High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

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le petit fig
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High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby le petit fig » Wed Jan 28, 2009 1:27 pm

Hi all,

I'm hoping someone on TLS might have some insight on this...

How much does law school prestige matter in eventually working in a high profile public interest job (ie. the UN, State Department, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty)?

Here's the story - I am amazingly in to some great law schools: NYU, Columbia, Northwestern and want to eventually work in one of the above areas. I am trying to also juggle staying in the same city as my SO, who is applying to business schools. It's going to be tough to match as is, but I need to know if going to Northwestern or Michigan (which I'm still crossing fingers for) would give me much less of a chance at these jobs as NYU/Columbia.

Admittedly, they are all wonderful law schools, but are Columbia/NYU going to give me enough of a leg up on great PI jobs to consider sticking out a few years apart from a SO?

Any advice appreciated! Thanks!

nianlong
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby nianlong » Wed Jan 28, 2009 2:00 pm

NYU/ Columbia would be ideal with your career ambitions. It would be difficult to justify going to Northwestern over these.

Maintaining a relationship over a long distance can be done, especially when you're staying busy not sitting around wishing you were elsewhere. My wife (fiance at the time) spent nearly a year apart while she was in school and I was volunteering abroad. It worked out for the best though, and we have no regrets.

smalltown
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby smalltown » Wed Jan 28, 2009 2:06 pm

Yes, it's true that the new york schools would probably work better. But being at Northwestern could have its benefits, considering Chicago is the power base for the new administration. You could make some connections within the Chicago political world, but that is obviously a difficult and sometimes nefarious venture. Going to the other schools would probably make it easier, largely because most of the world's humanitarian organizations are based there or have a significant presence there. Of course, being from Harvard has its perks in this administration, too.

le petit fig
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby le petit fig » Wed Jan 28, 2009 2:12 pm

Haha...yes, if Harvard would let me in I think I'd make the case to stay in Boston.

Thanks for the input!

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underdawg
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby underdawg » Wed Jan 28, 2009 2:32 pm

yeah, "prestige" matters here. that is the problem of people here who say "go to the school that gives you the most $$$ if you want to do PI" or "best LRAP, end of story". if you want to work a random regular PI job at a community you have ties to or something, sure you can save. but i know for places like the ACLU and whatnot, it'll help to go to NYU/CLS over MVPBN

atreyu
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby atreyu » Wed Jan 28, 2009 2:45 pm

I definitely think Columbia/NYU are a better decision here -- both because high profile public interest places are very into prestige (it's often the only way they can get certain media attention as well as competitive grants), and because of location. It is enormously beneficial to be in a city where you can work during the year for these organizations -- those connections are going to be crucial in landing a high profile PI job (which is made up of a very small circle relatively speaking).

I think your options are great. For those who might not end up with Columbia/NYU options but are looking for similar jobs (like me), I wonder what you all think about choosing GULC over say UMich/UVA/Cornell/Duke/Northwestern because of its DC location?

bananas131
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby bananas131 » Sun Feb 15, 2009 11:30 pm

Bump. I'm also curious about people's thoughts on the best schools for high-profile PI work outside of the HYS and Columbia/NYU. What about Berkeley?

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observationalist
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby observationalist » Mon Feb 16, 2009 12:39 am

underdawg wrote:yeah, "prestige" matters here. that is the problem of people here who say "go to the school that gives you the most $$$ if you want to do PI" or "best LRAP, end of story". if you want to work a random regular PI job at a community you have ties to or something, sure you can save. but i know for places like the ACLU and whatnot, it'll help to go to NYU/CLS over MVPBN


I agree about the importance of prestige given the much more limited number of "top" positions in the PI community, and especially if you're looking to get pulled in straight from law school. I don't know if there's a list out there of the most selective PI groups, but it would be worth looking through the ranks of wherever you're interested to see where attorneys studied (and whether they came straight from school or from a smaller/regional PI org). The Brennan Center in NY, Public Citizen Lit Group in DC, the three major NRDC offices (for enviro), and of course ACLU's national offices are the ones I'm familiar with that all seem able to stick within the T6 for their hiring needs if they so choose. People who break through the prestige barrier often (I think) do so on an individual basis, and my guess is that their grades are usually better than what it takes to get biglaw from a given school. After all, they're competing with top PI candidates from more prestttigious programs, who probably also beat out candidates from their own schools.

That said, some schools are working to improve access to high profile groups and improve your job options for PI, irrespective of scholarships or LRAP programs. Vanderbilt's Social Justice Program and Career Services Office have been helping place students into more nationally-renowned PI orgs by sending interested students to the Equal Justice Works career fair in DC each fall, bringing in practicing PI attorneys to teach short courses and meet us, and tapping into new faculty connections with different groups to try and open up the pipeline. International PI summer and semester gigs at the UN, ICJ, etc are now much more accessible thanks to our program directors and the set externship programs they offer. The problem is getting those orgs to hire us straight from law school... often people end up looking for good regional job options where they can gain the experience that will make them competitive for those jobs a few years down the road. We have a student who didn't make the cut for ACLU in DC but has been working at the TN office and for the ACLU LGBT project... their hope is that with some experience they can get to Washington down the road.

I wouldn't rule out other schools besides NYU/Columbia, but I would contact their Career Services offices directly and ask to speak with students/recent grads who successfully landed the sort of PI work you're looking for. This has been said before but PI in general is a much more individualized career path than the standard biglaw route. Consulting with recent grads before you actually decide on a particular school will help. You could also see if students do semester externships at those orgs... it helps if you can work substantially at a place for longer than a summer internship. That's one of the major benefits (besides the name recognition) to studying at NYU/Columbia/Fordham for NY and GULC/GW for DC. If another school encourages you to relocate it'll make you more competitive for permanent hiring. I just found out that the reason one of my classmates transferred to Columbia last summer instead of staying here and just studying/working in NY for 2L year was that Vandy wouldn't accept enough of Columbia's credits... to me this seems pretty ridiculous and something we need to fix if we're gonna keep retaining talented students. We lost another top PI student to HLS, but to be honest I can't blame them.

bananas131
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby bananas131 » Sat Feb 21, 2009 2:19 pm

Thanks observationalist. That was really helpful and makes me think I should have re-considered applying to Vandy!

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Marmot
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby Marmot » Sat Feb 21, 2009 2:29 pm

I've worked for some time in the nonprofit legal sector (not as a lawyer - yet) and from what I've observed, the way to get the good jobs in high-profile public interest is to build yourself up as a great lawyer first and foremost, albeit one who cares about issues in the public interest. IMHO, you should still prioritize the quality of your school over its access and interaction with public service entities. The JD from a more prestigious school gives you a better chance of getting your foot in the door anywhere, and in nonprofits we're always happy to see someone who's dedicated to the cause.

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robin600
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby robin600 » Sat Aug 15, 2009 9:19 am

GULC has the highest placement of grads into public service than any other law school.

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Kohinoor
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby Kohinoor » Sat Aug 15, 2009 10:49 am

robin600 wrote:GULC has the highest placement of grads into public service than any other law school.

By number or percent? Their class size is huge.

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robin600
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby robin600 » Sat Aug 15, 2009 5:59 pm

IDK that's just what GULC's website says, they don't clarify. Whatever the case, numbers or percent, it's still a lot.

ConsideringLawSchool
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby ConsideringLawSchool » Sat Aug 15, 2009 6:14 pm

A related question: What is the most desirable organization through which to do child advocacy work? Thanks.

ConsideringLawSchool
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby ConsideringLawSchool » Sat Aug 15, 2009 7:22 pm

ConsideringLawSchool wrote:A related question: What is the most desirable organization through which to do child advocacy work? Thanks.


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98234872348
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby 98234872348 » Sat Aug 15, 2009 7:26 pm

bananas131 wrote:Thanks observationalist. That was really helpful and makes me think I should have re-considered applying to Vandy!

He has a knack for that...

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OperaSoprano
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby OperaSoprano » Sat Aug 15, 2009 7:29 pm

mistergoft wrote:
bananas131 wrote:Thanks observationalist. That was really helpful and makes me think I should have re-considered applying to Vandy!

He has a knack for that...


I know! He makes me want to leave Fordham and head south, and that's just not right. :lol: It's probably also because he's such a nice person, though.

In response to the OP: I feel like most of these answers are spot on. Every grad I've talked to has said that prestigious PI is harder to get than biglaw. I shouldn't hold my breath. I guess I can worry about this when I'm top 2%, lol.

ConsideringLawSchool
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby ConsideringLawSchool » Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:00 pm

OperaSoprano wrote:
mistergoft wrote:
bananas131 wrote:Thanks observationalist. That was really helpful and makes me think I should have re-considered applying to Vandy!

He has a knack for that...


I know! He makes me want to leave Fordham and head south, and that's just not right. :lol: It's probably also because he's such a nice person, though.

In response to the OP: I feel like most of these answers are spot on. Every grad I've talked to has said that prestigious PI is harder to get than biglaw. I shouldn't hold my breath. I guess I can worry about this when I'm top 2%, lol.


Just due to relative number of spots or...?

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OperaSoprano
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby OperaSoprano » Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:18 pm

ConsideringLawSchool wrote:
OperaSoprano wrote:
mistergoft wrote:
bananas131 wrote:Thanks observationalist. That was really helpful and makes me think I should have re-considered applying to Vandy!

He has a knack for that...


I know! He makes me want to leave Fordham and head south, and that's just not right. :lol: It's probably also because he's such a nice person, though.

In response to the OP: I feel like most of these answers are spot on. Every grad I've talked to has said that prestigious PI is harder to get than biglaw. I shouldn't hold my breath. I guess I can worry about this when I'm top 2%, lol.


Just due to relative number of spots or...?


At least in part. It's a supply/demand thing. If the ACLU can hire me or my friend at Harvard, guess who's not getting that job? There seem to be many more biglaw than prestigious PI openings for new graduates. There is one reason to take heart, though; at least a few PI organizations do care about passion. My roommate worked for the Bronx Defenders, and she said they would hire a passionate and committed Brooklyn grad over a T14er who was apathetic (or had ever worked for a district attorney.)

It's not impossible... Well, I'm hoping it isn't.

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robin600
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby robin600 » Sat Aug 15, 2009 11:57 pm

It's not that hard to get a job as an ADA or Public Defender out of law school. It may be quite entry level but it is definitely doable for most grads of any school. What about the federal government or state government? Not everyone who is going into PI is going to be as famous as Atticus Finch but there are a lot of PI jobs available.

CAwolverine
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby CAwolverine » Thu Aug 20, 2009 12:43 pm

*bump*

Anyone have any info on the competitiveness of say, federal public defender jobs? I would imagine a lot depends on location.

I too do work in PIL now and many of the high profile organizations seem to hire directly from places like NYU and Columbia, where many of the nation's top PI lawyers are also professors. Unfortunately I am not in contention for most of the T14 schools, and will have to find a different way to make my way up.

wired
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby wired » Thu Aug 20, 2009 1:30 pm

CAwolverine wrote:*bump*

Anyone have any info on the competitiveness of say, federal public defender jobs? I would imagine a lot depends on location.

I too do work in PIL now and many of the high profile organizations seem to hire directly from places like NYU and Columbia, where many of the nation's top PI lawyers are also professors. Unfortunately I am not in contention for most of the T14 schools, and will have to find a different way to make my way up.



My brother clerked at PD office and plans on working at one after he finishes his federal clerkship. The impression I have gotten from him is that a lot of it is area dependent, but they are generally tougher to get than most people believe. If you're working in the District of Nebraska, getting a PD job will be substantially easier than in the Central District of California. However, even the District of Nebraska getting a PD spot in the federal office will be harder than securing a job in a mid-size firm or any state government position that would be similar.

yabbadabbado
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby yabbadabbado » Thu Aug 20, 2009 1:37 pm

Going to CLS/NYU isn't going to exponentially increase your chances at getting a job at one of these high profile PIL places. The reason for that is there are so few openings available, especially for recent graduates, that you're going to need an outstanding resume, and a lot of luck or practically a miracle to get one of those jobs. Some of the places you mentioned aren't going to hire a fresh grad period.

Also, maintaining a long distance relationship through law school is real pain and likely to cause you added stress during 1L that you don't need. This is coming from someone has actually done it, and I can't really recommend it to anyone unless you have no other option. Ultimately you need to assess how serious your relationship is and how you want to deal with the situation though. One thing you could do is ask your SO if they'd be willing to put off grad school if they don't get into one near your chosen law school. This is tough though, b/c if your SO doesn't get in to a nearby school next cycle, it could spell disaster for the relationship.

Fed public defender jobs are very competitive. Best candidates for these jobs will have stellar grades and a fed clerkship.

ADA and Public Defender jobs are also a LOT more competitive than everyone thinks. Some offices in major cities get 1000+ apps for not that many spots. Many have highly competitive multi-step interview processes. LA actually requires that you take a qualifying exam. Other offices only hire when there is a vacancy and only after you have bar passage results. A lot is dependent on luck and being in the right place at the right time. Just because PD/DA offices aren't all totally hung up on school prestige and grades (though some definitely are) doesn't mean the jobs are easy to get. Also keep in mind these jobs are subject to state budgetary constraints and the number of openings vary a lot from year to year. Right now, many offices have curtailed hiring severely or are under a hiring freeze.

For a reality check on state and fed government jobs, take a look at the Arizona Honors Program Handbook. Your school (or the schools that have accepted you) should be able to give you a password so that can access it. Call the career office and ask for it.

azlawlady
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby azlawlady » Thu Aug 20, 2009 2:07 pm

ConsideringLawSchool wrote:--LinkRemoved--

Nice info!

yabbadabbado wrote:Going to CLS/NYU isn't going to exponentially increase your chances at getting a job at one of these high profile PIL places. The reason for that is there are so few openings available, especially for recent graduates, that you're going to need an outstanding resume, and a lot of luck or practically a miracle to get one of those jobs. Some of the places you mentioned aren't going to hire a fresh grad period..

I actually think that CLS and NYU would have an advantage over many other schools not because of the schools themselves but because NYC is the hub of many of these higher profile not-for-profit/PI organizations. This means that CLS/NYU students have three years of opportunities to get part-time jobs, volunteer, and get internships at these places which WOULD give them a leg up once they graduate compared to other students.

yabbadabbado
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Re: High Profile Public Interest -- law school prestige?

Postby yabbadabbado » Thu Aug 20, 2009 2:52 pm

Being in NY helps for SOME PI jobs, but it's only marginally going to help at the high profile places, if at all. Even unpaid internships at these places are very, very competitive...just being in NYC isn't going to change that. For the places that are happy to take unpaid help from anyone, keep in mind the application process for post-grad jobs is different. Lots of PI orgs simply cannot hire those who did unpaid internships at their org due to the small number of spots available (if any are available for fresh grads to begin with) and the competitiveness of the applicant pool. Plus PI orgs have plenty of stellar candidates to fill any open spots that might be available due to big law deferrals, big law layoffs, and federal judicial clerks who are or will be left out in the cold by their firms. Given the downturn in biglaw hiring, which most t14 students counted on in the past, you are going to see even more competition for the already competitive PI jobs available.

This is coming from the perspective of a PI/Government focused t14 student with one year left.




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