How important are Law School rankings?

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Holadem, Feb 22, 2006.

  1. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Moving is not an option (for now), my choices are limited to the 3 schools within driving distance. According to the US New and World Report, my first choice (public school) is ranked in the 40s, while the other 2 (private) are Tier 4 institutions. Tuition is not an issue (long story).

    My LSAT score is decidedly average (57th percentile :b), which should get me into 2 of the three schools for Fall 2006. I also know that if I took the LSAT again, with some effort I could do well enough to be admitted to the 1st school, but that would be for Fall 2007.

    Is the prospect of getting into the better institution worth waiting a year and a half? Or should I start at the lower ranked schools and consider transferring later?

    The ultimate goal is Patent Law, in Electrical Engineering (my current profession). I will be attending part-time (4 years). By the time I graduate I will be in my early 30s, with about 10 years of engineering experience. My reason for mentioning my age comes from the belief that the school matters less in my target profession (as opposed to say, criminal law) than my engineering experience, but I could be wrong.

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    H
     
  2. LDfan

    LDfan Supporting Actor

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    I'd say it is very important if you want to practice in the big firms. They tend to be very selective for upper tier schools however you could always start off at a lower tier school and transfer to a better one.
    Here is a rather interesting link for you. This is the firm my wife works at.

    http://www.law.com/jsp/article.jsp?id=1133863507262

    Jeff
     
  3. MichaelBA

    MichaelBA Supporting Actor

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    Holadem, I'm an attorney and a professor of law, if that helps you judge my opinion. My personal experience and years of advising/aiding students attain their career objectives have led me to conclude decisively that rankings matter far more than anything else.

    The choice between a school in the 40s now and a top tier school 18 months later is almost no-brainer. Of course, this is contingent upon your actually achieving a higher LSAT score on a later test.

    Transferring used to be almost a non-option, something rarely allowed between law schools. It is much more common now, but still not easy. You would pretty much assuredly need to excel in every aspect during your first year at the 40s ranked school, which means essentially top 10% and selection for law review. Even then, there is no guarantee would be likely or possible. Transferring from one similarly ranked school to another has become typical, but it is still extremely hard to transfer from a low-ranked school to a top tier institution.

    Your significant background in engineering is not irrelevant by any means, but your goal in terms of employment is also a key element to your decision. If you intend to seek a position at an elite law firm, then you would be crippling your chances by not attending a top tier school. If you intend to seek a position at a mid-size or smaller firm, then a 40s ranked school would be competitive, provided you do well, of course.

    I hope this helps a bit!

    Michael
     
  4. Erik_C

    Erik_C Stunt Coordinator

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    Hi. Jeff's right. I'm a criminal defense lawyer in DC. I went to George Washington, a top 20 law school. I've worked for a high-end boutique firm, a really big firm, and now have my own practice. The only place that cared about my school's ranking and my grades was the big firm. (In fact, my boutique firm had a no-Harvard rule, based on bad past experiences.)
    It all depends on what your goal is. If you want a big firm (and other than paying off debt, why would you? They're horrible places to work, generally), school ranking, Law Review, and grades are all they look at. The small shops, which are a lot more fun and rewarding (and where you will do real work right away) don't care as much, within reason.
    Feel free to PM me to discuss more if you want.
    -Erik
     
  5. Holadem

    Holadem Lead Actor

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    Gentlemen, I appreciate the insight.

    Michael, the school that is ranked in the 40s is what the USNWR ranking system calls Top Tier. Apparently your definition is much narrower [​IMG].

    My target school is pretty good, average 1st year undergrad GPA is around 3.3-3.4 (works for me), LSAT is around 160-164 (At 153, I am way below that, but am confident I can hit that range if I try again).

    The thought of delaying this thing for another year is killing me.

    There is an AWFUL lot of emphasis on getting into the best Law School one can afford. So my question is, what becomes of the vast majority of lawyers who did NOT graduate from top schools? Is there anyone out there who is making a good living as an attorney, and did not attend Yale and the like?

    I don't. I will take the salary cut for a decent lifestyle. I did the 60hours a week thing for 3 years right out of college, and don't intend to do it again, not on a consistent basis. It was grueling enough right out of college, I will not be put through a boot camp in my 30s. I am not lazy, but I will not live for work either [​IMG].

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    H
     
  6. MichaelBA

    MichaelBA Supporting Actor

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    Everything you're saying, Holadem, seems to me to indicate that you should go for the 40s ranked schools that want you right now. No need to wait. I know very many students that came out of much lower ranked schools who ended up with great careers, both personally and financially.

    I'm in NYC, so in this brutally competitive environment only the first 10, if that many, schools on the USNWR list are colloquially considered the "top."

    But you don't need to narrow yourself that way unless you explicitly and immediately after graduation want to work at an elite firm (I'm sure you know all the names -- Cravath Swaine, Wachtell Lipton, Cleary Gottlieb, Skadden Arps, etc), OR you are interested in becoming a law professor at a major law school.

    Otherwise, accept UCONN's offer and don't look back!
     
  7. Mike Graham

    Mike Graham Supporting Actor

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    What part of New England are you in? North of the border in Canada is the law school at the University of New Brunswick, and is ranked in the top 5 of the country's law schools...
     
  8. Shane Martin

    Shane Martin Producer

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    Holadem,
    Check your PM's. I know someone that you should talk to. He's a patent attorney working in NYC and would be good to talk to. He's not a member here anymore because he spends his time at another forum.

    That said I don't think his opinion will be any greater than what you have here but it's good to hear different opinions to see what avenues you should explore.
     
  9. Leo Hinze

    Leo Hinze Stunt Coordinator

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    Good luck.
     

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