Advice for my undergrad kid wanting to do law school

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savvyrookie

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Advice for my undergrad kid wanting to do law school

Postby savvyrookie » Tue Sep 04, 2018 5:08 pm

Hello,

I am the father of a very hard working and studious daughter who is currently doing her undergrad studies in Houston, TX (currently a junior). She decided to go to pursue law as her career this year.

I have a few concerns about her decision and wanted to get some advice from current students/graduates:

1. Using the best case scenario, let's suppose she scores a 170+ on her LSAT. Let's also suppose that she will take a loan for her graduate studies. How should she go about selecting law school? We have family in the NJ area so going to the east coast would be a preference for me vs. west coast.

2. She is doing an unpaid internship with a local attorney because she thinks it would help her. I think it's great but my research on TLS tells me that GPA and LSAT scores are the 2 main things law schools look at.....so I am not sure how much this unpaid internship would help her.

3. What types of careers in law should she consider if she wants to go to a top school and be able to pay off her loans?

4. Some responses on TLS suggest that one should know where one would start a law career to make the best decision about law school. She's too young for that...so how would you suggest she target schools.

5. Should I be doing some things as her dad (besides saving money to help her!!) to assist her in her pursuit of a law degree?

Thank you so much for your advice for the above questions.

mec215

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Re: Advice for my undergrad kid wanting to do law school

Postby mec215 » Tue Sep 04, 2018 6:29 pm

In my opinion, the most important consideration when thinking about law school is the fact that law school is a huge financial burden/gamble. Even with a scholarship, most graduate with 100K-200K in debt. With that in mind, your daughter should not go to law school unless she is fairly certain she wants to be a lawyer and she is accepted into a decently rated law school with good job prospects upon graduation. The worst case scenario is that she will graduate from law school and not be able to get a job or decides she does not want to be a lawyer after all and is saddled with the burden of that debt.

Regarding choosing a law school - generally speaking, one must balance choosing the best ranked law school you are accepted into (to maximize job potential) with the offer of scholarships (to minimize debt). Once she takes the LSAT and has a sense of her final undergraduate GPA, she will be able to narrow the list of schools to which she could feasibly be accepted.

Regarding the internship - you are right that LSAT score and GPA are the biggest factors. However, law-related work experience will certainly be a plus on her applications. I think the biggest benefit of that internship is that she will be able to determine whether she really does want to be a lawyer. I worked as a paralegal before law school and it was great for getting a sense of what life would be like as a lawyer, working at a firm.

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Pneumonia

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Re: Advice for my undergrad kid wanting to do law school

Postby Pneumonia » Tue Sep 04, 2018 8:39 pm

Here are a few answers. I want to emphasize (more to other posters than to you) that these answers are very rough and are at a very high level of generality. I'm not trying to start any fights. You asked fairly open-ended questions, so my answers cover some basic ground. I apologize if this is stuff you already know.

1) The primary considerations for law school are cost (debt) and job prospects. If you haven't already, read the recent NYT and WSJ articles on the oversupply of lawyers. There are 200 or so law schools in the country. The bottom 100 aren't worth attending. The next eighty or so can be a good idea for some students in some situations. The top 20 are the safest bet, ideally with a good scholarship. You are correct that your daughter's GPA/LSAT will determine where she gets admitted. They will also determine the amount of scholarship money she receives.

2) Undergrad work experience won't help your daughter get admitted anywhere, but that doesn't mean its a bad idea. A legal internship (even if unpaid) is a great way for her to find out if she can imagine herself being an attorney. She doesn't need to "love" it. But if she absolutely hates the work then she should proceed cautiously before committing three years of her life to it.

3) It's hard to plan an entire career, especially as an undergrad. But the overwhelming majority of law students are competing for jobs in "Biglaw." The better the school, the better the odds. These jobs all pay the same salary to first-year associates (currently $190,000/yr). These positions rarely turn into careers, but they are almost a prerequisite for the most lucrative/desirable/prestigious careers in the field.

It's been a while since I looked at the actual numbers. But as a very rough guide: the nation's 200ish law schools produce about 40,000 graduates per year. About 8,000 of these graduates are hired into Biglaw. Another 20,000 get hired into small firms, government jobs, etc. Legal salaries are bi-modal. The salaries don't decrease linearly. So 8,000 (ish) students per year get jobs that pay 190,000. The next 20,000 (ish) students get jobs that pay 55,000-75,000 per year. There are some salaries in between, but not very many. The remaining 12,000 graduates end up unemployed or employed outside of the legal sector (retail, starbucks, uber; these are not good outcomes). Again these numbers are very rough, but I think they're in the ballpark.

So to summarize, most thoughtful applicants are trying to maximize their chances at getting a job in Biglaw. That's what your daughter should do to, especially if she is debt-financing any portion of her studies. The best way to get Biglaw is to go to a high-ranking law school.

4) It's ok to not know where you want to live. But most law schools in the country send the majority of their graduates to the state in which the school is located. Wisconsin grads get jobs in Wisconsin. Kansas grads get jobs in Kansas (or Missouri). So if your daughter doesn't know where she wants to live, she should target schools that have national placement power. That means focusing on the top 20 schools. But even of these, only the top 10 (ish) are truly national. I.e., UT grads mostly work in Texas; USC/UCLA grads have better chances in California.

5) The single best thing she can do right now is to get straight A's for the rest of undergrad.

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Re: Advice for my undergrad kid wanting to do law school

Postby QContinuum » Tue Sep 04, 2018 10:29 pm

mec215 and Pneumonia have provided excellent advice, which I'm happy to third.

I wanted to add that it's financially possible to make a $55-75k (ish) paying government or other public interest job work, even with debt financing. This is because there are currently government programs (PSLF, PAYE, IBR) in place to help with debt forgiveness. That said, there's always a risk in relying on these programs (there are efforts every year to eliminate PSLF), and obviously, even with debt forgiveness, government/PI work is not going to be a lucrative career.

So unless your daughter's really driven to public interest work, Pneumonia's right that she should be targeting a BigLaw outcome, optimally at one of the top 20 ("T20"), preferably one of the top 13 ("T13") schools (as ranked by US News).

savvyrookie

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Re: Advice for my undergrad kid wanting to do law school

Postby savvyrookie » Tue Sep 04, 2018 10:50 pm

Wow.. thank you all for such detailed answers. I truly appreciate it!

You guys are awesome!

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totesTheGoat

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Re: Advice for my undergrad kid wanting to do law school

Postby totesTheGoat » Wed Sep 05, 2018 12:40 pm

savvyrookie wrote:5. Should I be doing some things as her dad (besides saving money to help her!!) to assist her in her pursuit of a law degree?


The rest of your questions have received really good answers, so I'll focus on this one. The #1 best thing to do is get her into a major that has decent job prospects without the law degree.

Now I can already see you balk because it seems like I'm not answering your question, but I am. We see 0Ls pass through TLS on a regular basis who are absolutely desperate to go to law school. They can't get a career started with a creative writing degree, and are trying to do anything to make more than $8 an hour at the local coffee shop. They ignore all advice and bowl through the admissions process on emotion and existential panic, resulting in them coming back here 3 years later crying about how they're a quarter million in debt and can't find a job. Your daughter should approach the admissions process from a position of power, which means having another option if a certain admissions cycle shapes up unfavorably for her. She needs to be in a place where she can say "I'll retake and apply next year" when her 164 isn't getting the scholarships she expected.

The #2 best thing you can do is convince her to take 1 or 2 gap years and work a job in her major. K-JDs are a dime a dozen, but people with real work experience (more than just frothing lattes at Starbucks) are somewhat rare. Law school is the start line, not the finish line. Her focus should be on becoming a successful lawyer, not on getting a law degree. 1 or 2 years of work experience tends to breed the type of wisdom needed to make wise decisions in law school admissions and as a lawyer.

Finally, once you have a conversation with her about how to set up for a successful legal career, you both need to put it out of your minds until it's time to start studying for the LSAT (late Jr year/early Sr year if you decide to skip the work experience). It's an unnecessary distraction from what should be her top goal right now, getting the highest GPA possible in a major with decent job prospects.

savvyrookie

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Re: Advice for my undergrad kid wanting to do law school

Postby savvyrookie » Wed Sep 05, 2018 1:06 pm

Hi totesTheGoat,

I fully agree with your advice. She has science related major so that if law school doesn't pan out she will continue to pursue her masters in her science major.

You're absolutely right that she needs to focus on getting straight As and planning for LSAT prep.

I really appreciate you taking the time to add your thoughts. I am totally new to the law universe so these tips are extremely helpful.

Thank you once again.

totesTheGoat wrote:
savvyrookie wrote:5. Should I be doing some things as her dad (besides saving money to help her!!) to assist her in her pursuit of a law degree?


The rest of your questions have received really good answers, so I'll focus on this one. The #1 best thing to do is get her into a major that has decent job prospects without the law degree.

Now I can already see you balk because it seems like I'm not answering your question, but I am. ............

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Re: Advice for my undergrad kid wanting to do law school

Postby Mullens » Thu Sep 06, 2018 2:41 pm

savvyrookie wrote:Hi totesTheGoat,

I fully agree with your advice. She has science related major so that if law school doesn't pan out she will continue to pursue her masters in her science major.

You're absolutely right that she needs to focus on getting straight As and planning for LSAT prep.

I really appreciate you taking the time to add your thoughts. I am totally new to the law universe so these tips are extremely helpful.

Thank you once again.

totesTheGoat wrote:
savvyrookie wrote:5. Should I be doing some things as her dad (besides saving money to help her!!) to assist her in her pursuit of a law degree?


The rest of your questions have received really good answers, so I'll focus on this one. The #1 best thing to do is get her into a major that has decent job prospects without the law degree.

Now I can already see you balk because it seems like I'm not answering your question, but I am. ............


I don’t mean to be blunt or rude, but you’re ignoring the actual advice totes’ post. The advice, which is correct, is that your daughter should get a job after she graduates in her major field. Not that she should pursue a masters degree “if law school doesn’t pan out.” Your daughter should not go straight to law school from university (whether after an undergraduate or masters degree).

Getting a job does several, very important things that will help your daughter if she decides to go to law school: (1) it will help her confirm that she actually wants to attend law school and not pursue a career in her major (while giving her a real alternative to law school), (2) it will help her get into better law schools and apply with a stronger application, and (3) it will help her get a better first job as a lawyer as legal employers strongly value pre-law work experience.

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Re: Advice for my undergrad kid wanting to do law school

Postby jackdanielsga » Thu Sep 06, 2018 2:50 pm

Mullens wrote:Getting a job does several, very important things that will help your daughter if she decides to go to law school:


(from the buy side)

4) if she is ever in a client-facing position, she will be able to talk like someone with the real world experience, not a precious greenhouse orchid with a theoretical knowledge of and maybe a few guided visits to the world.

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totesTheGoat

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Re: Advice for my undergrad kid wanting to do law school

Postby totesTheGoat » Thu Sep 06, 2018 5:31 pm

jackdanielsga wrote:
Mullens wrote:Getting a job does several, very important things that will help your daughter if she decides to go to law school:


(from the buy side)

4) if she is ever in a client-facing position, she will be able to talk like someone with the real world experience, not a precious greenhouse orchid with a theoretical knowledge of and maybe a few guided visits to the world.


This cannot be overstated. I shake my head in shame any time I read engineer-facing stuff that is written by one of my K-JD coworkers. So much legalese, so much fluff, usually a baked in assumption that this email/announcement/presentation is the most important thing the reader will see all day. Little do they realize that they're priority #754, and the engineers only read the first 3 sentences of their email. Heck, even I am guilty of that on occasion because I'm immersed in legal department BS 24/7/365.

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Re: Advice for my undergrad kid wanting to do law school

Postby nixy » Thu Sep 06, 2018 7:02 pm

TBF, my understanding is that for a lot of science jobs (probably not CS but more like life sciences) a master’s actually does make it much easier to get hired into decent work in the field.

(Though overall, yes, go work before deciding to go to law school.)

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Re: Advice for my undergrad kid wanting to do law school

Postby QContinuum » Thu Sep 06, 2018 7:24 pm

nixy wrote:TBF, my understanding is that for a lot of science jobs (probably not CS but more like life sciences) a master’s actually does make it much easier to get hired into decent work in the field.

(Though overall, yes, go work before deciding to go to law school.)


Even still, I'd be in favor of hesitating before deciding to shell out for a Master's. One year of tuition (and living costs) isn't cheap, and in some fields (particularly bio, probably less so in "hard" chem), increasingly a Ph.D. (which is generally funded, unlike a Master's) is required for decent jobs with growth potential.

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totesTheGoat

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Re: Advice for my undergrad kid wanting to do law school

Postby totesTheGoat » Fri Sep 07, 2018 12:59 pm

QContinuum wrote:
nixy wrote:TBF, my understanding is that for a lot of science jobs (probably not CS but more like life sciences) a master’s actually does make it much easier to get hired into decent work in the field.

(Though overall, yes, go work before deciding to go to law school.)


Even still, I'd be in favor of hesitating before deciding to shell out for a Master's. One year of tuition (and living costs) isn't cheap, and in some fields (particularly bio, probably less so in "hard" chem), increasingly a Ph.D. (which is generally funded, unlike a Master's) is required for decent jobs with growth potential.


Yep, and to clarify, the advice is to avoid using a master's degree as a way to delay going into the real world or as a differentiator for a legal job. It's a really expensive and not very effective way to accomplish those goals. If a master's degree is necessary to kick off the career (like in many of the bio/chem/pharma majors), that's a completely different story.



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