The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

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lawloser22
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The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby lawloser22 » Wed Mar 09, 2011 12:26 pm

Things to know:

1. The LSAT is the single most important factor in getting in to law schools and getting scholarships. There are a few exceptions to this, many schools don't like splitters (ex. UCLA), and others heavily favor GPA (ex. Berkeley). While it isn't a great predictor of law school success, the LSAT is the best one available (~.33 correlation v. ~.28 for GPA). Take it in June. If you don't get the score you want, retake in October or December. Study for 3 months. Use the Powerscore bibles (especially for the games). Take as many practice tests as you can under strict, timed conditions; at the very least, take the 10 most recent. You can order them from the LSAC website or buy books of them. Optional: if you want to take a class as well, take Testmasters. Soft factors count for far less than either LSAT score or GPA: your internship with a well-known senator, your double major in hard sciences, and your term as president of your sorority all generally mean very little to admissions committees compared to your numbers. These soft factors may help if you are a borderline candidate and the school is forced to choose between otherwise equivalent applicants, but do not count on them. If you have significant work experience, give yourself an extra half an LSAT point. It likely won't help you much in terms of LS admissions, but it may very well help you land a legal job.

2. The LSAT essentially tests two things: (1) how well you can apply what you already know to new situations. Like a law school exam, it assumes you know the rules and intracacies of the questions it asks beforehand. (2) How well you can keep your composure under pressure. Law school exams are brutal 3-4 hour exams which make up your entire grade for the course. Many people freak out and just start rambling on and on about the law, forgoing analysis (and therefore, the points). The LSAT tests how well you can stay focused on what's important. Applying what you know to the facts.

3. The employment data that schools report is grossly inaccurate. They only publish what's been reported and they only ask those making $100k+ to report their data. Going to law school is by no means a ticket to riches, most lawyers don't make more than $45k/yr and have mountains of debt to pay off. See this explanation of the bimodal salary distribution (keep in mind, this is pre-recession): --LinkRemoved--

4. Law school employment is largely regional for all but the Top 14 schools and perhaps a few others. If you can't break the T-14, retake, or attend law school in the region you want to work in. For example, if you want to work in Philly, you go to Temple, not Iowa, despite the rank discrepancy. Just because many graduates of a school end up working in other states, does not mean the school has national reach. Rather, it's likely that many students attend these schools from out of state and return back to their home states after graduation. Generally, they are successful at doing so primarily because of their ties to the area and because they are able to make alumni connections with others in that market who have done this before them. If you have ties to an area (grew up there, family there, went to undergrad there, etc), and you make good grades, you can probably make it back there from most schools, but it will be much easier to find a job there if you go to school in that area. There is a very practical reason behind this: because it's mainly employers nearby who are going to come to the school's on-campus interview program. There are many exceptions to this however, and many schools hold OCI programs in other markets to try to circumvent this problem. This works well for Vandy, for example.

5. The Top 14 schools are generally grouped by their employment prospects/USNews rankings as: HYS, CCN, MVPB, DNCG. The reason for the T-14 designation is that all of these schools have been in the top ten in the past decade and have never fallen out of the top 14 spots in US News Rankings. Georgetown is generally known to be the weakest, but only because of their huge class size and the fierce competition for jobs in their home market. The reason I used these groupings is that these four sub-groupings are used in the OCI thread. I took this to mean they were considered roughly equivalent within each grouping in terms of employability. Perhaps not.

6. Law school is expensive. Stop and think for a minute of all the things you could buy or invest in with $200k. Make sure you WANT to go and aren't just trying to wait out the economy/become a billionaire. These people do poorly in LS.

7. If you're at or above both of a school's medians and apply early, you will most likely get in. Scholarships are generally offered if your numbers are above a school's 75% percentile in either category and median or better in the other. You can generally find these figures on their websites or on LSAC's (or see TLS list below). Once you know your LSAC GPA and LSAT score use http://www.lawschoolpredictor.com/ and http://www.lawschoolnumbers.com/ to figure out where you're likely to get in and with how much $. If you received an unsolicited fee-waiver from a school, this does not mean you have any better of a chance of acceptance than your numbers suggest. Many schools give these out to tons of applicants they know they have no interest in, simply to boost their selectivity rating -- a factor used in calculating their USNews ranking.

8. Aim for a 170+ and go to a top 14 school, if possible. A 160+ is generally considered a "good" score. With a good GPA, a 16x should get you into many T1 schools (sometimes with $) and hefty scholarships at many T2s. If your desired career is in BigLaw, you should really retake until you get that 170+ and can get into a T14 school, as these schools give you the best shot at it (~40%+ currently v. 10-20% at T1s and 5-10% at T2s generally -- See the NLJ chart below). Others, like UCLA are very close. If you can't get into a T-14 or break 170, or don't care about BigLaw/want to minimize debt, you should go to a lower ranked school in the region you want to practice on a scholarship or w/ in-state tuition. Don't go planning on making BigLaw. If offered a scholarship, make sure you understand the stipulations of your scholarship and ALWAYS negotiate. If a similarly or higher ranked school has offered you a larger scholarship, many schools will match it or drop the stipulations if you ask. Even if they didn't, it doesn't hurt to ask for more $. This is a good reason to apply broadly. Do not attend anything below a Top-100 school, no matter how much they say they'll pay you. If you can't, retake. Yes, there are success stories from every school, but they're often the exception. ITE, 95% of the class at T3/T4 schools has the opposite experience.

9. "Specialty" rankings are worthless in comparison to the actual rankings. Ignore them, or use them only to get an idea of what schools have programs you might be interested in and to decide between peer schools. You can also ignore any rankings other than USNews (ex. Leiter's), and really don't take USNews too seriously. Because of how regional schools are, there is very little practical difference between the school ranked 25th and that ranked 75th. Both of these schools will do well in their home market, and not so well in others. Essentially, don't go to Vermont over Berkeley just because they are ranked 2 spots higher in the environmental law rankings. You'll most likely be much better off doing environmental law at Berkeley.

10. If you have a 3.9 or better LSAC GPA and a low-mid 160 LSAT, ED to UVA. This is your best chance of a T-14 acceptance, if you want one, w/o a 170+ LSAT. You will find out in 2 weeks, and if they say no you can ED somewhere else. If your LSAC GPA is < 3, take two years off, join the real world and work, study hard for your LSAT, get a 170, and enjoy Northwestern. They value work experience over GPA. Employers do tend to favor students with work experience, so other schools are trending towards this, but it won't be "required" anywhere else. That said, if you don't like these schools, want to minimize debt, or would prefer and have a shot at a peer school, then don't ED as you will likely lose your chance at a scholarship by doing so.

11. Apply early. It can't hurt. Schools have more room to accept you and have more $ to give out early in the cycle. Apply by Halloween if you can, or no later than late January. Sign up for CRS and ask for all of your recommendations by August at the very latest. Ask at least 3 people for recommendations. Get them a gift or send them a thank you card. Ask every school for a fee waiver before applying, most of them will give them just for asking.

12. Once you get in, you do not need to do much of anything to prepare for your first year. Travel, get drunk, work out, spend time with the people you won't be seeing much for the next year. Towards the end of the summer, read "Getting to Maybe" to give yourself an idea of how law school exams work and how to do well on them. Reading this right before school will give you an idea of what's important to take away from your readings and lectures. Skim/read it again in October. Some people have found LEEWS (Legal Essay Exam Writing System) helpful as well for learning to issue spot. I recommend picking up a used copy on ebay.

13. Everyone expects to be in the top 10%, but that's impossible. Don't plan on it, and don't plan on transferring up. Remember that even at some of the very top schools, half of the class (mainly those below median) will not be competitive for those BigLaw, 160k/yr jobs. Keep your tuition and other costs as low as possible in case you don't end up with the grades to get that BigLaw job. The limited exceptions to this is if you're potentially interested in working for the government or a public interest organization, or in-state/low tuition. Income-Based Repayment (IBR) Public Service Loan Forgiveness will allow those working for the government or 501(c)3's to make nominal payments on all federal loans for 10 years and then the rest is cancelled with no tax burden. For non-public interest, it's 15% or so of your salary for 30 years, and you have to pay tax on what's forgiven at the end (probably a lot of tax).

14. Don't let top-law-schools.com control your life. Most of the people who access this site regularly attend T-14 schools, and many feel a sense of entitlement. These people are not necessarily smarter than you, they just did better than you on one imperfect standardized test. You know what's best for you. Follow your dreams. If you're not sure law school is your dream, it's probably not. If you want to practice "international law," you can make it happen, but don't expect to get there straight out of LS, and always have a back-up plan. Look into the JAG Corps.


Please feel free to add to or disagree with anything on this list. I was recently asked by a undergrad how LS admissions work. Rather than tell him to visit top-law-schools.com and fend for himself, I wanted to write something up and have you guys look it over. Any input is appreciated.


Supplemental Reading:


Is Law School a Losing Game?:

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/01/09/business/09law.html



Best schools for getting rich:

http://blogs.forbes.com/kurtbadenhausen ... ting-rich/



Best schools according to recruiters:

http://www.usnews.com/education/best-gr ... aw-schools



New NLJ250 Placement Figures:

http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNL ... hbxlogin=1



IBR:

http://www.ibrinfo.org/index.php



Practice Areas:

http://www.chambers-associate.com/Pract ... -Summaries



Thread with thinks to other threads on applying to lawl school:

http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/v ... 2&t=149894



Class of 2013 Medians:

http://www.top-law-schools.com/forums/v ... 2&t=128236
Last edited by lawloser22 on Sun May 22, 2011 12:09 am, edited 27 times in total.

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FlightoftheEarls
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby FlightoftheEarls » Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:32 pm

IBTETTCOs

bdubs
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby bdubs » Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:36 pm

1) Yale
2) Harvard
3) Stanford
4) Columbia
5) Chicago
6) NYU
7) Penn
7) Berkeley
9) Michigan
10) Virginia
11) Northwestern
11) Duke
13) Cornell
14) Georgetown

To be updated on March 15...

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DoubleChecks
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby DoubleChecks » Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:39 pm

i came into this thread thinking id trash it -- but hm, instead it seems like pretty solid advice (i only read the headers -- like a judge :P)

only one i disagree with a bit is the T14 and ND and Tulane point...if ND and Tulane are going to be mentioned...i don't know why UT and Vanderbuilt arent...

09042014
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby 09042014 » Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:40 pm

Re-fucking-diculous Tulane trolling.

bdubs
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby bdubs » Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:44 pm

f your LSAC GPA is < 3, take two years off, do TFA or something, study hard for your LSAT, get a 170, enjoy Northwestern. They value work experience over GPA. Employers do tend to favor students with work experience, so other schools are trending towards this, but it won't be "required" anywhere else.


You have no idea how TFA works do you? There is almost no way someone with a sub-3.0 GPA would get a TFA position unless they were a URM, in which case your advice to ED to Northwestern would probably be bad.

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Pricer
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby Pricer » Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:50 pm

Some of these points are great, some are not. This is just my take on your points, but I am a 0L, so I could just be misinformed at this step.

1. I disagree. LSAT and GPA both matter, which is weighed more depends upon the school.

3. I am just a 0L, but from my understanding, employment statistics from pre-recession are pretty useless.

4. Nonsense. Vandy, Texas, UCLA? What about WUSTL? I doubt all WUSTL grads stay in St. Louis. I also would not expect to find work in a region besides my home and Louisiana with a degree from Tulane, and only Indiana, maybe Chicago/Illinois, and my home for Notre Dame.

5. Look at the latest NLJ 250 stats. Cornell came in second. I know this is not representative of true market salary biglaw jobs, but to say they are grouped solely by employment prospects is mistaken. They are grouped by USNWR ranking, which considers employment statistics as a factor, but not the sole, or even primary, factor.

7. This is true to an extent. My applications were late, but I have been WLed at schools I had numbers above median for. For example, I expected an in state tuition scholarship from Texas and got a WL instead.

8. This is only applicable if you are biglaw or bust or if you have zero connections or networking ability. If I do decide to attend my T30 regional over a T18 (Mich-USC in my case), I doubt I will regret it. As you pointed out, 200k is a lot of money, so I don't think going to a T10/14/18 at sticker is always the best option.

10. EDing to UVA means, essentially, no scholarship money. Paying sticker at a school you would not get into during regular admissions may not be the best choice for a lot of people.

11. This is by far your best point. I cannot agree more with that. My cycle has been quite disappointing compared to others with equal numbers because I did not apply until January (when I received my December score).

CanadianWolf
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby CanadianWolf » Wed Mar 09, 2011 1:56 pm

Paying full tuition is fine at many public law schools for residents who intend to practice in that state or region.

Specialty rankings are useful for some purposes such as knowing that there will be substantial course offerings in a particular area of law such as environmental, tax or trial advocacy.

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Master_Splinter
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby Master_Splinter » Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:11 pm

Tulane, wtf?! I can think of several other regional schools like Tulane, that offer more flexibility than the 'Green Wave'.

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jtemp320
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby jtemp320 » Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:18 pm

Pricer wrote:....


I thought OP actually put together a nice distillation of TLS conventional wisdom...but Pricers points are pretty much the same major flaws that I saw..all credited. Also agree with DF - Tulane...a national law school...seriously???

nonprofit-prophet
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby nonprofit-prophet » Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:22 pm

Have each of these 14 things been in the top ten of "things to know" at one point or another?

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FlightoftheEarls
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby FlightoftheEarls » Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:25 pm

FlightoftheEarls wrote:IBTETTCOs

Desert Fox wrote:Re-fucking-diculous Tulane trolling.

Pricer wrote:I also would not expect to find work in a region besides my home and Louisiana with a degree from Tulane

Master_Splinter wrote:Tulane, wtf?! I can think of several other regional schools like Tulane, that offer more flexibility than the 'Green Wave'.

jtemp320 wrote:Also agree with DF - Tulane...a national law school...seriously???

What do I win for IBT-ing the shit out of this thread?

lawloser22
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby lawloser22 » Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:29 pm

Fair enough, edited.

It's the rule that's important: just because many graduates of a school end up working in other states, does not mean the school has national reach. Rather, it's likely that many students attend these schools from out of state and return back to their home states after graduation. Generally, they are successful at doing so primarily because of their ties to the area and because they are able to make alumni connections with others in that market who have done this before them.
Last edited by lawloser22 on Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:03 pm, edited 2 times in total.

bartleby
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby bartleby » Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:37 pm

If I wrote something like this, I'd have #11 as "Applying early is advantageous - MYTH"

I think this cycle has shown that schools will sit on your apps forever and accept someone who applies in February if they have the numbers. This means if you don't do well in June or October, taking it in December will barely hurt you, if at all. Do not wait a year to "apply early" if you do okay in December.

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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby tarakit » Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:41 pm

I honestly think the whole applying early thing is given too much credit on TLS. It seems like it's an easy excuse like yield protection for a bad cycle. There are cases where this definitely does seem to have affected people (applying right at the deadline), but applying with a december LSAT doesn't seem like it is that bad for people in general.

I applied with a December LSAT and got into all the schools I could have expected to get into, including where I actually wanted to go (Vanderbilt with $$). The only way applying late adversely affected me was that by the time I applied, schools like Duke had realized that applications were down, and it would be very difficult for them to hold their medians, causing them to admit far less people below median than usual. However, I could have easily solved this problem by not freaking out on the games section and getting 170+ instead of my 169, which goes back to one of the other points that your LSAT score is by far the most important thing in admissions.

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thunderflesh
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby thunderflesh » Wed Mar 09, 2011 2:47 pm

bartleby wrote:If I wrote something like this, I'd have #11 as "Applying early is advantageous - MYTH"

I think this cycle has shown that schools will sit on your apps forever and accept someone who applies in February if they have the numbers. This means if you don't do well in June or October, taking it in December will barely hurt you, if at all. Do not wait a year to "apply early" if you do okay in December.


The point isn't that "if you apply late you won't get in," just that applying early can give you an edge. How much of an edge is debatable, but I've seen plenty of anecdotal evidence that suggests that applying late can in some cases cause people to underperform their numbers.

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shortporch
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby shortporch » Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:09 pm

I don't ordinarily weigh in on some of the discussions like this, but apart from some of the typical obsessive nuances of grouping or ranking schools in a handful of infinitesimal sub-genres, and a cutoff (in this case, "top 10") for most cases in which law school is "worth it," I think this is fairly strong advice.

I would quibble with one point, and it's one I've seen on TLS, XO, and elsewhere: I don't think the distinction is between "regional" and "national" (and I wouldn't quite draw the cutoff where you have it, but that gets to my "apart from" above). I think there are four categories: national, regional, statewide, and local (with the usual caveats that self-selection can influence behavior, or public v. private can affect placement, or self-startership can remedy a geographic divide, etc.).

I'm not sure, for example, that Northwestern is a particularly "national" school. But I certainly wouldn't classify it as "regional" and put it in the same grouping as DePaul and Loyola, which are essentially "local" schools. But I think it has a fairly broad "region," as a number of its graduates go on to New York. But I wouldn't necessarily advise someone to take NU if they want to practice out west or in the south (but someone can point to me employment figures suggesting otherwise).

But I do think there are far more gradations than "national" (which means T-14 to most Internet dwellers) and "the rest," which should be an important factor.

Although I should note, drawing an emphasis to regionalism over rank is extremely valuable. Too often, raw rank influences a choice over regionalism, when regionalism should be the tie-breaking factor in most circumstances--and, in fact, compensates for even a non-trivial rankings disparity.

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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby TyrodTaylor » Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:11 pm

tagged to share with others

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Veyron
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby Veyron » Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:14 pm

Pricer wrote:Some of these points are great, some are not. This is just my take on your points, but I am a 0L, therefore I am a blatering idiot. I will now stop trying to speak with my elders, preferring instead the wiser course of listening and learning so I could just be misinformed at this step.

1. I disagree. LSAT and GPA both matter, which is weighed more depends upon the school.

3. I am just a 0L, but from my understanding, employment statistics from pre-recession are pretty useless.

4. Nonsense. Vandy, Texas, UCLA? What about WUSTL? I doubt all WUSTL grads stay in St. Louis. I also would not expect to find work in a region besides my home and Louisiana with a degree from Tulane, and only Indiana, maybe Chicago/Illinois, and my home for Notre Dame.

5. Look at the latest NLJ 250 stats. Cornell came in second. I know this is not representative of true market salary biglaw jobs, but to say they are grouped solely by employment prospects is mistaken. They are grouped by USNWR ranking, which considers employment statistics as a factor, but not the sole, or even primary, factor.

7. This is true to an extent. My applications were late, but I have been WLed at schools I had numbers above median for. For example, I expected an in state tuition scholarship from Texas and got a WL instead.

8. This is only applicable if you are biglaw or bust or if you have zero connections or networking ability. If I do decide to attend my T30 regional over a T18 (Mich-USC in my case), I doubt I will regret it. As you pointed out, 200k is a lot of money, so I don't think going to a T10/14/18 at sticker is always the best option.

10. EDing to UVA means, essentially, no scholarship money. Paying sticker at a school you would not get into during regular admissions may not be the best choice for a lot of people.

11. This is by far your best point. I cannot agree more with that. My cycle has been quite disappointing compared to others with equal numbers because I did not apply until January (when I received my December score).

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Grizz
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby Grizz » Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:18 pm

#4 is stupid

How national your degree is depends on 1) your grades, 2) your school's name brand recognition in the market you are targeting, and 3) your ties to the market you're targeting.

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Veyron
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby Veyron » Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:20 pm

rad law wrote:#4 is stupid

How national your degree is depends on 1) your grades, 2) your school's name brand recognition in the market you are targeting, and 3) your ties to the market you're targeting.


Not really, with the cravat that a region can be larger than a state. Sure, the valedictorian at any T1 can do fine but that changes very quickly as you go down in rank.

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Grizz
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby Grizz » Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:25 pm

Veyron wrote:
rad law wrote:#4 is stupid

How national your degree is depends on 1) your grades, 2) your school's name brand recognition in the market you are targeting, and 3) your ties to the market you're targeting.


Not really, with the cravat that a region can be larger than a state. Sure, the valedictorian at any T1 can do fine but that changes very quickly as you go down in rank.


Before we go any further, we already had a discussion about this and we realized we agree. Also,


Image

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DubPoker
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby DubPoker » Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:35 pm

What was the Tulane trolling that was edited out?

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Veyron
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby Veyron » Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:36 pm

rad law wrote:
Veyron wrote:
rad law wrote:#4 is stupid

How national your degree is depends on 1) your grades, 2) your school's name brand recognition in the market you are targeting, and 3) your ties to the market you're targeting.


Not really, with the cravat that a region can be larger than a state. Sure, the valedictorian at any T1 can do fine but that changes very quickly as you go down in rank.


Before we go any further, we already had a discussion about this and we realized we agree. Also,


Image


Right, I get so forgetful about these things. Back to work I go.

lawloser22
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Re: The Top 14 Things to Know Before Going to Law School

Postby lawloser22 » Wed Mar 09, 2011 3:42 pm

DubPoker wrote:What was the Tulane trolling that was edited out?


#4 used to read:

"4. Law school employment is regional for all but the Top 14 schools and perhaps Notre Dame and possibly Tulane. This is not because these schools are better than any others, but because these schools have miniscule home markets and the vast majority of their students come from other states and return there after graduation. Most of these students are successful because employers like their ties to the area and students are able to make alumni connections with others who have done the same. Do not count on this. If you can't break the T-14, retake, or attend law school in the region you want to work in. For example, if you want to work in Philly, you go to Temple, not Iowa, despite the rank discrepancy."

I remember reading that on here at one point or another and those two fit the bill of what I was trying to describe -- schools with very small home markets who place many graduates in other states because of the size of their market and their amount of out of state students. Nashville and LA are large legal markets.
Last edited by lawloser22 on Wed Mar 09, 2011 4:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.




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