Public University Law School?
February 26, 2015 1:20 PM   Subscribe

I'm thinking about going to law school... but there are special circumstances: public school and evening program. And federal civil service...

I work in a legal-related federal government civil service job (though not as a paralegal) with a lot of security and not much more than 40 hours a week of work (no mandatory overtime.) I can't advance in my current job title but would need a promotion to another title. I have tenure, but a graduate degree would widen my career prospects substantially. With a law degree I would qualify for quite a few federal jobs on education alone that would be promotions from my current position and would have the advantage of civil service status in applying, though I don't have veteran status.

I make about $60k/year and while I'll get step increases every other year, I don't have much potential for salary growth without a promotion.

CUNY School of Law has announced that they're starting a part-time evening program and I'd qualify for in state tuition. I'd be able to keep my current job, substantially reducing the opportunity cost of going to law school. I'm aware that CUNY School of Law doesn't have the best reputation... but Fordham evening is insanely expensive and I don't think my undergrad qualifications (3.25 overall GPA and 3.7 major [philosophy] GPA ) at a US News top 50 University are good enough to get me a fellowship at a top law school.

I am interested in law... I was thinking of going to law school in college before other things intervened and my interest has continued. I was also thinking of going to law school about five years ago, but didn't because the law market crashed and I didn't have a local public evening option then (or civil service tenure yet and still had career growth potential.)

I have about 15k in undergrad loans still, which are managable on my current income and I'd potentially be eligible for public service loan repayment if I stayed in federal work... though I'm open to moving to the private sector. I'm not interested in the big law 80+ hour a week thing.

Apologies that this is somewhat disjointed.

You can ask questions of me if needed at lawschool@penguins.33mail.com.
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (10 answers total)
 
What is your question?

If your question is "Should I do it at CUNY?", I'd answer "yeah".

Especially if you want to stay in federal service.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:23 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


In your situation, I'd do it. Absolutely. For moving forward in your job all you need is the degree, it doesn't have to be a first tier law school. I think there's a Tuition Aid Program with the government so look into that, it used to $6150 per year, but check.

I got my MBA in a similar kind of way, and the tab was picked up by the phone company.

In 99.99% of cases, I'd tell people not to get a JD, you're the .001% of people for whom it makes sense!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:24 PM on February 26, 2015 [6 favorites]


I agree with Ruthless Bunny, this is one of the few situations it still makes sense. You can keep your current job and the degree will allow you to be promoted at your current job rather than having to try and look for work.

I went to a third-tier law school on a full academic scholarship and now work in government. Literally nobody at work cares where I went to school other than as a point of conversation. Other lawyers are jerks about it, but other lawyers are jerks anyway.
posted by notjustthefish at 1:49 PM on February 26, 2015 [3 favorites]


If you are expecting to work as an attorney and make more than $60k, that's not a guarantee in all markets. If you are a patent attorney, sure, you will make more but you might want to have some serious conversations about pay with local attorneys. You may be working your way into a lower paid job.
posted by littlewater at 1:51 PM on February 26, 2015


Yeah, you haven't really asked a question here. But to answer some implicit questions:

Sit down and do the math. Project out your finances 1/3/5/10/15/20 years out and determine what going to law school will look like financially. Build in some reasonable assumptions on loan interest, etc., and see where it gets you, especially at different income levels.

Consider whether CUNY night school will have the same prestige/job prospects as day school. In some markets, day and night programs are viewed differently, fairly or not. Ask around and determine whether that might be an issue here.

If you decide to go to law school, study for the LSAT hard. Take practice test after practice test, and work on those damned logic puzzles until you understand how all of them work. I probably spent 500 hours studying for the LSAT and do not regret it for a second. From here on out, it is unlikely that any other exam, or any other two-day span of time, will have the ability to save you $100,000 like a good LSAT score can. It is literally the thing that law schools care the most about. Your undergrad GPA matters a bit but not nearly as much as you might expect. Get a kickass LSAT score, or at least the best LSAT score you can possibly get, and then reevaluate your options from there.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:56 PM on February 26, 2015


CUNY's reputation is better lately, as it happens. Their reputation used to be based largely on their abysmal bar pass rate, which was somewhere south of 50 percent. Now it's more in line with the other area law schools, and I think last I looked may have been better than a couple, like Pace.

I would say that if you can get out of law school with close to zero debt, do it. That's actually the only way I'd recommend it, though. And do be aware that law school sucks really, really, really hard. I was miserable every single second of my law school years, and believe me, I'm barely exaggerating.

Another data point: I went to a second-tier school, and I have a good job in government. Yeah, as notjustthefish notes, other lawyers can be assholes about it if you don't have the "right" law school on your resume, but this is the most elitist of professions. And yep, they'd find reasons to be assholes for some other reason even if you went to Yale because they're lawyers.
posted by holborne at 2:01 PM on February 26, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you decide to go to law school, study for the LSAT hard. Take practice test after practice test, and work on those damned logic puzzles until you understand how all of them work. I probably spent 500 hours studying for the LSAT and do not regret it for a second. From here on out, it is unlikely that any other exam, or any other two-day span of time, will have the ability to save you $100,000 like a good LSAT score can. It is literally the thing that law schools care the most about. Your undergrad GPA matters a bit but not nearly as much as you might expect. Get a kickass LSAT score, or at least the best LSAT score you can possibly get, and then reevaluate your options from there.

I'd also pony up for one of the long study courses. They're generally taught by people who have near-aced the test and have taken it several times, so you're getting advice that's actually paid off. You get a lot of study materials you can work through later and you get a lot of feedback.
posted by resurrexit at 2:22 PM on February 26, 2015


The best place for this type of advice is the top-law-schools.com forum. It's full of lawyers and law students, and their hobby is analyzing and attempting to optimize the law school admissions process. They are largely cynical about the practice of law, which is a good thing.

Definitely don't take on debt to go to Fordham, but with an excellent LSAT, they might give you money. Brooklyn Law School is another option that would potentially end up much cheaper if you do well on the LSAT.

Frankly, a lot of lawyers would kill for your job!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:38 PM on February 26, 2015


Also, please note that the price on the website is not the real price. Law schools give out a lot of money, especially for good LSAT scores. You should plan to apply widely and choose only after you know the final cost of attendance for each school. You need to know your LSAT score before you can even guess at the actual prices for these schools.

So your first step is signing up for the LSAT and creating a study plan. If you do take a class, which isn't necessary if you're good at structuring your own studying, then I'd say that Kaplan has an iffy reputation.

New York Law School also has an evening program and a scholarship there is not out of reach.

If you're an underrepresented minority, the admissions process is different and much harder to predict.

Hope this helps. Good luck!
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 2:50 PM on February 26, 2015


Just in case you're not 100% sold on law school, have you thought at all about getting a MPA/MPP instead? If you're interested in staying in government, it's a great degree for moving up, and it's actually a degree where there's not a ton of snobbery about night school. So many professionals get MPAs while they're working. You may even be eligible for a mid-career or executive-level masters, which is usually only a year instead of two.

The other advantage of a MPA is that the job prospects are a lot better. It's a more flexible degree; you can move into the nonprofit/foundation sector, or hell, even for-profit (I have MPA classmates 7 years after graduation who are doing everything from running foundations to management consulting to working in state governments to start-ups). And the program will likely give you a solid network that will open doors. So in case you finish your degree and can't move up in your agency, or decide you want to try something different, you're not locked into one field (law) with a tough job market.

Feel free to PM me if you have questions about this route.
posted by lunasol at 3:09 PM on February 26, 2015 [2 favorites]


« Older Deciding between two library jobs   |   How to deal with email sent to your address... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.