Public service lawyers - Transfers, your school, and your experiences

A forum for those current students who are or may be transferring from one school to another. Post any questions, advice, or other transfer related comments here.
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Public service lawyers - Transfers, your school, and your experiences

Postby owmyback69 » Tue Apr 11, 2017 10:49 am

Hi! I'm looking to here from public service based lawyers about their experiences in their area of the profession. Specifically, how school rankings factor into hiring and what opportunities they felt they had coming out of school.

I'm currently at a T3 school where I'm on a full scholarship. I finished third in my class, and I'm currently thinking about trying to transfer up.

I'm not 100% on what I want to do as a lawyer yet, but my history has been with public service based positions. I have a masters in the area and experience working for non-profits and the government.

One reason I'm torn on the transfer aspect is the cost. I know I'd be paying sticker and that it'd really add up. I know that if I ever would want a chance at Big Law, the answer would practically always be transfer.

At what level does prestige and school rankings work for public service positions? Governmental agencies?

Did you transfer from a low ranked school to a higher one and go into public service? Was the debt prohibitive? Do you feel like you could've ended up in the same position had you not transferred?

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Re: Public service lawyers - Transfers, your school, and your experiences

Postby zot1 » Tue Apr 11, 2017 12:23 pm

This is such a tough problem to have.

Specifically to federal agency hiring, the agencies vary widely on selectivity. Some agencies, like DOJ, are known to be more selective, than others, like a regional agency located in Mississippi.

Generally, most agencies consider people in the top 30% of their class, who have a journal/moot court, and have public service commitment. Agency hiring is extremely competitive, so anything else that can be in your favor becomes more important. And some agencies only look outside of top 50 schools if there's something special about the candidate (objectively).

When you'll be applying, you will be competing with people from t13 and others who are in the top 15% of their class. At that point, it is extremely possible the selecting official takes the Duke grad versus you. Or you can get lucky with an official who's actually looking for someone "down to earth" and they equate that with going to a lower ranked school.

At the end of the day. It is a gamble. But if you're on a full ride, to you that may be a gamble you're willing to take. For some people, the additional debt might be worth the chance. Note it is just a chance. Transferring still guarantees nothing. So that's something to think about. I've definitely passed on some t13 candidates because their apps were not impressive despite school name. And there's just way too many candidates to pick from. As an example, I had a batch of apps from one t13 school... you couldn't differentiate any of them. On paper they were all equally impressive.

Again, it's a gamble.


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Re: Public service lawyers - Transfers, your school, and your experiences

Postby sdancer89 » Tue Apr 11, 2017 2:15 pm

Disclaimer: current 3L, but with a PI job offer. I transferred from T1-T14 knowing I wanted public defense, which is not something that typically requires a lot of "prestige." That said, for me, it was mainly to open up my options, mostly in terms of geography but also to some of the offices that care more about prestige.

While money was somewhat of a factor, there were 2 things in my case that made it somewhat less troublesome. First, my 1L school had front-loaded scholarships, so the bulk of my scholarship was for the first year. So while I was walking away from some scholarship money, I'd already had a year of free law school and the next two years I was going to have to pay something (yet still not full sticker.) Second, my original school's LRAP only covered some people, not for the whole 10 years, and not always for the full amount of their loan payments. It was also based on salaries in that state, which were likely going to be below places where I hoped to end up. At my T14, PSLF payments are covered for 10 years for the full amount as long as you are under X salary.

I wavered from time to time whether it was the right decision. I've been very very happy at my transfer school, and it did make the job search easier. There was pretty much a clear PD path from my 1L school --> the state system and not much support or reach beyond that. When I realized that wasn't what I wanted, it seemed smart to leave. However, there was a brief moment this year when scrambling for jobs that I thought I might end up back in that state, with that job, with about 3x the amount of debt and wondered if I had made the right decision. Ultimately, I ended up with a job in a city where I'm thrilled to go, at a job I'm not sure I would have gotten as seriously considered for but for my school, and making enough that I would have been completely ineligible for my 1L school's LRAP. My T14 will cover the entirety of my payments.

There were a fair amount of PI transfers to my school, and we all ended up with jobs we are happy about. I'm sure some of us could have had similar outcomes from our 1L schools, but for others of us, the transfer made a difference. I do not think I would have gotten the offer I did without the transfer, partially because I don't think I would have felt like I could have even applied for a job there. I recall a few interviews over the years where interviewers (again for PD offices, which are not notoriously prestige-conscious) would say that they never really worried about students from my school, while they looked much more carefully at applicants from other lower-ranked schools. I think the transfer for me opened more doors, sometimes because offices gave me the benefit of the doubt based on my school when sifting through piles of resumes. I got interviews places that I know colleagues at my 1L school either didn't get or wouldn't have ever thought to apply to.

All that said, I really don't think it is the right move for every person. I think it depends on what kind of PI you are looking at and where you want to do it. If you go to a good regional school that places well into the type of PI you want to do, it's just not worth it. Having to deal with having significantly more debt sucks and just doesn't make a lot of sense if you can get where you want to go from where you are. I had some medical reasons to not want to stay in the geographic area of my 1L school that I'd previously thought I would have been happy to stay in. I also wanted to make sure I had the opportunity to be competitive for bigger offices-- I knew I wanted to end up in a big city somewhere, which means that the jobs I wanted were going to be more competitive. I knew I would be miserable in a really rural environment, so making sure I could end up in a big city was important to me. I wasn't sure I could make sure I ended up in a big city office coming from my good, but very regional 1L school. So ultimately when it came down to it, having significantly more options to end up somewhere where I would be happy was worth the risk of the extra debt, but partially because I had the "safety" of the T14's better LRAP.


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Re: Public service lawyers - Transfers, your school, and your experiences

Postby Nebby » Wed Apr 12, 2017 2:12 pm

Transfer to a school with a good LRAP. It was my deciding factor when deciding between NYU and CLS.

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