Worth leaving Canada/applying to US?

(BLS, URM status, non-traditional, GLBT)
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AfroKant

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Worth leaving Canada/applying to US?

Post by AfroKant » Wed Apr 22, 2020 9:57 pm

Hello, I was hoping the posters on here would be able to shed some light on my situation as I am not particularly sure how I ought to proceed. In short, I am a Canadian student primarily interested in legal academia and, to a lesser extent, what most would consider unicorn positions, but I don't know if the best way to get there is an American institution or not.

To my understanding, if I were to get above 163 on the LSAT, I imagine I'd be competitive for most schools near the bottom of the T14: AA male, 3.9 GPA (philosophy/psychology), weak softs (e.g. typical stuff like club presidencies, started an on-campus organization, etc.), have been told I will receive strong recs.

Work experience is average: government internships and research positions. I'd be K-JD and I hear that is frowned upon.

Now, I'm trying to figure out if it's worth seriously considering American options given my likelihood of admittance in Canada. Legal academia is prestige driven so it would obviously be in my best interest to put together the strongest (academic) resume possible; however, I fear the cost to move from Toronto to virtually anywhere in the U.S. will be astronomical and in the end completely boneheaded.

I've wanted academia for quite a while now and have spoken to various mentors to confirm that my interest maps on to reality, but I nevertheless remain healthily pessimistic in noting that I may not be so inclined to pursue academia once graduation comes around and I want a stable income, to pay off loans, etc.--in which case, I might as well have just stayed in Canada.

I guess... I'm simply trying to ask: is applying outside of and potentially leaving Canada for a top-tier American school worth it if I'm pretty sure I'm most interested in Academia and some unicorn (and also wonky) positions? Does attending say, Chicago, provide one that much more of an advantage over, say, Toronto?

Sorry for the extremely long post to those who read all of this--I really struggle with uncertainty.

BrainsyK

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Re: Worth leaving Canada/applying to US?

Post by BrainsyK » Thu Apr 23, 2020 12:26 am

As a Canadian who left Canada to attend Columbia, it has been 100% worth it, but I knew that I was gunning for biglaw, and I got much more than I could've ever wanted. If I were American, the fully financed costs would be $250k. I probably could've gone to Duke for $150k. I don't regret it one bit (yet).

Academia is different. I think Chicago's a great school, and you seem to have not only the stats but the right balance of stats (high GPA, low LSAT) for admission, but coming out of anywhere except Yale, you'd need very good grades, and even then, probably one of a federal clerkship, which Canadians can't do short of free-labor in a non-CONUS state/territory for free (and even then many judges are weary about hiring Canadians), VAP, which usually is done after a clerkship, or a PhD. Further, you're not going to be making a ton of money to service the debt so the only way that I'd advise this is if you get into a fully-funded JD/PhD program, which I know Stanford has and I think that NU has. I'm unclear about the rest of the T14.

One more consideration is whether you can afford US schools. There are no loan options outside of HYS, which I think have their own funds that you can draw from so you'll (since your K-JD, your parents) have to pay for it all out-of-pocket. That's a good investment for biglaw, which virtually guaranteed out of Chicago--less so in this economy. It's a terrible investment for academia, which is like a 1 in 5 shot at best out of Chicago.

You can always fall back on biglaw, but I will say one more about that option. It's somewhat foreclosed. People who gun hard after academia/unicorn PI have a personality that really shines through in a bad way in interviews and can make them outperform. I know several people who had more than decent enough grades but significantly under-performed at OCI. They were perfectly pleasant and social people who just didn't really want biglaw. Even I can smell that vibe a mile away. Firms may still hire you, but you may not get hired at as good a firm as your grades/school warrant, and well, we can still what some firms can do to their compensation in bad times...

I disagree that you may as well have stayed in Canada for a stable income. Canadian biglaw pays awful even accounting for all the debt that US schools impose on their students (you won't even have much debt at a lower T14). Bay Street lawyers work every bit as hard for a little more than half the pay, a similar tax rate, possibly slightly lighter attrition? I don't know, in a less diversified economy that's subject to more sector risk (see energy right now).

QContinuum

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Re: Worth leaving Canada/applying to US?

Post by QContinuum » Thu Apr 23, 2020 12:40 am

BrainsyK wrote:Further, you're not going to be making a ton of money to service the debt so the only way that I'd advise this is if you get into a fully-funded JD/PhD program, which I know Stanford has and I think that NU has. I'm unclear about the rest of the T14.
Not necessarily advocating taking on loads of debt, but isn't this where LRAP comes in? Not 100% sure, but I assume a law professorship would qualify as "law-related employment" under most schools' LRAPs (definitely double- and triple-check, though!). Certainly Yale's COAP would cover it - COAP doesn't have any employment type restrictions (it only goes by income).

Unlike U.S. citizens though, Canadians would presumably not be eligible to take advantage of IBR and PSLF.

AfroKant

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Re: Worth leaving Canada/applying to US?

Post by AfroKant » Thu Apr 23, 2020 2:55 am

BrainsyK wrote: Academia is different. I think Chicago's a great school, and you seem to have not only the stats but the right balance of stats (high GPA, low LSAT) for admission, but coming out of anywhere except Yale, you'd need very good grades, and even then, probably one of a federal clerkship, which Canadians can't do short of free-labor in a non-CONUS state/territory for free (and even then many judges are weary about hiring Canadians), VAP, which usually is done after a clerkship, or a PhD. Further, you're not going to be making a ton of money to service the debt so the only way that I'd advise this is if you get into a fully-funded JD/PhD program, which I know Stanford has and I think that NU has. I'm unclear about the rest of the T14
Hi BrainsyK, I just quoted part of your post so my reply does not take up too much space on the page. Sorry, I should have been clear in noting that I have not written the LSAT yet, but am aiming for, at bare minimum, a 163 (although obviously the highest I can achieve). Further, I mistakenly wrote that I am an AA male rather than Black male.

Now, to reply to the breadth of your post:

I am primarily interested in Chicago as my understanding is that, for some peculiar reason, Chicago has great academic esteem despite not being ranked as highly as a few other schools. I have not seriously sat down and considered Yale (or HS) primarily due to how audacious such a consideration sounds to me, but also because I would be shocked to achieve higher than a 173 on the LSAT; which, to my knowledge, is what I would need to attain to be a competitive applicant there.

As for your point about federal clerking: thank you, I will do more research on this. I have been under the impression that there are some alternative routes one might take, but I will look further into this.

I have seriously considered applying to JD and PhD programs in the hopes of gaining admission to both departments at one school, however, getting into a top-tier PhD program in philosophy is nearly impossible.

My best bets for a JD/PhD program fully funded are UofT (which I would be extremely happy with), Duke, UCLA or Georgetown, and that would still require an absurd amount of luck. Nevertheless, the issue remains that admission into JD programs is far more predictable/reliable, so there is no serious way an applicant could bank on getting into a joint program as PhD admission criteria is far more opaque.

As for your point about finances, thank you for shedding light on that. I have not fully grappled with the question yet as I've been rocking the wait-and-see-mentality, but it is, of course, a serious consideration. I was hoping someone would offer me a reasonable scholarship money, but there is still the live possibility that may not happen. I recognize this would be a bad investment for Academia, especially given the uncertainty partnered with it. Nevertheless, I think my irrational desire to enter academia will, for better or for worse, always win out here. In the back of my mind, I've always just thought "there would really be no choice besides a Line of Credit".

Finally, thank you for pointing out the possibility of not being sought after in big law. I do okay socially (I think?) but, personality wise, I think I do have a sort of academic feel IRL. Professors I am close with have described me this way and noted that I am sometimes odd/"in my head", but I thought most in the legal profession were a bit odd, so I figured this would really be no issue? However, it does seem true, as you already note, that my lack of interest in Big Law would be obvious--not only from my interviews, but likely also from my resume. I'm not sure I could ever sell myself to be interested, even if my financial health depended on it.

If I were to give up on academia or whatever unicorn/PI/wonk position I would be seeking, Big Law likely would still not be my next goal, so I will have to think more about whether the salary difference between Toronto/whatever major U.S. city would be meaningful to me.

Wow, okay. I've typed a lot--sorry. Thank you for your serious reply, it means a lot. I will be thinking more closely about what you have said and my initial formulation. All the best.

AfroKant

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Re: Worth leaving Canada/applying to US?

Post by AfroKant » Thu Apr 23, 2020 3:00 am

QContinuum wrote:
BrainsyK wrote:Further, you're not going to be making a ton of money to service the debt so the only way that I'd advise this is if you get into a fully-funded JD/PhD program, which I know Stanford has and I think that NU has. I'm unclear about the rest of the T14.
Not necessarily advocating taking on loads of debt, but isn't this where LRAP comes in? Not 100% sure, but I assume a law professorship would qualify as "law-related employment" under most schools' LRAPs (definitely double- and triple-check, though!). Certainly Yale's COAP would cover it - COAP doesn't have any employment type restrictions (it only goes by income).

Unlike U.S. citizens though, Canadians would presumably not be eligible to take advantage of IBR and PSLF.
Hi QContinuum, thank you for pointing this out. I was under the naive impression that those programs were primarily aimed at graduates doing public interest-type work; however, I will check again to see how it might apply--if it does at all--to graduates pursuing an academic career. Further, I wonder what happens to those who are unsuccessful in either moving forward in a JSD/SJD program or some other academic outlet.

The Lsat Airbender

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Re: Worth leaving Canada/applying to US?

Post by The Lsat Airbender » Wed Apr 29, 2020 8:32 pm

AfroKant wrote:However, it does seem true, as you already note, that my lack of interest in Big Law would be obvious--not only from my interviews, but likely also from my resume. I'm not sure I could ever sell myself to be interested, even if my financial health depended on it.
This militates against going to an expensive American law school. Biglaw is the path of least resistance for T14 graduates and it's also often necessary to pay off one's student loans. Yale is arguably an exception because of the freedom its LRAP offers.

In your shoes I would focus on PhD programs. If you get into a funded JD/PhD, that's awesome, but I'm not sure the law degree is going to add a lot for someone with your interests. (If you had specific unicorn positions in mind, that could be different.)
I am primarily interested in Chicago as my understanding is that, for some peculiar reason, Chicago has great academic esteem despite not being ranked as highly as a few other schools. I have not seriously sat down and considered Yale (or HS) primarily due to how audacious such a consideration sounds to me, but also because I would be shocked to achieve higher than a 173 on the LSAT; which, to my knowledge, is what I would need to attain to be a competitive applicant there.
Its undergraduate college has a markedly weaker reputation, but for postgraduate academia Chicago has always been regarded a peer of HYS so there's no real mystery like you imply in the bolded.

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