Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

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AT9
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Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby AT9 » Sat Sep 07, 2013 9:41 am

Bear with me - I know, it's a TTT and TTT's deceive applicants, ruin lives, etc., etc.. But, if someone could attend with very little or no debt and wanted to work in SD after graduation, would it be a good option?

I was somewhat surprised by USD's employment score on LST. It's similar to or better than schools like Ohio State, UF, Indiana, Illinois, Arizona State, Houston, etc. It also appears to have a great reputation in the state, as all 5 of the SD Supreme Court justices are USD grads.

Like most lawyer hopefuls, I have occasional daydreams of prestigious Fed clerkships or biglaw jobs in America's most prominent cities (options that don't really exist at USD). But the idea of working in a more stress-free, slower pace environment with a comfortable living has its own appeal...and the appeal to me is fairly strong.

So, what kind of careers to USD grads have? Do most end up making $30,000 a year doing PI work for the rest of their lives or is there a reasonable chance of getting a job within a few years making around $60,000+? I've never actually lived in SD, but 90% of my relatives have lived there for generations and I've spent close to a year of my life in the state over various trips. And as a military kid who moved around a ton, it was the one constant location in my childhood and it feels more like home than most of the states I've lived in. I'm way above the 75th's at USD and am entertaining the idea as a back up option (if I got a full ride or close to it).

Thanks!

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby smaug_ » Sat Sep 07, 2013 9:47 am

Try to use your family to see if there are actually any jobs. I would be concerned that nothing exists at all outside of Rapid and Sioux Falls and that what does exist is not part of the normal hiring pattern that law grads expect.

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby Buck Strickland » Sat Sep 07, 2013 9:52 am

It sounds like there are several good reasons why you might want to go to USD. I'd just suggest you do a ton of research – maybe visit the campus and talk to some alumni - and if you still think it would be a good fit, go for it.

But you should apply to other schools, too. Keep your options open. Plenty of schools would let you eventually settle down in SD while also opening doors in other markets. Have you considered, for example, University of Iowa or University of Minnesota?

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby AT9 » Sat Sep 07, 2013 9:53 am

hibiki wrote:Try to use your family to see if there are actually any jobs. I would be concerned that nothing exists at all outside of Rapid and Sioux Falls and that what does exist is not part of the normal hiring pattern that law grads expect.


I know the economy in SD is doing pretty well overall, but I don't think anyone in my family would have much of a clue about what the legal market is like. But you raise another good question - where do the grads get jobs? Sioux Falls, and maybe Rapid, seem to be the only places with law firms of 10+ attorneys. I get a feeling that grads who don't get jobs with firms in SF or Rapid end up working government jobs somewhere else in the state.

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby AT9 » Sat Sep 07, 2013 9:57 am

Buck Strickland wrote:It sounds like there are several good reasons why you might want to go to USD. I'd just suggest you do a ton of research – maybe visit the campus and talk to some alumni - and if you still think it would be a good fit, go for it.

But you should apply to other schools, too. Keep your options open. Plenty of schools would let you eventually settle down in SD while also opening doors in other markets. Have you considered, for example, University of Iowa or University of Minnesota?


What's the best way to get in touch with alumni? Contact the school? Stalk the profiles of attorneys/USD grads in local firms and just send an e-mail?

But yes, I'm actually a Minnesota alum and have both schools on my list!

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby BigZuck » Sat Sep 07, 2013 10:09 am

I think the fact that you're not actually from SD makes that a non-starter.

What are your numbers?

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby AT9 » Sat Sep 07, 2013 10:15 am

BigZuck wrote:I think the fact that you're not actually from SD makes that a non-starter.

What are your numbers?


The problem is that I'm not really "from" anywhere. For someone who's never lived in a state for more than a couple months, I'm the closest thing to a local that you can get. Numbers are 163/3.83, planning to re-take and reapply next cycle unless I get some good options this year AND my re-take doesn't improve by much.

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby BigZuck » Sat Sep 07, 2013 10:37 am

AT9 wrote:
BigZuck wrote:I think the fact that you're not actually from SD makes that a non-starter.

What are your numbers?


The problem is that I'm not really "from" anywhere. For someone who's never lived in a state for more than a couple months, I'm the closest thing to a local that you can get. Numbers are 163/3.83, planning to re-take and reapply next cycle unless I get some good options this year AND my re-take doesn't improve by much.


For you, it might be the state with the strongest ties. But you're nowhere close to being a local. That school will be teeming with locals, all of whom would most likely win a tie breaker against you when it comes to employment. Barring strong grades and a strong narrative it will be tough to get employment in SD. I would feel very uncomfortable being a median student without strong ties at that school.

But that's all moot. I think with someone in your position (no strong ties to any state) you really need to go to a national school. Just focus on the retake for now.

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby AT9 » Sat Sep 07, 2013 12:38 pm

Well, that's why I mentioned I'm about as close as it gets without actually being a local. Side note: what exactly constitutes "strong ties" to an area? Ive seen that term trown around here often and can guess at its definition, but that's about it.

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Sep 07, 2013 12:53 pm

BigZuck wrote:For you, it might be the state with the strongest ties. But you're nowhere close to being a local. That school will be teeming with locals, all of whom would most likely win a tie breaker against you when it comes to employment. Barring strong grades and a strong narrative it will be tough to get employment in SD. I would feel very uncomfortable being a median student without strong ties at that school.

But that's all moot. I think with someone in your position (no strong ties to any state) you really need to go to a national school. Just focus on the retake for now.

I think ties are important, but I think this overstates the case. I went to a regional school in a state where I had no previous ties - along with a number of similarly-situated classmates - and neither they nor I had any problems getting local jobs (according to our success in school/other qualifications). You can establish sufficient ties to a region by going to the local flagship. Especially since the OP's family has lived there for generations, I think s/he would do fine in SD. It's true that locals are more likely to have a stronger local network, but that doesn't trump everything else a job candidate can offer, and you can develop networks (especially with local family members).

Typical ties to a place, probably in order of strongest to weakest, include having grown up there; having gone to school there/otherwise lived there; having family there; having a SO in the area or who's from there; having gone on vacation there. I'd say the OP would be fine.

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby BigZuck » Sat Sep 07, 2013 3:32 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:
BigZuck wrote:For you, it might be the state with the strongest ties. But you're nowhere close to being a local. That school will be teeming with locals, all of whom would most likely win a tie breaker against you when it comes to employment. Barring strong grades and a strong narrative it will be tough to get employment in SD. I would feel very uncomfortable being a median student without strong ties at that school.

But that's all moot. I think with someone in your position (no strong ties to any state) you really need to go to a national school. Just focus on the retake for now.

I think ties are important, but I think this overstates the case. I went to a regional school in a state where I had no previous ties - along with a number of similarly-situated classmates - and neither they nor I had any problems getting local jobs (according to our success in school/other qualifications). You can establish sufficient ties to a region by going to the local flagship. Especially since the OP's family has lived there for generations, I think s/he would do fine in SD. It's true that locals are more likely to have a stronger local network, but that doesn't trump everything else a job candidate can offer, and you can develop networks (especially with local family members).

Typical ties to a place, probably in order of strongest to weakest, include having grown up there; having gone to school there/otherwise lived there; having family there; having a SO in the area or who's from there; having gone on vacation there. I'd say the OP would be fine.


What school did you go to, where did you finish in the class, and what kind of job did you get? All that stuff is very pertinent here. I don't think "You'll do fine bro, I was fine" is very helpful without that information.

I'm sure some out of staters do just fine at regional schools. But how does it look for someone with average interviewing skills who end up with average grades? As I said, being in the middle of the pack at SD without strong ties to the legal community there would make me very nervous (especially if, like the OP, I wanted to get a job at a firm of 10+ attorneys).

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby AT9 » Sat Sep 07, 2013 4:15 pm

I should clarify that I don't necessarily want a job with 10+ attorneys, or any specified number for that matter. I just used that number because I'm willing to bet that there are very, very few (if any) that size outside the two biggest cities in the state. I guess I think of a firm of 10-ish attorneys as an average sized private firm.

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Sep 07, 2013 4:47 pm

BigZuck wrote:What school did you go to, where did you finish in the class, and what kind of job did you get? All that stuff is very pertinent here. I don't think "You'll do fine bro, I was fine" is very helpful without that information.

I'm sure some out of staters do just fine at regional schools. But how does it look for someone with average interviewing skills who end up with average grades? As I said, being in the middle of the pack at SD without strong ties to the legal community there would make me very nervous (especially if, like the OP, I wanted to get a job at a firm of 10+ attorneys).

I'm not answering all that, but I went to a school that, like USD, is the state flagship in a state without any T-14 schools, and the people I'm thinking of got a variety of jobs. I don't mean he'll be fine because I was fine - I mean that I was actually in a similar situation and saw how people could (and did) make connections through attending the regional flagship, whereas a lot of people on this site who talk about whether this kind of thing is wise are people at T-14/national schools who are giving advice on something they don't have personal experience with. (That is, I'm sure people at those schools have experienced suspicion from employers in insular markets where they don't have ties, and how it can be difficult to overcome that. But they haven't actually experienced going to the local flagship and how that works.)

The OP has said he doesn't have ties anywhere in particular and that SD is the place he feels closest to (and I actually think having generations of family in SD is a pretty good tie). I don't think going to a T-14/national school to get back to SD is going to help him any more than going to USD. It will certainly give him more options outside of SD than USD will, so has that advantage, but will doubtless cost much much more than going to USD. Ironically, I think it can in fact be harder for people at national schools to convince insular markets they really want to be there, than it is for students at the regional flagship in that insular market, regardless of where those students originally came from.

For one thing, if OP goes to USD, s/he can work for local firms/government throughout 2L and 3L, rather than just in the summer. S/he can go to the local bar association meetings, the local Inns of Court, and local CLEs, and meet actual practicing attorneys from that community. When you're looking at regional schools (in a market with mostly small firms little to no OCI), that's a much better way to get a job than try to mass mail and just get back there during the summer.

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby moralsentiments » Sat Sep 07, 2013 5:18 pm

what exactly constitutes "strong ties" to an area?


"Ties" have a tendency to be somewhat of a misnomer. What firms are really looking for is commitment (assuming there is no especially parochial mentality among firms in one's market). They want to make sure that they are making a good investment by hiring you.

So, if you're in a smaller regional market, firms want to see examples of commitment. When a candidate has family/SO/history (growing up) in the respective market, this shows the firm that the candidate has an established life in that state/city/county/etc. To firms, this is indicative of commitment. They feel that you are less likely to leave after only a short time if you are already very familiar with living in the area, have family/SO that you wouldn't leave, etc. etc. (hence commitments).

It's not so much to say that these firms care about the actual "ties" you have, they care about what those "ties" represent.

I agree with the above poster who indicated that being born/raised in a specific area is probably one of the strongest "ties" to have because it represents strong commitment. But if you uproot from another location to attend a law school in a specific region, this can also show strong commitment. It really depends how you use your time. Ex. If you want to work in Denver and attend CU Boulder. But you never go to Denver to network, or get involved in really anything to establish "ties" but instead just go to class and stay in Boulder, you might find interviewing a bit more difficult than it otherwise would have been had you made your presence known in the Denver legal community. Getting SA or Clerking internships/positions in the area is of the utmost importance.

Finally, in your specific circumstance, an LSAT retake may be the best idea. It would really be better to know more about your study habits to make that determination. Often times, I've noticed people on this forum are very quick to offer a blanket "retake" response without knowing the details behind the original sitting. The LSAT isn't an exam that you want to take more than once. If you spent 4-5 months studying/took a prep course/utilized prep books like Powerscore/Manhattan, etc. really analyzing your incorrect answers/taking 20+ practice tests and you were averaging a 161, sat for the LSAT and got a 163, retaking may not be the best advice. Sure, you always have the possibility of increasing your score, but you'll have to evaluate your own situation to see if it makes sense.

I think you have a really good chance at getting excellent money if not a full ride to USD. If that is where you KNOW you want to go, and you come out without any debt (or at least next to none), I think it would be a great decision. Just don't put yourself in debt for a school that will place limits on your earning potential/geographic placement if you are not absolutely sure about where/what you want to practice. Just my two cents, hopefully it helps.

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby guinness1547 » Sat Sep 07, 2013 5:36 pm

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Last edited by guinness1547 on Thu Dec 19, 2013 6:29 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby TheSpanishMain » Sat Sep 07, 2013 6:12 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:I think ties are important, but I think this overstates the case.


I wonder if the importance of ties is decreasing as professional mobility increases. This is 2013; young professionals move all over the country in search of work. I went to a Midwestern state university for undergrad. Among my circle of friends, I can think of two or three who are still in the state. The rest ended up everywhere from LA to Hilton Head, SC. Unless you're describing a crazy "The Hills Have Eyes" place where they never see outsiders, I have to imagine insularity in general is declining as the professional population becomes more mobile.

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby AT9 » Sat Sep 07, 2013 6:27 pm

Thanks to all of you for the input. It's really the idea of going to the lone school in one of the more isolated, laid-back states (SD, ND, Wyoming, New Mexico, Idaho, etc.) that appeals to me, not necessarily USD itself. It's just that SD happens to be the one where I have ties.

From what I've read here, I think I would have a slight disadvantage in the hiring process, but I wouldn't be looked at with suspicion or anything. To elaborate more on my "ties," my great-great grandparents on both sides immigrated directly to SE SD and NW Iowa. My parents were the first in their families to move out-of-state after college, and there's a good chance they'll retire there (and all but a few of my many relatives still live and work there). I've visited probably a couple times a year on average since I was an infant. So no, I'm not a native-born South Dakotan and that would probably be a disadvantage, but I think my family history, combined with 3 years spent in Vermilion, would be a pretty convincing argument to employers that I intend to stay there.

All in all, as others have said, I think it would be a pretty good decision if a) I got big $ and b) I decided that I'm 100% ok with living in SD for the rest of my life. Honestly, I would be perfectly good with working as an attorney in Sioux Falls or in state government while eventually making "good" money by SD standards, maybe around $60K-$70K (I know that's not realistic for at least a couple years out of school). The trouble would be convincing my wife, who has zero ties there, to jump on that train :wink:

Oh, the other big negative is that I'd get a ton of shit from my family, all of whom are big SDSU people.

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby BigZuck » Sat Sep 07, 2013 7:22 pm

Mouse- I just think your advice could be dangerous (especially if he sees that you're a mod and have a billion posts) if there's no context at all.

If you're from California and went to UNLV and had top 15% grades and ended up with a 30K a year job in Nevada then that's a far cry from someone who is from Florida, went to school at Wyoming, ended up at median and landed a 60K entry level job in Wyoming.

I don't think the OP has zero ties at all and I believe it could work out well for him but its just not a risk I would personally take unless I was deadset on living out the rest of my life in SD. I also get the sense that he's not SD or bust. He's open to schools that are in states "like that," he has a wife to think of, and he also talks about day dreams of jobs that are really only likely for people at T14s. I know someone who was like that at UT (which is a school that has much stronger job prospects in a market that isn't nearly as parochial) and she got median pwned. Anecdotal and it's only one person but I think there is a real danger in attending a regional school unless you are committed to going all in on that state. All that to me means don't even bother with SD but Ill stop beating that dead horse.

Regardless OP, retake.

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Sep 07, 2013 7:52 pm

Well, FWIW, I grew up/worked on the other side of the country from where I went to law school and had grades between the 2 markers you mention. Again, though, I'm thinking of people from a variety of places with a variety of law school grades and a variety of outcomes, including biglaw. (And I don't think OP is daydreaming about T-14 jobs, honestly, at all - he's never once mentioned biglaw or fedgov.)

But I agree that I would only go to USD if I knew I wanted to stay in SD (or maybe if I were willing to do so), which obviously hasn't been determined yet.

Also, in case it needs to be said: OP, just because I'm a mod doesn't mean I know anything. :P

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby AT9 » Sat Sep 07, 2013 8:08 pm

BigZuck wrote:Mouse- I just think your advice could be dangerous (especially if he sees that you're a mod and have a billion posts) if there's no context at all.

If you're from California and went to UNLV and had top 15% grades and ended up with a 30K a year job in Nevada then that's a far cry from someone who is from Florida, went to school at Wyoming, ended up at median and landed a 60K entry level job in Wyoming.

I don't think the OP has zero ties at all and I believe it could work out well for him but its just not a risk I would personally take unless I was deadset on living out the rest of my life in SD. I also get the sense that he's not SD or bust. He's open to schools that are in states "like that," he has a wife to think of, and he also talks about day dreams of jobs that are really only likely for people at T14s. I know someone who was like that at UT (which is a school that has much stronger job prospects in a market that isn't nearly as parochial) and she got median pwned. Anecdotal and it's only one person but I think there is a real danger in attending a regional school unless you are committed to going all in on that state. All that to me means don't even bother with SD but Ill stop beating that dead horse.

Regardless OP, retake.


Retake I shall. But 3 comments on your 3 sections in bold:

1. I certainly wouldn't go with USD unless we (wife and I) determined that SD is our top option or close to it.
2. Correct, I'm not SD or bust. But, as you may expect from someone who's lived all over, I'm not geographically picky....which makes the school narrowing process difficult.
3. I day-dream about those jobs in the same way I dream about HYS. They're the best jobs around and are loaded with prestige, but that definitely doesn't mean they're what I would enjoy the most.

I'm just trying to explore all options.

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby BigZuck » Sat Sep 07, 2013 8:10 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:he's never once mentioned biglaw or fedgov


???

AT9 wrote:Like most lawyer hopefuls, I have occasional daydreams of prestigious Fed clerkships or biglaw jobs in America's most prominent cities (options that don't really exist at USD)


Just because she's a mod doesn't mean she actually reads other people's posts either :)

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby AT9 » Sat Sep 07, 2013 8:13 pm

BigZuck wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:he's never once mentioned biglaw or fedgov


???

AT9 wrote:Like most lawyer hopefuls, I have occasional daydreams of prestigious Fed clerkships or biglaw jobs in America's most prominent cities (options that don't really exist at USD)


Just because she's a mod doesn't mean she actually reads other people's posts either :)


Ha, point taken! But she's right, I don't think I want biglaw type work whether I'm coming from USD or Harvard.

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby BigZuck » Sat Sep 07, 2013 8:19 pm

AT9 wrote:
BigZuck wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:he's never once mentioned biglaw or fedgov


???

AT9 wrote:Like most lawyer hopefuls, I have occasional daydreams of prestigious Fed clerkships or biglaw jobs in America's most prominent cities (options that don't really exist at USD)


Just because she's a mod doesn't mean she actually reads other people's posts either :)


Ha, point taken! But she's right, I don't think I want biglaw type work whether I'm coming from USD or Harvard.


That's all well and good but that's not how I (mis)read your OP. I thought you were saying a part of you wants the prestigious jobs, another part would be happy doing wills and estates and defending DUIs in rural town USA. Meaning you were open to anything (or, the cynical reading of that might be you don't know what you want at all). But if you're all about small town small law then USD sounds like your best option given your ties (or lack thereof) to other places. I would still retake to get your costs down as low as possible.

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby AT9 » Sat Sep 07, 2013 8:28 pm

BigZuck wrote:
AT9 wrote:
BigZuck wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:he's never once mentioned biglaw or fedgov


???

AT9 wrote:Like most lawyer hopefuls, I have occasional daydreams of prestigious Fed clerkships or biglaw jobs in America's most prominent cities (options that don't really exist at USD)


Just because she's a mod doesn't mean she actually reads other people's posts either :)


Ha, point taken! But she's right, I don't think I want biglaw type work whether I'm coming from USD or Harvard.


That's all well and good but that's not how I (mis)read your OP. I thought you were saying a part of you wants the prestigious jobs, another part would be happy doing wills and estates and defending DUIs in rural town USA. Meaning you were open to anything (or, the cynical reading of that might be you don't know what you want at all). But if you're all about small town small law then USD sounds like your best option given your ties (or lack thereof) to other places. I would still retake to get your costs down as low as possible.


I don't think you misread my OP. The prestige/money-whore side of me wants T-14, biglaw, and $$$. But the part of me that says "pick a career you'll actually enjoy" wants to do the kind of stuff you mentioned (specifically, land use/real estate, estate planning, bankruptcy stuff, etc...something where I can see the direct impact of my work).

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Re: Thoughts on the University of South Dakota?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sat Sep 07, 2013 9:42 pm

BigZuck wrote:Just because she's a mod doesn't mean she actually reads other people's posts either :)

Yeah, yeah, yeah. :P (I didn't read that as applying to SD, but you got me.)




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