Jay Obee wrote: extragnarls wrote:
Yeah, it's very strange to me that so many Hamilton recipients (at least on LSN) ended up choosing one of YHS anyway despite the fellowship... Coming from a less privileged background, debt would be a huge concern for me and graduating with no debt would seem to allow one a much higher degree of flexibility when it comes to pursuing a career path post-law school.
It is strange. Likewise, on LSN I've seen that a large percentage of folks in my numbers-neighborhood routinely attend Columbia over significant $ at Michigan, Virginia, or even Chicago. I always chalked it up to a desire to live in NY, have the lay prestige of CLS, etc. but I was/am kind of surprised nonetheless.
I am not surprised. A lot of people who are choosing between these schools have families that are extremely successful. This means that they 1) have a very strong sense that they will be rich as well following law school and have no problem paying off school debt and/or 2) have family that will outright pay for tuition. People from more modest backgrounds don't trust that they will be as successful even from the best schools, and aren't as comfortable with the risk
, especially given that their family won't be able to absorb the cost.
There was a thread a while back discussing parental education backgrounds and getting into issues like the likelihood to apply/succeed at top law schools, etc. This is a perfect example of what's going on here. There's something about being 1st generation to go to college, 1st generation to go to grad school, 1st generation out of economically disadvantaged background, etc. ... This concept of "comfort level" with risk is really significant. One of the arguments when UC Merced was opened in California's central valley was that even when students had UC-level SAT scores/GPAs, working-class, often Hispanic families in the region were sending their kids to the local Cal State or even community college instead of taking the risk of having them leave home and accumulate additional expenses. Many students are hesitant at the undergrad level to go to elite schools where they may face daunting tuition costs - while better-off students are more able to the risk. It doesn't have anything to do with families being able to bear costs - in this era of over-leveraged families with giant mortgages, straining to keep up expenses with 2 incomes, etc. - it may not be practical for even upper middle-class families to come to the rescue... But they still send kids to college with large debtloads.
The willingness to risk is a huge hurdle... And there are opportunities one gets at HYS that you won't get at other law schools, and opportunities you can get at CCN you can't get in the lower tier of the T14, and opportunities you won't get below the T14. Even in science/engineering, there's a big premium placed on the "name" of your PhD-granting school - but at least there are far more concrete ways to evaluate students who excel at lesser-known schools - or else the reputation of particular research groups can exceed those of the school as a whole. By contrast, JDs are typically not associated with particular faculty or research projects, outside of just being on law review or journals - whose prestige is associated with the institution. It seems that concrete achievements matter less.
That said, certain schools like Duke and Virginia (and Vanderbilt and Texas) have historically offered shots at academia through clerkships and a "scholarly reputation"... and other schools like Georgetown offer a chance to excel in government, etc. But, it's not the same - you just can't compare the context of the student body (both in terms of academic strength but also orientation, ambition, etc.), connections / networking (Obama's administration is an easy example), faculty, and most importantly how people perceive you and what you bring to them. (Even for lower-tier academic jobs, universities always want top-names, preferably Harvard/Yale JD's because they know that's a way students evaluate faculties.) The same goes for firms, etc.
You can never go back and re-do your law education... You owe it to yourself to make it what it can be, especially when you're talking about schools in an echelon where it's not impossible to pay off debt and they have good LRAP programs. Trust me, it's not about having rich parents or other fall-backs. It's about having a feeling of security - and yes, sometimes this ends up being recklessness (kids who sign up for credit cards and run up massive bills in college, 20-somethings who bought $400K condos with $0 down) but it also means a willingness to strive for the top.
In my case, I made decisions for my Bachelor's degree and PhD based on finances and location. I learned my lesson. Next time - especially for something as abstract as a JD - I'm going to the absolutely highest-ranked university possible (ok, I might take Berkeley, but that's a special case).