No lofty goals - so is an unranked school okay?

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rote777
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Joined: Fri Dec 18, 2009 9:03 pm

No lofty goals - so is an unranked school okay?

Postby rote777 » Sat Dec 19, 2009 7:09 pm

I truly admire all of you who have worked really hard and battled fierce competition to get the best schools and biglaw jobs.

I want to be a solo-practitioner and hang out a shingle on a small town main street. I've worked in large international firms as a paralegal for over a decade and have no interest in killing myself at a top tier law school to become an overworked associate at one of these firms. I can see the draw for other people - interesting work, high salary, greater opportunities, and a hope at paying off loans. But I have NO plans at aiming for biglaw or anything close - just not my cup of tea.

I have been working for smaller firms and sole proprietors for a while now and enjoy the pace. It isn't exactly thrilling work, or prestigious, but it fits me much better.

So, will a degree from an unranked school (that still has a respectable reputation in terms of the education quality) allow me to do that? I can get into a better school, but some of the unranked schools have offered appetizing scholarships.

Any thoughts?
Thanks!

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Nom Sawyer
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Joined: Sun Jun 14, 2009 1:28 am

Re: No lofty goals - so is an unranked school okay?

Postby Nom Sawyer » Sat Dec 19, 2009 7:17 pm

rote777 wrote:I truly admire all of you who have worked really hard and battled fierce competition to get the best schools and jobs.

I want to be a solo-practitioner and hang out a shingle on a small town main street. I've worked in large international firms as a paralegal for over a decade and have no interest in killing myself at a top tier law school to become an overworked associate at one of these firms. I can see the draw for other people - interesting work, high salary, greater opportunities. But it just isn't what I'm looking for in a law career.

I have been working for smaller firms and sole proprietors for a while now and enjoy the pace. It isn't exactly thrilling work, or prestigious, but it fits me much better.

So, will a degree from an unranked school (that still has a respectable reputation in terms of the education quality) allow me to do that? I can get into a better school, but some of the unranked schools have offered appetizing scholarships.

Any thoughts?
Thanks!


Yep, seems like if you know you want to be a solo-practitioner from the outset and already have experience related to this (your paralegal work), then just find a respectable school that will give you scholarships. You don't really need the prestige, just decent training and there are some schools with very good educational programs aimed towards acquiring the skills you need.

nycparalegal
Posts: 483
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Re: No lofty goals - so is an unranked school okay?

Postby nycparalegal » Sat Dec 19, 2009 7:19 pm

Definately, you could live a nice life, if you could get money from that unranked school to attend.

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NewHere
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Re: No lofty goals - so is an unranked school okay?

Postby NewHere » Sat Dec 19, 2009 8:34 pm

It sounds like you should also take into consideration where the school is. If you're going to be starting your own office, studying at a local unranked school may allow you to build up better contacts in the area than a 'better' school far away.

But in general, I think before taking a decision like this, you should talk to other solo practitioners, to find out if they find that their choice of school made a difference (e.g., whether clients ever ask them where they graduated, etc.) and also to find out if they managed to go solo right away.

The last question may not worry you at all, but that is what would worry me. I'm a 3L now, and after 2.5 years of law school I feel like I have enough skills to start at an entry-level position next fall, under supervision of a more experienced lawyer. But I'm afraid I would be helpless if I had to represent clients all by myself, without further experience. Law school teaches you the basics of different fields of law, and also legal research and writing skills, but I think that representing a client, for whom major issues may depend on your work, would require more detailed knowledge and more experience. A lot of that can of course be learned on the job, but the question is whether during the learning period you want to be the sole responsible lawyer for a client's case.

I don't know how solo practitioners typically do this. I know that a lot of them start out at a firm (small or large), or start in a sort of mentor-mentee relationship with an established solo lawyer. But maybe starting alone right out of law school is an option, too. (I just don't know. But you should figure this out before committing three years of your life to a school that may or may not get you where you want to be.)

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jks289
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Re: No lofty goals - so is an unranked school okay?

Postby jks289 » Sat Dec 19, 2009 8:38 pm

I am completely guessing here so take it with a grain of salt, but I would imagine lay or regional prestige would matter. You client is likely going to be outside the legal profession so depending on the region maybe aim for a name they would recognize? If you are doing specialized work that relies on professional referrals, maybe look at a school with decent networks (even outside the law, ie their business school.)

jh60405
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Re: No lofty goals - so is an unranked school okay?

Postby jh60405 » Sat Dec 19, 2009 8:47 pm

If its a cheap public school we're talking about: Montana, Wyoming, North Carolina Central, West Virginia, etc - then you're in ok shape. If you're paying more than $15,000 a year in tuition for an unranked school - then I think you've got a problem.

rote777
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Joined: Fri Dec 18, 2009 9:03 pm

Re: No lofty goals - so is an unranked school okay?

Postby rote777 » Sat Dec 19, 2009 8:58 pm

NewHere wrote:The last question may not worry you at all, but that is what would worry me. I'm a 3L now, and after 2.5 years of law school I feel like I have enough skills to start at an entry-level position next fall, under supervision of a more experienced lawyer. But I'm afraid I would be helpless if I had to represent clients all by myself, without further experience. Law school teaches you the basics of different fields of law, and also legal research and writing skills, but I think that representing a client, for whom major issues may depend on your work, would require more detailed knowledge and more experience. A lot of that can of course be learned on the job, but the question is whether during the learning period you want to be the sole responsible lawyer for a client's case.

I don't know how solo practitioners typically do this. I know that a lot of them start out at a firm (small or large), or start in a sort of mentor-mentee relationship with an established solo lawyer.


I know what you are talking about. Many of my lawyer friends have warned me about the things I won't learn in law school. I actually am working with several sole proprietors as their paralegal, all of whom have taken me under their wing as a mentee and agreed to stay there through law school (I work 10 hrs. per week doing contract paralegal work for them). I'm pretty confident these guys will work with me after law school and help me get the experience I need.

rote777
Posts: 6
Joined: Fri Dec 18, 2009 9:03 pm

Re: No lofty goals - so is an unranked school okay?

Postby rote777 » Sat Dec 19, 2009 8:59 pm

jh60405 wrote:If its a cheap public school we're talking about: Montana, Wyoming, North Carolina Central, West Virginia, etc - then you're in ok shape. If you're paying more than $15,000 a year in tuition for an unranked school - then I think you've got a problem.


Great advice! Thanks. I'm aiming for scholarships, and am not planning to pay more than $15K (we're doing it without loans!).

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XxSpyKEx
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Re: No lofty goals - so is an unranked school okay?

Postby XxSpyKEx » Sun Dec 20, 2009 4:02 pm

It depends on what you want to do, but if you are talking about DUIs and shit like that then it really doesn't matter -- your clients will never ask you where you went to law school (it'll be all about getting referrals). While there are some people that went solo right out of law school, it really is a terrible idea -- you are going to get sued for malpractice. Try to work at a smaller firm right out of school in the practice area you want to work in just to actually learn what you are doing prior to going solo (such as the firm you are currently at if they will hire you). Also while in law school make sure you do clinics, take professional skills classes -- such as negotiations, client representation, etc --, take practice simulation classes -- such as trial advocacy--, and not just a bunch of bulllshit law and ___ seminar classes. As for the smaller firms (assuming we are talking about something like smaller crim law, personal injury, etc firm), from what I've read they really don't care where you went to school but more about what you can do for them (probably since their clients don't care where you went) so it is actually better for you to avoid any debt you can. Networking while you are in school will probably be more important then anything else (the firm you are a paralegal at probably would be a start). HOWEVER --this is important-- make sure the school you attend doesn't do a scholarship GPA stipulation, and if they do, be sure to see exactly what that means in terms of where you need to be for class rank. If it something like top 1/3 of your class (like a ton of these TTTTs are), then hold you wallet hold to you and run as fast as you can because the last thing you want is to end up at a school like that where they yank your scholly after your first year and then you are stuck with the option of paying sticker for two years or dropping out (keep in mind you don't get a 2nd chance -- you can't just go reapply like you never went to law school and go to that higher ranked school the following year). Good luck.




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