Safety schools?

(Rankings, Profiles, Tuition, Student Life, . . . )
westteter

New
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Jul 01, 2019 2:30 pm

Safety schools?

Postby westteter » Mon Jul 01, 2019 2:37 pm

Hello all,

I'm a rising senior studying at Columbia, hoping to go to law school once I graduate. I haven't taken the LSAT yet, but I have a decent GPA. That being said, I still want to apply to maybe two to four safety schools. The thing is that I have absolutely no idea what those schools might be. My mom is pushing for Maryland because that's where she went and she thinks I could easily get in. However, I have no idea how good of a school it is, among other things. What are some schools that are decent but also are not terribly difficult to get into? If it helps, I'm looking to go into labor law.

User avatar
cavalier1138

Moderator
Posts: 6599
Joined: Fri Mar 25, 2016 8:01 pm

Re: Safety schools?

Postby cavalier1138 » Mon Jul 01, 2019 3:11 pm

The concept of "safety schools" shouldn't exist for you in applying to law school. You should only be targeting schools that will reasonably get you employment in your desired region and practice area (or if you don't know what you want to do yet, that will give you flexibility). And then you should be considering your debt level and likely salary.

If you want to go into labor law, then you have to define what kind of labor law you mean. Labor law can include ERISA practice at a large firm, or it can be more localized. If you want to work for a plaintiff's firm in Maryland, for example, then the University of Maryland would be a fine choice. If you want to join the ERISA group at a large firm in NYC, University of Maryland would not be a fine choice.

And with regards to kindly advice from older lawyers: Your mom likely doesn't understand that legal hiring is not the same as when she was in school. Over 30% of Maryland grads aren't working as lawyers within 9 months of graduation. Attorneys who graduated pre-recession are likely to have a much rosier view of outcomes for law grads than people who have actually dealt with the hiring market since then.

In general, this is all going to be very vague until you have an LSAT. And in all honesty, you should take a year or two after graduation to get some real-world experience before applying to law school.

User avatar
totesTheGoat

Moderator
Posts: 947
Joined: Fri Aug 01, 2014 1:32 pm

Re: Safety schools?

Postby totesTheGoat » Mon Jul 01, 2019 3:20 pm

decent but also are not terribly difficult to get into


This is a really dangerous standard to apply to law school admissions. Here are a few things that most people don't know about today's law school and law practice climate.

1) Most students are graduating with $100k+ in student debt from law school. Often closer to $250k.

2) Law has a very bi-modal salary structure. Roughly 10-15% of graduates immediately make north of $150k a year. The rest make less than $75k a year.

3) Unlike most other industries, law is still quite prestige driven. At some of the top 15-20 schools, 30-60% of students will end up in the high paying jobs. In the 20-50 ranked schools, that number is closer to 15-25% of students, and beyond 50, it's 10% or less of students. Where you go to school has a massive impact on whether you can afford to pay off your student loans or not.

4) Scholarships abound in law school admissions, if only you have a good enough application package. Excepting minority status and extremely awesome experience (like being an astronaut), you will do as well as your GPA and LSAT score dictate. An extra 4 or 5 points on the LSAT can change your law school admissions outcome by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

5) The LSAT is a learnable test. If you use the right tools and train yourself the right way, you can improve your score by many points.

All of this results in a few rules of thumb for law school admissions:
- Never pay sticker price for law school. 50% scholarship should be bare minimum, and the closer to full ride you get, the better.
- If you want to work in biglaw (making six-figures), focus in getting into one of the top 14 schools. They give you the best chance of making it into biglaw because they are the schools with national reach.
- If a school isn't ranked in the top 100, it's not worth going to unless you have a job lined up and you have some way to cashflow the degree.
- Conditional scholarships are the devil.
- Retaking the LSAT is the single easiest way to improve your options and your outcome, both for admissions and for a legal career.

User avatar
totesTheGoat

Moderator
Posts: 947
Joined: Fri Aug 01, 2014 1:32 pm

Re: Safety schools?

Postby totesTheGoat » Mon Jul 01, 2019 3:29 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:And in all honesty, you should take a year or two after graduation to get some real-world experience before applying to law school.


*nods in agreement*

Real-world experience doesn't have a ton of impact on admissions, but I see the result every day in interviews and working with junior attorneys.

Actually, I take that back. There is an impact on admissions. When you're not desperate to get into law school because in your mind it's the only path forward, you make smarter decisions about where to go, when to go, and how hard to work at law school. You're also less likely to take out hundreds of thousands of dollars of loans on a whim.

QContinuum

Moderator
Posts: 2846
Joined: Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:52 am

Re: Safety schools?

Postby QContinuum » Mon Jul 01, 2019 8:24 pm

cavalier1138 wrote:The concept of "safety schools" shouldn't exist for you in applying to law school. You should only be targeting schools that will reasonably get you employment in your desired region and practice area (or if you don't know what you want to do yet, that will give you flexibility). And then you should be considering your debt level and likely salary.

I can't emphasize the above strongly enough. The concept of "safety schools" makes no sense in the context of law schools. Law school is professional school: Its sole purpose is to get you the kind of legal job you want. It makes far, far more sense to reapply with a stronger LSAT (entirely possible) than to attend (and pay for!) a law school that won't get you the kind of legal job you want.

User avatar
nealric

Moderator
Posts: 3188
Joined: Fri Sep 25, 2009 9:53 am

Re: Safety schools?

Postby nealric » Tue Jul 09, 2019 1:29 pm

There are many times when you should listen to your mother. This is not one of those times. Agree with the advice above. Don't waste that Columbia degree on anything but a first rate law school. If you were good enough at standardized tests to get into Columbia undergrad, you are good enough to do well on the LSAT with proper study.

User avatar
Wild Card

Silver
Posts: 638
Joined: Fri Jan 17, 2014 6:48 pm

Re: Safety schools?

Postby Wild Card » Tue Jul 09, 2019 2:04 pm

westteter wrote:What are some schools that are decent but also are not terribly difficult to get into?


Georgetown and Michigan are both decent schools that aren't terribly difficult to get into. However, you should still ensure that they award you at least $120,000 in grants.

hlsperson1111

Bronze
Posts: 485
Joined: Sun Jul 22, 2012 11:10 pm

Re: Safety schools?

Postby hlsperson1111 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 6:32 pm

totesTheGoat wrote:
decent but also are not terribly difficult to get into


This is a really dangerous standard to apply to law school admissions. Here are a few things that most people don't know about today's law school and law practice climate.

1) Most students are graduating with $100k+ in student debt from law school. Often closer to $250k.

2) Law has a very bi-modal salary structure. Roughly 10-15% of graduates immediately make north of $150k a year. The rest make less than $75k a year.

3) Unlike most other industries, law is still quite prestige driven. At some of the top 15-20 schools, 30-60% of students will end up in the high paying jobs. In the 20-50 ranked schools, that number is closer to 15-25% of students, and beyond 50, it's 10% or less of students. Where you go to school has a massive impact on whether you can afford to pay off your student loans or not.

4) Scholarships abound in law school admissions, if only you have a good enough application package. Excepting minority status and extremely awesome experience (like being an astronaut), you will do as well as your GPA and LSAT score dictate. An extra 4 or 5 points on the LSAT can change your law school admissions outcome by hundreds of thousands of dollars.

5) The LSAT is a learnable test. If you use the right tools and train yourself the right way, you can improve your score by many points.

All of this results in a few rules of thumb for law school admissions:
- Never pay sticker price for law school. 50% scholarship should be bare minimum, and the closer to full ride you get, the better.
- If you want to work in biglaw (making six-figures), focus in getting into one of the top 14 schools. They give you the best chance of making it into biglaw because they are the schools with national reach.
- If a school isn't ranked in the top 100, it's not worth going to unless you have a job lined up and you have some way to cashflow the degree.
- Conditional scholarships are the devil.
- Retaking the LSAT is the single easiest way to improve your options and your outcome, both for admissions and for a legal career.


There are schools where it arguably makes sense to pay sticker (HYS, particularly if you want certain types of work besides generic biglaw), but in general this is all correct.

OP - I don't know what a "decent" GPA is, but your goal should be to be in a position where you can go to a very good school with significant scholarship money or to an even better school with somewhat less scholarship money. The University of Maryland is not a very good school. It's probably not even a good school. Reasonable minds can differ on whether you should go there for free, but you certainly shouldn't pay a penny to go there.

QContinuum

Moderator
Posts: 2846
Joined: Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:52 am

Re: Safety schools?

Postby QContinuum » Tue Jul 09, 2019 7:41 pm

hlsperson1111 wrote:OP - I don't know what a "decent" GPA is, but your goal should be to be in a position where you can go to a very good school with significant scholarship money or to an even better school with somewhat less scholarship money. The University of Maryland is not a very good school. It's probably not even a good school. Reasonable minds can differ on whether you should go there for free, but you certainly shouldn't pay a penny to go there.

A "decent" GPA probably means 3.2+. Aside from Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Chicago and Cornell (which is idiosyncratically picky about GPA), basically no law school is out of reach with a 3.2+ given a high enough LSAT. And someone able to get into Columbia College is absolutely going to be able to get that high enough LSAT if they put their mind to it. There is zero reason any Columbia College grad should need to attend a law school outside the T13/T20.

hlsperson1111

Bronze
Posts: 485
Joined: Sun Jul 22, 2012 11:10 pm

Re: Safety schools?

Postby hlsperson1111 » Tue Jul 09, 2019 7:47 pm

QContinuum wrote:
hlsperson1111 wrote:OP - I don't know what a "decent" GPA is, but your goal should be to be in a position where you can go to a very good school with significant scholarship money or to an even better school with somewhat less scholarship money. The University of Maryland is not a very good school. It's probably not even a good school. Reasonable minds can differ on whether you should go there for free, but you certainly shouldn't pay a penny to go there.

A "decent" GPA probably means 3.2+. Aside from Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Chicago and Cornell (which is idiosyncratically picky about GPA), basically no law school is out of reach with a 3.2+ given a high enough LSAT. And someone able to get into Columbia College is absolutely going to be able to get that high enough LSAT if they put their mind to it. There is zero reason any Columbia College grad should need to attend a law school outside the T13/T20.


I always understood Berkeley to be picky about GPA, but now I think we are just splitting hairs.

QContinuum

Moderator
Posts: 2846
Joined: Mon Aug 07, 2017 9:52 am

Re: Safety schools?

Postby QContinuum » Tue Jul 09, 2019 10:20 pm

hlsperson1111 wrote:
QContinuum wrote:
hlsperson1111 wrote:OP - I don't know what a "decent" GPA is, but your goal should be to be in a position where you can go to a very good school with significant scholarship money or to an even better school with somewhat less scholarship money. The University of Maryland is not a very good school. It's probably not even a good school. Reasonable minds can differ on whether you should go there for free, but you certainly shouldn't pay a penny to go there.

A "decent" GPA probably means 3.2+. Aside from Yale, Stanford, Harvard, Chicago and Cornell (which is idiosyncratically picky about GPA), basically no law school is out of reach with a 3.2+ given a high enough LSAT. And someone able to get into Columbia College is absolutely going to be able to get that high enough LSAT if they put their mind to it. There is zero reason any Columbia College grad should need to attend a law school outside the T13/T20.


I always understood Berkeley to be picky about GPA, but now I think we are just splitting hairs.

No, you're right. So it's Y/S/H/C, and Berkeley and Cornell, that are GPA-selective. That leaves a majority (7) of the T13 and all of the T20 on the table given a high enough LSAT score. (I interpret Penn and UVA's admissions rates in the table below to reflect their implicit requirement of a convincing Why Penn/Why Virginia, which many applicants don't (know they need to) submit.)
Image
And if OP's GPA is higher, in the 3.6-3.8 range, then Berkeley becomes entirely possible and even Harvard, Chicago and Cornell come onto the table, with only Y/S remaining locked out:
Image

User avatar
LSATWiz.com

Partner
Posts: 703
Joined: Mon Jun 12, 2017 10:37 pm

Re: Safety schools?

Postby LSATWiz.com » Thu Jul 11, 2019 3:32 pm

Agreed. Your mother is applying college admission thinking to law school admissions. They're not equivalent because it's virtually unheard of to take a gap year between HS and college unless you're doing something specific that's normally also academic-related (eg: going to a religious school, spending time in a foreign country, etc.) With law school, most people take gap years so there's really no reason for safety schools.

The idea is that if school A gives you a 70% chance for a desirable outcome and B gives you 30%, it is worth sacrificing a year to go to A. Law school is so different from undergrad that you won't really lose your academic focus, particularly if you have a desk job that requires lots of typing.

icansortofmath

Bronze
Posts: 228
Joined: Tue Jul 10, 2018 2:49 pm

Re: Safety schools?

Postby icansortofmath » Sat Jul 13, 2019 8:40 am

Gap years are normal.

Take the LSAT and see where you fall. Safety schools really don't apply. For any given LSAT/GPA you have so many schools that would be "reach" (25%<) and "target" (25%-50%) to get in that you really don't even have to look at schools where you are a favorite to get in unless you have geographic preferences that limit your choices. For most people, it is almost always right to just suck it up and spend 3 years at the best school they get into, provided that school is T14+some regionals that they have ties to.

Some adjustment for money received depending on desired employment outcome but really for the most part: kill LSAT, apply to everyone in your LSAT range, then go to the best school you get into.



Return to “Choosing a Law School�

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 8 guests