An anonymous poster wonders why I didn't go to a big-name law school. I have two answers. One is just a restatement of this post; I'd already chosen Maine as my home and the best way to get a job in Maine is to go to Maine Law. I did think briefly about applying to a fancy school further south, and even after I got in to Maine Law my plan was to defer a year, apply to higher tier schools, and then come back here. But I went to visit Maine Law on admitted students day, sat in on classes and wandered the halls, and I was so impressed and excited that I decided not only that I wanted to go to Maine Law, but that I wanted to go there right away. While visiting, I knocked on the door of a professor who had a poster for a conference I thought was cool. She was warm and intelligent and receptive, as was the professor in the office next door, who she introduced me to. I realized that at a small school I might not have the professors who had the most esteemed credentials, but I figured I probably didn't have the legal discernment to tell the difference between the most esteemed scholars and slightly less esteemed scholars. I knew, though, that I would feel and care about the difference between professors who talked to me and would get to know me well and professors too busy or too important to have a relationship with me.
Reason two is that it didn't seem worth it for me to incur substantial additional debt just for a shiny pedigree. Especially after meeting the professors, I was convinced I would be able to learn a lot and get a great education at Maine Law. The magnitude of the loans I took out is burdensome, but not oppressive. If I'd gone to a fancy school, I would have been trapped by my debt. I would have had to work at a high-paying law firm, and I wouldn't have the freedom to leave. People talk about the mobility that a top credential gives you, but I'm not so sure. I think I have enough freedom. Yes, lawyers are snobs, and yes, people will constantly question my pedigree. But I'm able to choose the course of my life. A fancy diploma and a debt that shuts out all other options wouldn't let me do that. I was lucky enough to suspect this going in, and after I was convinced that the Maine Law professors were personable and smart, it was an easy decision.