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Crow

Good advice. Especially about talking to alumni about their experiences - if you're in an area with a small legal community, it's those conversations you have over coffee with people in the field you want to enter that tell you a lot you really want to know.

Ann Israel's column in the 11-14-05 on-line edition of the NY Lawyer touched upon this (the focus was transferring to a higher ranked school). Since she services big firms, she has a bias towards the more prestigious schools. It is a reality of the profession.

However, there are still questions about where you are practicing law, and what you intend on doing with your degree. To say that your reader attends a low ranked law school doesn't say much. Is is second tier, third tier, fourth tier? What is the bar pass rate from the school? "Low ranked" or "bottom ranked" is very subjective.

Do students use the school as a stepping stone to attend other schools (I recall in my school, and while doing bar prep, meeting a number of people who started at Thomas Cooley law school who later transferred to more highly regarded programs. For whatever reason, they had to start elsewhere to demonstrate their capabilities for law school).

I wrote the letter. The school I attend is considered by US News & World Report to be fourth-tier. The average passing rate is 60%.

GOM

Let's see.

I went to a tier one law school and no longer practice, but am toying with the idea of returning.

One of the guys I know from my early days of practicing went to a tier 4 school and had to take the bar a couple of times to pass. He had the advantage of joining his father's two person firm that specialized in medical malpractice, but his father soon retired. Over the years he has done very well for himself; I see him on occasion at the local yacht club and, from his reports, his practice is doing well and he is enjoying himself.

One of his best attributes as a lawyer is his ability to get a jury to relate to him, something that I was largely unable to accomplish.

So, my question for the questioner, is what type of law does he/she intend on practicing. I somehow doubt that a 4th tier law school student is going to be an associate at a "big law" firm. Yet "big law" is not the end all of the practice.

Actually, the question really should be why did you go to law school? How do you see your future?

GOM raises some very good points. I know people who went to 4th tier schools (I attended a tier 2). They have legal careers.

People from all levels of schools have different experiences passing the bar (there is a senior NY State gov't official who took the bar at least 7 times before passing--one of the Kennedy kids was famous for his difficulties with the bar). The reality is, once you pass, no one cares. Also, law school doesn't prepare you for the bar. Bar prep classes do. The reason you see higher pass rates from higher tiered schools is because students at those schools have a stronger history with standardized tests (thus, they were able to attend higher tiered schools).

If you want to practice law, you will be able to. Like any other law school, you just have to put the effort in. Also, I would avoid those who believe they've already failed by their choice of school. They can only hold you back.

Chris

I am attending a "4th Tier" school right now because it was the only school in my area that had a decent full-time evening program. I had to go to school at night because I have responsibilities outside of school including leading a group at an IP consultancy, a mortgage, a wife and a baby on the way (and I am still under 30).
I'll be damned if I will let the tier of my school determine my future. If I had decided to go to law school right after undergrad I could have gone to a top tier school. I am making connections with alumni from my school that work in big firms and am hoping that my intelligence and skills as a lawyer will outweigh my lack of a fancy degree.
As a side note, I think one of the reasons there are so many disaffected young associates at big law firms is because many of them went from sheltered secondary educations to ivy league liberal arts schools to ivy league law schools and were not prepared for the real world.

Forlorn 1L

I have decided to not care about my school's ranking. Even though school rankings are a reality, it is blinding me to more important things. It is cliche, but I should not let law school define who I am. The law school rat race got to me momentarily.

I do really want to be a lawyer. Before going to law school, I did some time working at a law firm and loved it. I was inspired by the attorneys and their work. It was a public interest firm and I am certain that I want to do similar work. I probably won't be able to work at BIGLAW, but I was not planning to anyway.

I know that my school's ranking is not a permanent scarlet letter. One of the attorneys at the firm I worked was a alumnus of the school I currently attend. She was well-respected and no one thought less of her because of where she went, even though some people working there were Order of Coif from Top Ten schools. I know that in the past, alumni have served as the Judge Advocate General of branches of the military.

If I do well at my current school, I should be able to work in the field that I want to. I shouldn't care about the ranking.

Brad D. Bailey

The last two sentences of Forlorn 1L's post are the key.

I attended Gonzaga University's law school, Class of 1983. I did well there, moot court, Justice of the PAD chapter and Technical Editor of the Law Review.

I have beaten silk stocking lawfirms in trials. I was co-counsel in Littleton v. Z.J. Gifts at SCOTUS. I wrote an amicus brief for the National League of Cities et al. in Castle Rock v. Gonzales. I have been a speaker at national and state conferences of municipal attorneys. I have a very balanced life--I get to spend a lot of time with my two daughters.

All this from a third or fourth tier law school that nearly went under in 1988.

Success comes in many flavors, there is something sweet in being the David v. the First Tier Goliath.

3L

I am a 3L at a top 20 law school. I cannot get a job - biglaw, medium sized firm, or government. Several of my friends who have graduated from my school are currently unemployed. I can only imagine how much tougher it gets the lower down the food chain. I don't have a single friend who attended a T4 school that is employed as a lawyer (they do have jobs as interns, secretaries, babysitters, or are unemployed). I was led to believe that "top 20" meant something, but I am just as unemployed as my T4 3L friends.

When people ask me about law school I tell them don't go, unless it is top 14 - or they are desparate to be a lawyer - and will go anywhere at any cost.

I wasn't desparate, so if I had taken my own advice I wouldn't be in law school, I wouldn't be unemployed, I wouldn't be $120,000 in debt, and I would be happier.
At this point in my life I realize that there were 100 things I could have done (and enjoyed) without the JD and the 120k debt - business, sales, marketing, public relations, legislative affairs, public affairs, teaching, writing, etc.

So to the 1L who wrote the original post - why did you go to this law school in the first place?? Were you too lazy to do the research before you committed the tens of thousands of dollars, unable to get a job, or are you really desparate to be a lawyer? If you don't REALLY want to be a lawyer then get out now.

jsc27

im confused -- and even more confused after reading the above postings. should i or should i not attend law school? and does the ranking of my school define me?

i was recently accepted to texas tech university, a 3T law school. i live in phoenix, if i was accepted to asu or u of a, my decision to attend would be a lot easier.

why do i want to attend law school? why not? i just want to feel like i am contributing to something important? i want to feel significant. i studied finance at asu and currently work as an analyst at a commercial bank in scottsdale.

i suppose my priority is to establish a optimal level of self-worth ...if that makes sense. i suppose if i was a trained professional, such as a lawyer, i would feel this sense of self-worth. but, if i was a wealthy business person, i think would also reach a satisfying level of fulfillment.

sometimes, its hard for me to swallow that i will never be a big-shot wallsteet banker, or a lawyer working a top law firm, or the president of the us . like i said, i graduted from asu, summa cum laude ...but shitty LSAT score (152). i suppose i could retake the LSAT, but im not sure i could score much higher; maybe the high 150s, low 160s if i took the time to study.

i think if i graduated from law school, i would feel this sense of self-worth and accomplishment and i think i would drive to work everyday, satisfied with my life, knowing that i am somewhat distinguished and i have an important responsibility to serve the community.

i need to find this sense of fulfillment soon, as i am seriously depressed about my insignificant place in life.

chrisp

I agree with the last post about the dilemma. I’m also successful. I work at a pharmaceutical company in finance. I work with medical professionals and lawyers who are all top of their game. But I also want to carve out a space of success for myself that goes beyond the salary. I like the way the medical and law professionals have the ability to publish in peer review journals and contribute to their own success and/or their company’s success. In finance there’s no real equivalence of community. Just doing the budgets, reporting the sales and expenses, and the occasional new product analysis. I’ve always liked law and have been searching for answers around the tier versus employment/income/quality of life issue. There are many people that complain about being lawyers, and then there are the issues around tier relevance. Some say low tiers are fine, it’s more about passing the bar and being a good lawyer. But I must admit that when I go through the profiles of lawyers at many firms here in New York, they all appear to be from top 20 schools. And if most law schools are expensive, what I might earn afterwards is an issue. Preferably, I would like to be able to get the degree and still have the opportunity to take a low paying job if it’s the type of law I want to get into like being a public defendant or getting into government work. But going to law school and then only earning $40K to $50K per year is a huge pay cut even with student loan relief. I can earn that with just a college degree. It’s an extreme situation, but one facing many people if they are middle of the class at a low tier school. What’s really troubling is that there are many law schools that have good reputations but don’t even make the top 100 list. Are those students doomed to never get decent jobs? I don’t think so, but the battle seems to be very up hill. But one thing I’ve noticed, ignoring the post school unemployment problems, most of the people really hating on being a lawyer are the ones that worked at the big firms post school and hated the rat race. So maybe going to the best school possible and then working at a firm with life style considerations are the best choices. Making partner is also easier at a smaller firm and the pay wouldn’t be as cut throat as being a public defendant in a tiny town in the Midwest.

lawlover

I am currently a student at an ok university. It's my senior year, and I'm prepping for law school. I want to go to Cal Western, which is considered to be a 4th tier school. I have done my research, and love the place, but after reading past blogs I'm beginning to question everything. This is honestly infuriating. I have always wanted to be a lawyer, but I know that I will never get a good enough test score to go tier 1. I have accepted that, but I do not want to be without a job either. I was impressed by the suggestion of connecting with past alumni.

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Beth

JSC27--- please, please, please don't attend law school in order to boost your sense of accomplishment.

I assure you, a piece of paper is NOT going to supply you with the feeling that you are searching for.

I have all kinds of pieces of paper, saying that I can do above and beyond what the ordinary citizen can do. I've been a teacher, a police officer, an EMT, a lawyer and the list goes on etc etc. None of these certifications or degrees are able to provide a stronger sense of self, or of self-worth, which your letter indicates you are wanting.

I highly encourage you to find an alternate solution within yourself for this problem. It is not worth the years of labor, and the thousands of dollars of debt that you will endure, only to come out on the other side still searching.

Eric Glynn

I agree with online roulette completely. I think your comment is very telling: "i suppose i could retake the LSAT, but im not sure i could score much higher; maybe the high 150s, low 160s if i took the time to study."

So you are saying you didn't take the time to study for the LSAT, perhaps the most important criteria for getting into law school? Obviously law school wasn't that important to you to begin with, so why would that feeling change when you are actually in school?

So again roulette is dead right. I took a break from school myself, I wasn't feeling it, and joined the army. After a few years in the Army I quickly realized how stupid I was to drop out of school, finished my degree and am now anxiously awaiting acceptance letters from law schools.

So if you are not feeling it, by all means take a break and do something else. Either you will discover your mistake (as I did) or you will discover something that you do enjoy.

Eric Glynn

Sorry I meant I agree with Beth. n00b mistake.

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