Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

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fm1477
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Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby fm1477 » Fri Jun 02, 2017 9:20 am

Hi all,

Last December I took the LSAT and scored a 171. I want to be criminal defense attorney. That is why I chose law. So, that 171 puts me in a very awkward place since I applied to Harvard last cycle and was rejected. I got the interview and thought it went very well but ultimately I was just a few LSAT questions shy of admission...

I am only 21 and don't have to make much money in the immediate so I ultimately decided to hold off on law school for this cycle in order to retake the LSAT.

Since I want to do criminal defense, obviously Harvard would put me in a situation to be among some of the brightest trial minds that this world has ever seen. So, is all in for H the play here? Just so all of you know, I'm aware I'm not going to have Dershowitz or Baez on speed dial...

In the event that I fail to reach my goal, what are the other t14s with the best (and notable) criminal clinics / professors? I've done some research and found little separation 4-15.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Jun 02, 2017 9:27 am

It's absolutely unnecessary to go to Harvard to do criminal defense. Go to the best school that gives you a free ride.

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UVA2B
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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby UVA2B » Fri Jun 02, 2017 9:38 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:It's absolutely unnecessary to go to Harvard to do criminal defense. Go to the best school that gives you a free ride.


So much this. You need to be about cost minimization and nothing else if you want to get into criminal defense.

fm1477
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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby fm1477 » Fri Jun 02, 2017 9:59 am

Thanks for the input! The contacts at Harvard wouldn't help at all?

BigZuck
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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby BigZuck » Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:04 am

What do you mean by criminal defense? What kind of job do you want/what kind of cases do you want to work on?

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UVA2B
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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby UVA2B » Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:18 am

fm1477 wrote:Thanks for the input! The contacts at Harvard wouldn't help at all?


In what way do you imagine contacts at Harvard helping in a criminal defense career? And what sort of criminal defense career do you think opens up to you because you went to Harvard? If you're saying criminal defense, but what you really want is to get into impact litigation on civil rights and policy brutality and the like, then yeah, Harvard might help. But that's not really criminal defense in the purest sense. If you want to be a run of the mill public defender in non-super competitive cities, having prestige does little to nothing in helping you get a job. Those jobs require hustle, networking, and commitment to the career track.

fm1477
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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby fm1477 » Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:34 am

UVA2B wrote:
fm1477 wrote:Thanks for the input! The contacts at Harvard wouldn't help at all?


In what way do you imagine contacts at Harvard helping in a criminal defense career? And what sort of criminal defense career do you think opens up to you because you went to Harvard? If you're saying criminal defense, but what you really want is to get into impact litigation on civil rights and policy brutality and the like, then yeah, Harvard might help. But that's not really criminal defense in the purest sense. If you want to be a run of the mill public defender in non-super competitive cities, having prestige does little to nothing in helping you get a job. Those jobs require hustle, networking, and commitment to the career track.


I'm answering the last two questions. By no means do I want to be a run of the mill public defender. I will most likely begin in the Philadelphia area. But yes, police brutality and the like is certainly a huge interest to me. Civil rights, not so much.

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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby Redfactor » Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:39 am

I wouldn't go so far as to say that Harvard won't help. Harvard will give an edge to some of the more sought after PD offices if you're not going to the local school. If OP plans to go private defense, it will be something that some people latch onto believing (in error) that someone from Harvard must be a great lawyer. So I can see it being easier to break into the marketplace.

The greatest trial minds are not teaching at law schools. They either have their own schools where they charge a bunch of money from practicing attorneys or they are in trial commanding huge fees. (Or they're unsung gov't/ngo types.)

Being great at trial requires doing a lot of them.

All that said, Harvard at debt isn't worth 100k debt for this purpose, but it is worth some debt over say Cornell for free if you want to do private practice in LA/SF.

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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby Redfactor » Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:40 am

fm1477 wrote:
UVA2B wrote:
fm1477 wrote:Thanks for the input! The contacts at Harvard wouldn't help at all?


In what way do you imagine contacts at Harvard helping in a criminal defense career? And what sort of criminal defense career do you think opens up to you because you went to Harvard? If you're saying criminal defense, but what you really want is to get into impact litigation on civil rights and policy brutality and the like, then yeah, Harvard might help. But that's not really criminal defense in the purest sense. If you want to be a run of the mill public defender in non-super competitive cities, having prestige does little to nothing in helping you get a job. Those jobs require hustle, networking, and commitment to the career track.


I'm answering the last two questions. By no means do I want to be a run of the mill public defender. I will most likely begin in the Philadelphia area. But yes, police brutality and the like is certainly a huge interest to me. Civil rights, not so much.


Can you articulate the difference?

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Future Ex-Engineer
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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby Future Ex-Engineer » Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:44 am

fm1477 wrote:Hi all,

Last December I took the LSAT and scored a 171. I want to be criminal defense attorney. That is why I chose law. So, that 171 puts me in a very awkward place since I applied to Harvard last cycle and was rejected. I got the interview and thought it went very well but ultimately I was just a few LSAT questions shy of admission...

I am only 21 and don't have to make much money in the immediate so I ultimately decided to hold off on law school for this cycle in order to retake the LSAT.

Since I want to do criminal defense, obviously Harvard would put me in a situation to be among some of the brightest trial minds that this world has ever seen. So, is all in for H the play here? Just so all of you know, I'm aware I'm not going to have Dershowitz or Baez on speed dial...

In the event that I fail to reach my goal, what are the other t14s with the best (and notable) criminal clinics / professors? I've done some research and found little separation 4-15.


If you got the interview, isn't it just as likely that the dinged you because they didn't like your interview as it is that you would have gotten in with a better LSAT?

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UVA2B
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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby UVA2B » Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:45 am

fm1477 wrote:
UVA2B wrote:
fm1477 wrote:Thanks for the input! The contacts at Harvard wouldn't help at all?


In what way do you imagine contacts at Harvard helping in a criminal defense career? And what sort of criminal defense career do you think opens up to you because you went to Harvard? If you're saying criminal defense, but what you really want is to get into impact litigation on civil rights and policy brutality and the like, then yeah, Harvard might help. But that's not really criminal defense in the purest sense. If you want to be a run of the mill public defender in non-super competitive cities, having prestige does little to nothing in helping you get a job. Those jobs require hustle, networking, and commitment to the career track.


I'm answering the last two questions. By no means do I want to be a run of the mill public defender. I will most likely begin in the Philadelphia area. But yes, police brutality and the like is certainly a huge interest to me. Civil rights, not so much.


Ok, well I didn't mean you would be run of the mill in your work, just that you want to do general public defender types of jobs, which a PD in Philadelphia would probably fall under. As to the police brutality piece, you might be dealing with an occasional case of police brutality, but be ready to have that mixed in with a ton of misdemeanor drug charges, domestic violence, illegal weapon possession, and whatever else comes across your desk.

The point is, if you want to go into public defense (vice private defense work as RedFactor alludes to), the name of the game is being the place you want to get plugged in with because you'll want to extern, intern, and work with the local PD department early and often, which going to Harvard won't allow you to do. PD offices in Philly will more likely want to hire the Penn or Temple grad who worked with them consistently for three years for free over the Harvard grad who they know much less about. It's possible you could get the hiring attorney who thinks Harvard is really super special, but more than likely that's just not going to happen.

fm1477
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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby fm1477 » Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:48 am

Redfactor wrote:
fm1477 wrote:
UVA2B wrote:
fm1477 wrote:Thanks for the input! The contacts at Harvard wouldn't help at all?


In what way do you imagine contacts at Harvard helping in a criminal defense career? And what sort of criminal defense career do you think opens up to you because you went to Harvard? If you're saying criminal defense, but what you really want is to get into impact litigation on civil rights and policy brutality and the like, then yeah, Harvard might help. But that's not really criminal defense in the purest sense. If you want to be a run of the mill public defender in non-super competitive cities, having prestige does little to nothing in helping you get a job. Those jobs require hustle, networking, and commitment to the career track.


I'm answering the last two questions. By no means do I want to be a run of the mill public defender. I will most likely begin in the Philadelphia area. But yes, police brutality and the like is certainly a huge interest to me. Civil rights, not so much.


Can you articulate the difference?


In a word, no. I'm a OL and know nothing. I think I know, but don't actually know. Pardon my ignorance and thank you for pointing this out.

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UVA2B
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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby UVA2B » Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:50 am

fm1477 wrote:
Redfactor wrote:
fm1477 wrote:
UVA2B wrote:
fm1477 wrote:Thanks for the input! The contacts at Harvard wouldn't help at all?


In what way do you imagine contacts at Harvard helping in a criminal defense career? And what sort of criminal defense career do you think opens up to you because you went to Harvard? If you're saying criminal defense, but what you really want is to get into impact litigation on civil rights and policy brutality and the like, then yeah, Harvard might help. But that's not really criminal defense in the purest sense. If you want to be a run of the mill public defender in non-super competitive cities, having prestige does little to nothing in helping you get a job. Those jobs require hustle, networking, and commitment to the career track.


I'm answering the last two questions. By no means do I want to be a run of the mill public defender. I will most likely begin in the Philadelphia area. But yes, police brutality and the like is certainly a huge interest to me. Civil rights, not so much.


Can you articulate the difference?


In a word, no. I'm a OL and know nothing. I think I know, but don't actually know. Pardon my ignorance and thank you for pointing this out.


That's fair, and I have a sneaking suspicion what you actually want is to get involved with the ACLU in some capacity, which one could argue gives Harvard a leg up over a place like Penn.

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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby Redfactor » Fri Jun 02, 2017 10:57 am

UVA2B wrote:
fm1477 wrote:
Redfactor wrote:
fm1477 wrote:
UVA2B wrote:
fm1477 wrote:Thanks for the input! The contacts at Harvard wouldn't help at all?


In what way do you imagine contacts at Harvard helping in a criminal defense career? And what sort of criminal defense career do you think opens up to you because you went to Harvard? If you're saying criminal defense, but what you really want is to get into impact litigation on civil rights and policy brutality and the like, then yeah, Harvard might help. But that's not really criminal defense in the purest sense. If you want to be a run of the mill public defender in non-super competitive cities, having prestige does little to nothing in helping you get a job. Those jobs require hustle, networking, and commitment to the career track.


I'm answering the last two questions. By no means do I want to be a run of the mill public defender. I will most likely begin in the Philadelphia area. But yes, police brutality and the like is certainly a huge interest to me. Civil rights, not so much.


Can you articulate the difference?


In a word, no. I'm a OL and know nothing. I think I know, but don't actually know. Pardon my ignorance and thank you for pointing this out.


That's fair, and I have a sneaking suspicion what you actually want is to get involved with the ACLU in some capacity, which one could argue gives Harvard a leg up over a place like Penn.


To me, this sounds about right, but I don't know if there's that big of a difference between Penn and Harvard if OP wants to do this type of work in Pennsylvania.

Not many places in the country have a law school of Penn's caliber in its backyard.

fm1477
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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby fm1477 » Fri Jun 02, 2017 11:16 am

Redfactor wrote:
UVA2B wrote:
fm1477 wrote:
Redfactor wrote:
fm1477 wrote:
UVA2B wrote:
fm1477 wrote:Thanks for the input! The contacts at Harvard wouldn't help at all?


In what way do you imagine contacts at Harvard helping in a criminal defense career? And what sort of criminal defense career do you think opens up to you because you went to Harvard? If you're saying criminal defense, but what you really want is to get into impact litigation on civil rights and policy brutality and the like, then yeah, Harvard might help. But that's not really criminal defense in the purest sense. If you want to be a run of the mill public defender in non-super competitive cities, having prestige does little to nothing in helping you get a job. Those jobs require hustle, networking, and commitment to the career track.


I'm answering the last two questions. By no means do I want to be a run of the mill public defender. I will most likely begin in the Philadelphia area. But yes, police brutality and the like is certainly a huge interest to me. Civil rights, not so much.


Can you articulate the difference?


In a word, no. I'm a OL and know nothing. I think I know, but don't actually know. Pardon my ignorance and thank you for pointing this out.


That's fair, and I have a sneaking suspicion what you actually want is to get involved with the ACLU in some capacity, which one could argue gives Harvard a leg up over a place like Penn.


To me, this sounds about right, but I don't know if there's that big of a difference between Penn and Harvard if OP wants to do this type of work in Pennsylvania.

Not many places in the country have a law school of Penn's caliber in its backyard.


It's true. However Penn only gave me 60k (after negotiations) and I was not comfortable with that considering my income will be average for at least a few years out of law school. I don't need 120k in loans.

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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby andythefir » Fri Jun 02, 2017 11:20 am

1 very few people in my experience know exactly what kind of law they want to get into before law school. OP might be different, but almost everyone I knew made course corrections over the course of law school. That supports both going somewhere with no debt and going somewhere that opens the most doors.

2 Harvard would undoubtedly help some defense-friendly career arcs, but for, say, a public defender's office it might hurt. You might have some pushback from a hiring committee that never got close to going to Harvard, you might be up against a state school grad that's been doing trial prep all along and has 10 jury trials under their belt, and so on.

3 Harvard's LRAP is ridiculously good. I think it even covers low paying firms.

Pulling it all together, best school without debt makes the most sense if you're positive you want to retire as a trial attorney. Best school with a good LRAP makes sense if you want to keep big ticket ACLU/political options open.

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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby arose928 » Fri Jun 02, 2017 11:37 am

If you want to be a public defender, prestige/Harvard doesn't matter. They're not going to be impressed by your pedigree. They'll be impressed by what you DO. In fact I'm going to a T14 and I almost feel like it's a liability. Most people in the (4) offices I've worked at just went to the local schools.

Anecdotally, I asked my supervisor in a PD office last summer if I should clerk - if they would care about that at all in hiring - and he said the hiring committee would be more impressed if I won a bar fight than if I clerked.

PD offices care about 1) your trial/oral advocacy skills; 2) commitment to working for the indigent (as one PD said, "I can teach anyone how to cross-examine. But I can't teach anyone how to care about poor people.")

If you want to do criminal defense at a firm, that could be a different story that I can't speak to. Or if you want to do impact litigation at somewhere like the ACLU (think, suing a local police department for a pattern of excessive force) then that's also a different story.

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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby UVA2B » Fri Jun 02, 2017 11:55 am

fm1477 wrote:It's true. However Penn only gave me 60k (after negotiations) and I was not comfortable with that considering my income will be average for at least a few years out of law school. I don't need 120k in loans.


Can you explain why Penn with debt isn't a good outcome considering you want to go into an LRAP eligible position but Harvard would be fine? For your goals (assuming they aren't actually ACLU masquerading as criminal defense), Penn is absolutely the best school you could go to. And while Harvard is better for getting a job at the ACLU, it's not necessarily better than Penn for getting a job specifically in Philadelphia with the ACLU (nailing a job at the ACLU specifically in Philly is going to be tough no matter where you go).

You're clearly young and overflowing with idealism (that's not meant to be a slight in any way, so please try not to take it that way), but if you look at your goals pragmatically, you should realize a Philadelphia law school is your best chance of doing what you want where you want to do it (accepting previous discussion on what your goals actually are vice what you might mistakenly think they are).

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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Fri Jun 02, 2017 1:10 pm

The ACLU thing is weird because I don't associate that with criminal defense at all. (Unless everyone thinks the OP means criminal justice reform? Suing the police re: brutality is great but it's absolutely not criminal defense.) I assumed from what he wrote that if he didn't mean PD, he meant more like private criminal defense like Garry Spence or defense attorneys to the stars. I agree with someone above who said that Harvard could maybe be a hook for clients in that case, but the bigger hook is success at trial, which comes from doing trials (so probably starting as a PD to get experience).

Unless the OP really means reform (or maybe super elite white collar defense, but that seems even less likely), I agree with arose.

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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby cron1834 » Fri Jun 02, 2017 1:27 pm

OP: it sounds like what you want to become is a "criminal defense lawyer that makes it on TV" rather than a "criminal defense lawyer." A vanishingly small number of criminal defense attorneys will get the call to join the next Dream Team in the event of another OJ trial... and going to Loyola instead of Harvard didn't hold Johnnie Cochran back. Relatedly, you seem to want such a unicorn outcome that going to Harvard is barely going to move the needle. Out of 25,000 living HLS alums, there's exactly one Alan Dershowitz.

Go to the best school you can get massively discounted. If you underperformed your numbers, re-take and re-apply. Going to Penn or Michigan or Berkeley is not going to hold you back if you have the talent, but having an insane debt load from Harvard will certainly be a problem if you're not sure how to pay it back.

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Re: Criminal Defense / retake for Harvard

Postby UVA2B » Fri Jun 02, 2017 2:33 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:The ACLU thing is weird because I don't associate that with criminal defense at all. (Unless everyone thinks the OP means criminal justice reform? Suing the police re: brutality is great but it's absolutely not criminal defense.) I assumed from what he wrote that if he didn't mean PD, he meant more like private criminal defense like Garry Spence or defense attorneys to the stars. I agree with someone above who said that Harvard could maybe be a hook for clients in that case, but the bigger hook is success at trial, which comes from doing trials (so probably starting as a PD to get experience).

Unless the OP really means reform (or maybe super elite white collar defense, but that seems even less likely), I agree with arose.


Yeah, the ACLU is in the impact litigation realm, not criminal defense, but that's the point of pressing the OP to define what they imagine when they say criminal defense. Without knowing they have a specifically defined career in mind (and becoming the next Alan Dershowitz being a ludicrous goal to begin with), we can't really know what advice to give in choosing a school. But everything offered to this point screams that Penn is likely the best option given their geographic goals. And since they can't seem to fully form (or at least haven't articulated it yet) what career they're envisioning, it's probably better just to impress on them what the great majority of criminal defense is to hopefully clear up any confusion and help them in better defining the career they want.




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