Will my friend ever get admitted into law school?
January 26, 2011 5:16 PM   Subscribe

Will my friend ever get admitted into law school?

I have a friend (yes really, a friend) who is absolutely determined to become a lawyer. Problem is, he has an undergraduate GPA in the 2.2-2.3 range and an LSAT score below 160. I told him that he wouldn't get in but he is applying anyway.

He suggested that he take extra classes to raise his GPA. Would this even work? Is there any way for him to achieve his goal?

I'm mostly just asking out of curiosity, but I'll be sure to share any constructive advice that AskMe may have to offer.
posted by Lobster Garden to Education (47 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
What's his race?
posted by John Cohen at 5:18 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: White.
posted by Lobster Garden at 5:18 PM on January 26, 2011

LSAT scores count more than GPA--he should plan to rewrite it as soon as possible and ace it. There are study guides and course.
posted by fatbird at 5:19 PM on January 26, 2011

The law schools that will take him will provide him with a very, very expensive degree that he will almost certainly not be able to use. There are exceptions, but few.
posted by proj at 5:23 PM on January 26, 2011 [9 favorites]

Taking extra classes may raise his GPA, assuming the school in question wants all of the classes he's ever taken, and not just the ones that led directly to his BS/BA. However, it will take a lot of classes. He's probably taken 40 or so classes already - let's say he takes two more full semesters, and snags a very impressive 3.5 the whole time. He'll still only have a 2.54 GPA! And that's after the money and time of two full semesters, doing much better than he was able to the first time around.

The short answer is that you friend will probably never be admitted to law school. In fact, the worst-case scenario is that he is admitted - any school that would accept him is very likely to be very low-ranked, and the current state of the legal industry is such that even recent graduates of the very-very-top-ranked schools are having an horrible time finding any work that even uses their law degrees, much less pays off their staggering loans.

(I say this as someone who really likes the idea of being a lawyer, but who look at his own good-but-not-stellar grades and the legal job market and decided there was no way in hell applying to law school seemed like a good idea.)
posted by Tomorrowful at 5:23 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

No one can guarantee he's going to get in, but trust me, plenty of people with mediocre records get into law school. Stop telling him he won't get in. What he needs to do is to take any energy he's currently using listening to discouragement and put it instead into applying to every school he can find. He can also go to law school fairs, call law schools, and read books about getting into law school. He may know someone, and as another poster implied (I think), he may belong to a social, ethnic, cultural or other group (2nd Generation Swedish! or something) that fits a preferred entrance niche at some school or other.

Taking extra classes sounds like a stunt, he just needs to bust his ass going through the applications motions.
posted by facetious at 5:28 PM on January 26, 2011

Telling someone to apply to every law school that they can is terrible advice as the supply of JDs is huge right now. It's s bad, bad financial decision.
posted by proj at 5:31 PM on January 26, 2011 [12 favorites]

My father used the word "boondoggle" recently to refer to law school. He was a lawyer for 40 years and chairman of a national law firm for 12 of those years. Currently, he consults, mainly focused on firms in dire financial straits. His consulting business has been wildly successful for obvious reasons. He often speaks to 2L and 3L classes about job prospects after graduation. Those forums focus on 'making your own opportunities' and 'seeking out jobs in professions outside the law where your JD will increase your employability.'

I was just talking to my dad right after I saw this question. His response: "Sounds like this guy is lucky he might not get in. Also, there are plenty of third and fourth tier law schools who'll be happy to take his money. He could retake the LSAT, but should probably steer clear."
posted by incessant at 5:38 PM on January 26, 2011 [8 favorites]

Tell him to move to Vermont and skip the law school part.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:47 PM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

It doesn't sound like his academic success in the past will be a good predictor for his success in law school or being able to pass the bar. The lower your class rank, the lower your success rate on the bar. He may want to focus on increasing his GPA and overall study skills before thinking about law school.
posted by Leezie at 5:48 PM on January 26, 2011

The forum at JDUnderground specializes in unsentimental answers to questions like these--you should try this there.
posted by Victorvacendak at 5:58 PM on January 26, 2011

The fundamental problem isn't that he won't get into law school with those credentials, it's that he WILL. Even without doing anything to improve his candidacy. Somewhere, a school will take him, provided that he is 1) alive and 2) able to fill out a FAFSA form.

If you care about your friend, the best advice you can give is that he really must not go to law school. Posters upthread are correct in saying that LSAT is (almost) the only thing that matters. His LSAT is too low for the best, better, and probably good schools. He's going to be relegated to a lower tier (maybe T2, probably T3) law school. In addition (with all due charity and respect) someone with a 2.2-2.3 average is not the kind of person one would expect to be able to turn a lower-ranked law school into a springboard for a great career. Law school is really demanding in itself. It's just hard--in most of my classes (all but, maybe, three or four out of 24 or so) my entire grade was based on a three-hour exam at the end of the semester. That's high stakes. To end up with a 2.3 GPA, you either have to be (sorry) dumb, a bad test taker, or disinterested in school. None of these is compatible with actually doing well in law school.

The other part of coming up from the bottom is that you really have to be willing and able to make your own career path. No one is hiring new associates? You go wait at the courthouse to be appointed to represent an indigent litigant. You fight for everything. It's a really tough row to hoe. I have a friend who started his own firm as a more senior associate and he's pulling 12-14 hour days (or more) and he already knows his shit. He's been at this for years.

Plus, when your friend gets out (with $150K in debt, unless he's got the scratch for tuition on hand), he's going to be competing against all the other unemployed/laid off/underemployed lawyers already out there. I work at a Big Firm (ooh la la), and we still are firing capable people every review cycle in much higher numbers than in the pre-bust years. Stealth layoffs abound, even still. Personally, I haven't come close to billing what I did as a first year in any of the past three years--there's just not enough work at the firms. Everyone is getting squeezed. (And, to be blunt, being a lawyer really isn't much fun, anyway.)

Going to law school is a pretty bad choice at the top of the food chain--i.e., for the top students at the top schools. It is a phenomenally bad choice for everyone lower on the food chain.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:00 PM on January 26, 2011 [14 favorites]

I would advise him not to go to law school. I am a lawyer and went to law school.

Has he read this recent story in the NY Times?

But if he likes the prestige of the degree, and has $150-200k just burning a hole in his pocket - then I saw go for it. Just don't borrow the money to go to school. The odds of him getting into a reputable program that will give him good enough employment prospects after graduation are slim.

If he wants to - he can look at the 25 75 percentile numbers that Boston College Career Services provides - I found it pretty helpful when I applied to law school 6 years ago.

Say the 25-75 percentiles are 156 and 160, respectively,

That means, 25% of the students are admitted with below a 156, and 25% are admitted with above a 160. The other 50% fall in the 156-160 range.

Does that make sense?

Same is true for GPA.

Looks like he can go to some law schools in the 3rd or 4th tier.
posted by abdulf at 6:08 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

A related question for the law-knowledgable people here:

Suppose someone doesn't want to go work in a big city at a big firm. Suppose they want to hang out a shingle or join a two person shop in a small midwestern city, or something like that. Could going to a regional law school (cheaper and with lower admissions standards, and you hook into a regional network) still be an okay decision? Does this cautionary stuff mainly apply to people who are looking to work in the big legal markets (like NYC), or does it apply at the podunk/regional level too?
posted by LobsterMitten at 6:22 PM on January 26, 2011

He should finish his undergrad degree in a completely un-law-related field and maybe get a paralegal certificate. The legal economy now has been hell on support staff as well but a paralegal at a big firm can make a hell of a lot more than most lawyers starting out, and if he has a full bachelor's in something else, he can always make a switch. My current advice to anyone is don't go to a law school that you can't pay for while you're attending.
posted by MrZero at 6:28 PM on January 26, 2011

Response by poster: LobsterMitten, I have been wondering that myself.
posted by Lobster Garden at 6:30 PM on January 26, 2011

Suppose someone doesn't want to go work in a big city at a big firm. Suppose they want to hang out a shingle or join a two person shop in a small midwestern city, or something like that. Could going to a regional law school (cheaper and with lower admissions standards, and you hook into a regional network) still be an okay decision? Does this cautionary stuff mainly apply to people who are looking to work in the big legal markets (like NYC), or does it apply at the podunk/regional level too?

I think finding a job at a "two person shop in a small midwestern city" may be even harder. Prestigious big-city firms attract a ton of applications from top graduates -- but they also need a lot of warm bodies, even in this economy, and hire accordingly. Some of the biggest shops in New York bring in hundreds of people each year.

Small-town law firms don't attract the glut of applicants, but they also don't hire. It is seriously difficult for anyone to find a job at a small firm with only a few lawyers, absent luck or a personal connection. This is especially true for recent graduates, who have no real training or experience. Law school doesn't teach you how to actually practice law, and small outfits don't have the resources to train noobs.

There are lower-profile midsize shops -- think 80 or 100 lawyers -- that are less picky than the Cravaths and Sullivan and Cromwells of the world, but still need people. That might be workable for graduates of schools lower in the top tier, or extraordinary students in local schools. Most third- or fourth-tier grads are still up a creek.

As for hanging out a shingle -- forget it, LobsterMitten, it's Chinatown. You need some experience before anyone will hire you, and before you're competent to run your own practice.
posted by eugenen at 6:32 PM on January 26, 2011

I would advise against going to law school for your friend. I'm a 2L at a "top-tier" law school nd it's really hard enough to get a job with a good GPA at said law school, a good GPA in undergrad from a respected university, etc.
The undergrad GPA is something that potential employers sometimes ask about, so people don't get a 100% clean slate there.
You can't really realistically hang out a shingle unless you have experience working for someone else. If your friend has connections to established attorneys that might hire him/her, then maybe this is plausible. It definitely happens.
Also, your friend will have to get summer internships, either at a firm, government agency, nonprofit, judge, etc. These are also very competitive, even outside of biglaw and even in good markets. Small regional markets are sometimes dominated by the few people from "better" law schools that are from that region and want to return, or people from the regional schools with great grades.
Honestly, with your friend's numbers, he or she will have to go to a pretty non-prestigious regional school, and the cost is just not worth it for the potential payoff.

Your friend might be well-served by taking classes and making all As, and studying for and retaking the LSAT and hoping for something in the 160s at least. Another possibility is for your friend to get some really impressive work experience AND to retake the LSAT. LSAT LSAT LSAT.
posted by elpea at 6:32 PM on January 26, 2011


This is the only advice your friend should follow. It is true regardless of what type of lawyer he wants to be, what type of firm he wants to practice at, etc.

With a GPA in the 2.2 range, the only type of law school he's going to get into is the kind of school that puts you $150k in debt with no hope of ever finding legal employment.

Going to law school would be the biggest mistake of his life.
posted by ewiar at 6:37 PM on January 26, 2011 [3 favorites]

Does this cautionary stuff mainly apply to people who are looking to work in the big legal markets (like NYC), or does it apply at the podunk/regional level too?

Right now, the people who can't get jobs in the big legal markets are also swarming the regional markets. And the foreign markets. The law degree oversupply is really, really extreme, and the competition for shitty law-jobs is intense.
posted by Tomorrowful at 6:40 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

No, it still holds true there too--it's a shitty time to be a lawyer everywhere. But let me explain a little further:

There is some hysteria about, I admit. It is really bad out there. When people think of fancy pants hotshot lawyers, they're usually thinking about the guys at the big firms, where the starting salary for a dipshit first year is something like, say $175,000. These jobs are demanding (and, I might add, unpleasant)--but the money is really something. It used to be that IF you could get one of these jobs, you could keep it for almost as long as you wanted. At my old firm, there was a 17th-year associate. Didn't make partner or counsel, but still probably pulled in $350K or more, every year. Not too shabby. At salaries like that--and with prospects for almost tenured positions--it made good sense to become a lawyer and take on that $150K in debt for law school. These jobs really are only ever the province of the tier 1 schools, and within that group, the top 10 or so. To be frank, I rarely saw anyone out of the top 5 schools at my old firm. It was a kind of affirmative action to take someone from University of Chicago.

On the other end of the spectrum are the regional schools and the state schools. You're absolutely right that it can be a good strategic decision to get looped into those alumni networks, because for most of the country, that's how you get a job. I doubt that I would be a good candidate for a job in Kentucky, despite having graduated with honors from a fancy school. Networks are key.

BUT--the average salary of a lawyer is something like $57-117K--a figure that includes the high earners at the big firms AND seasoned attorneys who have been practicing for 30 years. Factor out the golden children who start at $175K, and I would be surprised if the median salary were above $50K.

$50K is not a bad salary if you have just an easy peasy 9-5 job, but being a lawyer, for the most part, is not going to be a 9-5 job. Look at my friend in my earlier post--he's working 12-14 hours every day, with a wife, mortgage, and three kids. I doubt he's going to make $50K this year--he's just getting started.

So yes, maybe your friend can go to a smaller regional school and pay less--but really, how much less would tuition, room and board have to be for it to be compelling to make, say, $50K for 10 hour days every day, and an unsteady income as a solo practitioner? Plus, you've got competition from people like my friend who lost their big firm jobs and are starting their own practices. They'll eat your friend's lunch!

Being a lawyer is hard, hard work. A lot of people you'll encounter are mean, because they hate their work so much. The hours are long. If you don't grab the brass ring, the pay isn't that good, all considering.

The cautionary stuff applies all across the board--doubly so, maybe.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:46 PM on January 26, 2011 [4 favorites]

Sorry, I meant to include this link relating to lawyer salaries.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 6:48 PM on January 26, 2011

My mom went to law school with better (but not lots better) credentials than that, which netted her a semi-helpful scholarship to the kind of school that will give anyone with a 170 LSAT a full ride. It has been really difficult for her to build a legal career. She makes a little more than I do with my BA, which I got the same year she got her JD. I'll share more over MeMail if you like.

I could not in good conscience tell anyone who will need to work for a living in the next decade to go to law school in the US today.

Having said that, sure, there are schools that would take your friend, and charge him $35k+ per year for the privilege. If he wants to do that, he doesn't need to retake the LSAT.
posted by SMPA at 6:51 PM on January 26, 2011

If he really wants to be a lawyer, he should work in the law at a law firm or for a lawyer or something like that for a couple of years to make sure that he really wants to be a lawyer, while he practices the LSAT. Then he should find some good state schools that are highly ranked (Tier 1 only) in an area of the country he would like to live, and he should move there and continue to practice the LSAT. Then he should take some classes in a way to demonstrate that he could have aced the classes he got a 2.3 GPA in if he was at the right point in his life and maturity, all the while continuing to practice the LSAT, without taking it. If "below 160" means "near 160 but below it" then he can probably get to the high 160s by really busting his ass for a year or two.

Then, he should consider maybe going to law school, but it still might be a bad idea.
posted by iknowizbirfmark at 6:53 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

This is a tangent, but perhaps your friend should talk to some lawyers before he decides that he wants to be one.

I'm a few years out of law school. I worked in government, for a large top tier firm, and a small, boutique (top-tier) firm. I took a 40% pay cut rather than stay in the industry. There was no part of it I could live with.

I have friends in various pratice areas and in all sorts of firms and agencies. They all hate it. Smart people, went to great law schools, got good jobs, but they're miserable. None of us really knew what the practice of law would be like. We all bought into the hype. But there are no orchestras playing stirring music in the back of the courtroom when you're arguing the details of tax law, and nothing exciting about doing discovery for 2 years.

Everything that everyone above has said about being a glut of lawyers is true. But maybe he doesn't even have the requisite information to make the decision that he really wants to be a lawyer.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 6:56 PM on January 26, 2011 [2 favorites]

Does this cautionary stuff mainly apply to people who are looking to work in the big legal markets (like NYC)

posted by John Cohen at 7:05 PM on January 26, 2011

If he wants to - he can look at the 25 75 percentile numbers that Boston College Career Services provides - I found it pretty helpful when I applied to law school 6 years ago.

Say the 25-75 percentiles are 156 and 160, respectively,

That means, 25% of the students are admitted with below a 156, and 25% are admitted with above a 160. The other 50% fall in the 156-160 range.

Does that make sense?

Same is true for GPA.

You're definitely right that looking at the 25th and 75th percentiles is important, but to be clear: he shouldn't think he could just randomly end up being below the 25th percentile for a given school. His race makes that significantly less likely.
posted by John Cohen at 7:07 PM on January 26, 2011

If it's not about being cool and he just really digs the law, he might want to consider paralegal training and an IT degree. Litigation Support (e-discovery, etc) is a HUGE field right now.
posted by Lyn Never at 7:16 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

If your friend is hell-bent on this and won't listen to anyone trying to dissuade him, he should do the following:

1. Move to a state that doesn't require law school for someone to become a lawyer. California, for example, allows you to take the bar through their Law Office Study program. There are a few other states that also don't require law school.

The biggest reason people are trying to dissuade him is because he will be screwed over for the rest of his life if he finds a law school to admit him to the tune of $100k+ for three years, and then afterwards can't find a job making enough money to repay his loans, or can't find any job at all. Without that law school debt, he still might not ever be able to find a job working as a lawyer, but at least that won't screw over his entire life.

If he's hell-bent not just on becoming a lawyer, but going to law school, I'm sure he will be able to find an extremely poorly regarded school to admit him with his stats the way they are now, and then he will be screwed after graduation no matter how well he's done (as everyone else has said).

If he's hell-bent on going to law school, the only chance he has to get into a decent school is to MASSIVELY raise his LSAT score. As in, he needs to score close to 170. If he does that, I think he'll be able to get into decent regional schools. If he scores above 170, I think he'll be able to get scholarships.

The thing is, if he does manage to get into a decent school, he will be screwed if he doesn't do a ton of work beforehand to correct whatever it was that led to his GPA being so poor in the first place. (Learning disorder? ADD?) If it's not correctable, he will be screwed. He must be prepared to work harder than he ever has in his life his first year if he wants good grades. If he's not used to working hard and that was the reason for his poor GPA, he will be screwed because a bunch of people who are already used to working hard, will also be working their hardest that year, and he'll be at a major disadvantage.
posted by Ashley801 at 7:28 PM on January 26, 2011 [1 favorite]

Well, the question was whether he could get in, not whether he should attend. Law school admissions being the numbers game that it is, this is actually not such a hard question to answer. Check out sites such as lawschoolpredictor.com or http://www.hourumd.com/, which indicate that your friend has decent odds of being accepted by a couple of law schools nobody has ever heard of.
posted by phoenixy at 7:43 PM on January 26, 2011

Why on earth would he want to become a lawyer? Apparently he hasn't read the recent New York Times article describing the crippling debt and awful job prospects of law graduates these days.
posted by Ryogen at 7:45 PM on January 26, 2011

If it's not about being cool and he just really digs the law, he might want to consider paralegal training and an IT degree. Litigation Support (e-discovery, etc) is a HUGE field right now.

This, or something like this. It looks like regular law school is out of the picture, but there are still solid opportunities in the legal field, or in fields that present some of the same pleasures as what the law would supposedly afford.

What does your friend want to do?
posted by Sticherbeast at 9:15 PM on January 26, 2011

First, as a newer lawyer (barred for 2 years), he should look at another career. The job market is in the toilet and spending 150k is a lot of money, especially if he is lucky to get a $50k a year job. Point blank - the return is not worth the investment.

If he is really interested in the legal field, there are many other jobs that work with the legal field to some degree. Paralegals and legal assistants are the most obvious. I work with investigators, translators/interpreters, court reporters, and social workers weekly. These jobs require less expense to get into and they can by just as interesting and dynamic as being a lawyer.

Second, if he will not be dissuaded, there is hope. I had a lowish GPA and not that great LSATs. I knew I wanted to stay in Oregon and I was able to attend a school that accepted me and even gave me a scholarship. Sure, the school is tier 3, but in my state it is still fairly well respected. I have found that my JD from the school is absolutely not a hinderance in the job search and we have had higher bar passage rates than the higher tiered schools in my state for a few years now.
posted by miss meg at 11:09 PM on January 26, 2011

First: pay no attention to the GPA or LSAT snobs.

I had a GPA under 2.3 and an LSAT under 160 and I got into a top 30 law school (and contrary to what you might have heard, a school of this ranking this is not a career death sentence).

Granted: I had a college professor vouching for my GPA (specifically, saying she had no earthly idea what caused a precipitous drop during my 3rd year of classes, but assuring them that while it ruined my GPA, it was not indicative of my ability), and I wasn't that far under 160. But the fact remains: very good law school under the circumstances you describe.

Second: Do not advise your friend not to go to law school . . . or to go to law school. Advise him/her to understand what the job market is. What the possibilities are. What the costs are. Advise him or her to understand all of the caveats before making the decision. There are still many great reasons to go to law school, but it is not (and probably has never been) a good place to "hide" from the job market, and it's not the easy money that some people believe. If your friend has a passion for the practice of law, encourage the person to go to law school, work hard, and then be flexible when (s)he graduates. In short: for many, going to law school is a terrible decision. That does not mean that it is a terrible decision for everyone, and keep in mind that some of the "knowledgeable" people advising you that there are no jobs are also concerned about even more competition for the jobs they want.

Legal jobs exist in most markets, and are available for the taking. They do not all pay well. This is substantially harder to stomach if your friend goes into six-figure debt to obtain the degree, but the first question should be "Do you want to practice law?" if so, the second question is: "Are you willing to pay what it costs?" if that's also the case, the third question is: "And deal with a very tight and competitive job market to do it, probably not making a heap of money?"

If the answer is "no" at any point in that string, don't bother.

Even if all three are "yes", it probably wouldn't hurt for your friend to put a year or two of actual work experience between the college degree and law school. It will not be time "wasted" and I don't know anyone from law school who regretted taking that time to work. I know many who wish they had done that, though.

It's not as bad as many people say it is... but it's not as good as many prospective law students think/hope it will be.
posted by toomuchpete at 11:46 PM on January 26, 2011

He can probably get in somewhere, but unless someone is paying his way he'd be a fool to take out the 200k+ loan to attend. I attended a lower first tier and I think it was just barely worth it finacially or career wise to go. Things have only gotten worse since I graduated.

If he's that determined here is my advice. Take the next five years pursuing another speciality, which will make you unique and more emoyable. Continue studying for the LSATs. Wait for the market to improve. Eventually, if he works hard enough he'll get into a school worth going to.
posted by whoaali at 12:08 AM on January 27, 2011

2.3/159 will, I think, get you in somewhere. Raising the LSAT would probably be more worthwhile than raising the GPA. Has he graduated undergrad yet? If so, I doubt (but am not sure) that he can raise his GPA for this purpose.

Also, I agree w/ everyone else that he should think long and hard about attending law school even if he gets in. It's a poor bargain, especially right now.
posted by J. Wilson at 1:01 AM on January 27, 2011

I don't know anything about the law, law school, or being a lawyer, but that JDUnderground forum is one of the most depressing places ever.
posted by freakazoid at 5:30 AM on January 27, 2011

Toomuchpete, are you sure you'd get in now with those stats? Amazingly, it's become more competitive to get into law school over the last few years, despite how awful the market is. Somebody upthread posted a link to some sort of GPA/LSAT calculator, which reported that today I would not be a good candidate for the school I actually went to with my GPA/LSAT combo.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 5:56 AM on January 27, 2011

First off: somehow, I managed to forget what my LSAT score was, and as it turns out, two things are the case: 1) my score was just below 170, not 160 and 2) It seems that the LSAT score-to-percentile has inflated just a bit and as a function of percentile, the equivalent score today is actually a few points higher than what I got.


I did a little googling, and it doesn't sound like he's working as an attorney or has even sat for the bar yet. He also has a technical undergraduate degree, which automatically makes him more employable than a lot of similarly situated people and means that he isn't quite as desperate to get a job as a lawyer.

It feels rather absurd to have to defend my employment choices just to answer a question on AskMe, but: my technical degree pays more (for fewer hours of work) than my law degree does right now, and that's something I know because I pay very close attention to the legal job market in a number of different places (which I can do, because I haven't taken the bar yet). And that is something I do because, contrary to your assumption, I do not particularly want to stay in my current field for any longer than I have to and I am very, very interested in practicing law (I wouldn't use the term "desperate", but some people probably would).

In fact, I'd argue (if we're going to be playing the ad hominem game), that the people actively looking for legal jobs have more valuable knowledge than the practicing attorneys who have jobs. It's not that I've written off practicing law, it's that not practicing right now is a better option because of the value of my undergraduate degree. If I had been an English major, I'd be a lawyer right now and making half as much.

But, yeah, maybe stick to actual rebuttals and less "don't listen to him because he's not a lawyer". I see you have a serious chip on your shoulder about law school, and you campaign at every opportunity for people not to go, but for all of your hate, you're still a lawyer, suggesting that maybe -- just maybe -- there's actually something worthwhile about the endeavor. (Ignoring the possibility that you're so terribly unemployable in any other field that legal work is your only choice)

are you sure you'd get in now with those stats?

I'd probably not have gotten in to that particular school if my scores were what I thought they were, but even today it doesn't hurt to apply to some places. Getting the score up into the 160s would help a great deal. The dirty little secret of many (most?) law school admissions offices (I worked in mine for all three years of law school), is that they focus primarily on above-target-median/below-target-median metrics. If they decide that you're a good fit and can hack it academically (something your letters, etc, have to prove), the difference between a 3.0 and a 2.1 for a school shooting for a 3.7 median GPA is pretty negligible. You have to be above their target median in one of the two, otherwise you're dead weight that they will probably pass over if they can help it. Finding a school with a target median below 160 is probably going to be tough sledding, but not impossible, and whether or not those schools are worth while depends more on what you want to do with the degree than what number US News puts in front of their name on the rankings.

When I was graduating, IU-Indy's law school (which was low second-tier, I think) was placing more attorneys in Indianapolis than the much higher ranked IU-Bloomington or Notre Dame, and they had that ability because they were more local, so their students could intern during the semester, and so on. Granted, an IU-Indy degree wasn't going to be as useful anywhere else in the country, but if you wanted to work in Indianapolis, that degree wasn't a bad value.

Bottom line: it's just not as simple as "OMG DO NOT GO TO LAW SCHOOL", as certain folks would have the OP believe. The employment picture is not pretty, and there are probably more upheavals on the way -- for example, I don't think the billable hour is the final destination for the profession -- but it's always hilarious to see lawyers telling other people not to become lawyers, as though they've entered some kind of indentured servitude from which they cannot possibly extract themselves. More likely, legal work is just their best current option, and if that's the case, why couldn't it be the case for someone else? If the industry is so bad, why aren't all these lawyers off doing other work instead?
posted by toomuchpete at 7:19 AM on January 27, 2011

It's all pretty much been said, but, the answer to your specific question is, yes, he will get into law school, if his standards are low enough. Cooley School of Law has an online admissions formula. Your friend would be admitted there and eligible for an "honors scholarship." If his only goal is to go to law school somewhere, anywhere, then sure, he can probably do that.

But that's a stupid goal.

It's become really fashionable to say law school is a terrible idea. I think this is somewhat overblown, because the economy in general is terrible. (I'm also a current law student, so a) it's possible I don't know what it's really like and b) I have some incentive to hope for the best.) That said, I would not recommend attending any law school your friend can get into.

(on preview I noticed you say he's "below" 160 on the LSAT, not at 160, but I think this still applies.)
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 7:35 AM on January 27, 2011

Also, without discounting toomuchpete's experience (because his advice is reasonable overall), I want to underscore that there is a WORLD OF DIFFERENCE between "just under 160" and "just under 170." Ten points on the LSAT is the difference between Yale and UConn.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 7:38 AM on January 27, 2011

I agree, toomuchpete--you shouldn't have to justify any of your decisions, and I don't think your advice should be discounted--you're part of the legal ecosystem, too. You'd like to work in law, but your undergraduate degree pays more than what you would get for being a lawyer. That speaks volumes.

Personally, I advise people to avoid law school because I'm pretty close to the top of the pile, and it's not great up here (as I said, we're canning people every review cycle, and that really didn't happen when I started), and it gets worse and worse down the chain.

I have been staying in the law for no other reason than I make a lot of money. If you can be assured of making a lot of money, then go for it. If there is a chance that you won't make a lot of money and you'll be saddled with $150,000 in non-dischargeable debt that you can't pay off (I started with something like $1,000/month in student loan payments, which is about 70% of what I made per month before law school), you really shouldn't go to law school.

The trouble is, people have inflated notions of their chances of making a lot of money, partly because of the figment of individual exceptionalism that has developed in the past 30-40 years, and party because the depictions of lawyers in the media tend to be rich Mercedes-driving ballas, whereas in real life there are legions of lawyers doing doc review for $18/hour with no benefits, or working at Starbucks.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:01 AM on January 27, 2011

Response by poster: Just to clarify, my friend's tuition would be paid for by the military. I am only asking about the likelihood of admission.
posted by Lobster Garden at 8:17 AM on January 27, 2011

He will get in somewhere, no doubt.

If he doesn't have to pay for it, then I see no reason not to go. As bad as law school is, it beats working if someone else is paying. Plus, if the military is springing for it, I assume he's a discharged soldier of some sort, and thus he might like being a JAG, which is not something everyone would want to do. If there's no sunk cost, he could just get his diploma and do something else with his life, and the usual caveats about not going to law school don't really apply.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:23 AM on January 27, 2011

Oh, yeah, if he isn't paying for it, then seriously, do whatever. A huge amount of the pressure in law school is knowing that nine months after you graduate you're going to owe the bank something like $1300 a month, making the median salary of $55k feel a lot more like $35k, which it's possible to make with a college degree alone.

And, toomuchpete, until last month I was on the legal job market. I landed a job in the spring of 2009, and started that summer, and went back on the market less than a year later because my job paid crap and had no advancement opportunities. I sent out resumes for six months with nary a nibble before I landed this gig. But the fact that you're out of law school and not using your degree because your undergrad degree pays more does, as Admiral Haddock says, speak volumes about not only your experience, but the experience of a lot of others.
posted by valkyryn at 9:25 AM on January 27, 2011

Okay, if he is applying despite your skepticism and the question is actually only whether he will get in, then the answer is, it depends. You haven't told us how far under 160 his LSAT is, and 152 vs. 159 is a huge difference. You haven't told us where he's applying, and Harvard vs. Cooley is a huge difference, and he could be considering unaccredited schools. An upward trend in his GPA, or a disastrous semester due to a family emergency, could make a difference. His military experience, which you didn't include in the original post, could make a difference.

So yes, like everyone else has said, he is probably capable of getting in somewhere. But if you don't want advice (see your follow-up comment) and you just want to know the future to satisfy your curiosity, well, (1) AskMe doesn't actually know the future and (2) you haven't really given us enough information to try to guess the odds.
posted by J. Wilson at 10:26 AM on January 27, 2011

His tuition is being paid for? Well don't forget about books and living expenses, but that radically changes things.

Yes, he will get in somewhere. I strongly caution against non ABA accredited schools, but if this is really what he wants and he is ok working at a 30-40k job (or going JAG) after graduation hey why not.

I would apply to at least 8 - 10 schools and in my opinion it's too late in the current admission cycle too apply. I realize deadlines haven't past, most of the classes are already filled. He should wait until next year and maybe take a formal LSAT class and take it again in the meantime.
posted by whoaali at 10:31 AM on January 27, 2011

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