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Law School question

Discussion in 'Legal' started by beerslurpy, Jan 13, 2006.

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  1. beerslurpy

    beerslurpy member

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    I got 96th percentile on the LSAT and I'm applying to law schools now. I am pretty sure I want to do trial law. Beyond that I am leaning slightly towards patent or technology law since I am already an engineer. Obviously I have a few years to decide what I specialize in. Also, I have been out of school for about 8 years and I am a software engineer.

    Also, full time or part time? Full time will require me to eat ramen and possibly sell the house. Part time will put a strain on my time, no more posting on the interweb and no clerking during the off season. But I will have a lot more money if I do part time because I will be working.

    My main worry with doing full time or going to *choke* california would be what to do with the guns and the car. My relatives (including inlaws) live in NY (NYC), CA (LA), IL (chicago), MA and the UK (yes, that country). It is a miracle I turned out like I did. Or maybe it isnt, actually.

    Any suggestions? Lawyers? Anyone? Bueller?
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2006
  2. Boats

    Boats member

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    My one piece of advice:

    Unless you are going to a law school with a national reputation, (and they are all full time), chances are good that you will practice in the state or region in which your law school is.

    Choose a school somewhere you won't mind getting stuck if that's what happens.
     
  3. beerslurpy

    beerslurpy member

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    Ok, that is my main confusion at the moment. What is considered a "national reputation?" Top 10? Top 20? Top 50? Some law schools seem to have national reputations in 1-2 areas and merely regional reputations in others.

    Then again, once you are a lawyer, doesnt your reputation as an actual practicer of law go a long way towards determining what your job opportunities are?

    Besides knowing a few people I met there, going to a semi-big-name private university didnt really do much for my employment opportunities. I basically just followed word of mouth about how awesome a programmer I am.
     
  4. gtd

    gtd Member

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    Full time gets it done.

    Part time takes only 1 extra year, but you can work.

    Tailor your experience to your personality -- if you are interested in appellate work, you must be a bookworm and you should target a great, nationally recognized school. Trial work is more rough and tumble.

    Don't lock yourself in, though. No one ends up doing what they plan to do. Just get the best law school education you can afford, and be open-minded about how you might use that education.

    And, if it isn't fun it isn't worth doing.
     
  5. Matthew Gross

    Matthew Gross Member

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  6. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Law school is like Jr. High, only with longer knives and higher IQ's.

    Patent law is a great direction, if you have the hard science background to pass the patent bar and if you can tolerate a career dealing with technical and legal aspects of patents. It can be highly lucrative and the demand for patent attorneys continues to be high. If you want to go that route, you should think about taking a stab at the patent bar during law school, since it may take several attempts to pass. Failed attempts do not count against you--it's more akin to a civil service examination than the actual bar exam for a state. You do not have to have a JD to become a Patent Agent.

    Law School and the market for clerks and associates is brutal and Kafkaesque. It operates on its own rules. Here are my three cents:

    --Aim for a top 50 law school within the state or area of states you hope to practice in. For example if you want to practice law in Wyoming or Montana, going to UW is a better idea than going to a smaller less well known law school in Wyoming or Montana.

    --Focus on your CLASS RANK. This is the single most important factor in getting you a job. More important to a great extent than the school you go to. You should work yourself hard and long as a 1L and focus on getting top grades. The ideal spot is the top 10%, which gets you into the Order of the Coif. After that come the top 25% crew and after that the top third. The grades that matter least are those from your last semester, so burn your energy that first year.

    --Get into a good clerkship in your 2nd year if you can, or into an externship. The clerkship system is something of a vestige from the old days before the modern law school system, when many became lawyers through practicing as a law clerk for a lawyer for several years. The idea these days is that being a clerk at a big firm will give you a leg up on getting in as an associate. However I found this not to be the case in my own experiences and in those of my classmates. At big firms, the hiring attorneys for CLERKS are usually low level associates, while the hiring attorney for associates is a partner. Getting a high ranking is more important than your clerkship. In fact if you can get some good externship programs or trial practice courses those would work just as well for the resume as the clerkship.

    --Try to get into law review. The law review is a legal journal edited by students and published by the school. In the old days law reviews tended to focus on black letter legal issues that were of some importance to practicing attorneys. These days most law review articles are used to get professors tenure and are meaningless left wing garbage. Nobody reads them but other professors. HOWEVER, being on the law review has a certain cache, esp. with older partners. It's worth doing if you can swing it. Some schools still pick law review students based on class rank, but others have a writing competition to decide.

    --As far as jobs go, it's a nasty system. There's no other way to put it. You can expect to have several long knives in your back before it's over. The goal is to land a position as an associate before you graduate. The main route for doing this is the on campus interview, which is controlled by the firms via the career services office. This is the real game. Do not get confused by idiotic and pointless career tips from professional academics. They are usually clueless. The real game is nasty and highly competitive. Most firms will not even talk to those outside the top half, and depending on how famous your school is most want those from the top quarter at least.
     
  7. beerslurpy

    beerslurpy member

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    Only took the LSAT once and got 167.

    My undergrad course of study was premed at hopkins, which is pretty brutal. The classes are all graded on a harsh curve to get people to drop out of premed. It is a pretty humbling experience and definitely not worth it if you arent totally dedicated to the medical track. My GPA was just under 3.0 when I graduated. Lowered by my lack of caring anymore around the middle of senior year when I withdrew my med school apps.

    This was 7 years ago. Obviously my career took a different path. I switched to software and have been programming ever since.

    On LSAT alone, I look well matched for the best schools. And way overqualified for the lower tier ones.
    On GPA alone, I look unqualified for anything.
    Obviously, something isnt right here.

    Every lawyer I spoke to said that my GPA wouldnt really count for anything due to my age and that my LSAT were definitely good enough fior most schools.
     
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2006
  8. beerslurpy

    beerslurpy member

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    Hahahah yeah, I live and breathe technical and legal aspects of everything. Part of me wants to apply to GMU because they have a kickass technical law program and they are conservative and in virginia. And the magic 8 ball says I will get in. But part of me has grown to love Florida.

    edit: thanks Cosmo, that was very informative.
     
  9. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Member

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    Keep in mind that the admissions folks WILL ABSOLUTELY take the undergrad school's reputation for toughness into account. It's not a blind process. If your LSAT's are good and the school you came out of was a tough nut, the actual GPA figures can be lower. A 4.0 from Brown has less weight than a 3.0from a meaner school.

    Also, the good news is that the SECOND YOU TAKE YOUR CHAIR on the first day of class, the LSAT score is meaningless, and your undergrad GPA only matters if it's exceptionally poor.

    The fellow from my class making the most money is the guy who passed the patent bar and knows Japanese. On the plus side, he's making about ten times more than I ever will. On the down side, he's got to spend long hours dealing with Japanese patents! I'm not sure I'd want to trade places with him.
     
  10. medic_guns

    medic_guns Member

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    I am considering applying for law school as well. Right now, I work in public accounting and have passed one part of the CPA exam on the first attempt. I should finish all parts by this summer. An attorney I spoke with advised me to get a JD anywhere I could because it will not really matter, as I am thinking of working for myself representing clients in tax matters before the IRS and tax court. He also said that all I needed to do was get enough to pass the bar. In my case, I am 38 y.o., worked as a paramedic, owned my own business, graduated w/ 3.46 GPA, and now work in a firm. I really believe that I will never make it into one of the top programs out there. I'm not really connected, and I'm not really interested in working for others. Anyway, I wasn't trying to hijack your thread. I have been kicking around the idea of going to law school for some time because I have heard that the CPA/J.D. combination is practically a license to print money.:evil:
     
  11. publius

    publius Member

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    I'll take care of 'em for ya! ;)

    I say keep programming and just hire a lawyer if you need one.
     
  12. Henry Bowman

    Henry Bowman Senior Member

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    I am a patent attorney. Call me. PM sent with number.
     
  13. Father Knows Best

    Father Knows Best Member

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    Cosmo gave you excellent advice. I'm happy to give you a lot more, so I'm gonna send a PM with my contact info, also. FYI, I got my B.S. and J.D. from the University of Michigan (91 and 94, respectively). I spent five years doing trial work (products liability and toxic tort, mostly), and for the last 6-1/2 years have been in-house counsel for a medical technology company. My practice is global now, but I'm licensed in Michigan, Arizona and Tennessee.
     
  14. beerslurpy

    beerslurpy member

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    I feel the love. PMs received. Thanks guys.
     
  15. engineer151515

    engineer151515 Member

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    I've been seriously considering a law school direction.

    I'm a registered professional chemical engineer in 5 states. 20 years experience. My kids are almost grown and out of school. I will be single soon (sad but true). Therefore, I reason, I should have the time and resources to at least do an internet study toward a law degree. I've seriously considered Kaplan/Concord Law School but haven't pulled the trigger yet.
     
  16. Northslope Nimrod

    Northslope Nimrod Member

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    DON'T DO IT!

    Go to Pharmacy School and make more money in a four day work week than most trial attorneys.
    Have I convinced you yet?
    Well, if you must go to Law School:
    1. Any tier one or tier two school is fine.
    2. Most state sponsored schools are fine.
    3. Don't be too concerned about going to Ivy League unless you aspire to be a Supreme Court Clerk or a partner in a national firm or something.
    4. If you are looking at being a trial attorney....focus on finsihing as fast as you can and with as little debt as you can. If you are $100k in debt you will almost be forced to sell you soul to a firm to pay back your loans.
    5. I recommend full time if it is at all possible. In fact, if I had to do it part time, I would consider something else.

    Advice for law school: The key is formulating concise rules of law from each case and then memorizing them. Once they are cemented in your brain....the analyzation will come naturally...unless you just aren't the analytical type....if you are not...then lawschool won't help. The professors will try to convince you that memorizing rules is not the key. Don't listen. They are looking for buzz words and rules and a short, concise analysis and an even shorter conclusion on their exams. GOOD LUCK!
     
  17. Dannyboy

    Dannyboy Member

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    Count me as another one thinking of law school. My course will look something like medic's. I'm graduating in May with an accounting degree and planning on passing the CPA test by 2008 and then law school. From everything I've been told and read, Cosmoline is pretty much right on the money.
     
  18. Marty Hayes

    Marty Hayes Member

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    I'm in my 3rd year at Concord, be happy to answer any questions about the program.
     
  19. engineer151515

    engineer151515 Member

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    Thanks. That is kind. Because of some uncertainty, it may be next year before I could start. Email to mikejengineer@earthlink.net and we can talk. I congratulate you on your progress.
     
  20. USMCRotrHed

    USMCRotrHed Member

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    Full Time

    I too was looking at law school. One of my concerns was the fulltime/part time question. Every law school I looked at would only accept full time 1L's. You had an option of going part time after the first year. Even at part time, schools will only allow you to work 30 hours a week.

    By national law schools, any law school with a great reputation will do. With a 96th percentile LSAT (I'm jealous), and a GPA of that caliber, you should get in anywhere you want to go. If you think you may someday want to be a federal judge, go to an Ivy League school, Harriet Myers helped prove that SMU doesn't cut it. Otherwise, it is generally accepted practice to go to school where you want to work. You will learn the laws of that region as well as make vital contacts that will lead to jobs. Here in Oklahoma, I know of several companies that only hire lawyers who graduated from the U of Oklahoma.

    When I looked at the big picture under my circumstances, I chose to get a masters in MIS instead. Half the time, 10% of the tuition, just as good pay, more time for family and hobbies! But I still want to go to law school, I understand your desire.
     
  21. Father Knows Best

    Father Knows Best Member

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    Wow. Lots of would-be lawyers here. Some general thoughts/comments for all:

    1. If you want to be able to write your own ticket, i.e., work just about anywhere and make lots of money, then get into patent law. To become a patent lawyer, you need a hard science or engineering degree, and a law degree. Once you have those, and get admitted to practice before the USPTO, you're golden. Corporate America can't get enough patent lawyers. Trial lawyers, general corporate lawyers, etc., are a dime a dozen, but patent lawyers are gold. They also make more money to start than any other specialty. Rookie patent lawyers can easily make $150-200,000 a year.

    2. Trial work is exciting and fun (I used to do it), but not very lucrative except for a very elite few. The best trial lawyers (plaintiff and defense) make into the millions. Plaintiffs' work can make you a multi-millionaire. For every trial lawyer who makes $250,000+ per year, though, there are a dozen who can't afford to replace their 1984 Chevy that burns oil. It's also extremely risky and high stress -- very hard on your health and your family life. Many, many of my colleagues who started out in trial law have long since burned out -- quite a few have given up law altogether. If you really want to become a trial lawyer, I recommend starting out as a prosecutor. It doesn't pay very well, but you get a lot of great experience that will pay off in the future.

    3. Debt will kill your options. Law school loans are the proverbial "golden handcuffs." I turned down a job with the Michigan Attorney General that I really wanted because I had $80,000 in debt and the job didn't pay enough. Instead, I joined a big law firm for twice the salary. It worked out o.k. in the long run, as I now (twelve years later) have a great corporate job that pays well, but it sucked back then to have to take a job I didn't want 'cause I couldn't afford the one I did. :cuss:

    4. If you want to be a federal judge or an academic (professor), you need a top 10 law school and a good judicial clerkship (federal appellate, at least). That means schools like Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Virginia, Michigan, Chicago, Berkeley, NYU, etc. If you want to be a practicing lawyer, though, I don't recommend those schools. They're too expensive and the education tends to be too theoretical. If someone else is paying your way, and you can get into Yale, then go for it. If you have to pay for it yourself, then there are better values. I know a lot of very good and very successful lawyers, and very few of them went to a "top 10" law school.

    5. If you know the region you want to practice in, then go to school there. The school should be "good", but doesn't need to be the "best." You'll have better job prospects as a top 5% student from a lower-tier school than as a sub-par student at a top school. In addition, the middle tier schools tend to be less expensive, and tend to have more available in the way of scholarships and financial aid. I passed up a 100% scholarship to a lower-tier school to pay my own way at Michigan. Big mistake. :banghead:

    6. If you really don't know the region you want to practice in, you should stick with a school that has somewhat of a national reputation. That means top 50, not top 10 or even top 20. Lots of state schools qualify here.

    7. In terms of you job opportunities upon graduation, your performance at school matters a lot more than what school you went to. Your undergrad GPA and LSAT score mean nothing. Your undergrad degree does matter, especially if it qualifies you to sit for the patent bar. Once you've been in practice for about 5 years, though, your track record in practice will matter far more than anything else. Still, your law school and grades will determine what doors get opened for you early on.
     
  22. liberty911

    liberty911 Member

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    Having gone through law school 7 years ago I agree with everything said by Father Knows Best and Cosmoline. I'll add the following:

    No matter what, be sure the law school you attend is accredited. Most every state will permit you to sit for the bar if you attend an acceditated law school.

    Tuition should be a major consideration. There is nothing like getting out of law school owing $100k. State school will have the lowest tuition. My diploma and bar card allows me to practice in any state and is just as valid as one from Harvard or Yale. I run into attorneys who pride themselves in graduating from Ivy League school and seem to believe the name of the school gets them extra credit. Those they associate with have a good laugh.

    I took the 2.5 year "Spring Admit" program. Two and one-half years and I was out. This required year-round attendance. I was able to squeeze an extership with the Court of Appeal into the school year for credit. I had friend that took the "part-time" night school. Their class load was 1 class fewer per semester and required one more year of attendance. IMO, it is best to concentrate on the schooling and not have to concentrate on other aspects. Law school takes a lot of dedication and studying, especially in the first year. There is little time for other activites.


    Generally, you can classify the tier of school by the jobs graduates receive:

    People who go to Ivy League school usually end up working for someone else at a large firm. 60-90 hrs a week.

    People who go to middle-tier schools work for the government.

    People who go to lower tier school have their own practice.
     
  23. Legion1776

    Legion1776 Member

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    Here's a site that is great for looking at various law school statistics based on applicants GPA's LSAT scores etc.


    www.lawschoolnumbers.com
     
  24. lysander

    lysander Member

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    Wow....I had no idea that we had so many law types hanging out here at THR and some bright ones to boot. :) (self excluded)

    Allow me to add my two cents (adjust for inflation as you will...being that I am still a law student.):

    1) I add my support to the previous statements made about the top 25 schools. Do you have intentions to teach or sit on the federal bench? If not...save the money and find a different program. Do you want to work at one of the mighty national firms? If not...see previous. I have two family members (by marriage) who attended both Harvard and Illinois. They entered practice at "law factory firms", slaved to pay off loans, hated their lives and quit. One is out of the law altogether, the other is now enjoying life as a prosecutor.

    2) Cost, Cost, Cost! To me it is everything. I started law school in downtown Chicago at an expensive private school (I was lured with a scholarship) and due to personal issues found myself failing out after a single semester. That single semester cost me a pretty sum...I'm currently enrolled at a state school where the costs are significantly lower...and the quality of education is actually higher.

    3) Time...I am a bit older than most of the students in my class (closing in on 31). I worked and experienced life for awhile following undergrad...so I decided that I would drop out of the rat race and commit to full time. I am going to run up bills regardless...so I may as well compress the time and get it over with. My wife has been gracious enough to carry much of the financial burden (thank goodness....she is far better than I deserve...I remain baffled at my ability to play above the rim in this respect) so I will not work at all through the remainder of my first year. It is my intention to take as full a load as I can this summer and next...in the hopes that I can get myself out early. YMMV.

    4) Course of Study...your first year classes are picked for you, so you will have time to figure out which direction you want to go professionally. When I started my law school quest...I had entirely different professional goals than I do now.Get your feet wet...and you will gravitate to what you enjoy and/or excel at.

    Best of luck to you!


    P.S. I wish I had the foresight as an undergrad to pursue a "hard degree" like engineering or something similiar...you are in an enviable position. :p
     
  25. El Tejon

    El Tejon Member

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    lysander, expensive private school? Was that Kent? I'm Chicago-Kent, '95.:)

    I can only add the following: if you go, go full time. Before you go to law school, go to law school. Many private tutoring programs available now. It will help you especially your first year which controls your future in law school.

    I worked full-time and went to school full time. You can make it work if you want to.:)
     
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