Should I R&R or Attend SMU with over 1/2 tuition?

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BCS2021

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Should I R&R or Attend SMU with over 1/2 tuition?

Post by BCS2021 » Thu Apr 22, 2021 12:10 pm

GPA: 3.8
LSAT: 165
K-JD

Goal is to pursue a legal career in Texas by working at a law firm after law school (preferably mid-big law). Big law is enticing, but I would not be disappointed at all with a well paying job in a smaller sized firm than bigger firms.

I have no college debt, and my total cost to attend tuition-wise is around 80k. I'd imagine that I will graduate with around 20-40k in total debt with that amount. My goal was to attend UT, but I was rejected (below median LSAT, applied late in cycle). I love the corporate counsel externship program and the Dallas area (favorite city in TX), but I am not sure if it's worth postponing to raise my LSAT score for UT given my circumstances. Is it justified to retake and decide what I should do? I've considered taking the June LSAT just to see what I can score and go from there, but it will still be tough deciding what I should do in the fall with such late notice. I'll need to find apartments and plan my living situation sooner rather than later and June is pushing it.

I'm concerned with the 70k salary drop off in law firms for the 25th percentile between SMU and UT. It looks as if the big law %'s between the two are 33% and 57%. SMU also places a decent amount more in mid-sized firms outside of this big law %. What are your thoughts?

CanadianWolf

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Re: Should I R&R or Attend SMU with over 1/2 tuition?

Post by CanadianWolf » Thu Apr 22, 2021 12:21 pm

My thought is that it seems as though you understand your situation well.

crazywafflez

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Re: Should I R&R or Attend SMU with over 1/2 tuition?

Post by crazywafflez » Thu Apr 22, 2021 5:08 pm

This will just have to be a gut call. I find that 60-80k debt or cost at SMU total isn't a bad amount at all and I would feel very comfortable with that if my goals were for a decent firm in Dallas. However, I'd expect my pay to be not equivalent to biglaw at all and more in line with one of the smaller players making 60-85 (idk Dallas' pay scale but in my mid market middle america firms of the equivalent pay 45-80). It has an okay chance at biglaw in Dallas for those with the grades (don't bet on it though).
UT is tops in the state, if you have the chance to retake and reapply, I'd do it. Worst case you get only a point higher or something and don't get UT but get a bigger scholly to SMU.
How were you in your practice tests? To me, postponing for you is a 50/50- say you really don't improve your score, or only by a point, will an extra 10-15k be worth the extra year? On the front end, yeah; but closer to employment etc. If you think you can get like 3 points higher on the LSAT (maybe something that'll get you basically a fullride to SMU or into UT or into UT with money) i'd reapply next year.

BCS2021

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Re: Should I R&R or Attend SMU with over 1/2 tuition?

Post by BCS2021 » Thu Apr 22, 2021 11:11 pm

crazywafflez wrote: ↑
Thu Apr 22, 2021 5:08 pm
This will just have to be a gut call. I find that 60-80k debt or cost at SMU total isn't a bad amount at all and I would feel very comfortable with that if my goals were for a decent firm in Dallas. However, I'd expect my pay to be not equivalent to biglaw at all and more in line with one of the smaller players making 60-85 (idk Dallas' pay scale but in my mid market middle america firms of the equivalent pay 45-80). It has an okay chance at biglaw in Dallas for those with the grades (don't bet on it though).
UT is tops in the state, if you have the chance to retake and reapply, I'd do it. Worst case you get only a point higher or something and don't get UT but get a bigger scholly to SMU.
How were you in your practice tests? To me, postponing for you is a 50/50- say you really don't improve your score, or only by a point, will an extra 10-15k be worth the extra year? On the front end, yeah; but closer to employment etc. If you think you can get like 3 points higher on the LSAT (maybe something that'll get you basically a fullride to SMU or into UT or into UT with money) i'd reapply next year.
One interesting thing on the SMU employment reports is that the 75th percentile makes big law $, but the 50th percentile in law firms drops down to $110k, and the 25th percentile is $80k. I'm concerned that this salary drop-off could be due to extreme bimodal distributions, but I'm not quite sure. I would be thrilled to make $100k+ right out of law school - no doubt about it, but I would not be pleased to have limited opportunities. It does seem like they have great programs though like the corporate counsel externship program, and they have a strong placement rate for students who do law review. I think being on law review could strongly boost my chances to ensure I have a good shot at well-paying firms.

In terms of my LSAT score, I've taken the test 2x. Pretty crazy I have an entire 3 shots left to go on it. I'm considering taking another practice test this weekend to see where my score's at, and I'm heavily considering taking the test during the summer to fully decide on what I'm doing. I took plenty of practice tests that hit the low 160s, then got a tutor and started hitting the upper 160s range. My 5 practice tests during this time period went in order from 170-168-167-167-165. I've hit strong scores before and I would be ecstatic with a 170, although it is on the higher end of my practice tests. I've probably put about 7-8 months total into the LSAT studying. Let me know if that makes you sway further to retake or not - I've done a ton of studying already but I do see that there are opportunities.

Lastly, even with a 2 point increase I could early decision to UT which could give me a slight boost.

LookingGood

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Re: Should I R&R or Attend SMU with over 1/2 tuition?

Post by LookingGood » Thu Apr 29, 2021 9:09 am

I may be able to give you some insight. I am reapplying to law school 10 years after being dismissed for unsatisfactory academic performance by SMU Law due to personal issues outside of my control. First time around I scored a 164 and had a 3.4, got a half scholarship. I really liked SMU and am considering going back, but I scored a 179 this time and I'm liking Texas A&M. Houston is also a big pull from me due to health care law.

Going to SMU and graduating in the top half of your class essentially guarantees you will make 100k+ in Dallas after law school. SMU is not known for training great lawyers - in orientation they literally told us there is no weed out process, you're already here. It's all about connections, and all the power players in Dallas have ties to SMU.

You would have a better shot getting a high paying job in Dallas by going to SMU than you would almost any other law school in the country, including UT Austin. UT Austin would be worth more anywhere outside of Dallas. But at the end of the day, after you've been practicing for a few years no one really cares where you went to school. I'm close friends with a Texas Super Lawyer and Top 100 Civil Trial Attorneys in Texas - he went to Oklahoma City University for law school.

I grew up and still live in the Dallas area. It's a fantastic place to live and work and the opportunities are only increasing. I'd recommend SMU.

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obamalaw

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Re: Should I R&R or Attend SMU with over 1/2 tuition?

Post by obamalaw » Thu Apr 29, 2021 9:25 am

If you want to stay in the Dallas area for a few years, then go. SMU is not a bad school by any means.

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cavalier1138

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Re: Should I R&R or Attend SMU with over 1/2 tuition?

Post by cavalier1138 » Thu Apr 29, 2021 10:13 am

LookingGood wrote: ↑
Thu Apr 29, 2021 9:09 am
Going to SMU and graduating in the top half of your class essentially guarantees you will make 100k+ in Dallas after law school.
And if we knew a way to guarantee that you'd graduate in the top half of your class, law school wouldn't be such a risky proposition. Plus, salary reports aren't quite that optimistic. Median salary for 2018 grads in the private sector was $90k, but that number likely includes students not employed as attorneys (about a quarter of SMU grads in that year weren't employed as lawyers). So it seems like a bit of a stretch to claim that median performance "guarantees" a six-figure salary.
LookingGood wrote: ↑
Thu Apr 29, 2021 9:09 am
You would have a better shot getting a high paying job in Dallas by going to SMU than you would almost any other law school in the country, including UT Austin. UT Austin would be worth more anywhere outside of Dallas. But at the end of the day, after you've been practicing for a few years no one really cares where you went to school. I'm close friends with a Texas Super Lawyer and Top 100 Civil Trial Attorneys in Texas - he went to Oklahoma City University for law school.
This is bad reasoning from start to finish. Individual success stories from scam schools do not mean that those career paths are viable, much less likely, for the average graduates of those schools. And most of those success stories are from a prior generation that didn't face the same hiring market we do today.

And not to be too harsh, but your only "experience" in this field is getting kicked out of law school. You have zero qualifications to be opining on legal hiring beyond looking at the available reports. Your post is riddled with bad ideas about how to choose a school (e.g. going to A&M with a 179 or attending a school based on a perceived advantage in a "specialty" program like health law).

LookingGood

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Re: Should I R&R or Attend SMU with over 1/2 tuition?

Post by LookingGood » Thu Apr 29, 2021 11:45 am

cavalier1138 wrote:


Your post is extremely presumptuous. I acknowledge you make some decent points on everything, if you want to go strictly by the numbers which I suppose is the safe bet. Except the last paragraph, you're completely off.

I'm not a normal candidate, don't claim to be, and I highly doubt there are many candidates out there that my experience would directly translate to, so I wouldn't presume to recommend anyone else with a 179 picking between A&M and Houston, nor did I suggest that. I said I am liking them. Do you know why I am? Because I'm 36, married with two kids and all of my family lives in either DFW or Houston so there is a lot more for me to consider than say, someone who is 22-28 with no kids and no house.

If it is at all possible to keep from having to relocate my family, I will choose that over going to a more prestigious school, period. There are more important things in my life at this point than going to the best law school I can get into. And as far as picking Houston based on health care law - it's more about location than specialty or I'd be applying to other health care law programs wouldn't I? Maybe you should have asked why I was picking those schools instead of committing assumicide. πŸ€”

How about this reasoning - OP will not get any money from UT Austin. Without getting into the numbers, your debt will be marginally less if you go to SMU and you will graduate a year earlier, giving you an extra year of income vs UT. If you think you can score significantly higher on the LSAT and don't mind waiting a year plus having an additional 20-30k in debt, then wait.

OP, you could always request deferred admission from SMU and then see how you do next year. Not sure how that would affect your scholarship offer though.

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cavalier1138

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Re: Should I R&R or Attend SMU with over 1/2 tuition?

Post by cavalier1138 » Thu Apr 29, 2021 12:52 pm

LookingGood wrote: ↑
Thu Apr 29, 2021 11:45 am
I'm not a normal candidate, don't claim to be, and I highly doubt there are many candidates out there that my experience would directly translate to, so I wouldn't presume to recommend anyone else with a 179 picking between A&M and Houston, nor did I suggest that. I said I am liking them. Do you know why I am? Because I'm 36, married with two kids and all of my family lives in either DFW or Houston so there is a lot more for me to consider than say, someone who is 22-28 with no kids and no house.
Yep, those are all things. I went to law school under similar conditions (minus having family in the area). That doesn't make you more qualified to evaluate the legal hiring market. It also doesn't make A&M a better school or "health law specialization" something you can actually get from legal education.

There are a number of factors that weigh in favor of the OP taking SMU, but your post was filled with a lot of common misconceptions 0Ls have about legal hiring.

LookingGood

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Re: Should I R&R or Attend SMU with over 1/2 tuition?

Post by LookingGood » Fri Apr 30, 2021 1:09 am

cavalier1138 wrote: ↑
Thu Apr 29, 2021 12:52 pm

Yep, those are all things. I went to law school under similar conditions (minus having family in the area). That doesn't make you more qualified to evaluate the legal hiring market. It also doesn't make A&M a better school or "health law specialization" something you can actually get from legal education.

There are a number of factors that weigh in favor of the OP taking SMU, but your post was filled with a lot of common misconceptions 0Ls have about legal hiring.
You're right of course. I apologize for being rude and defensive in my previous post. I should have thought out my original response more carefully before hitting submit.

To be fair...I completed 69 credit hours my first time around at SMU, so it's not like I failed out my 1L year. I didn't fail any courses until my last semester, but I'd just been placed on academic probation for being barely under the line and that sent me over. So perhaps it would have been more accurate for me to say that SMU is not a guarantee for a six figure salary; however, it is not a "cutthroat" law school like Baylor (no one is going to steal pages out of library books or purposely sabotage other students) and employment prospects are very bright in the Dallas area.

The thing about SMU is a lot of people go there just for the connections it can provide within Texas. I'm sure a lot of law schools can somewhat say the same, but just for example the son of the former governor was one class ahead of me, numerous sons/daughters of state politicians and extremely powerful/wealthy families were in my same year, and that type of thing is not uncommon. The impact a degree from SMU has on job prospects within the Dallas area can't be understated, at least in my opinion. I'm not trying to say any of these examples outweigh the statistics, just that there are a lot of good reasons to go to SMU regardless of the numbers.

Also, not that it makes me "more qualified," but I'm very blessed to be able to get a lot of my information about the admissions process and hiring process from my aunt, who was a professor at Baylor Law for 15 years and served on the admissions committee for 10 and then most recently served as Dean of a well regarded regional law school on the East Coast. So perhaps I'm not as well qualified as people who have actually worked in admissions, but AI like to think I'm not as ignorant as most 0Ls either, despite the impression my first post assuredly gave.

OP, I wish you the best of success whatever you decide. Worst case scenario, you can't go wrong with SMU (well, unless you're me πŸ˜‚).

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