A very different perspective on choosing a school

(Rankings, Profiles, Tuition, Student Life, . . . )
dageezer
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Mar 18, 2017 2:15 pm

A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby dageezer » Sat Mar 18, 2017 2:52 pm

By way of introduction, inasmuch as this is my first post, I am a tenured Professor at a state university with 30 years on the faculty of different universities. I am on this forum because my son is an applicant in this cycle and we have found this site to be a rich source of information. So this post is my attempt at a little "paying it back."

While I have no direct law school experience, I have watched many graduate students (pursuing both professional and academic graduate degrees) variously succeed and fail over the years and have developed a viewpoint that I am yet to see voiced in the threads on choosing a law school. Over the years my advice to prospective graduate students has morphed into a simple concept:

Go to the best school you can get into, in the worst place you can stand to live.

Simply stated, do not go to graduate/professional school in a place replete with distractions. You want to keep you head down and focus on the task at hand. If you are a big time wind surfer, go to Ann Arbor. If you are a cross country skier, go to Duke. If you are a passionate golfer, do not choose a school where a left turn takes you to the law library, but a right turn takes you to a demanding Nicklaus-designed course with subsidized greens fees.

There is one big way in which my experience and this bit of advice are weakly generalizable to law school. LS is very much is on a fixed timetable, and my work with graduate students has typically been in programs where they had more control over the speed. I have seen students fail to finish, or take a very long time, simply because they were enjoying where they were living way too much. Less a concern with law school, but the core issue of distraction v. focus remains the same.

And I ought to unpack the phrase "best school" a bit. It is not defined in terms of some external USNWR T13 sort of "best," but in terms of best in terms of generating a set of career options you care about. If the career options you care about are defined by a geographic region, then a school in that region might generate the most/best options.

Best of luck in both having good choices and making one as well.
Last edited by dageezer on Sat Mar 18, 2017 2:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
xn3345
Posts: 60
Joined: Thu Nov 17, 2016 10:49 pm

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby xn3345 » Sat Mar 18, 2017 2:54 pm

dageezer wrote:USNWR T13

User avatar
Sprout
Posts: 431
Joined: Sun Nov 15, 2015 4:46 pm

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby Sprout » Sat Mar 18, 2017 3:02 pm

With all due respect OP, I think this is shitty advice.

Law school is competitive and shitty and demanding, and can be incredibly isolating if you're in a city or town where you don't have friends/a support network/ access to healthy and cathartic activities that one enjoys unrelated to law. Just imo. Obviously one shouldnt go somewhere where they will be distracted, but I think the advice to leave what you love and enjoy behind is really not a good suggestion. Yes we are here to complete a task, but the breaking point for many (Ive watched it happen, too many times) has been this incredible isolation and lack of activities that really remind people why they are alive.

Anything one can do to limit the soul-sucking nature of LS should be done. Again, just imo, but hits close to home.

User avatar
lymenheimer
Posts: 3863
Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:54 am

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby lymenheimer » Sat Mar 18, 2017 3:11 pm

So I should've left the state? Damn. Let me go tell my mom that it was a mistake to remain for support when my grandfather was regularly in the hospital and my brother and his wife were having their first baby, but I still wanted to advance my career goals.

Not to shrug off your advice, but it's not as applicable or simple as you are making it seem. You want to go into biglaw and you have a decent scholarship at T13? There is no "going to a different location". If you eliminate all of the T13 because of location, you cut your career potential by 25%(ish) at least. Durham doesn't have cross country skiing/surfing, but you can drive 2-3 hours for downhill skiing. You can drive 2-3 hours for oceans with small waves. Don't want distractions? I guess you can eliminate Columbia, NYU, unless you are not a fan of fun and exciting places. Also, interests are not at all exclusive. You get distracted by big city life? Doesn't mean you won't be distracted by smaller city life. I can like both the beach and the mountains, warm and cold weather. And I'll be damned if I can't find something in any place to distract myself *cough*TLS*cough* from my appellate brief due sometime within the next week or so.

Eta: Not to mention the kids who don't want biglaw and want to practice local. They can't just go off somewhere and get a degree from a random school where they will work hard and "won't get distracted." Some positions (implicitly) require a local degree at least for networking purposes.

User avatar
Mr. Archer
Posts: 241
Joined: Sat Nov 15, 2014 7:08 pm

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby Mr. Archer » Sat Mar 18, 2017 3:16 pm

While I have no direct law school experience,


Go to the best school you can get into, in the worst place you can stand to live.


This is just so off. If you like going to plays, should you not go to NYU or Columbia so you're not distracted by Broadway? If you like running in general, should you just not live anywhere, I guess? People who go to law school need outlets and distractions to get away from stress. Law school shouldn't mean giving up things you love for three years. Law school students should have self-control not to let any distractions ruin their grades. If they let distractions ruin their academic careers, then maybe being a lawyer isn't really what they should do anyway. Would you also advise people to live somewhere without distractions once they get jobs?

LawBuckeye12
Posts: 41
Joined: Tue Jan 17, 2017 8:17 pm

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby LawBuckeye12 » Sat Mar 18, 2017 3:19 pm

I think there is a tiny bit of truth to this but only if you are someone who is at serious risk of getting distracted. As others have pointed out it doesn't make sense to take this advice and pass on going to NYU or Columbia. If you are able to get into NYU or Columbia you are probably an extremely motivated person who doesn't have to worry about getting distracted.

User avatar
armc808
Posts: 226
Joined: Mon Oct 24, 2016 2:41 pm

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby armc808 » Sat Mar 18, 2017 3:22 pm

Some folks need to take it down three notches and CHILL. OP's advice is based on their experience and is offering it as such, not as gospel.

User avatar
lymenheimer
Posts: 3863
Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:54 am

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby lymenheimer » Sat Mar 18, 2017 3:26 pm

armc808 wrote:Some folks need to take it down three notches and CHILL. OP's advice is based on their experience and is offering it as such, not as gospel.

(didn't read the OP)

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse
Posts: 25153
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Mar 18, 2017 3:27 pm

dageezer wrote:There is one big way in which my experience and this bit of advice are weakly generalizable to law school. LS is very much is on a fixed timetable, and my work with graduate students has typically been in programs where they had more control over the speed. I have seen students fail to finish, or take a very long time, simply because they were enjoying where they were living way too much. Less a concern with law school, but the core issue of distraction v. focus remains the same.

It's an interesting suggestion. But having done both, I don't think law school is at all comparable to PhD programs. Nothing about law school is really self-driven - you show up to class (or not so much) and take exams for 6 semesters and you're done. It requires very little in the way of self-direction; your time is structured by external deadlines. In that respect, it is WAY easier than getting a PhD. And since you don't really have long-term self-directed deadlines, when you've done your reading/internship work/moot court brief/whatever, there's no reason at all not to go skiing or clubbing or whatever in your region floats your boat. I used to say that you were never really not at work in academia because even if you really had finished everything, there was always something else you could/should be doing - after all, why not learn another language? (I know of a prof who used to learn a new language every Lent.)

And again having done a PhD and knowing lots of people who've done PhDs, I also actually disagree that people fail/take too long to finish because they're enjoying where they live too much. I think that's a really simplistic diagnosis of something much more complicated (and also has sort of disturbing implications about work/life balance, suggesting you can only be productive if you suffer and have no outside interests, which is an issue that HUGELY plagues academia). But that's a different topic really.

User avatar
mjb447
Posts: 775
Joined: Fri Jul 26, 2013 4:36 am

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby mjb447 » Sat Mar 18, 2017 3:47 pm

Mr. Archer wrote:If they let distractions ruin their academic careers, then maybe being a lawyer isn't really what they should do anyway. Would you also advise people to live somewhere without distractions once they get jobs?

This is what I was thinking when I read OP's advice. I understand the sentiment behind the advice, but distractions will always be there and, like others said, a lot of the schools in potentially distracting locations have exit options that you'd be crazy to forgo just so you don't risk being distracted.

User avatar
armc808
Posts: 226
Joined: Mon Oct 24, 2016 2:41 pm

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby armc808 » Sat Mar 18, 2017 4:39 pm

lymenheimer wrote:
armc808 wrote:Some folks need to take it down three notches and CHILL. OP's advice is based on their experience and is offering it as such, not as gospel.

(didn't read the OP)

"I am on this forum because my son is an applicant in this cycle and we have found this site to be a rich source of information. So this post is my attempt at a little 'paying it back.'"

"While I have no direct law school experience, I have watched many graduate students (pursuing both professional and academic graduate degrees) variously succeed and fail over the years and have developed a viewpoint that I am yet to see voiced in the threads on choosing a law school."

User avatar
lymenheimer
Posts: 3863
Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:54 am

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby lymenheimer » Sat Mar 18, 2017 5:51 pm

armc808 wrote:
lymenheimer wrote:
armc808 wrote:Some folks need to take it down three notches and CHILL. OP's advice is based on their experience and is offering it as such, not as gospel.

(didn't read the OP)


"I have no direct law school experience"

Ftfy

User avatar
bmathers
Posts: 846
Joined: Mon Feb 22, 2016 2:27 pm

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby bmathers » Sat Mar 18, 2017 6:26 pm

LawBuckeye12 wrote: As others have pointed out it doesn't make sense to take this advice and pass on going to NYU or Columbia.

He never said this. He said, go to the best school that can get your your goals. If it is Biglaw, than Columbia or NYU may be that best school.

If your goal is to be a small town, small firm attorney, Columbia or NYU may not be the "best" school - especially if you are one to get distracted

Everyone, r-e-l-a-x

User avatar
lymenheimer
Posts: 3863
Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:54 am

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby lymenheimer » Sat Mar 18, 2017 6:43 pm

bmathers wrote:
LawBuckeye12 wrote: As others have pointed out it doesn't make sense to take this advice and pass on going to NYU or Columbia.

He never said this. He said, go to the best school that can get your your goals. If it is Biglaw, than Columbia or NYU may be that best school.

If your goal is to be a small town, small firm attorney, Columbia or NYU may not be the "best" school - especially if you are one to get distracted

Everyone, r-e-l-a-x

"You may say I'm a dreamer, but I'm not"
-John Lennon

User avatar
armc808
Posts: 226
Joined: Mon Oct 24, 2016 2:41 pm

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby armc808 » Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:22 pm

lymenheimer wrote:
armc808 wrote:
lymenheimer wrote:
armc808 wrote:Some folks need to take it down three notches and CHILL. OP's advice is based on their experience and is offering it as such, not as gospel.

(didn't read the OP)


"I have no direct law school experience"

Ftfy

"By way of introduction, inasmuch as this is my first post, I am a tenured Professor at a state university with 30 years on the faculty of different universities."
Hopefully law school will teach you to read with a little more clarity and be charitable in your analysis of viewpoints different from your own.

User avatar
armc808
Posts: 226
Joined: Mon Oct 24, 2016 2:41 pm

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby armc808 » Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:23 pm

bmathers wrote:
LawBuckeye12 wrote: As others have pointed out it doesn't make sense to take this advice and pass on going to NYU or Columbia.

He never said this. He said, go to the best school that can get your your goals. If it is Biglaw, than Columbia or NYU may be that best school.

If your goal is to be a small town, small firm attorney, Columbia or NYU may not be the "best" school - especially if you are one to get distracted

Everyone, r-e-l-a-x

+100

User avatar
Rigo
Posts: 14747
Joined: Sun Jul 06, 2014 3:19 pm

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby Rigo » Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:35 pm

bmathers wrote:
LawBuckeye12 wrote: As others have pointed out it doesn't make sense to take this advice and pass on going to NYU or Columbia.

He never said this. He said, go to the best school that can get your your goals. If it is Biglaw, than Columbia or NYU may be that best school.

You aren't getting the main point of his post. If you want biglaw, OP would be more likely to suggest UVA or something because it doesn't have as many conventional distractions. Assuming Charlottesville qualifies as "the worst place you can stand to live."

dageezer
Posts: 2
Joined: Sat Mar 18, 2017 2:15 pm

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby dageezer » Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:37 pm

Let me try one more angle on this perspective to see if I can make it more palatable before I retreat back into the luxury of lurkdom.

Having closely watched way north of a hundred people navigate post-graduate education, I have come to believe that sheer intellect is a less powerful predictor of outcomes than is focus. Some stunningly bright people never finish or struggle more along the way than you might a priori expect. High focus people tend to be like the Marines--they adapt and overcome. Ideally we all have a vast reservoir of intrinsic motivation that gives us focus in abundance. In reality, sometimes focus comes from keeping the siren call of distraction to a murmur.

So I have come to believe that things that help post-bacc students maintain focus are likely to increase their success. Surely that simple notion is not sufficiently heretical as to justify the somewhat enraged denunciations my first post generated. In an academic program, they will likely get done sooner if they maintain focus. In law school the primary success metric is not speed (because the pace is dictated by the course of study) but relative accomplishment measured by things like grades, clinics, and editorships.

I am not proposing this as a grand truth-YMMV. But when I see someone say "I would never apply to Michigan because I don't like snow," I would like to tell them that may be exactly why they should apply. Not because their snow aversion is trivial, but because it might actually help them focus. From a personal perspective, I took a gap year after undergraduate to engage virtually full time in the outdoor activity I loved more than life itself. I then went all the way across the country--to a region and climate I had never lived in--to a premier graduate school in my field where there was no opportunity to engage in that activity. I got my masters and Ph.D. in 3 1/2 years and was back in the region of the country I called home with a tenure track faculty position at a R01 university by the time I was 27. I was not nearly as bright as many of my colleagues, so much so that I didn't rent an apartment with air conditioning my first year at that southern university (partially due to budget constraints but more a result of regional naivete.) That made the library and my office the most attractive places I could think to be. Serendipitous focus.

Again, my most sincere best wishes to you all as you navigate this fork in the road.

P.S. Sometimes ideas that are hard to embrace initially come to grow on you over time. I didn't see this somewhat counter-intuitive relationship until I had spent maybe 10 years in the field, so I am neither surprised or insulted by your doubt-filled responses.

User avatar
A. Nony Mouse
Posts: 25153
Joined: Tue Sep 25, 2012 11:51 am

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:42 pm

I absolutely agree that focus is key, although I'd say more so for
PhD students than law students (who, again, are made to focus by external matters in a way that PhD students aren't). But I disagree that living somewhere you don't like is going to make it harder to focus. In fact, I'd argue that if you don't have non-school things in your life that make you happy, you are actually going to be much less effective in your school work - burn out is a huge issue.

(Also I think getting a PhD over 30 years ago isn't really very comparable to getting a law degree today.)

Mind you, I would never agree that someone that they shouldn't go to Michigan because they don't like snow, *if* Michigan is otherwise their best choice wrt employment options and cost. All else being equal, hating where you are being you're cold, wet, and miserable isn't going to make you work better.

User avatar
lymenheimer
Posts: 3863
Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:54 am

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby lymenheimer » Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:43 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:I absolutely agree that focus is key, although I'd say more so for
PhD students than law students (who, again, are made to focus by external matters in a way that PhD students aren't). But I disagree that living somewhere you don't like is going to make it harder to focus. In fact, I'd argue that if you don't have non-school things in your life that make you happy, you are actually going to be much less effective in your school work - burn out is a huge issue.

(Also I think getting a PhD over 30 years ago isn't really very comparable to getting a law degree today.)


Such enraged.
Much denunciation.

User avatar
zot1
Posts: 4474
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:53 am

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby zot1 » Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:46 pm

PhD programs require less distractions because students have a lot more room to procrastinate on their progress.

Law isn't like that. In fact, many employers want to see that you do something fun even during law school. Also, doing fun can help you not go crazy with all the work that could lead to burn out. But more importantly, as others have pointed out, lawyers need to learn self-control. Law school seems about the best time to do it.

User avatar
zot1
Posts: 4474
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:53 am

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby zot1 » Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:51 pm

lymenheimer wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:I absolutely agree that focus is key, although I'd say more so for
PhD students than law students (who, again, are made to focus by external matters in a way that PhD students aren't). But I disagree that living somewhere you don't like is going to make it harder to focus. In fact, I'd argue that if you don't have non-school things in your life that make you happy, you are actually going to be much less effective in your school work - burn out is a huge issue.

(Also I think getting a PhD over 30 years ago isn't really very comparable to getting a law degree today.)


Such enraged.
Much denunciation.


I do have a friend who went to Cornell and spent most of his time depressed because Ithaca lol.

User avatar
lymenheimer
Posts: 3863
Joined: Sat Jul 04, 2015 1:54 am

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby lymenheimer » Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:52 pm

zot1 wrote:
I do have a friend who went to Cornell and spent most of his time depressed because Ithaca lol.


But I bet he focused his ass off, didn't he?

User avatar
zot1
Posts: 4474
Joined: Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:53 am

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby zot1 » Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:53 pm

lymenheimer wrote:
zot1 wrote:
I do have a friend who went to Cornell and spent most of his time depressed because Ithaca lol.


But I bet he focused his ass off, didn't he?


I'm fairly certain he graduated at median, if not below. Also not very happy where he ended up now.

Npret
Posts: 711
Joined: Mon Jan 23, 2017 11:42 am

Re: A very different perspective on choosing a school

Postby Npret » Sat Mar 18, 2017 8:56 pm

Is OPs main point to go somewhere you know you will be unhappy? That is terrible life advice.




Return to “Choosing a Law School”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: boboka, Keilz, Scurvy Cur, symphonyy and 15 guests