Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students Forum

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latinx

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Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by latinx » Tue Jan 11, 2022 2:19 pm

Allow me to play the devils advocate and present the opposing point of view. While I agree with the assertion often made that low-ranking law schools are often exploitive, I disagree that these schools are worthless or that 0Ls should never consider going to them. I wholeheartedly agree with the strategy (pointing out the exploitation and the need for cost/benefit analysis) but I disagree with the tactics of strongly discouraging 0Ls from even considering attending low-ranking schools. Instead I would argue that better educating 0Ls of all the pitfalls and the benefits from attending such institutions and letting them decide.

Allow me to preface this by stating that I am not a practicing attorney; in fact, I am a physics professor whose daughter is a 0L. I am not a shill for law schools, but just feel that some of the advice being given often misses the point.

There are many practicing attorneys in this forum who generously offer wisdom for free to 0Ls. For those 0Ls that wish to follow in their footsteps, and to profit handsomely from doing so, they are doing a great service. However, all too often, they can unintentionally come across as condescending and elitist by making blanket statements that most low-ranked law schools are worthless scams. Their counsel is excellent for those 0Ls that desire to make lots of money via law. However, their advice is often poor for those 0Ls that don’t have the ability to go to an elite school. I proffer a few points in support of attending a low-ranked school; even a Tier 4 law school. Criticism and debate are welcome but attacking the messenger is not helpful.

1. Law school does more than just teach law. Law school teaches students how to think through difficult problems, how to make a persuasive argument, etc. These are SKILLS that can be useful in a wide variety of careers tangential to and even outside of law. To argue that a low-level school is worthless because you have a small chance of a well-paying career ignores the skills law school develops in students that can be useful in all aspects of life, even your love life.
2. Students that truly love the law will enjoy law school. Yes, many view law school as just a hurdle to jump over to get to the promised land, but many other students find education to be worthwhile on its own (I often have senior citizens in many of my classes who have no intention of rejoining the workforce). In addition, there is a social aspect to law school that some students appreciate, whether it is networking or making friends or meeting a significant other.
3. It should not be understated how some students take pride in becoming a law school graduate, even if they don’t use the degree directly in their future career. Many will argue this is a bad reason to invest large amounts of time and money, but we all know people who have invested large amounts of time and money with other pursuits in life that often yielded something less tangible.
4. While it is true that many students will improve their LSAT score upon retake, to argue that all students with ‘low’ scores should simply retake the LSAT is often bad advice. Often students have already taken multiple LSAT prep classes, spent hundreds of hours studying, taken the LSAT multiple times, and still don’t achieve higher than a 152 (which it should be noted is the 50% point in the curve. Just because some did much higher; to be dismissive of an average score is condescending. A 152 is not a ‘bad’ score as half those that took it scored below that). To naively assume that an additional year will usually result in a significantly higher LSAT score ignores the situation of the student. If they only took it once and barely studied, then yes, a student will likely see a significant increase assuming they devote lots to time and resources to study (note that many students will not invest enough time and money even if they know it is in their best interest despite how often they are told). However, those students that have already invested significant time and resources into preparation are unlikely to see a significant rise. Perhaps a few points, but will that be enough to counteract the cost of taking an additional year or two off? There is a cost to doing that as you reduce your peak earning years when you do that and significantly reduce lifetime income.
5. I can picture many of the practicing attorneys in this forum attending a high school basketball game and screaming from the stands that everyone playing in the game should just give up all the hard practices, weightlifting, video reviews, etc., because the likelihood they will ever make a decent living in basketball is insignificant. While this fact is true, who are you to tell someone not to pursue their dream. Law students attending low ranking law schools are almost always aware that their chances for becoming filthy rich are small, but perhaps that may not be their goal.
6. There are many people that can live a very satisfying life in law without making much money. Maybe they just want to save whales, or help the poor, or something, which may actually be more satisfying to them than working for some large firm taking on cases that may not appeal to them anyway.
7. The fact is that everyone will make over a million dollars in income, even a minimum wage earner. Assume someone works for $10 an hour, 2000 hours a year (40 hours for 50 weeks), for 50 years and you get a million (in today’s dollars; ignore inflation). Most will earn two or three million in their lifetime; some much more. Thus, spending $100K to attend law school is not such a shocking sum to pursue a dream. In fact, I am willing to bet that many of the practicing attorneys in this forum drive cars or boats that cost that much. To some a law school education is worth more than a fancy car.
8. Instead of just trying to persuade 0Ls with low LSAT scores to drop their dream rather than go to law school, perhaps that same argument should be applied to those students with 180 LSAT and 4.0 GPA. Unless those high performing students REALLY want to do law, there are many other careers that are very lucrative and perhaps they would be better served to get an MBA or MD or DDS or something else. If money is the driving concern, they may get disillusioned after a decade of working very long hours in a law office. A strong desire for money should be matched with a strong desire for the law to be successful in big law.
9. A lot of the same arguments being made to try to convince 0Ls not to attend low ranking law schools could apply to any number of other scenarios. For example, how about undergraduate students studying some humanity or social science for which there is little chance of a well-paying career. I suspect you’d make the same argument, that these students should not go to college but instead just become plumbers or waitresses and not assume all the debt that goes with college. Again, this misses the point of a lot of what is learned at college. My auto mechanic when I lived in Boston graduated from Harvard. My girlfriend at the time had a Masters degree from Harvard and was a low level travel agent in an exotic travel company. However, even though neither worked in anything even remotely close to their degree, they learned ways of thinking that allowed them to be more successful in their new careers and they were satisfied to have spent the time and money to get a Harvard degree.
10. Job satisfaction is more than just income. I was fortunate to get a tenured position, but I know adjunct faculty that earn a fraction of my pay, perhaps $40K, but they are satisfied with their lot in life. They love their work, have pride and satisfaction, and have adapted to life with a low salary. Believe it or not, you can be happy without a million dollars in the bank; not everyone needs to have a new car every couple years.
11. Here is a hypothetical. Student graduates from a regional university with a BA in political science and finds no real job opportunity. Always interested in law, decides to become a paralegal. The student could take a year of courses at the local technical school to get a paralegal certificate, or they could get a JD at a low-ranking law school. Upon graduation with the JD, the student becomes a paralegal, but finds a slightly better position at a better firm due to having the JD and earns an extra $3 per hour. Over a lifetime, that extra $3 per hour equates to $300K, more than enough to pay for the cost of two additional years of school and the lost income during those two years. Again, this is just a hypothetical.
12. Remember the movie “The Rainmaker”? Danny Devito played a character who I believe graduated from a low-level law school and was having trouble passing the bar (and thus could not argue any cases in court). Nonetheless, he was involved in cases and enjoyed his life. A fictional character, and definitely no guarantee of what a low-ranking school can expect, but these types of low pay legal careers are a potential.
13. While many low-level law schools are very high priced, and could legitimately be called exploitive, there are many that are actually a good value, particularly state schools. Examples include the University of Arkansas, University of South Dakota, University of Montana, University of Nebraska, University of Mississippi. All have annual tuition for residents of approximately $15,000 or less and were ranked in the top 25 nationally in a paper on ‘Best Value Law Schools’ published in the National Jurist that considered not only cost but also employment rate and bar passage rate. Typically, 0Ls can become residents of these within a year or less. I am not advocating that students should flock to these schools, but if these are the best schools they can reach, and if they are aware of employment issues, these are good choices even at sticker price even though some are borderline tier 4.
14. Often I see COA numbers thrown around instead of the actual cost of the tuition and fees. While it is true that you will be paying COA, it is a bit misleading as you have to pay COL expenses whether you are in law school or not, so it is not an added expense of going to law school. Furthermore, COL expenses are something 0Ls can control and the costs will vary significantly; some will choose to slum it with many roommates and eat ramen while others will live high on the hog. Finally, some students have the option of living at home or with relatives.
15. While I agree it is not wise to attend a low-ranking school with the expectation to transfer to a high-ranking school, it is nonetheless a route taken by many students.
16. As shown by the ABA employment data, not all graduates from a T14 school land a Bar Passage required position, so a lot of the same arguments being made to anyone considering a low-level school should be made to 0Ls pondering a T14 school.

What I think would be very useful for 0Ls is a representation of the typical types of jobs that can be expected for ‘average’ students graduating from a Tier 3 or Tier 4 law school. The practicing attorneys frequenting this forum have done an exceptional job of conveying the types of low-level positions in law firms that are low paid and often permanent for low-level law school graduates (and even some high-level law school graduates). But what about JD advantage type jobs; things like corporate contracts administrator, alternative dispute resolution specialist, government regulatory analyst, FBI agent, and accountant, or even things where a JD is underutilized like legal temp agency, law clerks, paralegals. Many 0Ls would benefit from knowing of other options out there. Also, ABA data seems to focus more on what graduates find soon after graduation, but where are they ten years later and how much did they benefit from their JD?

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nealric

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by nealric » Tue Jan 11, 2022 3:47 pm

There's a lot to answer in this list, but my responses (from a practicing attorney)

1) Law school does stress a particular type of reasoning, but it doesn't have a monopoly on learning that sort of reasoning. You can learn things from a book. Going to professional school is more about earning a credential. I'd also question whether that sort of training is particularly meaningful to someone who won't practice law.

2) If you are a 0L, you frankly have no idea whether you will "truly love the law." Going to law school because you "love the law" is like studying to be an aerospace engineer because you like airplanes. It's a good start, but not everyone who likes airplanes would actually like being an aerospace engineer and all that it entails.

3) I suppose beauty is the the eye of the beholder and all that, but there are plenty of other career paths one could take pride in that don't involve a significant cash outlay.

4) Sure, there are people who are tapped out on the LSAT and don't have a realistic path to improve. But most 0Ls I have counseled over the years with middling LSAT scores aren't truly tapped out. I always tell people: take the LSAT until you have a 170+ OR until you have studied for at least 1,000 hours AND have taken it at least 3 times. A high LSAT score is the easy way in. You can do it the hard way through scrapping through a lower-tier school, and some will succeed, but far better to do it on the front end where you haven't taken any significant risk yet.

5) I don't think anybody should go to law school with the plan on becoming filthy rich. If that's your goal, I would advise you to become an entrepreneur. The big difference between playing high school basket ball while dreaming of the NBA and attending a T4 law school with a dream of being a high-flying attorney is that the ball player isn't risking potential financial ruin by attending.

6) Absolutely. But getting gainful employment in the public interest is more difficult than a lot of people realize. You don't just waltz into the ACLU and demand a job. Many such public interest jobs are more competitive than the big money corporate ones. Of course, nothing stops you from trying to save the whales on your own, but most people need some means of support to devote their lives to it. You can start a charity and fundraise without a law degree.

7) I agree that some people overstate how much school costs relative to lifetime earnings. But you have to consider the time value of money. $100k borrowed to day is much more expensive than $100k paid over the course of a lifetime. Interest on student loans is far above market interest rates on secured loans like mortgages and car loans. The other problem is that many lower-tier schools don't meaningfully improve a someone's lifetime earnings. When that is the case, borrowing $100k could be the difference between someday owning a home and never. Plus, full freight at many schools is closer to $300k, which will buy a reasonably nice house in much of the country.

8 ) Skills aren't necessarily portable. Someone who scores a 180 on the LSAT won't necessarily blow the MCAT out of the water (and may need to go back to school to get med school prerequisites). People have different personalities for different career paths. If you are struggling on the LSAT, it may be that legal reasoning is not your talent and you'd be better off working towards a different goal. Obviously, the LSAT is not a perfect proxy for legal reasoning, but an LSAT score that is too low indicates potential trouble passing the bar exam (they are correlated).

9) The difference with "useless" undergraduates is that law school is a trade school. An English major could still go on to apply to medical school, law school, or any number of other graduate programs. A law school graduate is only qualified to practice law. So why attend if the odds of practicing law are poor? At some of the lowest ranked law schools, half or less of the class ever become a practicing attorney.

10) Of course. Plenty of dissatisfied highly paid lawyers. I don't think anybody should discourage people from pursuing a satisfying career even if its not remunerative. But low-ranked law school grads often find neither satisfaction nor remuneration.

11) I'm not sure this hypothetical holds any water. A JD can actually hurt your paralegal employment prospects. And you'll pay a lot more than $300k if you are borrowing $300k at 8% interest and paying it over 30 years.

12) Again, if you can't pass the bar, you can't handle cases except under the supervision of an attorney. That's called being a paralegal. Having a JD will actually hurt a potential paralegal career (which you can of course have without going to law school at all).

13) Sure. You don't see many people here arguing against inexpensive programs that may not be highly ranked. Few people on this site are telling someone not to go to the University of Montana if they plan on practicing there. People are talking about schools like New York Law School which charge $50k+/yr in tuition despite poor employment outcomes.

14) Not really misleading if you are going to need to borrow those amounts. If you weren't in law school, you could work full time, and possibly live somewhere less expensive than the large cities where many law schools are located.

15) Yes, it happens. But it's the hard way to do it, and can't be counted upon. There's also a limit. You aren't going to be transferring from Cooley to Harvard no matter how well you do at Cooley.

16) From a statistical perspective, the employment outcomes are dramatically different. A Harvard student who ends up in a non-Bar required role may be a JD/MBA student who goes into banking. A Cooley student is more likely to be working at Walmart than Goldman Sachs in their non-bar required role. That's not passing judgment, that's just the statistical reality.

Typical jobs for new Tier 3/4 school graduates:

Local prosecutor in a small town/county
Small law firm associate practicing fields like personal injury, immigration, social security disability
State court law clerk (1-2 year gig that typically ends up on one like the above)
Contract doc-review attorney (soul sucking dead end job that too many T3/4 graduates are stuck in)
Miscellaneous jobs they could have gotten without their JD

Overall, I certainly wouldn't say that nobody should ever go to a Tier 3/4 school. But they are schools that need to be approached with caution. If you are from a small state like Montana, want to practice there at a small firm, and are admitted to the U of Montana, and won't take on excessive debt, then it may not be a bad idea. If you are moving across the country to attend a school like Cooley or Florida Coastal, planning on borrowing six figures, and don't have a VERY definite plan for how you are going to turn that into a career, I'd advise you to step back and reassess.

The Lsat Airbender

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Tue Jan 11, 2022 3:57 pm

latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 2:19 pm
I disagree that these schools are worthless or that 0Ls should never consider going to them.
nobody serious says this; the remainder of your massive post was therefore a waste of time and I didn't read it

nixy

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by nixy » Tue Jan 11, 2022 6:04 pm

This post has one of the rosiest-glasses images of adjunct work that I’ve seen. There are happy adjuncts. It’s also frequently exploitative and demoralizing work.

OP, how would you feel if a bunch of lawyers who have never worked as academics came to your faculty meeting to give you a bunch of advice about getting into academia?

nixy

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by nixy » Tue Jan 11, 2022 6:07 pm

The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 3:57 pm
latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 2:19 pm
I disagree that these schools are worthless or that 0Ls should never consider going to them.
nobody serious says this
Meant to agree with this as well.

When people talk about low-ranked schools being a bad option, they’re not talking about state law schools (especially in states like Montana et al where there aren’t any other law schools). They’re talking about expensive traps like Thomas Jefferson and Golden Gate. So you’re setting up a straw man here.

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latinx

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by latinx » Tue Jan 11, 2022 8:50 pm

nixy wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 6:04 pm
This post has one of the rosiest-glasses images of adjunct work that I’ve seen. There are happy adjuncts. It’s also frequently exploitative and demoralizing work.

OP, how would you feel if a bunch of lawyers who have never worked as academics came to your faculty meeting to give you a bunch of advice about getting into academia?
My post related to adjuncts in our physics department, not to the general adjunct market. In physics, our adjuncts could easily get private sector jobs for significantly more money, but our adjuncts have stayed with us for decades, with no complaints other than low pay (of course we all complain about that). The point is a simple one; in every discipline there are low paid staff who stay despite the low pay because they have job satisfaction in spite of the low pay. Nonetheless, I will agree with you that there needs to be more education of 0Ls so they more fully understand what they are doing.

As to your hypothetical, we would seriously welcome a bunch of lawyers providing some advice, particularly from the perspective of someone outside of academics. In fact, we routinely solicit, and are often mandated, outside opinions.

latinx

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by latinx » Tue Jan 11, 2022 9:02 pm

nixy wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 6:07 pm
The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 3:57 pm
latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 2:19 pm
I disagree that these schools are worthless or that 0Ls should never consider going to them.
nobody serious says this
Meant to agree with this as well.

When people talk about low-ranked schools being a bad option, they’re not talking about state law schools (especially in states like Montana et al where there aren’t any other law schools). They’re talking about expensive traps like Thomas Jefferson and Golden Gate. So you’re setting up a straw man here.
Thanks so much for this comment. It essentially mirrors my impression; not only are these small state schools relatively cheap but they also capture a lot of local jobs. While I do agree that tier 4 schools like Thomas Jefferson and Golden Gate are awfully expensive, have poor bar passage rates and employment prospects, and high attrition rates, for those students that really want a JD degree and can't get into any better school (having tried as best they can to raise their LSAT score), it is a viable option. I would also recommend students not attend, but I would not tell students to not attend under any circumstances as at least they have a shot at the BAR. There are perhaps 20 or 30 law schools that are not ABA accredited, and I wonder how those are marketed because I believe they are not even allowed to sit for the BAR exam.

latinx

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by latinx » Tue Jan 11, 2022 9:06 pm

The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 3:57 pm
latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 2:19 pm
I disagree that these schools are worthless or that 0Ls should never consider going to them.
nobody serious says this; the remainder of your massive post was therefore a waste of time and I didn't read it
I'm too lazy to search through the site and find the multiple times someone has stated these schools are scams, worthless, a waste of time, etc., but I am willing to wager you that it has often been stated. I recall one thread wherein lists were kept of schools that were considered worthy in all circumstances, worthy only with good scholarship, etc., all the way down to 'do not attend under any circumstance'. Regardless, you won't hurt my feelings if you don't read the post. Carry on!

latinx

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by latinx » Tue Jan 11, 2022 10:03 pm

nealric wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 3:47 pm
There's a lot to answer in this list, but my responses (from a practicing attorney)

Thanks for taking the time to respond

1) Law school does stress a particular type of reasoning, but it doesn't have a monopoly on learning that sort of reasoning. You can learn things from a book. Going to professional school is more about earning a credential. I'd also question whether that sort of training is particularly meaningful to someone who won't practice law.

I agree; you can learn things from a book. That applies to all universities and high schools as well. We could just do away with all of them and just hand out books with an online test at the end. However, I would argue it is tough to master critical thinking skills and good writing skills without the interaction of a professor and your classmates. A book is just not as effective at teaching such skills, and these skills are useful in all aspects of life, not just law practice.

Correct me if I am wrong, but I believe you don't even need to go to law school to pass the BAR. Isn't that what Kim Kardashian is doing right now? I believe she never attended college, is not going to law school, but is doing an apprenticeship and California law allows her to sit for the BAR?


2) If you are a 0L, you frankly have no idea whether you will "truly love the law." Going to law school because you "love the law" is like studying to be an aerospace engineer because you like airplanes. It's a good start, but not everyone who likes airplanes would actually like being an aerospace engineer and all that it entails.

Agree with this as well. However, I suspect most 0L students have taken a prelaw class (or several) in college. Not the same thing obviously, but it does give them a taste. Furthermore, they usually know if they dislike something, or are completely ambivalent.

3) I suppose beauty is the the eye of the beholder and all that, but there are plenty of other career paths one could take pride in that don't involve a significant cash outlay.

Agree 100%. But that really is their decision to make. I do however think that the ABA should do a better job of letting 0Ls know some of their statistics. Perhaps they could dictate that all 0Ls are required to review ABA literature and/or videos and then take a test on the LSAC website before they submit applications to law schools so they better know what they are getting into?

4) Sure, there are people who are tapped out on the LSAT and don't have a realistic path to improve. But most 0Ls I have counseled over the years with middling LSAT scores aren't truly tapped out. I always tell people: take the LSAT until you have a 170+ OR until you have studied for at least 1,000 hours AND have taken it at least 3 times. A high LSAT score is the easy way in. You can do it the hard way through scrapping through a lower-tier school, and some will succeed, but far better to do it on the front end where you haven't taken any significant risk yet.

So your experience has been that most 0Ls take the LSAT with little study or prep? I have far less experience with LSAT than you, so I will have to take your word for that. If that is the case, then doing as you suggest is certainly wise advice and would likely lead to a score increase, although not sure about 170. I have only met a few students that have been interested in law school, but I know they scored in the 150s even though they did study for 1000 hours, including many practice tests, classes, and multiple stabs at the LSAT. Some students just don't do exceptionally well on standardized tests like SAT, GRE, LSAT, MCAT. They can score average, but in the top 10% it is just not an option for them.

5) I don't think anybody should go to law school with the plan on becoming filthy rich. If that's your goal, I would advise you to become an entrepreneur. The big difference between playing high school basket ball while dreaming of the NBA and attending a T4 law school with a dream of being a high-flying attorney is that the ball player isn't risking potential financial ruin by attending.

I agree there is no tuition involved with basketball, but these kids do devote tens of thousands of hours toward it, which even at minimum wage would be similar to law school tuition. However, I never meant for it to be an exact analogy.

6) Absolutely. But getting gainful employment in the public interest is more difficult than a lot of people realize. You don't just waltz into the ACLU and demand a job. Many such public interest jobs are more competitive than the big money corporate ones. Of course, nothing stops you from trying to save the whales on your own, but most people need some means of support to devote their lives to it. You can start a charity and fundraise without a law degree.

Agree 100%. Of course, I had classmates in high school that became ski bums and literally wasted a decade of their life living on a shoestring budget but satisfied. I am sure there are many low-paid law graduates that are miserable but there are also many who take great satisfaction in their life. So long they are fully aware of what they are getting into, they should be allowed to make that choice.

7) I agree that some people overstate how much school costs relative to lifetime earnings. But you have to consider the time value of money. $100k borrowed to day is much more expensive than $100k paid over the course of a lifetime. Interest on student loans is far above market interest rates on secured loans like mortgages and car loans. The other problem is that many lower-tier schools don't meaningfully improve a someone's lifetime earnings. When that is the case, borrowing $100k could be the difference between someday owning a home and never. Plus, full freight at many schools is closer to $300k, which will buy a reasonably nice house in much of the country.

Absolutely agree that $300K is tough to overcome, although I know people in my profession that earn $60K and yet are buying $500K homes. Nonetheless, I agree with you that all students should be steered away from borrowing that much unless it is a top tier law school. $100K however is much more manageable. There are people working at McDonalds that buy cars for $30K and the interest rate on car loans is terrible but they make it work. Earning do not need to increase very much to cover $100K, as I showed in my post.

8 ) Skills aren't necessarily portable. Someone who scores a 180 on the LSAT won't necessarily blow the MCAT out of the water (and may need to go back to school to get med school prerequisites). People have different personalities for different career paths. If you are struggling on the LSAT, it may be that legal reasoning is not your talent and you'd be better off working towards a different goal. Obviously, the LSAT is not a perfect proxy for legal reasoning, but an LSAT score that is too low indicates potential trouble passing the bar exam (they are correlated).

You are right. I concede this point. Although I do think that very bright students that are only in law for the money should be cautioned about the job market as well.

9) The difference with "useless" undergraduates is that law school is a trade school. An English major could still go on to apply to medical school, law school, or any number of other graduate programs. A law school graduate is only qualified to practice law. So why attend if the odds of practicing law are poor? At some of the lowest ranked law schools, half or less of the class ever become a practicing attorney.

A law school graduate is not 'only qualified to practice law'. In fact, such a graduate can go on to do anything they like, even if a JD is not necessary. I would still argue that their life will be enriched by the experience as critical and creative thinking can be used in many ways. There are obviously far cheaper ways of accomplishing that. But there are options in the job market, although they may be extremely low pay.

10) Of course. Plenty of dissatisfied highly paid lawyers. I don't think anybody should discourage people from pursuing a satisfying career even if its not remunerative. But low-ranked law school grads often find neither satisfaction nor remuneration.

Agreed. The key word in your last statement is 'often', because there are some who do find satisfaction or remuneration or both.

11) I'm not sure this hypothetical holds any water. A JD can actually hurt your paralegal employment prospects. And you'll pay a lot more than $300k if you are borrowing $300k at 8% interest and paying it over 30 years.

Good point; my hypothetical need correcting. I'm sure with effort I could find a hypothetical that would pass muster, but I shall leave it. I also agree with your assessment that borrowing $300K is too much. If you can't get a good scholarship at even a Tier 4 law school, perhaps attending a low sticker $100K tier 4 state school and making a commitment to a life in that state.

12) Again, if you can't pass the bar, you can't handle cases except under the supervision of an attorney. That's called being a paralegal. Having a JD will actually hurt a potential paralegal career (which you can of course have without going to law school at all).

Yea, I should have left the movie out, but I like Devito in that movie as well as in 'War of the Roses'. I of course have no clue as to how accurately the role was portrayed, but still like the acting.

13) Sure. You don't see many people here arguing against inexpensive programs that may not be highly ranked. Few people on this site are telling someone not to go to the University of Montana if they plan on practicing there. People are talking about schools like New York Law School which charge $50k+/yr in tuition despite poor employment outcomes.

Agree that students should be heavily advised prior to enrolling in schools like NYLS. However, if a student still wants to do it (maybe a rich uncle died or they won the lottery), they should have that option and they do have a shot at getting something out of it in addition to an education.

14) Not really misleading if you are going to need to borrow those amounts. If you weren't in law school, you could work full time, and possibly live somewhere less expensive than the large cities where many law schools are located.

I agree that it is appropriate to look at the total amount that needs to be borrowed, but it is misleading to represent that as strictly the cost of attending the school.

15) Yes, it happens. But it's the hard way to do it, and can't be counted upon. There's also a limit. You aren't going to be transferring from Cooley to Harvard no matter how well you do at Cooley.

Agree 100%. You'd need to be in the top few percent of your class to even go from Tier 3 to Tier 1.

16) From a statistical perspective, the employment outcomes are dramatically different. A Harvard student who ends up in a non-Bar required role may be a JD/MBA student who goes into banking. A Cooley student is more likely to be working at Walmart than Goldman Sachs in their non-bar required role. That's not passing judgment, that's just the statistical reality.

Agree 100%. But not all T14 students get big money jobs, and some advising to that effect prior to signing up for a $300K loan would be wise. They don't need as much advising as someone that goes to Tier 4, but some advising should be done.

Typical jobs for new Tier 3/4 school graduates:

Local prosecutor in a small town/county
Small law firm associate practicing fields like personal injury, immigration, social security disability
State court law clerk (1-2 year gig that typically ends up on one like the above)
Contract doc-review attorney (soul sucking dead end job that too many T3/4 graduates are stuck in)
Miscellaneous jobs they could have gotten without their JD

This is great; thanks. If there is someone in the forum that has gone to Tier 3 or 4 and knows what types of careers their classmates obtained, such information would be helpful. I wish the ABA would be more specific about such jobs. They surely have that data.

Overall, I certainly wouldn't say that nobody should ever go to a Tier 3/4 school. But they are schools that need to be approached with caution. If you are from a small state like Montana, want to practice there at a small firm, and are admitted to the U of Montana, and won't take on excessive debt, then it may not be a bad idea. If you are moving across the country to attend a school like Cooley or Florida Coastal, planning on borrowing six figures, and don't have a VERY definite plan for how you are going to turn that into a career, I'd advise you to step back and reassess.

This is a great statement!

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by laanngo » Wed Jan 12, 2022 4:15 am

latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 2:19 pm
Flame away.
screwtapeletters wrote:
Wed Jan 12, 2022 12:24 am
Flame.

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by nealric » Wed Jan 12, 2022 10:01 am

latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 9:02 pm
nixy wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 6:07 pm
The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 3:57 pm
latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 2:19 pm
I disagree that these schools are worthless or that 0Ls should never consider going to them.
nobody serious says this
Meant to agree with this as well.

When people talk about low-ranked schools being a bad option, they’re not talking about state law schools (especially in states like Montana et al where there aren’t any other law schools). They’re talking about expensive traps like Thomas Jefferson and Golden Gate. So you’re setting up a straw man here.
Thanks so much for this comment. It essentially mirrors my impression; not only are these small state schools relatively cheap but they also capture a lot of local jobs. While I do agree that tier 4 schools like Thomas Jefferson and Golden Gate are awfully expensive, have poor bar passage rates and employment prospects, and high attrition rates, for those students that really want a JD degree and can't get into any better school (having tried as best they can to raise their LSAT score), it is a viable option. I would also recommend students not attend, but I would not tell students to not attend under any circumstances as at least they have a shot at the BAR. There are perhaps 20 or 30 law schools that are not ABA accredited, and I wonder how those are marketed because I believe they are not even allowed to sit for the BAR exam.
Many of them are only California accredited. To take the bar, you must first take a "Baby bar" after your first year. Pass rates are extremely low.

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Wed Jan 12, 2022 11:36 am

latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 9:06 pm
The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 3:57 pm
latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 2:19 pm
I disagree that these schools are worthless or that 0Ls should never consider going to them.
nobody serious says this; the remainder of your massive post was therefore a waste of time and I didn't read it
I'm too lazy to search through the site and find the multiple times someone has stated these schools are scams, worthless, a waste of time, etc., but I am willing to wager you that it has often been stated. I recall one thread wherein lists were kept of schools that were considered worthy in all circumstances, worthy only with good scholarship, etc., all the way down to 'do not attend under any circumstance'. Regardless, you won't hurt my feelings if you don't read the post. Carry on!
That's a far cry from asserting that all low-ranking schools are worthless. Is your position that no schools exist which are overpriced and/or produce bad outcomes for graduates?

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by nixy » Wed Jan 12, 2022 1:06 pm

latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 9:02 pm
nixy wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 6:07 pm
Meant to agree with this as well.

When people talk about low-ranked schools being a bad option, they’re not talking about state law schools (especially in states like Montana et al where there aren’t any other law schools). They’re talking about expensive traps like Thomas Jefferson and Golden Gate. So you’re setting up a straw man here.
Thanks so much for this comment. It essentially mirrors my impression; not only are these small state schools relatively cheap but they also capture a lot of local jobs. While I do agree that tier 4 schools like Thomas Jefferson and Golden Gate are awfully expensive, have poor bar passage rates and employment prospects, and high attrition rates, for those students that really want a JD degree and can't get into any better school (having tried as best they can to raise their LSAT score), it is a viable option. I would also recommend students not attend, but I would not tell students to not attend under any circumstances as at least they have a shot at the BAR. There are perhaps 20 or 30 law schools that are not ABA accredited, and I wonder how those are marketed because I believe they are not even allowed to sit for the BAR exam.
Why do you think everyone who “really wants” a JD should get one?
latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 8:50 pm
nixy wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 6:04 pm
This post has one of the rosiest-glasses images of adjunct work that I’ve seen. There are happy adjuncts. It’s also frequently exploitative and demoralizing work.

OP, how would you feel if a bunch of lawyers who have never worked as academics came to your faculty meeting to give you a bunch of advice about getting into academia?
My post related to adjuncts in our physics department, not to the general adjunct market. In physics, our adjuncts could easily get private sector jobs for significantly more money, but our adjuncts have stayed with us for decades, with no complaints other than low pay (of course we all complain about that). The point is a simple one; in every discipline there are low paid staff who stay despite the low pay because they have job satisfaction in spite of the low pay. Nonetheless, I will agree with you that there needs to be more education of 0Ls so they more fully understand what they are doing.

As to your hypothetical, we would seriously welcome a bunch of lawyers providing some advice, particularly from the perspective of someone outside of academics. In fact, we routinely solicit, and are often mandated, outside opinions.
Got it - I agree that physics adjuncts are probably better off than most, but I think your original post also referenced the humanities and social sciences, where most adjuncts don’t have industry alternatives. And no one has said that low-paid jobs can’t lead to satisfaction; many lawyers choose low-paid jobs for exactly that reason. The issue is whether a given law school will 1) provide access to the chosen low-paid job (there are many low-paid jobs that offer satisfaction that are also *very* selective in hiring) and 2) do so without serious financial consequences. Incurring lots of law school debt for a low-paying job is better than it used to be given PSLF, but can still be devastating for a long time. It’s one thing not to mind not making a biglaw salary, it’s another to find your future choices constrained by your debt.

Finally, if your department would really welcome a bunch of lawyers who have never been academics telling you how to succeed in academia - note, *not* giving opinions on what physics you should do or the like, but *how to get and keep an academic job and get tenure* - you are entirely unlike any academics I have ever known (and I know a lot of them). I also think you would get a lot of really bad advice.

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by nixy » Wed Jan 12, 2022 1:34 pm

latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 10:03 pm
Agree with this as well. However, I suspect most 0L students have taken a prelaw class (or several) in college. Not the same thing obviously, but it does give them a taste. Furthermore, they usually know if they dislike something, or are completely ambivalent.
I don’t think this is true. Lots of schools don’t offer “pre law” classes, and they’re rarely like law school or practice. More pertinently, studying law as a subject and practicing law are extremely different. Many people enjoy law school and hate practice. The experience of enjoying law school, alone, isn’t worth the time and cost of going to law school, especially when there are probably other things they’d equally enjoy (“law” as an academic subject reaches into a whole bunch of other subjects and jobs).
Of course, I had classmates in high school that became ski bums and literally wasted a decade of their life living on a shoestring budget but satisfied. I am sure there are many low-paid law graduates that are miserable but there are also many who take great satisfaction in their life. So long they are fully aware of what they are getting into, they should be allowed to make that choice.
Sure, but being a ski bum is actively fun and doesn’t put you in a financial hole. Both are rarely true of law school. If you can go to law school without incurring debt and enjoy it as much as being a ski bum, go for it, but that seems like an unusual circumstance.
A law school graduate is not 'only qualified to practice law'. In fact, such a graduate can go on to do anything they like, even if a JD is not necessary. I would still argue that their life will be enriched by the experience as critical and creative thinking can be used in many ways. There are obviously far cheaper ways of accomplishing that. But there are options in the job market, although they may be extremely low pay.
For people who leave law, having a JD is often a detriment, not a benefit. Many employers will see a JD on a resume and think that the applicant couldn’t get a job in law (not a good impression to make) or will expect a higher salary/not want to work an entry level job due to having the degree (also not a good look). Yes, you can use whatever skills you get in law school elsewhere, but that doesn’t mean an employer is going to value the fact that you went to law school to get those skills. Many people who succeed in non-law positions post-JD do so despite it, not because of it.
The key word in your last statement is 'often', because there are some who do find satisfaction or remuneration or both.
The issue is that we’re not advising people based on the unlikely outcome. When people show up on this site, we have to advise them based on the typical outcome. There isn’t really any way to predict who is going to be atypical.
perhaps attending a low sticker $100K tier 4 state school and making a commitment to a life in that state.
FWIW, if you have $100k debt and a low paid job, your balance is going to grow. I am on an income-based payment plan and my loan balance is larger now that when I graduated, despite having paid faithfully since I graduated almost a decade ago.
But not all T14 students get big money jobs, and some advising to that effect prior to signing up for a $300K loan would be wise. They don't need as much advising as someone that goes to Tier 4, but some advising should be done.
What makes you think this advising isn’t happening? At least on this site, I think this is addressed pretty comprehensively, especially the question of whether someone should pay $300k to get a biglaw job they may well hate but will need to keep to pay off the debt.

And the last thing I’ll note, because I do have a lot of connections to academia and I think people with PhDs don’t get this right away: law school isn’t really an academic experience. It’s a professional degree. It’s intended to get you a job. It’s very unlike a college major or a PhD program. (I wouldn’t advise anyone to do a PhD program for personal enrichment, either, but I think it’s more defensible than doing a JD for personal enrichment. That is, barring being wealthy enough that you literally never have to work again, in which case, do whatever you like.)

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by nealric » Wed Jan 12, 2022 1:54 pm

nixy wrote:
Wed Jan 12, 2022 1:34 pm
latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 10:03 pm
Agree with this as well. However, I suspect most 0L students have taken a prelaw class (or several) in college. Not the same thing obviously, but it does give them a taste. Furthermore, they usually know if they dislike something, or are completely ambivalent.
I don’t think this is true. Lots of schools don’t offer “pre law” classes, and they’re rarely like law school or practice. More pertinently, studying law as a subject and practicing law are extremely different. Many people enjoy law school and hate practice. The experience of enjoying law school, alone, isn’t worth the time and cost of going to law school, especially when there are probably other things they’d equally enjoy (“law” as an academic subject reaches into a whole bunch of other subjects and jobs).

I took one "pre law" class in college (it wasn't explicitly labelled as such, but it was essentially that) on the Supreme Court. It was taught by a lawyer, but was really nothing at all like a real law school class. We read a few cases, sure, but nothing like the pressure or "hide the ball" issues of a law school class. And the law school experience is of course nothing like the actual practice of law. It's extremely difficult to really *know* you will like being a lawyer until you are actually do it. And even then, different specialities are extremely different. What I do as a tax layer has very little in common with what a personal injury lawyer does.

Often, what specialty you end up in can come down to luck. I ended up in Tax because the law firm I worked for after law school needed a tax person after two of their junior tax associates left at once. But even though I had an LLM in tax (and had not taken a single benefits course) they were about to put me in employee benefits had that not happened. I suppose if tax had been my life's mission, I could have fought to get back to tax or lateraled firms in response, but it was during the great recession and I wasn't going to quit a high paying job because I didn't get the exact specialty I wanted.

I can imagine that's similar to a lot of fields. I know plenty of doctors, dentists, engineers, and academics who went through many years of schooling before realizing it wasn't what they really wanted.

Let me throw it back on the OP: would you really advise one of your undergrad students with mediocre grades and test scores to pursue a PhD in physics at a bottom-ranked program with a poor placement record and no funding? Many of your arguments for attending low-ranked law schools could apply to low-ranked graduate programs.

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by nixy » Wed Jan 12, 2022 2:05 pm

Agreed with all this (especially the other graduate program hypothetical).

I know I ended up in my current practice area out of luck. I took virtually no classes in it during law school and did not intend to enter this field, but when I was applying for permanent jobs after clerking I realized that I could put my experiences together in a way that made me look like a reasonable candidate. And the most likely alternative that I was considering, and would have accepted if I hadn't got the job offer in this field first, was in a completely, utterly different practice area. (I sometimes wish I'd ended up in that job, though I'm sure that like my current job, it would have some aspects I really don't like, b/c that's what all jobs are like, and I don't know enough about the fish that got away to know which parts of it I'd have really liked or not.)

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by latinx » Wed Jan 12, 2022 9:11 pm

The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Wed Jan 12, 2022 11:36 am
latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 9:06 pm
The Lsat Airbender wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 3:57 pm
latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 2:19 pm
I disagree that these schools are worthless or that 0Ls should never consider going to them.
nobody serious says this; the remainder of your massive post was therefore a waste of time and I didn't read it
I'm too lazy to search through the site and find the multiple times someone has stated these schools are scams, worthless, a waste of time, etc., but I am willing to wager you that it has often been stated. I recall one thread wherein lists were kept of schools that were considered worthy in all circumstances, worthy only with good scholarship, etc., all the way down to 'do not attend under any circumstance'. Regardless, you won't hurt my feelings if you don't read the post. Carry on!
That's a far cry from asserting that all low-ranking schools are worthless. Is your position that no schools exist which are overpriced and/or produce bad outcomes for graduates?
You correctly point out that I overstated the number of low-ranking law schools that have been called worthless or worse. Wish I could edit the first post. However, sometimes comments have been left on posts by 0Ls that were simply looking for discussion of waitlists or other aspects of a particular school. Words matter, and if a school is called a scam, my suspicion is that the poster will assume this is just bitterness or mud slinging. Thus, while the warning to the poster of the cost and job prospects is well-intentioned, it will simply be ignored. Far better would be to use language such as you use above with 'overpriced' and 'bad outcome'. That would be viewed more constructively by 0Ls. I fully understand that law school is tough and the sooner students realize they won't be babied, the better (I recall a great scene with John Houseman in the movie 'The Paper Chase'), but I still think such criticism would be more effective if it were more constructive.

To your question as to my position, I think most of the Tier 3 and 4 schools are overpriced unless serious scholarship money is provided (and even then, students need to be aware that maintaining those scholarships will not be easy). But if a student (or more likely their family) has money to burn and has an aching desire to attend law school but can't get into anything other than Tier 4, these are ABA accredited and one requirement to be ABA accredited is that most graduates pass the BAR. Thus they are not scams. Overpriced yes, likely to produce a job that is low level yes, but still a worthwhile experience if you don't mind these flaws. I still would like to see the ABA require all incoming students to sign a waiver or something wherein they are made aware of the BAR passage rates, employment prospects, etc.

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by latinx » Wed Jan 12, 2022 9:53 pm

nixy wrote:
Wed Jan 12, 2022 1:34 pm
latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 10:03 pm
Agree with this as well. However, I suspect most 0L students have taken a prelaw class (or several) in college. Not the same thing obviously, but it does give them a taste. Furthermore, they usually know if they dislike something, or are completely ambivalent.
I don’t think this is true. Lots of schools don’t offer “pre law” classes, and they’re rarely like law school or practice. More pertinently, studying law as a subject and practicing law are extremely different. Many people enjoy law school and hate practice. The experience of enjoying law school, alone, isn’t worth the time and cost of going to law school, especially when there are probably other things they’d equally enjoy (“law” as an academic subject reaches into a whole bunch of other subjects and jobs).

I think you are making my point. Following your logic, someone that got into a T14 school but ends up hating practice would not have the economics work out, just as some have noted for low-ranking schools. It is difficult to predict with certainty whether a students dream will work out to a life well lived (in their opinion) whether it is a T14 school with a good paying job or a Tier 4 school with a low paying job
Of course, I had classmates in high school that became ski bums and literally wasted a decade of their life living on a shoestring budget but satisfied. I am sure there are many low-paid law graduates that are miserable but there are also many who take great satisfaction in their life. So long they are fully aware of what they are getting into, they should be allowed to make that choice.
Sure, but being a ski bum is actively fun and doesn’t put you in a financial hole. Both are rarely true of law school. If you can go to law school without incurring debt and enjoy it as much as being a ski bum, go for it, but that seems like an unusual circumstance.

Disagree about being in a financial hole. A ski bum that makes essentially no income for a decade has lost more in lifetime earnings than someone that has spent three years in law school, spent $100K doing so, and has a low-paying job thereafter wherein they live on a shoestring budget like the ski bum but put $20K a year to pay off the debt. If you assume the same COL, the law school grad comes out ahead
A law school graduate is not 'only qualified to practice law'. In fact, such a graduate can go on to do anything they like, even if a JD is not necessary. I would still argue that their life will be enriched by the experience as critical and creative thinking can be used in many ways. There are obviously far cheaper ways of accomplishing that. But there are options in the job market, although they may be extremely low pay.
For people who leave law, having a JD is often a detriment, not a benefit. Many employers will see a JD on a resume and think that the applicant couldn’t get a job in law (not a good impression to make) or will expect a higher salary/not want to work an entry level job due to having the degree (also not a good look). Yes, you can use whatever skills you get in law school elsewhere, but that doesn’t mean an employer is going to value the fact that you went to law school to get those skills. Many people who succeed in non-law positions post-JD do so despite it, not because of it.

There will certainly be instances where the JD will make someone appear overqualified, but there will be many instances where the skills and knowledge learned will be of use.
The key word in your last statement is 'often', because there are some who do find satisfaction or remuneration or both.
The issue is that we’re not advising people based on the unlikely outcome. When people show up on this site, we have to advise them based on the typical outcome. There isn’t really any way to predict who is going to be atypical.

This site is an excellent resource, and I have no problem with pointing out to 0Ls the economics of low-level law schools. My point is simply that some students will benefit from attending these schools regardless.
perhaps attending a low sticker $100K tier 4 state school and making a commitment to a life in that state.
FWIW, if you have $100k debt and a low paid job, your balance is going to grow. I am on an income-based payment plan and my loan balance is larger now that when I graduated, despite having paid faithfully since I graduated almost a decade ago.

As noted by Simkovic and McIntyre the default rate on federal student loans is about 2% for law schools but 7% for bachelors schools and 9% for all postsecondary. This fact alone implies that graduates from low-ranking schools pay off their loans at a higher rate than graduates of other university and professional schools
But not all T14 students get big money jobs, and some advising to that effect prior to signing up for a $300K loan would be wise. They don't need as much advising as someone that goes to Tier 4, but some advising should be done.
What makes you think this advising isn’t happening? At least on this site, I think this is addressed pretty comprehensively, especially the question of whether someone should pay $300k to get a biglaw job they may well hate but will need to keep to pay off the debt.

This site is a great resource for those 0Ls that use it, but I would argue that the majority of 0Ls do not get this advising. And if they are getting such advising and decide to go to a law school that is deemed unworthy, it seems counterproductive to tell them they should not go. Tell them the facts and let them decide.

And the last thing I’ll note, because I do have a lot of connections to academia and I think people with PhDs don’t get this right away: law school isn’t really an academic experience. It’s a professional degree. It’s intended to get you a job. It’s very unlike a college major or a PhD program. (I wouldn’t advise anyone to do a PhD program for personal enrichment, either, but I think it’s more defensible than doing a JD for personal enrichment. That is, barring being wealthy enough that you literally never have to work again, in which case, do whatever you like.)

I disagree. It definitely depends on the college major or PhD program. Business schools (undergrad or MBA), premed programs, engineering programs, teacher education programs, and many more are definitely geared towards jobs in those fields, as much as law school. I suspect there are law school students that do not intend to go into practice, including politicians.

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by nixy » Thu Jan 13, 2022 12:14 am

latinx wrote:
Wed Jan 12, 2022 9:53 pm
I think you are making my point. Following your logic, someone that got into a T14 school but ends up hating practice would not have the economics work out, just as some have noted for low-ranking schools. It is difficult to predict with certainty whether a students dream will work out to a life well lived (in their opinion) whether it is a T14 school with a good paying job or a Tier 4 school with a low paying job
No, we're making different points. I don't agree that someone who goes to a T14 school but hates the job "would not have the economics work out" in the same way that someone who goes to a low-ranked school and can't get a job that will effectively service their debt "would not have the economics work out." I'm not talking about the economic value of finding your dream job; I'm just talking money. Someone who goes to a T14 school and gets a really high-paying job is in a better economic position than someone who goes to a low-ranked school and gets a low-paying job (assuming both took out the same amount of loans. Obviously there are a lot of individual variations, like rich families or getting scholarships and so on).

I fully agree that plenty of people go to T14 schools, get the fancy high-paying job, and end up miserable because they hate law. But they're still in a better *financial* position than someone who goes to a low-ranking school and gets a low paying job and ends up miserable because they hate law - because keep in mind, it's not only T14 students who go into law because they don't know what else to do and think it sounds like a good option. There's no evidence that students who go to low-ranked schools have any more or less realistic view of what law will be like than T14 students.

(And again, the risk can be mitigated by scholarships and such, but that's also the case for T14 students. And the extent to which the JD is portable to other fields often depends on the prestige of the degree. A Harvard JD is going to have a luster to non-law employers that Appalachian State largely won't.)
Disagree about being in a financial hole. A ski bum that makes essentially no income for a decade has lost more in lifetime earnings than someone that has spent three years in law school, spent $100K doing so, and has a low-paying job thereafter wherein they live on a shoestring budget like the ski bum but put $20K a year to pay off the debt. If you assume the same COL, the law school grad comes out ahead
Except that you're putting a whole ton of contingencies on this. What about the people in law school who take out more than $100k? What kind of shoestring budget are you anticipating where a grad whose salary is $40-50k is putting $20k in a year to pay off their debt? What about the interest that the $100k is accruing? What about the value of emotional satisfaction, assuming that the law grad was aiming somewhat higher in outcome?
There will certainly be instances where the JD will make someone appear overqualified, but there will be many instances where the skills and knowledge learned will be of use.
Such as? Which of those skills and knowledge need to be acquired through law school as opposed to through some other, cheaper means? The fact that people who go to law school can make use of the skills they acquired there is not the same as saying they need to go to law school to foster those skills, or that employers will therefore value the degree.
This site is an excellent resource, and I have no problem with pointing out to 0Ls the economics of low-level law schools. My point is simply that some students will benefit from attending these schools regardless.
No one has ever disputed this. Everyone on this site (besides blatant trolls, who should be ignored) acknowledges that some students will have good outcomes from every school. But again, we can't predict which applicants will end up as those students, and you can't advise people on the best career path based on the idea that they might end up one of the lucky ones.
As noted by Simkovic and McIntyre the default rate on federal student loans is about 2% for law schools but 7% for bachelors schools and 9% for all postsecondary. This fact alone implies that graduates from low-ranking schools pay off their loans at a higher rate than graduates of other university and professional schools
That doesn't mean that law grads don't find paying off those loans burdensome, though. And there are a lot of *very* dissimilar circumstances lumped together in "law schools," "bachelors," and "all postsecondary" - is this comparing apples to apples or is it fruit salad? Just because there might be some undergrad/grad schools that are even more predatory, or offer even worse employment prospects (I think particularly of for-profit institutions, which is less of a thing among law schools), doesn't mean law school debt isn't an issue.
This site is a great resource for those 0Ls that use it, but I would argue that the majority of 0Ls do not get this advising. And if they are getting such advising and decide to go to a law school that is deemed unworthy, it seems counterproductive to tell them they should not go. Tell them the facts and let them decide.[/i]
Okay, so now I'm just confused by your purpose here. If this is a great site for 0Ls that use it, why are you on this site offering commentary about how best to advise 0Ls? If the majority of 0Ls don't use it, why aren't you out promoting such advice in other settings?

Moreover, I would say that telling 0Ls not to go to a particular school *is* telling them the facts and letting them decide - no one here has any power to prevent an anonymous 0L from going to law school. They make their own decisions.

That said, though, a lot of 0Ls who get told not to go to a particular school aren't getting told they shouldn't go to the low-ranked law school in a vacuum (again, barring trolls who are ubiquitous on the internet). They get told not to go to a particular school because they express goals that are inconsistent with what that school can offer them ("I want to go be an international human rights prosecutor at the Hague. I only speak English and my school choices are Thomas Jefferson and Golden Gate. Which should I attend?"). It feels like it would be irresponsible *not* to tell that person not to go to either. Again, I'm a random stranger on the internet - I can't stop anyone from doing anything.
I disagree. It definitely depends on the college major or PhD program. Business schools (undergrad or MBA), premed programs, engineering programs, teacher education programs, and many more are definitely geared towards jobs in those fields, as much as law school. I suspect there are law school students that do not intend to go into practice, including politicians.
Okay, maybe I needed to be more specific. I'm not claiming law school is the *only* professional program out there. Of course law school is like other professional programs, like an MBA or engineering. (I'd argue that an actual PhD in business is generally a research degree training profs rather than a professional degree training practitioners, since the MBA exists for the latter.) I'm comparing it to getting a PhD in an academic subject, like physics. I don't think premed is analogous b/c premed isn't a major; it's studying certain academic subjects to provide the foundation for the stuff you learn in med school. It's a *prereq* for getting into a particular career, but it doesn't actually *prepare* you for that career. You major in a standard academic subject like biology or chemistry, just like people who want to go into biology and not medicine. (I think half the premed people I knew in college majored in English.) It is probably more like a teacher education program, but would you encourage a student to enter a teacher education program for any other reason than becoming a teacher?

There are certainly law students who don't intend to go into practice, but that doesn't make it a good idea. Again, if you have way more money than you need and don't need a job, do whatever degree you like. If you are someone who (like most law students) is trying to develop a career of some kind, only go to law school if you intend to practice law. And for god's sake don't go to law school to become a politician. Yes, yes, yes, there are lots of politicians who have JDs, but that's not what got them into politics.

latinx

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by latinx » Thu Jan 13, 2022 10:30 am

nealric wrote:
Wed Jan 12, 2022 1:54 pm
nixy wrote:
Wed Jan 12, 2022 1:34 pm
latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 10:03 pm
Agree with this as well. However, I suspect most 0L students have taken a prelaw class (or several) in college. Not the same thing obviously, but it does give them a taste. Furthermore, they usually know if they dislike something, or are completely ambivalent.
I don’t think this is true. Lots of schools don’t offer “pre law” classes, and they’re rarely like law school or practice. More pertinently, studying law as a subject and practicing law are extremely different. Many people enjoy law school and hate practice. The experience of enjoying law school, alone, isn’t worth the time and cost of going to law school, especially when there are probably other things they’d equally enjoy (“law” as an academic subject reaches into a whole bunch of other subjects and jobs).

I took one "pre law" class in college (it wasn't explicitly labelled as such, but it was essentially that) on the Supreme Court. It was taught by a lawyer, but was really nothing at all like a real law school class. We read a few cases, sure, but nothing like the pressure or "hide the ball" issues of a law school class. And the law school experience is of course nothing like the actual practice of law. It's extremely difficult to really *know* you will like being a lawyer until you are actually do it. And even then, different specialities are extremely different. What I do as a tax layer has very little in common with what a personal injury lawyer does.

Often, what specialty you end up in can come down to luck. I ended up in Tax because the law firm I worked for after law school needed a tax person after two of their junior tax associates left at once. But even though I had an LLM in tax (and had not taken a single benefits course) they were about to put me in employee benefits had that not happened. I suppose if tax had been my life's mission, I could have fought to get back to tax or lateraled firms in response, but it was during the great recession and I wasn't going to quit a high paying job because I didn't get the exact specialty I wanted.

I can imagine that's similar to a lot of fields. I know plenty of doctors, dentists, engineers, and academics who went through many years of schooling before realizing it wasn't what they really wanted.

Let me throw it back on the OP: would you really advise one of your undergrad students with mediocre grades and test scores to pursue a PhD in physics at a bottom-ranked program with a poor placement record and no funding? Many of your arguments for attending low-ranked law schools could apply to low-ranked graduate programs.
Great comments! Very useful for 0Ls. But you are mostly reinforcing the entire point of my original post. As you point out, 'many people go through many years of schooling before realizing it wasn't what they really wanted'. I too have seen many undergrads spend years switching majors and burning through lots of tuition and lost wages. But to me, it is better to spend some money trying different fields until you find something that suits you than to not try at all and just do a job you don't like. Low-level law schools, if that is all you can get into, offer an opportunity to do that, so long students are aware of the employment prospects and can keep the cost down.

As to your question, yes I would and have advised such students that wished to do grad school, with a heavy dose of realism thrown in. My job is simply to tell students the pros and cons and let them decide, not to try to push them to go to a particular school, or not to go to a school they may have their eye on. People entering law school or PhD programs are not kids; they are capable of entering the military or marriage or buying an very expensive car or making other big life decisions. We should advise them of both the pros and cons of such decisions but not tell them what to do.

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nixy

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by nixy » Thu Jan 13, 2022 11:31 am

This seems like arguing over semantics. Do you think that there is some kind of material difference between saying “here are all the pros and cons of the options you’re considering” and “here are all the pros and cons of the options you’re considering, and I think you should pick option X/neither, for these reasons”? If applicants are grown up enough to make their own expensive decisions about law school, they should be grown up enough to deal with other people’s opinions about what they should do. Besides, what about when people come here expressly asking (as they often do) “what do you think I should do?”

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nealric

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by nealric » Thu Jan 13, 2022 12:43 pm

latinx wrote:
Thu Jan 13, 2022 10:30 am
nealric wrote:
Wed Jan 12, 2022 1:54 pm
nixy wrote:
Wed Jan 12, 2022 1:34 pm
latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 10:03 pm
Agree with this as well. However, I suspect most 0L students have taken a prelaw class (or several) in college. Not the same thing obviously, but it does give them a taste. Furthermore, they usually know if they dislike something, or are completely ambivalent.
I don’t think this is true. Lots of schools don’t offer “pre law” classes, and they’re rarely like law school or practice. More pertinently, studying law as a subject and practicing law are extremely different. Many people enjoy law school and hate practice. The experience of enjoying law school, alone, isn’t worth the time and cost of going to law school, especially when there are probably other things they’d equally enjoy (“law” as an academic subject reaches into a whole bunch of other subjects and jobs).

I took one "pre law" class in college (it wasn't explicitly labelled as such, but it was essentially that) on the Supreme Court. It was taught by a lawyer, but was really nothing at all like a real law school class. We read a few cases, sure, but nothing like the pressure or "hide the ball" issues of a law school class. And the law school experience is of course nothing like the actual practice of law. It's extremely difficult to really *know* you will like being a lawyer until you are actually do it. And even then, different specialities are extremely different. What I do as a tax layer has very little in common with what a personal injury lawyer does.

Often, what specialty you end up in can come down to luck. I ended up in Tax because the law firm I worked for after law school needed a tax person after two of their junior tax associates left at once. But even though I had an LLM in tax (and had not taken a single benefits course) they were about to put me in employee benefits had that not happened. I suppose if tax had been my life's mission, I could have fought to get back to tax or lateraled firms in response, but it was during the great recession and I wasn't going to quit a high paying job because I didn't get the exact specialty I wanted.

I can imagine that's similar to a lot of fields. I know plenty of doctors, dentists, engineers, and academics who went through many years of schooling before realizing it wasn't what they really wanted.

Let me throw it back on the OP: would you really advise one of your undergrad students with mediocre grades and test scores to pursue a PhD in physics at a bottom-ranked program with a poor placement record and no funding? Many of your arguments for attending low-ranked law schools could apply to low-ranked graduate programs.
Great comments! Very useful for 0Ls. But you are mostly reinforcing the entire point of my original post. As you point out, 'many people go through many years of schooling before realizing it wasn't what they really wanted'. I too have seen many undergrads spend years switching majors and burning through lots of tuition and lost wages. But to me, it is better to spend some money trying different fields until you find something that suits you than to not try at all and just do a job you don't like. Low-level law schools, if that is all you can get into, offer an opportunity to do that, so long students are aware of the employment prospects and can keep the cost down.

As to your question, yes I would and have advised such students that wished to do grad school, with a heavy dose of realism thrown in. My job is simply to tell students the pros and cons and let them decide, not to try to push them to go to a particular school, or not to go to a school they may have their eye on. People entering law school or PhD programs are not kids; they are capable of entering the military or marriage or buying an very expensive car or making other big life decisions. We should advise them of both the pros and cons of such decisions but not tell them what to do.
There are limits to "keeping cost down." You are still signing up for 3 years of part time work at most (as opposed to full time career-track employment) and even "cheap" schools often involve borrowing $50k or more. Your total opportunity cost even at a cheap school is likely more than $100k. That's not a commitment to be taken lightly.

Law school vs "a job you don't like" is a false dilemma. If you are out of undergrad and are working a job you don't like, there's nothing that says you can't find another job (or other field) that doesn't involve six figure opportunity costs.

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by latinx » Thu Jan 13, 2022 4:19 pm

nealric wrote:
Thu Jan 13, 2022 12:43 pm
latinx wrote:
Thu Jan 13, 2022 10:30 am
nealric wrote:
Wed Jan 12, 2022 1:54 pm
nixy wrote:
Wed Jan 12, 2022 1:34 pm
latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 10:03 pm
Agree with this as well. However, I suspect most 0L students have taken a prelaw class (or several) in college. Not the same thing obviously, but it does give them a taste. Furthermore, they usually know if they dislike something, or are completely ambivalent.
I don’t think this is true. Lots of schools don’t offer “pre law” classes, and they’re rarely like law school or practice. More pertinently, studying law as a subject and practicing law are extremely different. Many people enjoy law school and hate practice. The experience of enjoying law school, alone, isn’t worth the time and cost of going to law school, especially when there are probably other things they’d equally enjoy (“law” as an academic subject reaches into a whole bunch of other subjects and jobs).

I took one "pre law" class in college (it wasn't explicitly labelled as such, but it was essentially that) on the Supreme Court. It was taught by a lawyer, but was really nothing at all like a real law school class. We read a few cases, sure, but nothing like the pressure or "hide the ball" issues of a law school class. And the law school experience is of course nothing like the actual practice of law. It's extremely difficult to really *know* you will like being a lawyer until you are actually do it. And even then, different specialities are extremely different. What I do as a tax layer has very little in common with what a personal injury lawyer does.

Often, what specialty you end up in can come down to luck. I ended up in Tax because the law firm I worked for after law school needed a tax person after two of their junior tax associates left at once. But even though I had an LLM in tax (and had not taken a single benefits course) they were about to put me in employee benefits had that not happened. I suppose if tax had been my life's mission, I could have fought to get back to tax or lateraled firms in response, but it was during the great recession and I wasn't going to quit a high paying job because I didn't get the exact specialty I wanted.

I can imagine that's similar to a lot of fields. I know plenty of doctors, dentists, engineers, and academics who went through many years of schooling before realizing it wasn't what they really wanted.

Let me throw it back on the OP: would you really advise one of your undergrad students with mediocre grades and test scores to pursue a PhD in physics at a bottom-ranked program with a poor placement record and no funding? Many of your arguments for attending low-ranked law schools could apply to low-ranked graduate programs.
Great comments! Very useful for 0Ls. But you are mostly reinforcing the entire point of my original post. As you point out, 'many people go through many years of schooling before realizing it wasn't what they really wanted'. I too have seen many undergrads spend years switching majors and burning through lots of tuition and lost wages. But to me, it is better to spend some money trying different fields until you find something that suits you than to not try at all and just do a job you don't like. Low-level law schools, if that is all you can get into, offer an opportunity to do that, so long students are aware of the employment prospects and can keep the cost down.

As to your question, yes I would and have advised such students that wished to do grad school, with a heavy dose of realism thrown in. My job is simply to tell students the pros and cons and let them decide, not to try to push them to go to a particular school, or not to go to a school they may have their eye on. People entering law school or PhD programs are not kids; they are capable of entering the military or marriage or buying an very expensive car or making other big life decisions. We should advise them of both the pros and cons of such decisions but not tell them what to do.
There are limits to "keeping cost down." You are still signing up for 3 years of part time work at most (as opposed to full time career-track employment) and even "cheap" schools often involve borrowing $50k or more. Your total opportunity cost even at a cheap school is likely more than $100k. That's not a commitment to be taken lightly.

Law school vs "a job you don't like" is a false dilemma. If you are out of undergrad and are working a job you don't like, there's nothing that says you can't find another job (or other field) that doesn't involve six figure opportunity costs.
I don't disagree with your analysis. I am reminded of how my grandfather said I was an idiot to go to college as the lost earning years in addition to tuition would make it difficult to overcome just taking a job in a trade. He's got a point; I just had to pay for plumbers, electricians and auto mechanics, who probably have lifetime earnings close to if not in excess of mine. When you consider that the COA of a reputable small liberal arts college like Wofford or Furman is in excess of $300K and that many pay sticker with an unmarketable major, it is not a decision that can be easily justified from an economic standpoint. The same applies to professional schools. My nephew just graduated from a mid level medical school with $400K in debt, and has chosen a speciality that is not that high paying, and is deeply concerned about it. Viewed from a strickly economic viewpoint, you are absolutely correct. But that is rather the gist of my original post. Major life decisions are not just economic. If you can net $x during your lifetime working in one field, and $y during your lifetime working in another field, people often chose the one where the number may be much smaller but where other factors in their opinion outweigh that.

latinx

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Re: Tier 2, tier 3, and even tier 4 law schools are good options for many law students

Post by latinx » Thu Jan 13, 2022 4:39 pm

nealric wrote:
Thu Jan 13, 2022 12:43 pm
latinx wrote:
Thu Jan 13, 2022 10:30 am
nealric wrote:
Wed Jan 12, 2022 1:54 pm
nixy wrote:
Wed Jan 12, 2022 1:34 pm
latinx wrote:
Tue Jan 11, 2022 10:03 pm
Agree with this as well. However, I suspect most 0L students have taken a prelaw class (or several) in college. Not the same thing obviously, but it does give them a taste. Furthermore, they usually know if they dislike something, or are completely ambivalent.
I don’t think this is true. Lots of schools don’t offer “pre law” classes, and they’re rarely like law school or practice. More pertinently, studying law as a subject and practicing law are extremely different. Many people enjoy law school and hate practice. The experience of enjoying law school, alone, isn’t worth the time and cost of going to law school, especially when there are probably other things they’d equally enjoy (“law” as an academic subject reaches into a whole bunch of other subjects and jobs).

I took one "pre law" class in college (it wasn't explicitly labelled as such, but it was essentially that) on the Supreme Court. It was taught by a lawyer, but was really nothing at all like a real law school class. We read a few cases, sure, but nothing like the pressure or "hide the ball" issues of a law school class. And the law school experience is of course nothing like the actual practice of law. It's extremely difficult to really *know* you will like being a lawyer until you are actually do it. And even then, different specialities are extremely different. What I do as a tax layer has very little in common with what a personal injury lawyer does.

Often, what specialty you end up in can come down to luck. I ended up in Tax because the law firm I worked for after law school needed a tax person after two of their junior tax associates left at once. But even though I had an LLM in tax (and had not taken a single benefits course) they were about to put me in employee benefits had that not happened. I suppose if tax had been my life's mission, I could have fought to get back to tax or lateraled firms in response, but it was during the great recession and I wasn't going to quit a high paying job because I didn't get the exact specialty I wanted.

I can imagine that's similar to a lot of fields. I know plenty of doctors, dentists, engineers, and academics who went through many years of schooling before realizing it wasn't what they really wanted.

Let me throw it back on the OP: would you really advise one of your undergrad students with mediocre grades and test scores to pursue a PhD in physics at a bottom-ranked program with a poor placement record and no funding? Many of your arguments for attending low-ranked law schools could apply to low-ranked graduate programs.
Great comments! Very useful for 0Ls. But you are mostly reinforcing the entire point of my original post. As you point out, 'many people go through many years of schooling before realizing it wasn't what they really wanted'. I too have seen many undergrads spend years switching majors and burning through lots of tuition and lost wages. But to me, it is better to spend some money trying different fields until you find something that suits you than to not try at all and just do a job you don't like. Low-level law schools, if that is all you can get into, offer an opportunity to do that, so long students are aware of the employment prospects and can keep the cost down.

As to your question, yes I would and have advised such students that wished to do grad school, with a heavy dose of realism thrown in. My job is simply to tell students the pros and cons and let them decide, not to try to push them to go to a particular school, or not to go to a school they may have their eye on. People entering law school or PhD programs are not kids; they are capable of entering the military or marriage or buying an very expensive car or making other big life decisions. We should advise them of both the pros and cons of such decisions but not tell them what to do.
There are limits to "keeping cost down." You are still signing up for 3 years of part time work at most (as opposed to full time career-track employment) and even "cheap" schools often involve borrowing $50k or more. Your total opportunity cost even at a cheap school is likely more than $100k. That's not a commitment to be taken lightly.

Law school vs "a job you don't like" is a false dilemma. If you are out of undergrad and are working a job you don't like, there's nothing that says you can't find another job (or other field) that doesn't involve six figure opportunity costs.
As to your last paragraph, law school grads are not unique in potentially losing six figure opportunity costs. I knew a college grad that went to work as a bricklayer. My auto mechanic in Boston graduated from Harvard. A former girlfriend graduated with a Masters from Harvard and worked as a travel agent. A physics colleague of mine has just resigned his position and enrolled in dental school. All of these folks incurred six figure opportunity costs and likely large tuition bills but none of them regretted their decisions. As to law school, every student that enrolls in a low-ranking law school is well aware of the high costs (they are well publicized) and is likely well aware they are due for a grueling three years of study. Many do not choose this path in life strictly on an economic basis and there are many reasons why a low-ranking school may be a good choice for them (T14 is obviously better, but not everyone gets into those). My only concern is making them aware that their income potential after graduation is likely lower than what they are anticipating. However, even those low incomes do not mean they can't be satisfied with their choice, or that they can't make the economics work. I have posted a couple other threads on that.

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