T Nation

Law School?

I am thinking about law school. I want to go to school in the mountain west so University of Denver, CU-Boulder and Wyoming are my top choices thus far.

If there is any advice current lawyers, or anyone knowledgable on the subject, can give me for admission to law school, it would be much appreciated.

Some info on myself:

I am currently a senior political science major at a top-30 liberal arts college. I am taking the lsat’s december 2nd. I am in a prepcourse looking to score in the mid-160s hopefully (the highest ive scored in a practice exam is 164.)My GPA is mediocre (3.2) but all of my lower grades were when I was an underclassmen.

Thanks alot.

[quote]chrisr wrote:
My GPA is mediocre (3.2) but all of my lower grades were when I was an underclassmen. [/quote]

You’ll hear a lot of stuff like “Don’t do it.” You won’t listen to that advice (though you heed it), so here’s all you need to know:

  1. Max out the LSAT. With your grades, a 164 is NOT even close to being good enough. It doesn’t matter that your grades have an “upward trend.” Schools care about the overall GPA, as that affects the USNews rankins. If you have a high LSAT score, they’ll worry less about the GPA.

  2. Go to a top-ranked law school (as measured by USNews), or don’t go at all. It’s a tough job market, and people from lesser law schools are having a terrible time finding jobs. If you go to a lower-ranked school, you will likely have a miserable life in the law.

There are a few books out there like law school confidential etc., which are worth the read. Like the other responder said, it is difficult to get a good job. I live with 3 law students in D.C., and they are all doing very well and will almost certainly have jobs making in the $125,000 to $145,000 range starting out. That being said, they go to a top-tier school and managed to get in the top 25% of their class and also have other activities.

Do your research and take this decision very seriously.

What do you consider a top-ranked law school? (10, 25, 50)

I will go to law school next year, it’s just a matter of where.

[quote]chrisr wrote:
I will go to law school next year, it’s just a matter of where. [/quote]

Well… Good luck. If you do not get into a top law school, this “law school or bust” attitude will have major consequences in 3 years.

If I were in your shoes and only scored a 164 on my LSAT, I would work for a year and work to get my score in the 170s.

Well… maybe not… Are your parents going to pay your way? If so, no sweat.

But if you’re taking out student loans, you’d better make sure you get into a school that will allow you to get a job paying more than 40K a year. A LOT of lawyers are making 40K a year (with 1K-1.5K a month student loan payments), though law schools will play with statistics to hide this from prospective students.

[quote]CaliforniaLaw wrote:
chrisr wrote:
I will go to law school next year, it’s just a matter of where.

Well… Good luck. If you do not get into a top law school, this “law school or bust” attitude will have major consequences in 3 years.

If I were in your shoes and only scored a 164 on my LSAT, I would work for a year and work to get my score in the 170s.

Well… maybe not… Are your parents going to pay your way? If so, no sweat.

But if you’re taking out student loans, you’d better make sure you get into a school that will allow you to get a job paying more than 40K a year. A LOT of lawyers are making 40K a year (with 1K-1.5K a month student loan payments), though law schools will play with statistics to hide this from prospective students.[/quote]

 It's not realistic to assume that a 170 is necessarily possible. If a lot of prepwork and studying went into the 164 it probably isn't. But I do agree that you should take the LSATs very seriously. Take a course like Kaplan or TestMasters and get a private tutor as well. Do all of the practice tests you can and really work through everything. Make sure you've done everything you possibly can to get the highest score YOU possibly can. 

You should also not choose your lawschool based on geography. Go to the best lawschool that you get into that you think you’d be reasonably happy at. In the end you’ll be happy that you’ll have more job options in regions that you like. It’s a tough world.
And GPA is not the end-all-be-all. A 3.2 is not awful and a 164 is a respectable score. You may not get into an amazing lawschool, but you should get into a respectable one. Students who excel at law schools like Temple and Cardozo and even New York Law School or CUNY do well and can get excellent jobs in the region. But you would need to be a superstar at a school like CUNY or New York Law School. And there are no guarantees of that, so you should go to the best school you get into.

[quote]chrisr wrote:
What do you consider a top-ranked law school? (10, 25, 50)

I will go to law school next year, it’s just a matter of where. [/quote]

A true top-law school is top 10 in my opinion. But as long as you’re top TIER, you should be ok.

Thanks for all the replies, your responses have helped.

I just want to make clear that I didn’t wake up this morning and say, “oh, I think that I want to go to law school.”

This is something that I have given much consideration to, and is currently the number one thing I am striving for.

Obviously I will go to the best law school that I get into. I would prefer to go to a good school out west ie boulder or DU.

My financial situation is/will be secure, so paying for law school isn’t a huge concern.

I am in a prep course right now and have been for awhile. I study everyday and am hoping to do very well on the lsats.

Again, thank you for your responses and any further input would be greatly appreciated.

How about this question: Why do you want to go to law school?

To become a lawyer is a cute answer, but not adequate. A real answer to the question will give you more direction than anything else.

If it’s just to make a ton of money–there are probably many better ways available to you.

I went to Marquette Law School. I think it’s in the second or third tier. I’m not sure which, mostly because I couldn’t care less.

I went to law school wanting to become a prosecutor, and that’s exactly what I became. I work long hours, including weekends. I’m paid terribly with little prospect of that ever changing. I’m surrounded by judges that are angry that I don’t do whatever it takes to settle a case without a trial; defense attorneys who accuse me of being draconian no matter the character of the defendant or crime; victims who are, at best, apathetic, but usually angry… and I couldn’t be happier.

I spend everyday making my community safer for women and children. I took a fifty percent pay cut from the private sector to do it. I’m surrounded by people who have made, and continue to make sacrifices in order to fight the good fight. And it was only made possible because I went to law school.

Not everyone needs (or wants) to graduate from a top tier law school to do the work they want to do.

Here’s a tip though: If you do good work, you don’t need anyone to care what law school you came from.

Bonus tip: You can get a lousy education from a great school, and the reverse as well. This is especially true in law school.

I want to go to law school because I want to help people. My father is a cancer doctor, and one of the greatest things that I have ever experienced is being told by one of his patients how much my father has affected their lives in a positive way.

I have no aptitude for the physical sciences, but I do for speaking and writing. I can use my strengths to serve those less fortunate for me.

I also want to make a salary that will give my future family everything they could need.

I am interested in environmental and natural resource law, which are huge issues in the Moutain West.

Thanks again.

http://www.apsu.edu/oconnort/megalaw.htm

Everything you need to know about law school is in that site.

I have always thought it would be awesome to be a criminal defense lawyer and specialize in the area of quashing warrants, fighting unlawful seraches, etc. The cops get away with a lot of shit and it’s not really cool.

Unfortunately I always end up at the realization that my clients would be the scum of the earth and that I’d basically be dedicating my life to helping guilty criminals walk. 90% of my income would also probably depend on drug money. Not so attractive after all eh…

[quote]chrisr wrote:
I want to go to law school because I want to help people. My father is a cancer doctor, and one of the greatest things that I have ever experienced is being told by one of his patients how much my father has affected their lives in a positive way.
[/quote]

If you want to go to law school so you can receive warm and fuzzies from your clients, then you may want to think about another career. Read the front page of the newspaper. Most of the stories have lawyers involved in some way. Government, politics, business. Few of those stories involve happy clients.

I’ve been a lawyer since the early 1990s. In general, people don’t like lawyers, except their own.

[quote]bino wrote:
How about this question: Why do you want to go to law school?

To become a lawyer is a cute answer, but not adequate. A real answer to the question will give you more direction than anything else.

If it’s just to make a ton of money–there are probably many better ways available to you.

I went to Marquette Law School. I think it’s in the second or third tier. I’m not sure which, mostly because I couldn’t care less.

I went to law school wanting to become a prosecutor, and that’s exactly what I became. I work long hours, including weekends. I’m paid terribly with little prospect of that ever changing. I’m surrounded by judges that are angry that I don’t do whatever it takes to settle a case without a trial; defense attorneys who accuse me of being draconian no matter the character of the defendant or crime; victims who are, at best, apathetic, but usually angry… and I couldn’t be happier.

I spend everyday making my community safer for women and children. I took a fifty percent pay cut from the private sector to do it. I’m surrounded by people who have made, and continue to make sacrifices in order to fight the good fight. And it was only made possible because I went to law school.

Not everyone needs (or wants) to graduate from a top tier law school to do the work they want to do.

Here’s a tip though: If you do good work, you don’t need anyone to care what law school you came from.

Bonus tip: You can get a lousy education from a great school, and the reverse as well. This is especially true in law school. [/quote]

Excellent post. In fact, many people get sucked into the vortex of the “top law school/ big firm” thinking, and wind up miserable. Law schools perpetuate this, because it brings them prestige when their grads go to large national firms. These firms are generally shitty places to work.
I went to a lower level law school. I received a great deal of scholarship money. I graduated with exactly zero debt. I worked (at a fairly large regional firm) next door to a Yale grad who couldn’t leave the firm if his life depended on it, because of crushing debt. I worked at the firm for 2 years or so, and got a law-related job that I love.

My advice is to select a big law school. Big = lots of alumni and lots of contacts. Big also often means easier admission standards.
Going to a high ranking law school means you will make more money upon graduation, even if you don’t do so well compared to the rest of your class. You can also make a damn good starting salary if you do very well at a small school. With any accredited law school and a license to practice, you will make good money once you establish contacts. The contacts (and opportunities) should be immediate if you select a big school.

[quote]chrisr wrote:
I want to go to law school because I want to help people. My father is a cancer doctor, and one of the greatest things that I have ever experienced is being told by one of his patients how much my father has affected their lives in a positive way.

I have no aptitude for the physical sciences, but I do for speaking and writing. I can use my strengths to serve those less fortunate for me.

I also want to make a salary that will give my future family everything they could need.

I am interested in environmental and natural resource law, which are huge issues in the Moutain West.

Thanks again.

[/quote]

Boulder and DU are both great schools if you want to go into natural resource law. Have you looked into Lewis and Clark in Portland, OR? It is the number one ranked. Number two ranked for environmental is Vermont Law School, I have a Master’s from VLS and am currently finishing a JD in Oklahoma going into Native American Natural Resources law. I would look into Lewis and Clark and VLS just because they top the list. Of the schools you listed Boulder is probably the highest ranked though, so if you think you may change your mine it may be better to go there rather than a “niche” law school.

I went to DU. It’s not a top school, but it has a good local reputation, and you will learn what you need to learn. The people that graduate at the top will always be able to get jobs. The key to that is to go to each and every seminar on how to do well on exams. The profs look for certain things on exams and - figure that out and you’ll do well.

If you go to DU, I may see you around. I’m going back this winter to get my LL.M. in tax part-time. Unlike you, I’ve lost any idealism I may have had about helping people and I’m just willing to whore myself out to the highest bidder.

Thanks for all the advice guys.

Mike- What were your stats for getting into DU? Do you think that if I score above a 160 I will have a good chance of getting in? I’ve heard really good things about their law school, like it is really good for generating contacts. It is definitely up there on my list. thanks.

[quote]chrisr wrote:
Thanks for all the advice guys.

Mike- What were your stats for getting into DU? Do you think that if I score above a 160 I will have a good chance of getting in? I’ve heard really good things about their law school, like it is really good for generating contacts. It is definitely up there on my list. thanks. [/quote]

My undergrad GPA was around what yours is - 3.2. My LSAT used the old scale - I took it in 1989 - so I don’t know what a “160” is exactly. If it’s over 75th percentile, I think you’re good.

As someone mentioned, getting into a “top” school doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll learn stuff. I’ve heard that once people get into certain top schools they just coast by, don’t bother learning anything, and get jobs just on the strength of the school’s reputation. They justify this by saying that law school doesn’t really prepare you for the real world anyway.

While it’s true that to be a truly competent attorney you need experience, you are, after all, practicing “law,” and you should know a little something about it. I felt like a learned a lot at DU. I also think it’s important to go to class and play the whole Socratic method game with the profs - it teaches you how to think on your feet.

There were a bunch of people who didn’t like it because it was too “stressful.” Hello, you’re going to be a lawyer. Even if you never set foot in the courtroom, you still need to think on your feet, like when an irrate client comes in and starts firing questions at you.

If you can’t handle a little Socratic method in class, you ain’t gonna handle the real world. Learn exam taking skills to get the grades, but go to class to gain some practice thinking on your feet.

[quote]chrisr wrote:
I am thinking about law school. I want to go to school in the mountain west so University of Denver, CU-Boulder and Wyoming are my top choices thus far.

If there is any advice current lawyers, or anyone knowledgable on the subject, can give me for admission to law school, it would be much appreciated.

Some info on myself:

I am currently a senior political science major at a top-30 liberal arts college. I am taking the lsat’s december 2nd. I am in a prepcourse looking to score in the mid-160s hopefully (the highest ive scored in a practice exam is 164.)My GPA is mediocre (3.2) but all of my lower grades were when I was an underclassmen.

Thanks alot.

[/quote]

I think you should go to Law School. We don’t quite have enough lawyers and every one knows that the more lawyers we have the better off we are. On the whole lawyers do so much good stuff for society.

That’s quite a goal you have there, good luck.