Free Ebook.

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

« Best Advice: Dave Ramsey | Main | Maximize Credit Card Rewards by Buying Gift Cards Strategically »

November 07, 2007


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Another Missouri naitive huh? Cool.

Actually, I'm from a bit farther north. ;-)

This is great advice you're giving. I'm currently going back to school for my bachelor's with an eye towards an MBA and I plan to do both through the city university system to keep tuition down. If I only knew then what I know now... My biggest problem when I was graduating high school was that I was 18 and couldn't think far enough into the future to understand that my college education would be my greatest investment.

This was a very interesting article and thanks for your advice.

Not to be at thorn, but this is horrible advice.

First off, if you can't get into a top 30 school you should really be making other plans than working at a top law firm. The odds are just heavily stacked against you. I just had a friend who chose John Marshall over Michigan for law school. Now she wants to be a corporate attorney for a fortune 500 company. How do you tell someone that they made a disastrous choice of school and have a tough road ahead? Bottom line: if you don't get into a Tier 1 law school, I'd highly suggest a different line of work or accept that you will be in a different level of the profession.

Second, in-state public doesn't mean cheap. May be cheaper than many private schools, but it still likely means somewhere in the neighborhood of 60+ in debt.

Transfer opportunities: it's true, they exist. But not in big numbers. Michigan for example tends to take a couple (literally) from WSU and a few other places as transfers. If you are banking on a transfer, you better damn well put in the work to be be at the top of your class so you got a shot at it.

Alternative law school rankings are meaningless. How the heck does that pass for advice on selecting a school? No employer cares one iota about them.

Couple of points...first, beware of some lower tier law schools that offer lots of scholarships to incoming students. What they tend to do is grade on a very harsh curve such that most of the scholarships end after one or two semesters.

Second, the transfer point is really, really risky. I went to a top 20 school. The class ahead of me had no transfers. We had one. Think of all the law schools out there and only one transfer. This is not a path I would advise counting upon.

As sad as it is, the name of school will carry a lot of weight. A big firm would rather take an average law grad from a top tier school than the top person at a school that none have heard of or which has a bad rep.

My advice would be that if you do not get into a top 25 school, you may want to reconsider your goals. If you are looking to get into a big firm in NY, Boston, Chicago, LA, you are running a very high risk of great debt without the job. If you are looking to stay in your location, then it is ok. Law work is very, very regional and firms like hiring their own. If you are not from the city you are interviewing you will always be asked why do you want to come here?

On top of that, the legal explosion of the late 90s is gone and is not coming back. True, pay is high but the jobs are very scarce.

I am sorry if I am rambling but when I saw the advice on transferring, I had to add my 2 bits. Cheers.

I tend to think it is really who you know (at a firm) than what you know or what school you went to. Of course a top school will help in most cases, but they won't be getting a job over someone with connections and a "lower" education.

"I tend to think it is really who you know (at a firm) than what you know or what school you went to. Of course a top school will help in most cases, but they won't be getting a job over someone with connections and a "lower" education.

Sorry, beastlike, but this just isn't true, except maybe for a handful of people who aren't going to be worrying about student loan debt anyway. Biglaw hiring is the most mindlessly credentials-driven process there is. There's really nothing to tell most law students apart from one another except grades and schools, which at least provide name-brand snobbery value. Given the adequate supply of students with good grades from top schools, there's no reason at all for these firm to hire someone just because they're the cousin of the doctor of a partner.

I agree with the other posts above. If you can get good scholarships at a lower-ranked school and are happy with the prospect of a small local practice, working in your local DA's or PD's office, or other examples of that kind of work--which is fine and valuable work, and at least won't brutalize you like Biglaw does--then go ahead. Otherwise, if you don't get into a top 25 school, forget about it. You will almost certainly not get one of those high-paying jobs you hear about, and the profession is structured in such a way that the next most common salary is around $50K. You can't pay off a six-figure debt on $50K without killing yourself. It's not worth it.

Sarah and Todd are exactly right.

The best advice, truly, if someone is looking at wanting to get into biglaw, is this: talk to a lawyer who has been in biglaw for 5-8 years who is willing to be brutally honest with you. I recommend that because I think younger lawyers may be a bit too green and haven't connected all the dots yet and if you get too many years above that, the lawyers came into biglaw in just a different era and just aren't honest about how much the game has changed since they were starting out.

And have that conversation before you go to law school.

Fuck tuition. Just go to the University where you did your undergrad. Find out what the first year program is. Make your own schedule and sneak into the classes. By the time they catch on to what you`re doing you probably will have already proven yourself with the first mid-term and the first few assignments. Just make sure you make some good connections so you can get the online and virtual campus material (as well as any database or other electronic assignements). When, someone asks you what you did for 3 years, you say I went to law school. At the end of every class, don`t forget to ask your prof. for a type of affidavit saying you where present in every class.

Who are you Patrick? Do you realize that most law schools give one test at the end of the semester that comprises your entire grade? And, at least at my school, they assign a random number to an ACTUAL STUDENT to use on the exam instead of a name.

Plus, Sarah and Todd are exactly right. And even top 25 is no guarantee. I went to a top 25 school where only the top third got big jobs (and the curve was really close between the top 10% and the top 50%) and the rest were stuck with the bill. And stuck with the bill means a 50K year job with a 75K bill from law school (now it would be more like 100K).

I'm in law school right now, involved with the OCI process. I'm in top 33% in grades but most of the cherry interviews/jobs are going to top ten. And you know, I'm very ok with that. Biglaw is a vastly overrated brass ring when you work yourself to death and have no time for friends or family (or to spend your big dollars). Many of my top ten, law review friends are doing the interview process out of some sense of obligation, and are confessing these jobs they're interviewing for are jobs they do not want to do. You need to take a hard look at your values and the lifestyle that is sustainable.

You interested in law school? What do you want to do with your law degree? Understand how the world works, how the decision-makers make decisions? Try to stamp out homelessness or strengthen civil rights? Start your own business? A law degree is a route to all of these (of course there are others).

Sure do the financial math, that income potential versus money spent. And then do some life math and figure out what you actually want to do for the next 30 years. A JD opens -many- doors.

As a law school student who has spent much time developing connections w/local lawyers, I have found that even those lawyers who studied at bottom tier law schools have done fine. Yes, it might matter if you want to get into "big law" but, like I read earlier on this post, big law isn't all it's cracked up to be. When I was considering becoming a lawyer, I made the effort to ask every lawyer I met if they loved their job and why or why not. I found that almost every big law lawyer hated his or her job. Why? It's the countless hours you put in. 90 hours a week is not unheard of. What it comes down to is: How important is money to you? I have already calculated my student loan re-payment. I will owe about 90k coming out of law school. My payment will be $480 a month and I'm counting on starting out about $50k a year. What I'm saying is that it will work if you want it to. If you can sit down and work out your payments and put everything on paper, it helps. I would tell anyone that if they want to be a lawyer, then do it. You can do anything you work hard at and money or debt shouldn't be the top issue. If everyone thought about debt that way then we wouldn't have doctors or some of the great lawyers we have today. Sure you should be smart about it, if you have a family then re-think your options, yet some of the most successful lawyers I know in my town are moms who went to school while they had three kids at home, and others who went to bottom tier law schools. It's about your work ethic and your motivation. Don't let anyone tell you that you can't make money and be a great lawyer because of the law school you went to. That is just a lie I'm glad I didn't listen to.


that is actually the best advice ive heard least for me..i was working in finance and was laid off after lehman tanked...i was making 100k as a 25 yr old and now I am considering going to law school and doing public interest law..what i dont understand about those going to top 10 schools and then going into big law is why not go into i-banking, the money is better, the hours are similar and the work in my opinion is more interesting..being a corporate lawyer at a big law firm is similarly mindless if not more so because there is less innovation and un-humanitarian as finance but the money is better..not a lot of lawyering going on when you are doing document review or drafting prospectuses in my opinion..even if you are making 150k out of opinion of lawyers was always more about helping someone or giving legal advice to someone who doesn't understand the law rather than sitting behind a desk all day review hundreds of pages of docs..there needs to at least be some human interaction in my opinion..anyways, like you said, i feel like smaller law firms give you the ability to deal with people more regularly and connect to some degree on a personal level..just my humble opinion.

I got my MBA (GPA 3.7) at the age of sixty-five; now I am sixty-eight and want to go to law school but I do not have the funding. Can someone help. I am a Judge Pro Tempore but want to do more. Can you help me in this endeavor?

I was accepted to a top 25 law school and couldn't acquire a loan to go nor adequate scholarship money, internal or external. I wasn't granted a deferal and now I am back to submitting applications. Really wish I had taken the scholarship from the non name brand law school. At least I would be matriculating rather than reapplying

The comments to this entry are closed.

Start a Blog


  • Any information shared on Free Money Finance does not constitute financial advice. The Website is intended to provide general information only and does not attempt to give you advice that relates to your specific circumstances. You are advised to discuss your specific requirements with an independent financial adviser. Per FTC guidelines, this website may be compensated by companies mentioned through advertising, affiliate programs or otherwise. All posts are © 2005-2012, Free Money Finance.