the bar the first time
5) all other factors, including their terrible rank

Here is the reality

1) who you know before you even take the LSAT/are you gonna go work for your dad they day after you pass the bar
2) School rank
3) your class rank
4) everything else

avoid unranked and low ranked schools. Up your scores or move on. Even Trial lawyers are impacted by this.



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