Am I wasting my time?

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Cimbom

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Am I wasting my time?

Postby Cimbom » Tue Feb 05, 2019 5:49 am

Hello,

I'm 33 years old and from Australia. I am interested in applying for an American law school as I have a strong interest in public interest and human rights law and this seems to be far more of a strength in the US than it is here (both academically and professionally). I would also love to live abroad and have that whole experience.

I believe my resume is quite good for my profession - I have almost a decade of experience in communications working for the federal government and in journalism prior to that. I haven't registered for the LSAT yet - I wanted to get some feedback on here to determine if I'm wasting my time.

- What are the chances of getting a full or very close to full fee waiver as an international applicant? I may be able to work remotely on a part-time basis to cover living costs but couldn't afford tuition on top. Loans would be very hard to justify.
- I have a three year undergraduate degree in communications. This is the normal length of a degree here - we don't need honours to graduate. I was invited to do an honours year but did not take this up unfortunately as it is quite unusual in my line of work. Would this work against me? I also have a graduate certificate in an area of law - this is a six month graduate level program.
- I would really only go to the effort of moving overseas if I got accepted into a "good" school. Of course, the top 20 schools would be a dream like they would be for every applicant but I haven't narrowed it down specifically.
- I have zero interest in corporate or commercial law. As above, public interest law is my passion and my ideal job would be working for an organisation like the Innocence Project as I believe they do amazing work and it would be incredibly rewarding. My other interests are areas like migration/refugee law, constitutional law (especially around the first amendment), juvenile justice, family law and cultural heritage law.

It would be great to get your thoughts on this. I have received two offers locally (the best is for a JD at the ANU and another more intermediate school). I would accept this but I'm looking at just over $100/week taken out of my salary for the rest of my working life (~$80 USD at current rates). With this kind of spend, I may as well explore my options fully. I know it's not as bad as US loans but it's still a lot of money in total. Sorry for the very long post.

Thanks :)

The Lsat Airbender

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Re: Am I wasting my time?

Postby The Lsat Airbender » Tue Feb 05, 2019 3:46 pm

Not to shoot you down, but this seems like a bad plan overall.

-Not being an American citizen makes it a lot harder to find a job in the US and outright disqualifies you from a lot of the public-sector work you are interested in.
-Free tuition at a top-20 school is possible if (and only if) you can clear the 99th percentile or so on the LSAT and have a strong undergraduate GPA. (Your three-year bachelor's won't hold you back, though.) Working part-time to cover living expenses, however, is unrealistic. So you're still looking at tens of thousands of dollars in debt, and (again, as a non-American) you won't have access to subsidized student loans. The very best law schools have debt repayment assistance for public-interest graduates but that's an undesirable life path for a number of reasons.
-Corporate law being totally unacceptable to you is reasonable, of course, but removes your main fallback option for servicing all that debt.


If you want to work for the Innocence Project or whatever, I'd just send out applications to that kind of organization using the credentials you already have. Fundraising/marketing is a huge component of what those groups do and your communications degree might qualify you for a role there.

Cimbom

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Re: Am I wasting my time?

Postby Cimbom » Tue Feb 05, 2019 6:02 pm

Thanks for your reply. I'm not sure what my LSAC GPA would be as it seems to be calculated differently for overseas students. I graduated "with Distinction" which is given to the top 20% of students and my university is considered the best in my state (and one of the best nationally) for journalism and PR though I suspect that means nothing to an American admissions panel. Would they care about the grades from the graduate certificate? This was in immigration law.

In terms of the LSAT, I think I would do well in reading/writing type questions but may struggle with more abstract type puzzles.

Your suggestion of entering public interest organisations in a communications capacity is something I thought of too but not having citizenship would likely preclude me from doing that too. I suspect it would look more favourable to have an American qualification with my background than completely foreign education and experience but that's just a guess.

The best local offer I have received is for the Australian National University which is apparently ranked 16th in the world on the QS rankings though I doubt it would be considered better than or even somewhat equivalent to UCLA, Georgetown or UPenn by American employers which are listed just after it.

I'm not adverse to debt but it'd need to be a small amount so 80% off tuition at the minimum. What amount of work would be doable while studying?

The Lsat Airbender

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Re: Am I wasting my time?

Postby The Lsat Airbender » Wed Feb 06, 2019 3:42 am

Cimbom wrote:Thanks for your reply. I'm not sure what my LSAC GPA would be as it seems to be calculated differently for overseas students. I graduated "with Distinction" which is given to the top 20% of students and my university is considered the best in my state (and one of the best nationally) for journalism and PR though I suspect that means nothing to an American admissions panel. Would they care about the grades from the graduate certificate? This was in immigration law.


You won't get an LSAC GPA - sorry for being unclear on that point. You'll get a designation from LSAC, probably "Superior" (the highest) but maybe "Above Average" (the second-highest) depending on where in the top 20% you were. What any of that means anyway is rather opaque. The graduate certificate won't matter.

In terms of the LSAT, I think I would do well in reading/writing type questions but may struggle with more abstract type puzzles.


Only one way to find out!

Your suggestion of entering public interest organisations in a communications capacity is something I thought of too but not having citizenship would likely preclude me from doing that too. I suspect it would look more favourable to have an American qualification with my background than completely foreign education and experience but that's just a guess.


Eh, it might help, but you'd be taking a massive gamble if it doesn't work out. It's authorization to work in the US that's holding you back, not the provenance of your graduate degree. In general, when trying to move to a new country, your top priority needs to be locking down a visa.

The best local offer I have received is for the Australian National University which is apparently ranked 16th in the world on the QS rankings though I doubt it would be considered better than or even somewhat equivalent to UCLA, Georgetown or UPenn by American employers which are listed just after it.


QS rankings are bullshit but yeah, you're right that an American JD is better for practicing law in the US. Not because of what employers think, but because a law degree from X Country makes it much easier to get qualified to practice law in X Country and America is no exception.

I'm not adverse to debt but it'd need to be a small amount so 80% off tuition at the minimum. What amount of work would be doable while studying?


Prevailing wisdom is that zero work is realistic, especially for your first year of classes. Even with a full-tuition scholarship you can count on borrowing tens of thousands of dollars to cover living expenses.


Again, I would not do this. There are much better routes to your stated goals (living in the USA and working for a feel-good nonprofit) than law school. If you nail the LSAT (99.5 %ile score) and then the law-school admissions process (only a few dozen full-tution scholarships are on offer at top schools every year) and then law school itself (on a forced curve filled with very bright and motivated people) and then the post-law-school job hunt (the positions you're interested in are very competitive, and you are at an especial disadvantage since your employer will need to sponsor you for a visa (which I'm not sure the nonprofits you're talking about even do)) and then make it through the visa process, which is currently a literal lottery (and might not even exist soon, given current political trends), then you won't be totally screwed over. But all of those things have probabilities <<1 so what I'm saying is you'll probably be screwed over.

Cimbom

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Re: Am I wasting my time?

Postby Cimbom » Wed Feb 06, 2019 4:59 am

Thanks for your detailed responses. I appreciate you being realistic about the situation. If I were to go to law school locally (which I have been accepted into), get a bit of experience here and then manage to get a green card and pass the bar, would I be ranked below other job applicants because I didn't get my degree in the US? If not, that may be worth aiming for as a mid to long term option.

The two universities I have been accepted into have exchange agreements with Fordham, Arizona State and the University of Minnesota between them, so I will try to get into one of these for a bit of a the experience with limited cost.

I may take the LSAT in a few months out of curiosity and then leave it at that unless I need to come back here for feedback on my amazing score lol.

Lxwind

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Re: Am I wasting my time?

Postby Lxwind » Wed Feb 06, 2019 1:19 pm

Cimbom wrote:Thanks for your detailed responses. I appreciate you being realistic about the situation. If I were to go to law school locally (which I have been accepted into), get a bit of experience here and then manage to get a green card and pass the bar, would I be ranked below other job applicants because I didn't get my degree in the US? If not, that may be worth aiming for as a mid to long term option.

The two universities I have been accepted into have exchange agreements with Fordham, Arizona State and the University of Minnesota between them, so I will try to get into one of these for a bit of a the experience with limited cost.

I may take the LSAT in a few months out of curiosity and then leave it at that unless I need to come back here for feedback on my amazing score lol.


As a foreigner working in the US I'll say this - don't underestimate the time and effort you need to pay to get a green card. It could take years (in a lot of cases even more than 10 years in total) unless you marry someone with citizenship...as for the bar, I don't think you can just take it...most states don't allow people without a law degree from the US to take it. There are limits to the very few exceptions that allow for it. And yes, you may still be ranked below other job applicants from US law schools in multiple ways - e.g. you'll miss opportunities like on-campus interviews/networking events/internship opportunities - which may actually constitute the majority of the hiring activities for positions like staff attorney/junior litigator, etc.

Cimbom

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Re: Am I wasting my time?

Postby Cimbom » Wed Feb 06, 2019 3:46 pm

Thanks. It's just a loose plan at this stage, I'll see how it all pans out.

Any thoughts on the law schools I've listed as exchange options?

Cimbom

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Re: Am I wasting my time?

Postby Cimbom » Wed Feb 06, 2019 5:40 pm

One last question - how much of a role does background play in admissions in say top 20 schools? I was born here but my parents came to Australia as refugees from the Middle East. They were very much low income, working class - my father worked in a factory and my mother didn't work. I went to a school where only a very small number of students got accepted into any university but was a straight A student. I also have some medical conditions, two of which required surgery and one was several months of recovery (no conditions related to mental health or learning). I realise this is probably more relevant to local applicants but thought I'd ask anyway.

Lxwind

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Re: Am I wasting my time?

Postby Lxwind » Thu Feb 07, 2019 12:26 am

Cimbom wrote:One last question - how much of a role does background play in admissions in say top 20 schools? I was born here but my parents came to Australia as refugees from the Middle East. They were very much low income, working class - my father worked in a factory and my mother didn't work. I went to a school where only a very small number of students got accepted into any university but was a straight A student. I also have some medical conditions, two of which required surgery and one was several months of recovery (no conditions related to mental health or learning). I realise this is probably more relevant to local applicants but thought I'd ask anyway.


Thess backgrounds plus your work experiences may be great material for an impressive PS, which is relevant perhaps to the same extent with local applicants, and definitely helps. Not sure if its still true for someone like you who's out of school for longer, but in general the top schools really care about the numbers - LSAT and GPA. This is very difficult from college admissions where backgrounds play a larger role. International applicants like us don't have a reportable GPA (just grades like "Superior" or "Above Average"), so the general belief is LSAT is the single most important factor that determines admission results. In general, an LSAT more than 75% of your target school is considered relatively safe. Those stats can be found on law schools' official websites. Of course, if you have very impressive softs (people often mention things like an Olympic Gold Medal...), then you can still get into top schools without a top score...

Cimbom

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Re: Am I wasting my time?

Postby Cimbom » Thu Feb 07, 2019 7:28 pm

Ok will keep that in mind. I've saved a sample LSAT to try at home and will then decide if it's worth studying for and sitting the real thing based on my result. Would there be any disadvantage to starting the law degree I have been offered? Classes start in two weeks.



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