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Trying to decide on Law Schools: Rutgers Newark vs Seton Hall vs Drexel
May 9, 2011 7:54 PM   Subscribe

Trying to decide on Law Schools: Rutgers Newark vs Seton Hall vs Drexel

So right now I'm trying to decide on which law school to attend. The three that I'm really considering are Seton Hall, Rutgers Newark, and Earle Mack Drexel.

So I have been trying to weigh the pro's and con's of each school, but I feel like there may be something that I might have wrong or might have overlooked.

What's the best school?

Seton hall is ranked 61, Rutgers Newark is 84, and Drexel is unranked (too new) in USnews.

How much do these ranks mean? Does the name recognition of Rutgers for instance make up for the fact that it's ranked lower than Seton Hall?

How big of a setback would be attending a very new school like Drexel?

Cost

Rutgers' tuition is $22,344 with a $8,000 scholarship while Seton Hall's tuition is $46,000 with a $32,000 scholarship. They both would cost about $14,000 a year to attend, but Seton Hall would hurt my bank account way more if I lost the scholarship. My parents live about 40 minutes to an hour (depending on traffic) from Rutgers and Seton Hall, so I would probably be commuting to those schools.

Attending Drexel which offers me a $32,000 scholarship for their $32,000 tuition is still an option. But it's less established, isn't in the area where I want to go to practice the law (I would like to practice law in either north jersey or new york, closer to the area where I grew up and where everyone I know lives), and would require me to pay for an apartment because it's not near my house. The apartment would probably cost in the same neighborhood that I would be paying to attend the other law schools. I wouldn't have to deal with my parents there, but I usually get along with my parents and not having to worry about food and board would be nice.

Rutgers looks like the best option price-wise due to the fear of losing my scholarship. In order to keep your scholarship, you need to be in the top half of your class for any of the three law schools. I don't plan on being on the bottom half of my class, but who does? I'm smart and hardworking, but isn't everyone who goes to law school. Then again they must be offering me a scholarship for a reason? Can anyone tell me how realistic of a possibility is keeping a scholarship at any of these places?

The Facilities

I've seen the Drexel campus, and it was very nice. I haven't seen the Rutgers or Seton hall campus's yet. So I don't know how they stack up. I will be visiting them tomorrow morning.

The Education

I'm not sure how my quality of education will be affected depending on the school.
I know that Drexel has a co-op program. Seton hall has health law and intellectual property. I'm not sure what specialties Rutgers Newark has to offer.

My Chance of Getting a Job
Jobs are hard to come by these days in the law profession. Will attending any of these law schools rather than another raise my chance of getting a job? As I said earlier I would want to get a job in either north jersey or new york, so again I'm guessing that either Seton Hall or Rutgers would be the better option in this category. But how much does where you study law affect where you end up working?

Thanks in advance for any answers I might get!
posted by AZNsupermarket to Law & Government (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would go to Seton Hall, but I am biased. I have relatives who went there because it was a good school, was local, they wanted to practice in Northern New Jersey and they got some aid. Sounds a lot like you. In fact, one of my relatives was a classmate of your Governor, Chris Christie. Both relatives did not want to work in NYC but rather wanted to work for medium to small local firms in Northern NJ. They both found jobs relatively easily, but that was years ago. I know that one of them occasionally interviews potential summer interns for his firm and they interview exclusively with local law schools.

I think you should consider contacting the hiring partner or the HR person at some Northern NJ firms and ask them the question. I am sure they would be happy to answer although I think they would say you need to do well or even excel at whatever school you attend. Make Law Review at any of your schools and you will find it that much easier to get a job.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:05 PM on May 9, 2011


Since none of the schools you are talking about are top tier, I think you should go where your debt will be the least. You will be so much more flexible in your employment if you aren't trying to make a large loan payment. The one downside to Drexel is probably that it doesn't have a big network for employment, but, hey, free law degree is a good law degree (assuming it's an accredited law school).

I also think when it comes to these types of law schools, you're likely to get a practical education (instead of a theoretical one that you'd get at a T25). That's a good thing. But it also means that the law firms that are in closest proximity to the school are most likely to hire you, because they are most likely to understand that. If you are first or second in your class, you might be able to go big-firm NY. If you aren't, you're going to have to work really hard to get good experience that will let you go somewhere else (assuming somewhere else = big firm, and that's what you want). If you're top 10-20% of your class, small/mid sized firms or government that are local might be an option - again, better options if you don't have debt.


[NOTE: There are lots and lots of question on here about this. You've read them? You've read all of us lawyers explaining why you shouldn't go to law school right now? Especially if there's going to be debt and especially if you're out of the T25? You've done your due diligence? (it sounds like maybe you haven't, since you haven't visited these schools, and don't know how your education will be impacted at each). Do you know what kind of law you want to practice? Have you ever worked at a law firm or for a lawyer? Have you considered being a paralegal?]
posted by dpx.mfx at 8:09 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would not go to Drexel. It has no ranking, no alumni network, and probably no accreditation yet. Those are big strikes.

As between Seton Hall and Rutgers, I don't mean to come off as an arrogant T14 guy, but that far down the rankings scale it is probably about a wash and I would go for the cheaper one. They are both well-known regional schools that are not going to get you much love more than maybe 100 miles away. As long as you're cool with that.

And, it sounds like the cost is about a wash as well if you can get and keep your scholarship. Whether that's realistic... it's hard to say without knowing you. I mean, top half is a lot easier than top quarter or B+ average or something like that. But you're right, it's a pretty brutal competition.

As for why they might give you a scholarship without much consideration of how likely you are to keep it, I leave you with this article.
posted by rkent at 8:14 PM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Did you read this NYT article about shady law school grants?

The rankings aren't amazing enough that they would be a deal breaker, I would go with Rutgers.
posted by Nickel Pickle at 8:48 PM on May 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


PLEASE reconsider your decision. I attend a T10 law school and less than 1/2 my class who participated in early interview week walked away with an offer. I got lucky.

It's absolutely brutal.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:58 PM on May 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


If you must, go for the cheaper option. The only thing that matters in law school is your grades. If you don't make the grades after the first semester, then you should seriously consider dropping out.

Or, you could save yourself the anguish of practicing in a soul sucking profession with little to no job satisfaction and decide to not go.
posted by reenum at 9:30 PM on May 9, 2011


Jobs are hard to come by these days in the law profession. Will attending any of these law schools rather than another raise my chance of getting a job?

No. None of the schools cited will help you in New York unless you are one of the top 10 graduating students. Maybe not even then.

How much do these ranks mean? Does the name recognition of Rutgers for instance make up for the fact that it's ranked lower than Seton Hall?

The rankings mean nothing past about #20 or so, at the level you're talking about they mean less than zero. #57 is the same as #83, neither one is getting you a job based on name recognition alone, you'll be relying entirely on your grades and your family's connections, and after those are done, pure luck or your own hustle. Further, the rankings are volatile. That low, 10-20 point drops are not uncommon in a single year. You may start at #40 and end at #66. Don't even consider going to an unaccredited or conditionally accredited school, that is madness.

I don't think you should not go to any of those law schools if you are paying even one dollar. You should only consider it if you have a full 3 year scholarship. You probably shouldn't even go then, law school is a losing value proposition right now things are not really looking up for the majority of graduates. As someone said already, even top 10 graduates are having a hard time.

Please read every link on metafilter about law school and the current law market before you shell out $200k, it really sounds like you have not considered this at all. Start here.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:03 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


*I don't think you should go...

Sorry about the poor editing. If I had went to a better law school I'm sure my posts would have fewer typos.
posted by T.D. Strange at 10:05 PM on May 9, 2011


Attending Drexel which offers me a $32,000 scholarship for their $32,000 tuition is still an option
Given the job market right now you should definitely go for the one that's not going to put you in debt. In terms of pure dollars and cents a law degree just isn't a very good investment right now. You'd be better off borrowing $40k and starting a business and if that doesn't work, you can always file for bankruptcy. With student loans you can't discharge the debt, ever.

I have a friend who graduated law school a couple years ago, the situation is DIRE
posted by delmoi at 10:16 PM on May 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Lots of valuable advice; if you've read a few of these Ask MeFi law school threads it won't be surprising. So I'm going to throw out some random questions that might help you out of your deadlock.

What sort of law do you want to practice, and why?

The LSAT essay assignment presented you with a simple dilemma - two mutually exclusive options, each of which had a unique mix of costs and benefits, whose full consequences might not be apparent in the short term. You were asked to pick one option and develop a reasoned argument for why you thought it a superior choice. If I remember correctly, 35 minutes are allowed to produce a short essay.

Repeat the exercise, treating your own post as the exam problem; you've pretty much described the potential problems with Drexel, and others have expanded on them, so try Seton Hall v. Rutgers first. But try it from the other two angles as well. Then try it as a 3-option argument. If developing arguments for their own sake doesn't sound like top fun, then law school's going to be a grind wherever you go.

Who's better - Penny-pinchers or an outlaw?
posted by anigbrowl at 11:56 PM on May 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nthing all of those who say do not go to law school.

Nthing all of those who say that if you insist on going, go where your debt load will be the lightest. Please do not forget the opportunity cost of going to law school. Unless you do an evening program and get a 100% scholarship, you will be giving up three years of income.

Do not go to an unaccredited or provisionally accredited law school.

This is assuming you did not already ace the LSAT and still insist on going to law school: Wait another year, take the LSAT again and study your ASS off, and apply to schools again.

Please bear in mind that outsourcing of legal work will only continue to grow. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts growth in the legal field to keep pace only with job growth in general:
Employment change. Employment of lawyers is expected to grow 13 percent during the 2008-18 decade, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
This is deeply problematic, as an op-ed in the LA Times explained:
From 2004 through 2008, the field grew less than 1% per year on average, going from 735,000 people making a living as attorneys to just 760,000, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics postulating that the field will grow at the same rate through 2016. Taking into account retirements, deaths and that the bureau's data is pre-recession, the number of new positions is likely to be fewer than 30,000 per year. That is far fewer than what's needed to accommodate the 45,000 juris doctors graduating from U.S. law schools each year.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 12:03 AM on May 10, 2011


None of the above.
posted by Gringos Without Borders at 5:06 AM on May 10, 2011


Obviously, you've got some more thinking to do, but it's clear you've given this some good consideration, which is great.

If you've read the other threads, you've probably seen my comments; I'm definitely a "don't go to law school" voice in the wilderness--usually because the posters have expectations that far outstrip their actual circumstances. They think they can go to a lower-ranked school and yet still make the big bucks, so they think they should/can take out any loans they can get approved for, and they'll just repay it out of their rich salaries.

That's not the case for them, and it's not the case for you. But you're focusing on cost and, again, that's great.

So, speaking in generalizations, what will you end up doing with a degree from these schools? In all likelihood, smaller litigation matters: some employment law, torts, some contracts stuff, maybe DUI and criminal, maybe family law. It's probably not going to be incredibly lucrative. I forget the figure for average non-big law salaries, but somewhere in the $60,000 range sounds about right. Of course, that's all lawyers in small shops--that's not your starting salary, that's the average of recent grads and long-time small firm partners and everyone in between.

If you go to Rutgers, say, and end up with $14,000 in loans per year (though it will be probably be higher, what with books etc.--it's always more... just don't take out the max!), you can probably service that loan on $60K.

But you won't make $60K right out of the gate, and you may well have to hang up your own shingle to have any job at all. So maybe you make $20K in your first year (if you gots some hustle), and a bit more after that, and so on.

And that doesn't leave a whole lot left for you, after all other expenses. It's tough out there.

Whether or not you make it will solely depend on 1) how hard you work in law school (and you must work harder than you've ever worked before, at least for 1L), 2) how much hustle you've got (are you ready to go stand outside the courthouse hustling for clients the day after you get admitted to the bar?); and 3) your support net and contacts (will your parents let you live at home? Are they in business/law, and do they have friends you can hit up for a job?).

Unless you've got incredible drive and great contacts, this may not be a great choice. Definitely go to the school with the lowest overall cost.

Give some good thought to whether you really want to do the kind of work going to these schools will allow you do.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:43 AM on May 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


None of the schools you're talking about will give you a snowball's chance in hell of landing a job with a decent salary when you get out. Many of them may not actually be able to land you a job of any description. The difference between a top-10 school and a 50-ish school is bigger than the difference between a 50-ish school and an unranked school.

Ergo, if you are dead set on doing this, go to the cheapest place you can.

But seriously, don't do this. Just don't.
posted by valkyryn at 6:25 AM on May 10, 2011


I got a free ride to law school right before the recession hit. I still walked out with about 50k in loans. Right now I work for myself, and my first year on my own I made around 15k.

If you must go, take on the least debt.
posted by freshwater at 6:55 AM on May 10, 2011


I agree with all of the above posts about why one should not go to law school, however, it is not clear whether your intent at pursuing a law degree is because you think it will lead to a job with a six-figure income, or, whether, for example, your intent is to practice law locally. If it's the former--then, yes, you will have a very hard time realizing your goal attending any of those law schools. If it's the latter, then you may have an easier time finding gainful employment after being graduated, but you will still have some debt hanging over you from your law school days.
posted by dfriedman at 6:55 AM on May 10, 2011


I definitely agree that you should be willing to drop out if it doesn't look like you'll get that merit scholarship.

I also think you should consider retaking the LSAT if you didn't do well, after a lot of study and practice.
posted by the young rope-rider at 6:57 AM on May 10, 2011


Law school is a losing proposition at the moment. Wait to see if market forces change in a few years. Then, go to a T 13 school or not at all. Brutal doesn't begin to describe it.
posted by slateyness at 7:06 AM on May 10, 2011


I graduated 10 yrs ago so I don't have experience with the craptastic job market admittedly. Don't to an unrated school. Don't go to an unrated school. Don't go to an unrated school. Got it? Good. I work at a small firm (something like where you will work i'm guessing) and I immediately dump all the resumes I see from unrated or unaccredited schools.
posted by bananafish at 7:34 AM on May 10, 2011


Nickel Pickle's NYT article is spot on. I went to law school on a merit scholarship with a full ride for my first year. I was somewhere in the top 8% of students admitted to my class in terms of the admission index. I got into a T20 school elsewhere, but was convinced by the scholarship and location.

You're right that everyone who goes to law school is smart and hard-working. So was I. But because everything is graded on a curve (and with the exception of your writing course, your entire grade is a single exam being graded on a curve, not periodic assignments and quizzes and things to help pad your grade), your ability to do well absolutely depends on how well or poorly your classmates do. If the person next to you nabs an A, that's one less A that's available for you. And everyone knows it.

The linked article talks about how many, many scholarships aren't renewed, and what it says about grading on a curve completely matches my experience. To make matters worse, they stacked all of the merit scholarship students in the same section. When there are only so many A's to go around, it really matters who your competition is. They did this so they would have to renew the fewest number of scholarships possible.

My scholarship was not renewed, even though I was on the Dean's list first semester and finished the year with a 3.2 GPA. I needed 3.25 to renew, was JUST shy, and I wasn't offered any money at all. Just "Sorry, you didn't make the cut."

I couldn't afford to continue without borrowing another 100K, and realized that I didn't really want to be a lawyer anyway. I left, and it was the best decision I made. (I would have graduated in 2008 and tried to enter one of the worst job markets the legal field has ever seen. Nearly all of my former classmates struggled to find jobs. I had a good one outside of the legal field and have kept it, without the crippling debt).

BUT...I still left with $20,000 in student loans, because books, and food, and bills to pay, and law school is a full time job. As someone mentioned above, there is an opportunity cost to consider. Please don't think that a full ride means no bills. You'll still have loans, more than likely. And betting on a school that you can't afford without the scholarship is hardly better than taking your tuition dollars to a casino. It might pay off, it might not, but the deck is definitely stacked against you.

Nobody could've told me that straight out of undergrad--I needed to make the $20,000 mistake to learn my lesson. I'm just glad I got out when I did. If you're determined to go to law school, the other advice in this thread is good. Just don't count on renewing your scholarship.
posted by terilou at 7:36 AM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Again, if you're not prepared to go to law school with no funding at all, do not go. If you are prepared to go to law school without funding, go to the one that gives you the best funding. If you're deciding between two schools with equal funding, go to the one with the cheaper tuition when you lose your funding.

In your case, that is Rutgers.

If, against all sound advice, you insist on attending law school, go to Rutgers. If you lose your scholarship, make sure you 100% understand the concept of sunk costs and seriously, seriously re-evaluate.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:36 AM on May 10, 2011


FYI: Drexel only has provisional ABA accreditation.
posted by tremspeed at 10:18 AM on May 10, 2011


I immediately dump all the resumes I see from unrated or unaccredited schools.

I'm torn. On the one hand, your time is valuable and I imagine your filtering system is the product of bitter experience with less obviously qualified candidates. On the other, doesn't such a hiring policy help to perpetuate the status quo of high priced law schools, to a small degree?

I don't mean to single out you or your firm for criticism. I'm just struck by the fact that there's been a chorus of complaints from the legal industry about the decline in quality of legal education, and how US News rankings have contributed to that, and of indifference on the ABA's part...and yet the same rankings and accreditation criteria seem to be the biggest determinants of employment prospects for new lawyers. I can't understand this; it's like complaining about the ubiquity of junk food before heading out for a Big Mac. One law dean (from a minor but moderately well-regarded school) recently castigated the legal establishment for perpetuating a setup that effectively reserves law school for the white and wealthy. I think he has a point; notwithstanding the academic achievements of some students (especially Asians), and the push for diversity in both scholarships and hiring, the playing field is heavily tilted in favor of the well-off, who can afford to write off the cost.

Now, there are other considerations as well: oversupply of new attorneys, and arguably an oversupply of law schools. Some of this price inflation is the result of the education loan system, which encourages schools to charge as much as they can get away with. On that basis alone, I'm sympathetic towards Rutgers - $23k a year in tuition is not cheap, but it's not staggeringly expensive either. I doubt that Seton Hall actually delivers an education that is twice as good, or that even its dean would make such a claim with a straight face; more likely the tuition differential stems from a combination of brand signalling and actuarial acumen. Even though this is an instance of monopolistic competition, at least the OP is being offered some variety; here in San Francisco, the cheapest ABA-accredited school (GGU SoL, as mentioned in that NYT article) charges $35-40k/year, despite having just emerged from ABA probationary status a few years ago. And GGU is a nonprofit institution!

Meanwhile, pro se representation becomes increasingly common because the most generous biglaw pro bono scheme can only serve a limited number of clients, and access to counsel is seen as a luxury by many at the bottom end of the market. There's a widespread perception that the legal system is dysfunctional in California, not least because of the trainwreck that the state's case management system has become. This may be why the state is moving to expedited trials for smaller matters. There's a 'Civil Gideon' law here too since 2009, but it has yet to make much impact, perhaps for lack of funding - I'm going to a debate about it tomorrow to get a better understanding of why.

It seems to me that the problem is not so much too many lawyers, but too many heavily indebted lawyers that can't win free of their financial obligations without a high-paying position at a large firm - positions which are in increasingly short supply as technology, globalization, and recession work their inexorable effect on traditional fee structures. Even if we shut down 75% of law schools tomorrow and channeled all the unemployed JDs into career rehab, would we be better off? If it's just an oversupply problem, does that mean law schools should continue to charge $1-200,000 a pop, but produce only 5 or 6,000 new lawyers a year, each of whom can look forward to a 6 figure income? that seems to have been the approach in the medical profession and it has kept salaries high, but I'm not sure it's sustainable for the long term.

OP, I hope you'll report back with your impressions after seeing both schools in person.
posted by anigbrowl at 12:59 PM on May 10, 2011


To quote a piece of bathroom graffiti at a T14 school, "no jobs, don't go."
posted by dredge at 3:02 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Hi OP,

Metafilter tends to be pretty brutal when it comes to law school questions. The advice is certainly helpful in many regards: this is a big undertaking, so make sure that you understand (a) the full financial costs you will be taking on, (b) the state of the legal job market, and (c) the nature of the work you will be doing once you are an attorney. Take a hard look at each of these things before you commit.

That being said, Metafilter tends to be overly pessimistic on this issue. If you've satisfied yourself with (a), (b) and (c), and you are certain you want to go to law school, by all means, go ahead. Seton and Rutgers are both good regional schools- and if you see yourself wanting to practice in NJ, then they are very viable options. Definitely think about price! You'll be taking on a lot of debt, and every little bit counts. You should consider what your likely monthly payments out of school will be, and whether you can reasonably expect a salary sufficient to meet these payments and still live well.

I didn't get into a top fourteen law school, and many people here were insistent that it wasn't worth it for me to go. ("go to a T14, or don't go at all.") A lot of people who give such advice are or were in the T14 category, and have neither the perspective nor the experience to say otherwise. I am here to tell you that law school can be a rewarding career choice outside of the T14, and not just for the top 5% of students. Yes, it is true that your OCI process will be weaker than those of the top schools. You will have to do more legwork on your end to land a job. But many of the good regional schools have strong regional networks in place, and you can make use of this. See if you can get a feel for the strength of such alumni networks at the schools you are looking at.

I think a lot of people arguing against law school overlook or unfairly discount a few things. First, it is no longer 2008, and the legal job market has already bottomed out. Yes, the market is still significantly smaller than its' pre-recession height; and yes, the price of law school is fantastically high. But the massive uncertainty that permeated the industry a few years ago is in the process of receding, and I think this allows you to make reasonable assumptions about your future prospects and earning potential.

Second, and more importantly: people (here on metafilter, and in the legal world generally) seem to discount legal work that is not biglaw: there's frequently a perception that any job not with a top New York firm (or an equivalent elite position in the federal government) is neither a rewarding place to spend your time, nor financially viable. This again, isn't realistic thinking. There's a vast divide between biglaw associates and contract work. This divide includes small firm work, work for the federal and state governments. It can involve legal aid work, prosecutorial work, positions with state courts and state legislatures, federal and state agencies, etc. & etc. These will not provide the millions associated with Biglaw partnership, but people can and do lead valid and fulfilling lives working such jobs while still managing to pay down their student loans. Not getting a biglaw position out of the on campus interview process is in no way tantamount to failure.

You are taking a risk. A significant risk. You'll be taking on a lot of debt, and you'll have to do well in law school in order to distinguish yourself. And yes, you might end up finding yourself doing relatively menial legal work and struggling to service your law school debt. But that is not a certainty. Just inform yourself of the risks, and of the likely outcomes of your career choice. As long as you're making an informed decision, go for it.
posted by HabeasCorpus at 4:04 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a number of disagreements with HC's advice.

I didn't get into a top fourteen law school, and many people here were insistent that it wasn't worth it for me to go. ("go to a T14, or don't go at all.") A lot of people who give such advice are or were in the T14 category, and have neither the perspective nor the experience to say otherwise.

I don't actually see anyone making this argument here, but I grant it gets made. Still, many people here (myself included) have also said don't go to law school, period. I would tell someone not to go to a T14, too. I went to a T14 and got laid off in 2009. I know a lot of people at T14s right now who can't get jobs. It's brutal out there.

What's more, I don't think it's wise to discount advice from people who went to T14s, merely because they went to such schools. In my career, I mostly worked with people who did not go to T14 schools, including several people who worked full-time while doing evening programs at schools like Rutgers (in fact, including Rutgers). I feel my perspective is sufficiently broad to know what's going on in the legal market.

Yes, it is true that your OCI process will be weaker than those of the top schools. You will have to do more legwork on your end to land a job. But many of the good regional schools have strong regional networks in place, and you can make use of this.

I think this is sugar-coating: weaker, more legwork. Everything is weaker, everyone is doing more legwork. Indeed, schools are flat-out lying about their placement success, including T14s:
Certain definitions in the surveys seem open to abuse. A person is employed after nine months, for instance, if he or she is working on Feb. 15. This is the most competitive category -- it counts for about one-seventh of the U.S. News ranking -- and in the upper echelons, it's not unusual to see claims of 99 percent and, in a handful of cases, 100 percent employment rates at nine months.

A number of law schools hire their own graduates, some in hourly temp jobs that, as it turns out, coincide with the magical date. Last year, for instance, Georgetown Law sent an e-mail to alums who were ''still seeking employment.'' It announced three newly created jobs in admissions, paying $20 an hour. The jobs just happened to start on Feb. 1 and lasted six weeks.

A spokeswoman for the school said that none of these grads were counted as ''employed'' as a result of these hourly jobs. In a lengthy exchange of e-mails and calls, several different explanations were offered, the oddest of which came from Gihan Fernando, the assistant dean of career services. He said in an interview that Georgetown Law had ''lost track'' of two of the three alums, even though they were working at the very institution that was looking for them.
I think a lot of people arguing against law school overlook or unfairly discount a few things. First, it is no longer 2008, and the legal job market has already bottomed out. Yes, the market is still significantly smaller than its' pre-recession height; and yes, the price of law school is fantastically high. But the massive uncertainty that permeated the industry a few years ago is in the process of receding, and I think this allows you to make reasonable assumptions about your future prospects and earning potential.

The market has bottomed out - maybe. But every forecast says there will not be enough new openings to keep pace with the number of law graduates being churned out.

Second, and more importantly: people (here on metafilter, and in the legal world generally) seem to discount legal work that is not biglaw: there's frequently a perception that any job not with a top New York firm (or an equivalent elite position in the federal government) is neither a rewarding place to spend your time, nor financially viable.

No one actually even mentioned the phrase "biglaw" (except for one off-hand reference to pro bono programs) in this thread, or even held this idea out as some sort of standard against which all other jobs must be measured. (See Admiral Haddock's comment for a good counterexample.) The competition for all manner of legal jobs is intense these days. There are just too many lawyers and not enough jobs, period. That situation will, quite literally, never improve. It's a simple fact of nature. Even if you have no intention of seeking the brass ring at some biglaw firm, just getting a decent, regular job (to the extent such a thing even exists in the legal world - many would say the very idea is a unicorn) which will allow you to service your loans is a brutal undertaking.

I don't think the mainstream Metafilter thinking on law school is pessmistic. I think it's very realistic. It just happens to be exceedingly ugly out there with no chance of improvement, so the forecast is dour. But not pessimistic.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 11:52 PM on May 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Regarding outsourcing, give this Economist article a read: here.

For more nthing of post-lawschool scary stories, I strongly recommend reading the current incarnation of the Something Awful Law School Megathread aptly titled: Started out Barrister, Ended up Barista. (which succeeds the past thread: Went to Valpo, Dine on Alpo)
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 12:19 AM on May 11, 2011


As a mental excercise, take a stroll through the craigslist job boards in your area. You'll probably notice that: (A) there are a lot more openings for legal secretaries and paralegals than for an attorney, and that some legal support jobs specifically state "No JD applicants will be considered" (B) that the attorney openings come in a few types- very low paid positions in the 35-45k range, document review gigs, midlevel associate head hunter ads or partner level jobs looking for portable clients (C) you're not going to see many ads looking for young, entry level attorneys to start with a firm and train into the job and the ones you do will likely say "Top 20 school, excellent grades, law review required" or similar.

Try the same thing with some other job boards if you like, you'll probably see the same things. Internet job boards are a crude tool sure, but even a cursory glance can tell you the legal market is pretty poor.

Also, I wouldn't count on the federal government being an option. Most agencies are on a total hiring freeze and the teabaggers are still itching to slash more workers, cut salaries and benfits and roll back non-defense spending to 1850s levels. It's pretty unlikely that the feds are going to be hiring more than maybe a couple hundred lawyers a year for the forseeable future, and competition for those positions will be as stiff as for the big firm jobs.
posted by T.D. Strange at 8:55 AM on May 11, 2011


@anigbowl -- when I'm hiring an attorney I don't really care about whether the current system is too expensive or unfair. All I care about is that my clients get quality legal representation. My experience with opposing counsel from unaccredited schools has been nightmarish, so I just don't waste my time with candidates from those schools. I do consider candidates from T1 and T2 and even on occasion T3 schools. In my experience, there are really good lawyers from T2 and T3 schools. And many T1 graduates are looking for high-profile big law jobs and wouldn't be happy in a small firm in any event.
posted by bananafish at 11:56 AM on May 11, 2011


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