Getting into law school

The number one post-graduation employment in our major, retail. That’s something we don’t advertise much. It’s not entirely our fault. Communication has traditionally been a catch-all for business and computer science drop-outs, as well as the sustaining academic wing of the football team on some campuses. On the other hand, I am perhaps the worst defender of our undergraduate program. I would never want my own kid to go through our program, and if you look at where our faculty send their own children, you’ll find I’m not alone. We don’t do professional preparation — because we’re a “research” institution — but we also have students who have never had to write a full paper in their undergraduate careers.

Oops, got a little off track there. A solid minority of our undergraduates end up in graduate school, many of them in law schools. I just ran into this Advice for Getting Into Law School, and I’m linking it here as a reference for undergrads who read my blog and may be thinking of law. I’m not sure I agree completely with it (for example, if you are admitted to Harvard Law, you borrow the tuition, because you know you will earn it back), and it lacks a criticism of the LSAT, but it does give some pretty solid advice for students coming from large, public universities who are interested in getting into a good law school.

I should note that especially in today’s market, a good law school is important. Our local school has dropped precipitously in national rankings lately. Those rankings may have nothing to do with the quality of the program, but they do have something to do with potential employers’ perceptions. While most law graduates still find jobs, it is not always the kind of work they had hoped they would be doing, and it is not always law. Right now, there are more law graduates than there are new positions, so you should consider law only if you think you’ll like doing it (that sounds obvious, but it doesn’t seem to be) and if you think you will be a very successful law student at a decently ranked school.

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3 Comments

  1. Posted 11/30/2003 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

    hmm, I think that before anyone goes to law school they should intern for a public defender or for the most jr. associates in a law firm. it seems to me, and i’m dating myself, that the perception of law and legal careers after the rise of “L.A. Law” and the entertainment perspective is different from the actual practice of law.

    like graduate school, law school is not something that i encourage, its as good to go to architecture school instead or maybe get an m.f.a. the only difference that i see that people think you can make more money in law, which actually isn’t necessarily the case, though perhaps more lawyers become wealthier on average than poets, but i wonder if anyone has real stats on that perception.

  2. Posted 11/30/2003 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

    Leaving all else aside, the money is much better for lawyers than it is for most other professional graduates. The average starting salary for law graduates in 2002 was $72,308. The starting salary at large and “mega” firms is significantly higher than that. At that average, it is nearly 3 times that of a starting architect and more than first year assistant profs in most fields and at most universities or colleges. (Er, more than me, anyhow. :)

    Moreover, unlike the MFA (or Ph.D.), most law grads get jobs in their field. I mean it’s worse than it has been in previous years–employers are no longer giving BMWs as signing bonuses–but a good student at a decent school can still get multiple offers. It used to be that the bad students at 2nd or 3rd tier schools also got multiple offers, but that’s no longer the case.

    If anything, I have a feeling that the views of law school are less skewed than most graduate paths. Think about depictions of professors in popular media. Few of my undergraduate, or even graduate, students recognize that as an asst. prof. without large external funding and with sizable loans to repay, I am living basically from paycheck to paycheck. And I am the only one in my cohort that has a tenure-track job at a “Research I” school (so far), and one of the few that has a tenure-track job at all.

  3. Posted 12/1/2003 at 8:59 am | Permalink

    I’m unsure about whether most law students get jobs in their fields. of course, ‘good student’, ‘decent school’ are constructs of an ideality. just how many practicing lawyers are there in the u.s. these days anyway? I know i have an aunt and a ex-uncle that were both lawyers, and now one is a librarian and the other teaches russian languages or the like. of course they may be exceptions, however, i think that like most jobs, as you rise up the ladder the ranks get thinner, but luckily the lower ranks are replenished at a very high rate.

    yeah, the academic job hunt is not pretty. i’m in it now. hopefully it will work out, i think i have a few more years here if i need them. I have about 5 more years to pay off my student loans, and i have to get a newer car this month(unless i get an offer to go overseas), but financial issues and such are universal problems in the u.s. except for some of the capital elite. but I do think that in general terms encouraging someone to pursue a graduate degree in these united states is not necessarily having that persons best interests in mind…

    anyway, i’ve rambled enough

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