Aguyingeorgia's Blog: Supreme Court Clerkship?

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Aguyingeorgia's Blog: Supreme Court Clerkship?

Postby aguyingeorgia » Fri Apr 04, 2008 7:17 am

On TLS, there have recently been a lot of posts concerning Mercer University. There has been a lot of talk about the school, emotions have ran high, and in general the school has been cast in a poor light by both its supporters and its detractors.

So, I decided that I'm interested in learning the truth about Mercer, as much as someone who doesn't attend the school can. I'll make the disclaimer before delving into this that I am not a big fan of the school for a variety of reasons (I will share them later), but I shall do my best to keep the first part of this on the facts.

First, I will start with admissions and take a close look at the numbers (data from

Last year, Mercer received 1,367 applications, accepted 419, and 148 students actually enrolled. The median GPA was 3.44 and the median LSAT was 156. 15% of the students were considered to have minority status. The average age of the student body is 23, with ages ranging from 21-43. The majority of the new students (70%) were from Georgia.

Tuition and fees for last year's enrolling student: $32,292
Cost of living (9 months): $14,200
Total cost of attendance: $46,492

In order to provide a point of reference, I've listed the costs of attendance for a couple other law schools in the state below:

University of Georgia: $24,758 (resident)/$41,754 (non-resident)
Emory University: $59,988

The major complaints posters have made about the school seems to revolve around job prospects versus cost of attendance. So next, I will focus on the graduates of the law school.

Bar Passage Rate:
2006: 90.6% of first time takers passed the July 2006 Georgia State Bar Exam.

Career prospects (based on NALP Class of 2007 Summary Report)
93.6% of the class employed
2.4% enrolled in a full time degree program
3.2% Unemployed and seeking
0.8% Studying for bar full time

Where are they?
Private Practice: 64.1%
Government: 9.37%
Judicial Clerkships: 12.0%
Business: 3.42%
Public Interest: 10.26%
Academic: 0.85%

83.8% were employed in GA (in response to a previous post about Mercer Grad's heading to NY, 0 were reported to be working there after graduation for the 2007 class)

Now, let's talk money. Of 125 people, 94 chose to share salary information. It should be kept in mind that salary reporting is often self-selecting, with people on the higher range tending to report, which could result in a slighter higher than average than might be seen if all graduates had reported. In the interest of being fair, it is possible the average salary could be lower than actual due to people not reporting as well.

Private Practice: Average salary $77,619 (63/75 reporting)
*note* Mercer has strong ties with several top firms in Atlanta, and typically places several students with these firms. With average starting salaries of $120-145k, in such a small sample size these salaries could pull the average up in a fairly significant manner.

Public Interest: $44,625 (8/12 reporting)

So, what do the employment numbers indicate? Mercer graduates are able to get jobs, though maybe not in the salary range as those attend the top schools (averages reported around $135-155k for the majority of the T-14 graduates who go into private practice).

So, why the uproar? People are able to get a job after graduation, so where does the problem lie?
Last edited by aguyingeorgia on Tue Jul 15, 2008 11:45 am, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Aguyingeorgia's Blog: Today's topic: Mercer University

Postby aguyingeorgia » Fri Apr 04, 2008 5:16 pm

Part 2:

I think that a lot of the people who complain about Mercer have problems with that school that lie on several fronts.

First, Macon, GA isn't a fun place to live. It isn't the worst place to live, but for people coming out of a solid undergraduate setting, a lot of the "social scene" in Macon will leave them desiring of more.

Secondly, like most schools, Mercer markets itself in manner that may not lead to an accurate picture of prospects for graduates. I believe that Mercer graduates have access to most jobs in the South, but the margin of error is less than it might be at Emory or Georgia, or a T-14 school. Can a Mercer graduate get a job in big law? Absolutely. Can they be in the top 20% and get that job? My personal thought on the matter is more along the lines of top 5%, 10% at max. I base this on several factors. Typically, the lower ranked a school is, the higher you have got to finish in your class. No news there. Additionally, I've talked to several recruiters in big law in Atlanta, and the basic consensus seems to be that in general, top 5-10% is needed at Mercer to get a job at those "big firms". However, it was also noted by several of the recruiters/interviewers that Mercer does enjoy some special relationships with several firms, which may help grease the wheels for certain students. A last factor, which I had never thought about prior to hearing it, is that there are many Mercer students with family in the legal profession in the South, and thus regardless of their class rank, may quite possibly get a really good job.

All of that makes sense to me, so what is the complaint? Honestly, it seems to be a combination of expectations set during recruiting, the failure of the students to do adequate research, the fact that Mercer was a last choice for some (no offense intended here, just speaking frankly), and that the school seems to generate a different message once a student is enrolled.

First, I'll address recruiting. I've heard many stories about this, but I'll share my own. I originally discovered Mercer by the fact that I have several friends who attend the school. Their reactions were varied, but when it came time for me to start considering law schools Mercer made the list based on the positive reviews. I met with them at the LSAC forum, and I have to say that they did an outstanding job of making each person feel special. Truthfully, they were one of the top tables at the forum. Many of my concerns were addressed, and I was told that clerkships, academia, and big law were all available to Mercer graduates. This wasn't clearly explained, and I left feeling that Mercer opened the same doors that any school did (naive). I left feeling quite excited at the prospect of attending Mercer, especially with thoughts of a full ride dancing through my head (based on my numbers and experiences). I was pumped.
This pumped feeling soon ended when I spoke with one of my friends who works for a top Atlanta firm. The exact sentence I recall was, "Don't go there. Most of the top firms in Atlanta don't consider Mercer on par with Emory, UGA, or even Georgia State." This perplexed me, so I began my education about the school. The more I learned, the more I realized that there wasn't much of a safety net, and that 80% of that school wasn't going to have the opportunities that they thought they would, and that 95% of that school wasn't going to have most of the opportunities I wanted. 0% of the school had the opportunities that I dreamed of.
I felt a bit disheartened and mislead, but at the same time I realized that a school's admissions office/recruiters generally cast their schools in the best light. It is something we all do, so I didn't get really upset about it. In fact, I didn't think much about it until the posts started flying in the forum. It seems clear that the second aforementioned reason for student complaints is their own failure to research opportunities. Combine this with the fact that most entering law students expect to finish in the top 10%, and you see where the problem lies. The 120k+ jobs are just not available for most of the student body at the law school.

Add into this mix that career services seems to have a problem with their message tailoring. I've heard numerous firsthand reports of the shocking "help you find a job as a paralegal" speech, and while I can't say for certain that it actually happened (after all I wasn't there), I tend to believe it. Scaring students with a statement like that doesn't breed confidence in your school.

At this point, I understand why the Mercer kids are upset. I understand why they feel the need to vent and warn others. It is a combination of the above, along with their own frustration. However, I feel obligated to mention that despite all of these things, I truly feel that the quality of education at Mercer is on par with other universities. I think they have an excellent teaching staff, do an excellent job teaching, and in general their students are well prepared to pass the bar (see previous stats).

Now, I want to talk about the backlash towards the students who complained from other students.

In part, I think it involves cognitive dissonance. Cognitive dissonance is a psychological state that describes the uncomfortable feeling between what one holds to be true and what one knows to be true. I think at this point in their scholarstic careers at Mercer, many of the students have a good handle on what their opportunities are. However, I think that a lot of students at Mercer still believe that their opportunities are greater than they actually are. Thus, anything that attacks that belief requires either a change in the belief system or a lashing-out against those who make the attack. It seems that some students are lashing-out rather than consider the merits of what the posters are saying. Also, I believe there are a minority of students who don't want to aknowledge their actual prospects.

However, after a lot of thought, I think that a good portion of the lashing out has nothing to do with job prospects or education. I believe that it is a sense of betrayal that a fellow student would badmouth your institution of learning. If you've been to law school, you no doubt have a better handle on the stress and troubles that being a 1L goes through, but I've heard enough stories to believe that it is something that creates a bond between those who survive it together. I am sure that someone breaking that bond by talking trash about the school that you both attend is upsetting. I don't always support my alma in all things, but if someone starts talking some smack about it, I find myself seeking a way to defend it. I think this is just human nature. If you are part of something that is important to your self identity, helps define who you are, and takes up so much of your life, of course you are going to defend it.

I understand both sides, but I think the school would be better served by more facts and less attacks. I know that when I read threatening posts, hear students talk about being scared to go to school, or hear about an uproar that a dissidentt voice or two causes, I immediately question why the uproar is taking place. Are these posters who don't like Mercer wrong? Honestly, I don't think so in a lot of respects.

If you are paying for school there, and spend 130k in three years and come out making 70k, you aren't going to be living the same lifestyle as the lawyer who is making 140k that spent accrued the same same debt at a higher ranked school. This is a fact. If you want to clerk for the United States Supreme Court, the odds are it isn't happening at Mercer. Fact. However, Mercer is a great option for many students, and depending on what you want to do, it may be the perfect place for you.

My final thoughts on the posters at TLS:

I wish they would find a better way to deal with each other, both on this board and in real life. People should be allowed to speak their opinions, and to do so without fear of reprisal. In addition, people should be allowed to disagree with those opinions. I would just like to see less ad hominem, and more facts. Regardless of which side of the debate people fall on, they clearly want to express their opinions, and I have no problem with either side. This is, after all, a forum.

My advice to anyone choosing Mercer, or any other law school:
Caveat Emptor

You have a responsibility to research the school you attend, the job prospects, the education, the costs, and the opportunities. Regardless of what you are told, you should still make sure to do your due diligence in researching so that you won't have any surprises down the road.

I wish the Mercer students the best of luck.

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Re: Aguyingeorgia's Blog: Today's Topic: TLS and hurt feelings

Postby aguyingeorgia » Mon Apr 07, 2008 10:12 pm

A little earlier today, someone was talking about being upset over some comments by a few posters on TLS that were causing them to consider leaving the site. I made a response to them that I think is something to bear in mind.

Basically, something along the lines of:

Giving those posters credit is like giving public restrooms a say in your life. People piss and shit all over them, and you certainly wouldn't sit down and eat off of them, so don't let those toilets determine whether or not you stay and eat dinner somewhere else.

These are public message boards, and you aren't going to agree with, like, or hate every single poster. Some people will be polite and helpful, others will be rude and mean. Just remember, you'll probably never encounter most of them, and those rude and mean posts are more a reflection on the person who writes them, versus anything that you should take to heart.

Best wishes to all.

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Re: Aguyingeorgia's Blog: Today's topic: Decision Time.

Postby aguyingeorgia » Thu Apr 17, 2008 1:59 am

I look back over the past eight months and realize what a crazy emotional rollercoaster this whole experience has been. It seems like taking the LSAT was a long time ago, and the process of getting all the applications put together and sent off is a distant memory.

Now, I'm at that difficult place where everyone finds themselves at some point.

Decision time.

All the cards are in play, and with the exception of a few details, the chips are all on the table now, so it is time to play my hand.

I will choose my school on Friday, April 25, and I hope that I make the right decision. There is no perfect decision, but I hope that I make the choice that is the best one for me.

Best wishes to all.

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