Military is Paying for Law School - Where to Go?

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Military is Paying for Law School - Where to Go?

Post by tim78457238 » Fri Nov 08, 2019 3:25 pm

Hello, everyone,

The military is paying for me to go to law school. The tuition cap is $25,000 per year and I will continue to receive all active duty pay and benefits throughout my years in school. Following law school I will serve as a Judge Advocate.

My stats: LSAT: 158, Undergrad GPA: 3.70

Regardless of my law school selection, I will have to complete summer internships at one of the following locations: Washington DC, Boston, Miami, New Orleans, Cleveland, Alameda, Norfolk, Honolulu, or Seattle. The law school I attend would ideally be within normal commuting distance of one of these locations, since I will be financially responsible for transportation to/from the internship and lodging at the internship location if I am too far away to commute daily.

I have three main factors driving my law school selection:
1) Price - I want to eliminate out-of-pocket costs for my education.
2) Location - Within commuting distance of a summer internship location. Additional factors are schools in near proximity to family in upper Midwest or in desirable areas of the country. I enjoy smaller cities, outdoor recreation, etc...
3) Quality - I understand the limitations of my LSAT score, but still desire a quality school and marketable degree

With these factors in mind, I have applied / will be applying to the following schools:
1) Univ of Washington
2) Univ of Montana
3) Univ of Nebraska
4) Cleveland-Marshall
5) Case Western
6) UConn
7) Univ of Maine

I understand the T1/2/3/4 debate. If I was a typical law school student, I would wait it out, retake the LSAT, and strive for a higher ranked school. However, I find myself in the position where I have to make an immediate application and have the peace of mind of a paid-for law degree, income during college, and a guaranteed job following graduation.

With that in mind, here are a few questions to start the discussion:
1) Does a T3 make sense in this scenario? Regardless of where I go to school, I will transfer to wherever the military needs me and will not begin any sort of civilian practice for at least 6 years after graduation.
2) I anticipate my nontraditional military background will help me through the application process. How much is this worth at the T2 level? Should I be setting my sights higher in law school applications?
3) Does anyone have any additional school suggestions for someone in my position?

Thank you in advance for any input.


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Re: Military is Paying for Law School - Where to Go?

Post by nixy » Fri Nov 08, 2019 3:45 pm

Northeastern and Suffolk in Boston?


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Re: Military is Paying for Law School - Where to Go?

Post by tim78457238 » Fri Nov 08, 2019 4:27 pm

Thanks for the reply.

I had looked at Boston schools. Suffolk seemed overpriced for its rank. With financial aid I might be able to get it covered, but I'd hate to be paying significant money out of pocket if something went wrong.

The issue with northeastern would be qualifying for enough aid to get it covered. I'd probably be on the hook for between $5-10k per year. It seems like a good school, but I'm wary of the cost.

The hardest part of the decision for me right now is balancing price, quality, and location. I'm confident I can find a school that will be fully covered between scholarships and gov reimbursement, but want to pick the best option in terms of quality and location.


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Re: Military is Paying for Law School - Where to Go?

Post by AdieuCali » Fri Nov 08, 2019 9:40 pm

Hey Tim, congratulations on the amazing opportunity.

You generally have set good parameters for law school choice. I think school rank matters less for you, since you will have a guaranteed job that you are obligated to do for 6 years post-JD. The actual classroom product (i.e. "quality") that UVA produces is not really distinguishable from what a T3 produces. Law professors are hired for their research and publication, not their instructional abilities. Also, most schools have very similar course offerings. School rank matters because of connections and pedigree in legal hiring, but that won't really matter for you. You'll be in one of the few legal jobs where you will have peers from Stanford and Stetson filling the same billets.

With that in mind, I would like to add another factor to consider. I think FLEP-ers should really think about real estate opportunities.

You'll be drawing BAH that is location-dependent, so there is much more opportunity to really grow your portfolio in high-cost areas. Let's say you're choosing between Cardozo in Manhattan v. U. MT in Missoula.
UM BAH for O-3 w/o dependents is $1674/mo. For Cardozo, that number is $3549/mo.
Not including taxes and insurance, a $3k/mo. mortgage payment will get you a $700k home.
Not including taxes and insurance, a $1,500/mo. mortgage will get you a $350k home.

You have absolute job security for the next 9 years, so let's say you hold on to each property for 10 years. Live in it for 3 years, rent it out at no profit for 7, and then sell it.

Let's assume both homes average a modest 3% growth over that decade. In 2030, the MT home is worth $470k and Manhattan one is worth $941k. You would earn $121,000 more in profit from the Manhattan home than the Montana home. With $241k total profit from your West Village apartment or LIC townhouse, you can easily build your dream retirement home in a smaller city with ample outdoor recreation.

There are lots of schools in high-cost areas where you should be eligible for $$$ schollys:
DC: American/Catholic / NY: Cardozo, Bkln / SF: Hastings / Denver: UD / LA: Layola / SD: USD / Seattle: U. Seattle

Finally, there's still time to study for and take the LSAT again in January. The registration deadline is Dec 4 and you should get your results mid-February. That will give you plenty of time to apply to what are currently reaches (like U. Washington) or negotiate for higher scholarships. 2-3 extra points gives you a lot better scholarship opportunities at T2/3 schools:


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Re: Military is Paying for Law School - Where to Go?

Post by tim78457238 » Fri Nov 08, 2019 11:34 pm


Thank you for the detailed response.

The thought of retaking has crossed my mind. If I were a traditional student, I would definitely be retaking, but I'm not sold on the cost/benefit for my particular situation. As you stated, many of the reasons for pursuit of school ranking are minimized in my situation. Even as I think about where to go to school, I'm unsure if and where I would practice law after leaving the military. This makes intentional selection of a higher ranked regional school difficult! At the same time, I enjoy having options and understand the limitations of having a lower-ranked school on my resume. I think the biggest draw of a retake would be ensuring the scholarship money for no-cost attendance at a wider range of schools.

BAH is definitely a concern, especially if I end up having to find summer housing for my required internships...for example, going from Montana to Seattle for two summers. I have so far steered away from home ownership in the military. The unpredictable transfers introduce an element of risk I'm not ready to take on. I've known too many people who are long-distance landlords by default and regret their decisions.

Thanks also for the info on scholarships. I was using 509 reports to predict scholarship money, but having data based on specific scores helps quite a bit.

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Re: Military is Paying for Law School - Where to Go?

Post by Specter1389 » Sat Dec 21, 2019 4:57 pm

Former active duty Air Force and current 1L at UVA. There is a Navy and an Army FLEPer in my class. I would highly recommend applying to William and Mary. They love FLEPers and if you get in will probably give you a scholarship to cover whatever the difference is that your service won’t. It’s close to Norfolk, so you could easily stay in the area for your summer break. Three years in Williamsburg wouldn’t be bad at all either.


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Re: Military is Paying for Law School - Where to Go?

Post by JAGbound » Thu Dec 26, 2019 2:37 pm

There's no reason you shouldn't be able to get into a top 50 LS with your current scores/background.

Good luck!


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Re: Military is Paying for Law School - Where to Go?

Post by JOThompson » Tue Jan 07, 2020 7:04 pm

Congrats on getting approved for FLEP (or your branch's equivalent), really a great deal financially. Wish I had been able to take advantage of it.

I would base my decision mainly on debt and alumni network / regional placement (in case you want to be a civilian attorney eventually). It's true that by the time you're done with your AD time commitment, the ranking of your school matters less, but it still matters. I'm from the northwest and went to Iowa on a full ride. It took me four years of practicing in the midwest to make it back home, and I still had to take a sizable (half) pay cut to make that leap. If I could do it over, I would not have paid much attention to the national rankings, and instead would have picked a school that had high job placement in the city / region I wanted to end up in. If you wanted to work for federal government, I think being a first term JAG would open a lot of doors for you though, but your mileage may vary for firms and local government.

I got into many of the schools on your list but UW is the only one I'm very familiar with. If you wanted to be in Seattle and wanted civilian exit options there in the longer-term, I would say UW. Outside of the T14, it places very well in the more prestigious regional firms and ADA/AG offices. However, even if you get in state tuition (you probably don't currently qualify), it's still $37k a year. $49k out of state. Cost of living is expensive here, median home price is something like $750k still. Something to consider if you were thinking of buying real estate. The average rental price of a 1BR must be about $1500 now in Seattle. Tons of outdoor activities available though. Considering that your family is in the midwest, and that the military is probably going to send you somewhere other than Seattle for awhile upon being barred, I don't think UW is a good option financially for you. But it's the one I would've taken out of those choices, but I also am from the area.

University of Montana is a good value, and it places well in Montana, but there really are very few law jobs in Montana. The ones that do exist almost always go to people with local connections. It's a very affordable school and you would probably enjoy Missoula. Lots of outdoor options.

I have a lot of friends who went to University of Nebraska. It was affordable and places well in that portion of the midwest. It's a fun enough college town but I don't know about recreational, outdoor activities.


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Re: Military is Paying for Law School - Where to Go?

Post by tim78457238 » Sun Jan 19, 2020 9:14 am

Thanks to everyone for your replies and advice.

A quick update:
U of Washington: No response yet
U of Montana: Accepted. Within $25,000 tuition reimbursement cap. Leaning against due to logistics and cost of moving to Seattle for summer internship.
U of Nebraska: Accepted. Within $25,000 tuition reimbursement cap. Very interested. School is closest to family support in Iowa and Minnesota. Looking ahead to life after military, I could see myself returning to region. Negative: would have to travel to Cleveland in summer for internship at own expense.
U of Iowa: Accepted. Waiting to hear back regarding financial aid. I will be very interested if I can get the cost within the $25,000 tuition reimbursement cap. Once again, can see myself returning to region after military. Negative: would have to travel to Cleveland in summer for internship at own expense.
Cleveland-Marshall: Accepted. Within $25,000 tuition reimbursement cap. Somewhat interested. Main drawbacks: lack of degree portability and living in Cleveland. Main drawback of Cleveland - inability to live close to school (I have a wife and four children). Positive: at internship location.
Case Western: No response yet.
U of Connecticut: No response yet.
U of Maine: Accepted. Unlikely due to logistics and cost of getting to summer internship in Boston and distance from family support in Minnesota and Iowa.

JOThompson: thank you for the detailed response. I agree with your statements on the importance of local network / thinking about civilian practice after military. For those reasons, Iowa and Nebraska are appealing. Iowa is certainly a higher ranked school than Nebraska, but I'm still weighing whether the increase in rank would be worth the expense. I would be equally happy in Nebraska or Iowa, if the situation arose. I will see what financial aid I get from Iowa.

If I am accepted to U of Washington, I don't anticipate getting much, if any, financial aid. I could cash flow the difference between the tuition cap and actual tuition, but it isn't worth it for me. If, however, I was accepted into the U of Washington family housing, I would be paying a monthly rent of $1,152/month. My tax-free housing allowance would be $3,114/month - leaving me with an extra $23,544 per year. Under those circumstances I could see myself attending U of Washington...otherwise, very unlikely.

My current priorities in school selection.
1) Ability to keep tuition at or below $25,000 per year reimbursement cap.
2) Ability to live close to school. I have a wife and four children. Time will be my most precious commodity during school. I would like to reduce my commute to as little as possible.
3) Proximity to summer internship locations (referenced in original post)
4) Within the limitations of my LSAT score, selecting a school that offers the best value in portability and marketability for life after military service. Initial job prospects aren't a pressing concern since I have guaranteed employment with the military as a JAG, but I want to prepare for life after the military as well.
5) Another factor is proximity to immediate family. I see the value of both having the support network of family while in school and preparing for life after the military by selecting a school with networking possibilities in the region around my home of record. My wife and I are both from Minnesota and we have family in Iowa and Wisconsin. Any school within a day's drive of Minnesota is immediately a more attractive option for these reasons.

Thanks once again for the feedback. Please don't hesitate to offer advice - I appreciate any insight as I'm making my decision.


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Re: Military is Paying for Law School - Where to Go?

Post by JOThompson » Thu Jan 23, 2020 3:17 pm

I went to Iowa and can give you some input. One major thing to consider about Iowa -- even if you don't get much of a scholarship, you can qualify for in-state tuition your 2L and 3L years. The only requirement is that you work 10 hours a week as an RA or TA. Almost everyone who wanted an RA/TA position found one, although it took some of us a little more time. I didn't find a position until about two weeks before 2L classes started, despite making efforts, but I was also not as aggressive or connected as some of my classmates. Chances are that you can find an RA/TA position if you really want one. In-state tuition when I went to school was about $23,000 a year, so almost half of the out of state price.

Iowa places relatively well in the region into local government jobs and small and medium sized firms. The most well regarded Des Moines firms (Davis Brown for example) hire mainly from Iowa it seems. A lot of my classmates ended up in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Nebraska, smaller Illinois / Minneapolis markets, etc. and didn't have to try very hard.

Federal work or biglaw is going to be very hard without top grades, but I've seen it happen from my classmates in the top 20%. The larger markets in the region like Chicago and Minneapolis aren't out of reach. Even finding a small/mid sized firm job in those cities may take decent grades or connections, and probably some luck.

I can tell you that Iowa is not mobile outside of the midwest region, but it sounds like you and your wife have family in Iowa and other midwestern states, so that may not be a huge consideration. An Iowa degree (especially with a term of JAG service) can easily get you to Wisconsin, Michigan, Indiana, etc., but will require you to apply a little more broadly than Iowa's ranking might suggest. But if you wanted to end up for example on the west coast someday, you'd be far better served going to University of Oregon or Seattle U, for example. I often lost out on jobs to people who went to local schools that were in the third ranking tier. Iowa's ranking doesn't really matter when trying to make a big geographical move.

Iowa won't take you to the coasts without connections or high grades, and that still might not be enough. You'd have to do a lot of legwork to make the move. I am from the northwest and it took me about two years of searching to find a decent entry level job in Seattle. I'd estimate I applied to about 40 jobs to get two interviews. I had three years of criminal defense experience, some civil litigation experience, and a lot of trials/motions. I probably could have found something sooner if I was already in Washington and had a local address, but still would have been a little challenging.

Nebraska is going to be less mobile inside and outside of the region, but I have friends who went there who still ended up in Des Moines or at relatively decent firms in Omaha/Lincoln. I'd definitely take Iowa over Nebraska though if you want to keep as many options open. Iowa isn't light years ahead for job placement, but I think it's noticeably better at least in my anecdotal experience. Iowa seems to have a larger/better alum network in a lot of desirable secondary markets and in DC (surprisingly, although not like the T14 or anything).

I wouldn't seriously consider the east coast schools you mentioned if you want to be mobile and land in the midwest eventually. Having family support during law school is also very important -- my married friends in law school had to rely heavily on their family for things at times.

I'd take Montana over Maine or Connecticut for price and atmosphere (Montana is supposed to be really cheap from what I recall). UW I would only take if you are willing to take on extra debt and want to be in Washington state. It places well in Seattle but that's the only real reason to go there unless you get in-state and/or scholarship money. I don't know a lot about Cleveland-Marshall, but I suspect that you'd be much better off taking Nebraska over it (and I don't think the short term benefit of an easier internship commute is worth the lack of portability from Cleveland-Marshall).

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