As a 3L at MSU Law, here is my unvarnished and frank opinion. Robin600 clearly has no first-hand knowledge of the Michigan legal market, for practically everything he or she said simply isn't true, and anyone in the legal profession in Michigan would know it.
Based on my experience working as an intern for a federal district court judge in Detroit, and as an intern for a federal appellate court judge, and a summer associate at a larger D-Town law firm, I say that in the Michigan legal community people recognize that MSU is on the rise, and WSU's prospects are dropping. This is from the opinion of a federal judge’s law clerk that went to WSU, as well as the opinions of 4 other judicial law clerks, as well as the recruiting committee of a larger Detroit law firm, as well as talking to attorneys working in Detroit, including WSU grads.
To say that Detroit law firms tend to hire more WSU grads than MSU shows that Robin600's opinion is based on ill-informed (or outdated) heresay. Further, to say that MSU grads tend to get hired in Grand Rapids as opposed to Detroit demonstrates ignorance of reality. It’s a FACT that the law firm I summered at in Detroit hired 75% of its summer associates from MSU, and 0% from Wayne. It’s a FACT that around 6-10% of my class have job offers from Detroit area firms paying $100k+. (On the other hand, I also know of some very smart people whose Detroit-based summer firms no-offered every summer associate they hired last year).
Someone posted how MSU went ape-shit when they rose to T3 (a good thing), yet failed to note that WSU that same year DROPPED to T4 (they've since recovered after their alums went ape-shit). After dipping into T4 a few years ago, its hard to say WSU's prospects are better than MSU. But facts aside, I suspect at both WSU and MSU, unless you are in the top 5-10%, your chances of a six figure job decrease dramatically. For all intents and purposes, both schools are comparable. But its also a fact that MSU Law is affiliated with a nationally well-known university, while Wayne State is not known nationally.
Now, no doubt about it, job prospects for any law student in Michigan are poor. And in the aggregate, going to a lower ranked law school is a risky bet – riskier than it was 3 years ago – and I would ward off people from even trying (too many lawyers right now – I’m looking at YOU Cooley!!).
With that background in mind, onto the OP's question. Here is my frame of reference. Unlike many people, I did not go into law school expecting to be in the top of my class – I dicked around in undergrad, studying philosophy and enjoying the MSU nightlife (whew!) – I was happy I didn’t have to consider Cooley, but a philosophy degree just doesn’t open that many doors besides advanced education.
However, I realized from day one that I had to kick-ass and make law review if I wanted a six-figure job – at least, that was the plan I devised for me. I knew I was very smart, but I’m sure everyone who heads into law school thinks that – that is, until they get a C on their first RWA paper, and dreadful reality sinks in (I’ll never forget the look at that poor girl’s face, and the fact that I felt strangely good, because every one of my peers was a mere obstacle to my A).
Through exceptionally hard work, luck, and a supportive fiancé, I was #1 after first semester. I shocked myself, but continued to repeat that level of performance each semester.
After my first year, MSU threw a 100% scholarship at me. I was going to transfer to UofM, and they knew it, but damn, two years free tuition is a ton o’ money, and since I knew I was staying in Michigan (family ties and other reasons), and since I knew that most of the major Michigan firms interview at both MSU and UofM, after much internal debate I opted to stay at MSU and not transfer. And I made the right decision. I could have gone to UofM and racked up $65,000+ more debt and ended up at the same job I now have lined up after graduation, where the people in the office next to me have UofM degrees. That’s a fact.
HERE IS WHAT I WOULD CONSIDER:
1) How sure are you that you will end up in the top 10% at MSU?
2) Does your answer change when you realize that most people going to law school think they will be at the top of their class?
3) Do you want to practice in Michigan? (If no, I’d say don’t come to MSU).
With the way the economy is, unless you are top 5% (maybe 10% if you are lucky), you can land a six figure job with an MSU degree. I also know of several top of the class people who didn’t appreciate the regional appeal of the MSU degree, and were turned down for jobs in NY and DC.
Now I personally know that at least 6-10% of my 3L class has $100k+ jobs waiting for them following graduation. For the rest, the common refrain from all employers is “apply after you pass the bar.”
I won’t candy-coat it. Unless you end up in the top 10% of your class at MSU, your job prospects will likely sharply drop off. But if you do end up top 10%, your full-ride scholarship and fair chance of landing of $100k+ job (in Michigan probably) will make it all worth your while.
Besides job prospects, consider that $100k less debt is a shit-ton of money when you think about it. With the economy now, if you are middle of the class at a T14 school, you still might not land a six-figure job, and then you have a fuck-load of debt. Moreover, consider this wisdom from one of my MSU professors I asked about transferring to UofM – if you save a ton of cash due to a full ride scholarship, your job options are actually broader, since you don’t necessarily have to take a Big(or Medium-)Law job just to pay off your debts. You can take a different job that offers much better work/life balance and have more freedom to find and do what you love.
MSU Law is an excellent school. The education I have received here has opened many doors for me – and both federal judges I worked for treated me like a law clerk by the end of my internship because of the quality of my work. I wrote a complete bench-brief for a federal appellate judge that was of such quality that the judge sent it to the other members of the panel to represent his viewpoint (and the ultimate published opinion utilized the same reasoning).
Sure, it’s a gamble, but that’s life. In the aggregate, I say to anyone, don’t go to law school. But for those that persevere and rise to the top, there will always be jobs for you. And as discussed, 95% of first-time Michigan bar takes from MSU law passed this year.