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Law school opinions

Discussion in 'Other Off Topic Forum' started by GrigioGuy, Jan 19, 2004.

  1. GrigioGuy

    GrigioGuy Splenda Daddy
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    Greetings.

    I am interested in learning the law, and so am hopefully going to be headed to law school in Fall 2004. Unfortunately, I will have to go to night school, and in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area that gives me 2 choices: SMU and Texas Wesleyan University School of Law.

    Setting aside the actual issue of admission, I'd like your opinions based on the following:

    SMU is a better school, but if I go there I will come out owing significant (probably high 5 to low 6 figures) student loans.

    TWU is not in the same class at all, but I can pretty much cover it out of pocket.

    I am a non-traditional student, which means older and already working an 7-4 M-F gig, so I probably won't be able to utilize the internship and clerking opportunites that I could have if I was a full-time day student. Quitting my job to go to law school full-time is not an option.

    I'm open to everyone's thoughts. Of course, the admission offices may make this a mute discussion :)
     
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  3. ART360

    ART360 Guest

    Since your situation doesn't allow you to attend a daytime school, I'd recommend that you attend school with the lowest cost. You probably will have some difficulty in obtaining a job after any nightschool, so the choice of school probably doesn't make a lot of difference from that respect. However, a lower debt ratio when you get out will be significant.

    Having said that, a good many people who attend night school do very well after that graduate. I'd start now in seeing what you plan to do after school, and start working on obtaining clients in that area, even before you graduate. You could do that by volunteering one day a month in the area you wish to become employed, working a 2nd job in the summer, when you're not in school, etc.

    Good luck, this is a very hard profession, but the rewards are tremondous if you truly love what you do.

    Art
     
  4. whart

    whart F1 Veteran
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    One of the most financially successful lawyers in NYC (grosses over 10mil. a year personal take) went to a night school. But, i would urge, if you are open to advice, to do whatever you can to get into and excel at the best school you can, full time, during the day, undistracted by work, at least during the first year- even if it means taking on debt. (You may be able to fudge a little after the first year and take on an outside job, but if at all possible, make law school, not the job, your priority during this time, because, in essence, you are setting yourself up, for better or worse, for the rest of your career). The difference in income (if that is your question) may turn out to be considerable, right up front, and make the debt you incur to get thru school (full time, day )a secondary consideration. But, that's also dependent on your ability to kick ass, achieve high grades, law review, etc. so that you can shoot for the first tier in the job market. (If that's what you are after).And, while we are at it, i think you mean a "moot," not "mute" discussion, since that would be an oxymoron (unless you are talking by hand signals or something).
     
  5. rob lay

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    Tillman, seems like lawyers that specialize do the best. I think with your experience and education you would want to wrap up your technology doctorate and then use that in tandem with your law degree. I don't think anyone else could have a better resume than that.

    I don't know if Greg S. is a good example, but he went to the lowest law school in Texas and majored in partying. He seems to be doing pretty good now. ;)
     
  6. ty (360mode)

    ty (360mode) Formula Junior

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    if you have work experience that will be applied towards your legal profession, then i would be less worried about which school you go to. do you think you'll have any trouble getting a job with your background and law license? if not, then go to TWU. after your first job, 99% of employers will not care where you went to school.

    now if you want to work for a big lawfirm, then i would be more concerned about your school - although, imho, SMU is not thought of as a "top tier" school by any means... it may be different if you were talking UT v. TWU. regardless, if you excel at TWU, you will have many of the same opportunities, and possibly more if you ended up being middle of the road at SMU.
     
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  8. GrigioGuy

    GrigioGuy Splenda Daddy
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    Thanks for all the input!


    I'd love to do that, but as sole breadwinner I simply can't. There's responsibilities that have to take priority over a career change.

    That's my thinking also. The real advantage of going to SMU over TWU will be the network of people, but I don't know if that advantage still applies to the night school


    Thanks for the suggestions! Although I don't know how well the law reviews and the night programs interact. I'm touring TWU this afternoon to get a feel for the place. The idea of volunteering is a great one, since the traditional internships won't be an option.

    It depends on whether I stay in the technology field or convert to something else. I don't know if technology law is going to be the right place for me, but it plays to my background and strengths. The first job is going to be the kicker. It's tough to give up something that I love doing, but tech is a young man's game and I need to be elsewhere by the time I'm 40. I've always been fascinated by the law and can finally devote some time to it.

    If my old teachers at the Journalism department at UNT saw that mistake, I swear they'd revoke the degree. Thanks for the correction :)
     
  9. Texas Forever

    Texas Forever Four Time F1 World Champ
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    Tillman, the most important part of your post is your first sentence, i.e., do you really want to become a lawyer? Or, are you looking for a way to make mo money? Because unless you are sure that you want to be a lawyer, going to law school will be a big mistake, IMHO.

    In my case, I would have been much better off if I had gone to law school versus a PhD. But I choose the PhD route because I was pigheaded (story of my life) and didn't really understand the academic lifestyle.

    In your case, if you are thinking that having a law license will enable you to be a more effective entrepreneur, you might be right. But it will be far cheaper to just rent a law license, i.e., hire a good lawyer, than to burn off 5 years of your life.

    That said, if you want to be a trial lawyer, one of the best schools in the country is right here in Houston - South Texas School of Law. They specialize in turning out lawyers with rabies.

    Good Luck, DrTax
     
  10. rob lay

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    I think there's very little opportunity cost lost if you choose a less expensive option. You're still working full time, what would you of done with your time otherwise? I knew my MBA wouldn't do much for my career or actually teach me something that Babson didn't, but I didn't have anything to loose because classes were at night and Sprint paid for it.

    Now if it costs money or takes time away from something else you want to be doing, then you have opportunity costs.
     
  11. future328driver

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    The night program at SMU will take about 4 years to complete. Student loan rates are low right now, so it is a good time to borrow from places like Sallie Mae. The first $2000 annually that you spend on tuition, books, and fees are directly creditable under the LifeTime Learning Credit.

    I am an SMU law alum, so I can give you insight as to the school. If you want to get a law firm job when you graduate, you will probably have to be #1 in your class at TWU to get a job. The school does not have much of a reputation. An SMU JD will go a lot farther, but it will cost more money. SMU has significant scholarships available for students, so that may help mitigate some of the costs.
     
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  13. sjmst

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    "I am a non-traditional student, which means older and already working an 7-4 M-F gig, so I probably won't be able to utilize the internship and clerking opportunites that I could have if I was a full-time day student. Quitting my job to go to law school full-time is not an option."

    I worked full time and went to law school at night when in my early thirties. The choice of law school matters most on your first job.
    My thoughts, having done this:
    1) Get the best grades you can without making you and your family crazy;
    2) If you can, get on a Law Review, Moot Court, and or some clubs;
    3) This may be more work than any other education you have had, but you really do get used to anything. If you keep your sanity after the first semester and do at least OK, my guess is you will survive.
    Many of the older students in my night class went on to very good jobs. Our Valedictorian went on to a top NYC "white shoe" firm (not that I would wish that on anyone , LOL).
    PM me if you need more info., and good luck.
    Sam
     
  14. CRUSING

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    Oct 31, 2002
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    Tillman:

    Be very sure you want to be a lawyer. If it is really what you want to do then you are left with your decision based on a couple of factors. If you want your own practice (which can be very good, I had mine) then it really does not matter which law school you go to. Clients do not ask which law school you went to or what your grades were. The money you save will benefit you if you have your own practice. If you want to use your background and work for a corp. as in-house counsel (did that too) you probably need the better school and great grades unless you have a very good contact to get in the door. Now if you want to do the law firm deal, everyone here is right about having great grades, law review, and a top tier school.

    For example, I left my own practice moved to Denver after I got married. I had always viewed my goal as having my own practice in my home town which I did. Things changed, and now I am having difficulty because my law school was not a top tier school, and my grades were better than average but not top five percent. So in other words, make sure you decide how you want to practice and then your decision should be easier, but be prepared if things change... some of your choices can come back to haunt you. SMU is not a top school so it may not make much difference. In Dallas go the one that other attorneys think is the better school.

    Didn't you say a while back that you wanted to get into real estate law? That would mean needing to get very good grades at either school because that is most likely firm work. Just make sure it is what you want to do. Art is right it is difficult, and most attorney don't make that much. Good luck!
     
  15. future328driver

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    I agree that SMU is not a top tier law school. Actually, if you look at the numbers, SMU is ranked about 51st with the top tier cutting off at 50th. However, an SMU degree goes a very long way in Texas. I work for one of the largest law firms in the U.S. with an international scope with starting salaries well into the 6 figures. Plenty of SMU alum here, including me. I actually got into a few of the top 10 schools and decided to come to SMU becuase of the contacts the school has in the Dallas legal market. If you decied to stay in Dallas, or Texas in general, and want to go to a major firm after law school, stay away from TWU.

    I agree with what everyone else said regarding choosing the right school for your goals. If a law degree is just a supplement to your current career then TWU is fine, but if you intend to become a lawyer and wish to practice with a bigger firm, SMU is the only option you really have since you want to stay in DFW and do it at night.
     
  16. ryalex

    ryalex Two Time F1 World Champ
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    For Berkeley and such, yes it's too late. He could take the Feb LSAT and still get into TWU and probably SMU anyway. Higher ranked schools have earlier deadlines.
     
  17. whart

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    Guys, i may be too cynical (or worked and lived in NY too long), but the idea of somebody getting out of school and hanging up a shingle is, i think, farfetched. As anybody else here who has gone can tell you, they don't teach you very much about the practice of law in law school; indeed, the "top" schools tend to eschew the practical in favor of the esoteric.

    But, my point is really this: you will get a job, with a firm or otherwise, for the first couple years, for training, if for nothing else. (There are lawyers who take the big firm jobs, only to pay back their loans, and have the credential of having been at a top firm, with all that entails).

    I would also suspect that most corporations look for seasoned lawyers, even at the younger, entry level law department jobs. So, unless you are going to go to work for a gov't agency or a prosecutor or defender's office right off the bat, chances are, you will start in a law firm.

    Law firms tend to a certain sameness. There are places that work less hard and pay less munificently; there are others that give you the money and want your soul. (My view is, give 'em your soul, at least at first:- you will be trained in the ways of "big time" law and can leave at any time. Its much harder to start in Podunk and get into Cravath than vice-versa). Choice is yours if you can meet the criteria for a top tier entry level position in a firm; otherwise, you will be looking for a job with thousands of other poor slobs. (Hopefully, the market will improve by the time you get out of school, but frankly, average law students from average schools are not having an easy time of it right now, given that people with better credentials and experience are out of work and looking too).

    As to debt and the investment of your time, you will make, let's say for the sake of argument, using NY pay rates, 35-50 at a "good" small firm if you are lucky enough to get the job; you will get 150 at a big firm for an entry level job with bonus taken into account.(It doesn't matter if your city doesn't pay NY rates; the delta in dollars is probably the same between the "average joe" law job and a "top firm" job in virtually any town of size). Now, doing math is not my forte, but that extra 100 whatever a year can pay back loans pretty quickly; you get to work for the "best" in your field, in your city, and can take that credential with you when you go. Settling for any less, when you are going to devote so much of your time and energy to this (not an easy thing for a single person in their 20's, let alone for a family man with responsibility) for several years makes me say, spend the time wisely, don't let the cost of tuition influence your decision. Now, having gotten this far, you may say, what do i want with a top tier law firm in a big city, getting paid oodles of money to represent the scum of corporate america (or whatever), and not having a moment for my own life? Sorry, don't have an answer to that one. I will tell you, whether you work in a top firm or a ****ty one, you will still be working your ass off, its only a question of how much money you make, and how much training and exposure you will get in the process. I told you i was cynical, but i have been there.At least give yourself the option; you can always decide to follow a different path if the rewards, tangible and intangible, are not worth the price.
     
  18. rob lay

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    That brings up a good question Bill.

    Do any lawyers work 40 hour weeks? Seems like everyone that works for someone else works 60-80 hour weeks. However, at the other end I know self-employed lawyers that make really good money for only 20 hours work a week.

    Ken, haven't you been working crazy hours since you got out of school?
     
  19. Texas Forever

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    Bill, howza bout the $600 an hour question (or whatever the going rate is today)? Namely, how many lawyers do you know who work for one of the top tier firms, such as Blindem, Robem, and Cheatem, would still go to law school if they had known then what they know now. In other words, how many top gun lawyers really enjoy practicing law versus how many do it because they can't afford not to?

    Dr. "Catbird Seat" Tax
     
  20. F328 BobD

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    I had a friend who went to work for one of the big firms in Dallas (Baker Botts?). They dangled the partner incentive carrot in front of this poor guy for years. He left at 6:00 every morning and came home at 9:00 every night... did this for 5 years. His kids didn't even know him. They finally made him a partner and he quite and went to work for a small firm in Missouri. He's completely happy now.

    My brother is also an attorney... has his own firm in Tulsa with about 13 attorneys. He loves it when he gets involved with the big firms in Dallas, Houston, New York, etc. They think people in OK are a bunch of idiots... and he chews them up and spits them out. He hates his job but can't afford to quit at this point.
     
  21. zjpj

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    If a lawyer doesn't like those hours and the pace of life, get out of the firm and go in house. I'm talking white shoe Wall Street firms - working 360 days a year can be draining, but if you want to go in house, you have to do it. It's almost like a medical residency - you have to learn how to be a lawyer. If you go in knowing that you don't want to make partner, then your life will be much easier. Get three or for years under your belt and get out: go to an investment bank or do your own thing - whatever it is - but the fact is that you need streed cred., so to speak.

    With regard to the statement by whart about the top schools not teaching you how to practice, I think NYU is the exception. From what I hear, they give the best preparation for practicing law of the top schools.

    I applied this year to law school. I'll post an off-topic thread to get all your opinions on where I should go once some more of the letters come in. :)
     
  22. whart

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    I can't answer for anybody but myself and a few people i know well enough to say, with confidence, that i know where they are at in their careers: i have met many lawyers who are "high" on it, get their sense of self and their ego from being a big swingin' dick, even if they aren't big in real life. I have also met some heavy hitters over the years who are exactly what you'd expect them to be; brilliant, funny, charming and cynical; but most of these guys seem to have huge ego issues as well. I'm not talking about the "bigger than life" part of character. I'm talking the need for acknowledgement, even by 60 year old guys with millions in the bank who need the assurance, again and again, that they are the smartest, the best, the quickest, etc. Perhaps part of it is the gladiator thing: you never really do anything tangible as a lawyer; you provide a service, like killing in the arena, and you are only as good as your current kill quotient.
    But, again, i can't speak for others; i have burnt out a few times so far, and know a few others who have. Its not an easy profession and probably never was; one of my mentors has complained for years that the practice has lost its joy, and is just a job, like working for any widget corporation. Now, from his perspective, that was true even when i was a young lawyer. After having done this for, oh, call it 23 years, i have seen some of the same kinds of changes myself. And yes, there are many who complain. But, as long as you take the money, i don't think that's entirely fair. Of course, if i were running a law firm....
     
  23. LAfun2

    LAfun2 F1 Veteran

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    Thanks for clarifying. My apologies to Tillman for my post.
     
  24. Texas Forever

    Texas Forever Four Time F1 World Champ
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    Bill, one thing that many people don't realize about being a lawyer, until it is too late, is how adversarial the practice of law has become. In a past life I used to do expert witness work, but no more. Even though it was good money, I grew tried of the 99% boredom and 1% heartattack work style. Turns out that hanging around the court house waiting for a judge to finish his round of golf and then sitting in the chair while opposing counsel tries to rip you a new one was not my idea of fun.

    But yes, I can easily see how some folks can get addicted to it. For them, winning is the only thing.

    However, after saying all that, I'm encouraging my daughter to go to a top law school when she finishes undergrad. I don't know if she will ever practice. But, I think that the experience will be well worth it. I hope so cause she's my retirement plan, ha! :)

    DrTax
     
  25. GrigioGuy

    GrigioGuy Splenda Daddy
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    Thanks again for the input.

    To clarify, yes, I can just barely get everything together for the Fall 2004 for both TWU and SMU. However, that gives me very little time to prepare for the LSAT, and the classes are close to filled now. I may instead choose to reschedule the LSAT for June and apply for Fall 2005. That would make me 41 coming out of night law school. Realistically, is that too old to make a career change?

    In answer to several people's question, I do believe I want to be a lawyer. Intellectual property is interesting to me, especially as it collides with technology. I had mentioned real estate law in previous posts, but that interest is really due to my current employment. If I can convince the company to help pay for law school, then it would only be fair to focus on that aspect of the law.

    The opportunity cost here is that I'd have to give up finishing my doctorate. However, the same obligations that require me to stay in the MetroMess would also prevent me from being able to pursue an academic career. I wouldn't be able to move to teach at 'Small State University at Littleburg'. I'm also a bit disillusioned with the program, as I was expecting it to be more challenging.


    What do I want to do when I get out? I really couldn't tell you. I'd really rather be renting lounge chairs to tourists on a beach somewhere, but that's not going to happen. Second choice is going after publishers who rip off writers. After that is anything interesting. The ultimate goal of this is to move out of the technology field into something more sustainable. I'm doing very well for an 'IT guy' and love what I do, but eventually the younger, cheaper guys will overtake us older guys. I want to be elsewhere when that happens.

    For those who are lawyers, did you always know you were meant to be one, or did you become one as a second or third career? How did you choose your field within law? Would you do it again?

    As always, I appreciate all the help, you guys are wonderful.
     
  26. whart

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    The age thing is totally irrelevant for several reasons: you are not selling sex but maturity, and the grey hair will help. I worked with a guy who went to law school after he retired, at the age of 66. He started practicing at around 70 years old, and based on his vast work experience in publishing, became renown as a book publishing deal maker type. Last i heard, he was still at it, this took place in 1982! So, no worries there.

    As to whether one grows up being destined for the law, i think some of the attributes--good analytic ability, a willingness to confront difficulty- a good memory and passion--are traits that could lead to any number of paths. I don't know that law school training hurt anybody's prospects, or didn't result in a refinement of their skills, even if one ultimately chooses not to practice law, as such.

    I went to LS knowing i wanted to practice in the CR field, and was fortunate enough to get the right job at the right time when i got out of school. As to whether i'd do it again, i think the answer is "yes" assuming that i had to work for a living.
     
  27. future328driver

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    Tillman, nect time I make it to a DFW event, I can talk to you about SMU. One of my closest law school friends graduated from SMU at age 51. Age is not really an issue. He got a job working for a major Dallas firm.

    As you know, I made a big career change going from aerospace engineering to law. When I was in undergrad, I never even considered law school. I started thinking about it a few years after my engineering career was underway.

    It is a decision that I don't regret, but there are times when I miss the pace of engineering work as compared to the pace of working for a large firm.

    To Bill Hart....if you ever run a law firm, let me know..I would be honored to work for you.
     
  28. TC (Houston)

    TC (Houston) Formula Junior

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    I work 40 hour weeks . . . over the Christmas holidays. :)

    I agree with most everything that Bill and Ken have said. Don't do law school unless you are really committed to being a lawyer for at least a few years. IMHO, for it to make sense you have to look at it like a 6 or 7 year plan. Kick a$$ in a decent school, and then work your a$$ off for 2-3-4 years in a decent firm so that you can learn how to actually do something and pay off your debt. Then poke your head up and figure out where to go from there if you're not happy with the big firm experience. You should have plenty of choices if you've done well.

    I don't know any successful self employed lawyers who didn't work for someone else for many years.
     

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