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Less than stellar LSAT, best option?

lawfuturelawfuture Posts: 47Registered User Junior Member
edited November 2012 in Law School
I have seen some advice on this forum about not going to law school, this isn’t a consideration. My son has planned to become a prosecutor for years. He is graduating from a top LAC with a 3.8 GPA; his LSAT score is 168 (one take, a retake this year isn’t an option). This is probably good enough to get him into many law schools ranked 16 and above. He had hopes of getting into one of the T14 (with a few specifics in mind). He doesn’t know for sure where he wants his permanent home to be. It seems his choices are to: go to the best ranked law school he can get into that meets his personal criteria; to go to a school that is ranked well in trial advocacy regardless of its overall rank ( it seems that aside from Northwestern and Georgetown most of the schools with high trial advocacy rankings are lower ranked law schools) or to delay going to law school, work for a year (at most likely a low skilled job) study for the LSAT and retake and apply to law school next year. Which seems like the best option toward being able to land a job after graduation and overall career satisfaction for the longhaul. (It is understood that all jobs in law are highly competitive these days).
Post edited by lawfuture on
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Replies to: Less than stellar LSAT, best option?

  • NeonzeusNeonzeus Posts: 1,229Registered User Senior Member
    I could easily argue both sides of this question. There's no guarantee that a LSAT score will go up, or that your son would get into a T14 in another year anyway. Presumably he's started applying for next year, since with rolling admissions the earliest applications get a little edge.

    On the other hand, taking a year off would give him a chance to save some money to reduce grad school debt. Even a low paying job could let him save enough to cover room and board for a school year, cover his books, or make a dent in tuition. He could also use the time to make his resume even stronger through additional volunteering, projects, networking, etc. Whether he got into a T14 or not next year, anything he did to make himself truly stand-out might translate to scholarship money.

    That extra year might also let him monitor trends in the legal market. If applications continue to drop, his scores could edge him into a school where he otherwise might have been cut-off a few years ago.

    He might (if you're lucky) even change his mind as he starts to hear horror stories from any friends who are actually in law school or who are job hunting.

    Since he's interested in becoming a prosecutor, I thought you might be interested in this recent article: Pittsburgh's public-sector lawyers struggle on low pay - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette It puts my thoughts about trying to reduce debt into context.

    In my opinion as a practicing lawyer, once you're out of the top schools, reputations for advocacy or other ratings become less important than regional reputation and job prospects. It's unlikely that an employer in Michigan, for example, would give a preference to a Florida school with a reputation for advocacy. It's more likely that the Michigan employer would hire from Michigan schools, especially if the students have clerked, taken summer jobs or otherwise enhanced their resumes in Michigan. There might be a few exceptions for some schools with national alumni networks, such as Notre Dame.
  • lawfuturelawfuture Posts: 47Registered User Junior Member
    So your point is clear going to a school well ranked for advocacy won't help unless he wants to work in the region of that school. It is my understanding that in the case of working for the DA that is probably also true with brand name schools. The network power of being in a location probably outweighs the prestige of the college name for government jobs. Do you think that is correct? I expect that there are big name schools like Notre Dame or USC that fall lower in the rankings that he has a good chance of getting into. It also sounds like going to a school with a national alumni network would allow options to be kept open with regard to employment if that employment was in the private sector. Would this be true for decently ranked natioally recognized schools that are not part of the T14 like Notre Dame and USC?

    Knowing the kid,and the amount of time he spent prepping for the LSAT I do expect that with real dedication his score would go up. As for the applicaton process. The LSAT score was just released late this week so while the ap process is in progress no applications have gone out yet. I don't expect that he will reap the benefits of early rolling admissions which could be another benefit of laying off for a year. Finding meaningful resume building activities and a job that will privide a small financial cushion will be a challenge.

    I haven't read the article yet but I will. He has considered the salary vs debt equation but is hoping that loan forgiveness with public sector work will save him. I hope so too :).

    Thank you for your thoughts.
  • sybbie719sybbie719 Posts: 16,662Super Moderator Senior Member
    The only challenge is right now, is that the market is extremely competitive for public sector work.

    One would have to also consider the cost of living in the market where he wants to do the public sector work. One of my D's friends is a newly minted Bronx ADA living in an apartment with 3 other people in Manhattan, because she cannot afford to live by herself on her salary. Most of their friends who have public service jobs have parents with the means to help underwrite their choice.
  • lawfuturelawfuture Posts: 47Registered User Junior Member
    Sybbie, Yes I know that the DA salaries are low and so does my son. Right now he is a low frills kind of kid and has gotten through college on a minimal budget. I am also quite sure he won't be going to NYC to live. Aside from all of that, Iguess this is another reason to go to a well ranked school because of the employability options even if they are not in his chosen direction. Defintely if I thought there was a way to direct him to a more prosperous path I would. I just don't see that happening, the last thing either of us want is a mountain of debt at the other end and no employment. I know there are no guarantees of employment even coming from a T14 school but the chances are better. I am just wondering if a less than T14 school with a national reputation might be a worthwhile investment or if waiting and working on doing better is the way to go.
  • sybbie719sybbie719 Posts: 16,662Super Moderator Senior Member
    The thing is that the majority of financial aid is going to be in the form of loans. Lsat may be a challenge for admissions to NYU and a public service scholarship. He may be in the range for Wash U and their Webster Society Scholarship (3 years full tuition + stipend)

    WULS: Webster Society Scholarship
  • NYULawyerNYULawyer Posts: 281Registered User Junior Member
    With 3.8 + 168 LSAT, lower T-14 schools are well within grasp. (UVa, Mich, Cornell)

    I advise taking time off and retake, as with 3.8 + 17x LSAT, top 6 law would be within grasp, as well as merit scholarship money from lower T-14.
  • lawfuturelawfuture Posts: 47Registered User Junior Member
    NYULawyer: Taking time off is a real consideration. But since you mentioned UVa, I checked and their numbers are (median LSAT 170, mid 50% 164-171, and GPA median 3.87, mid 50% 3.53-3.93) Given my S's 168 and 3.8 I would consider this a high reach. In assessing his chances I am assuming that if he is below the median for both GPA and LSAT that chances for admission are not very good. Do you think I am on the right track?

    As we have been exploring his chances I have considered schools like UVA to be high reaches. If his GPA is above the median and his LSAT is 1-2 points below the LSAT median I am thinking of this as a Reach but maybe a worthwhile one. I'm thinking that schools where his GPA and LSAT either match or are slightly above the median are Matches and schools that his numbers are above the 75th percentile are safeties.
    It seems it is that last group that would be most likely to offer scholarships. Do you think I am on the right track with this assessment?

    Sybbie: That WUSL scholarship sounds fabulous but I think a gap year with some resume building would be needed for him to be a real contender. But since you mentioned WUSL I checked admission statistics. It turns out he is at least a high match with both GPA and LSAT essentially matching the 75th percentile and being more than 1point above the median of both.

    So here are my questions:
    1-How would one go about finding the employment statistics from any given law school?

    2-Would you agree with my assessment for defining reaches matches and safeties?

    3-Would there be reasonable respect among employers in graduating from a school like WUSL ranked in the 20's with some but limited national name recognition? (It is undestood that to be a prosecutor it is more about networking but I can see that it would be important to have multiple options in a glutted job market and I'm wondering if these options would be significantly less in a less thanif at a T14 school)

    Thanks for your help!
  • NYULawyerNYULawyer Posts: 281Registered User Junior Member
    NYULawyer: Taking time off is a real consideration. But since you mentioned UVa, I checked and their numbers are (median LSAT 170, mid 50% 164-171, and GPA median 3.87, mid 50% 3.53-3.93) Given my S's 168 and 3.8 I would consider this a high reach. In assessing his chances I am assuming that if he is below the median for both GPA and LSAT that chances for admission are not very good. Do you think I am on the right track?

    Law school admissions = GPA + LSAT. The median stats you cite don't hold much weight, since many schools accept applicants with GPA's lower than their ideal cut-off, if they have LSAT scores higher than their ideal cut-off, and vice versa.

    I've known people with 3.2-3.3 GPA's get into UVA or Cornell, with 171-172 LSAT. Your son's stats are competitive enough for low T-14. I predict that your son has over 50-60% chance of admission at at least one school within T-14, if he applies to schools early in the cycle. Another option could be to apply early decision (Mich, Cornell, or UVA) which would give him advantage in gaining admission.

    However, even if your son ends up getting into a low T14 school, he's probably looking at attending with full sticker price. Is it worth 260k debt (tuition + total living expenses over 3 years) to attend a school such as UVA? In this economy, I would say that is a very risky proposition. Now that I've gone through the whole process, I would say that only law schools worth full sticker price to attend are the top 3.

    Employment Data for Recent Graduates

    To service that level of debt, you pretty much need to land BigLaw. ~50% of UVA grads landed Biglaw, so that leaves other ~50% of grads with less than desirable outcomes, given the costs incurred. Also, last year 64 grads from UVA (17.3% of their graduating class) ended up taking a school funded "fellowship", which is a temporary gig paying 30-35k a year. (Many schools do this so that they can say higher % of their grads are employed after graduation)

    Lastly - landing a public interest gig, including a gig as a prosecutor, is many times even more difficult than landing a Biglaw gig. This is due to very limited slots of those jobs and these employers don't adopt standardized, formal recruiting that BigLaw firms adopt. Hence, ideally a law student shouldn't enter law school solely focused on that niche employment option.

    Given these considerations, I advise retaking LSAT. If your son scores just 3-4 points higher on LSAT, there is a good chance he would end up with ~ 100k in merit money to attend a lower T14 school. Earning those extra 3-4 points on LSAT might as well be the best investment your son makes.
  • NeonzeusNeonzeus Posts: 1,229Registered User Senior Member
    NYU lawyer makes a lot of sense. You also asked about researching employment stats. The schools publish them, either in those law school books at the bookstore or online at places like law school numbers. Personally, I do not recommend giving those numbers much weight. My kid went to a school with employment stats in the mid to high 80s. When he was a 3L, the school changed the way it calculated employment (presumably based on US News changing criteria, recent litigation against numerous schools for inflating job prospects and other pressure to be transparent). Their new basis for determining employment was whether the grads were employed 9-months after graduation in jobs that required a J.D. The school's most recent employment stats dropped into the 60s, to the 3L students' shock. Their chances of entering the legal profession were suddenly much less rosy than the prior statistics had indicated.

    Some law schools still count grads who work for the law school, who volunteer for lack of paid employment or who work in nonlegal jobs as "employed." You need to know how the school determines employment, and which year they're reporting. Your son may get a clearer picture of employment opportunities from talking to current students at each school after he is admitted.
  • bluebayoubluebayou Posts: 21,292Registered User Senior Member
    retake, no question. Study his butt off. Don't "waste" that 3.8. A few extra points on the LSAT can be worth some merit money, or top T6 admission.
  • stacystacy Posts: 1,097Registered User Senior Member
    whatever he does, he should look for schools with public interest loan repayment programs (often called LRAPs--loan repayment assistance programs). I went to Michigan for law school and have gotten thousands of dollars a year to help pay off loans. Harvard, NYU, and others have these....and, unlike scholarships, they are for anyone who gets a qualifying job (admittedly, not easy jobs to get). LRAP makes the difference between the story Neonzeus posted and financial stability--imagine if that couple had much of the $1900 a month they were paying for loans provided for them.

    don't think that the income based repayment option available on law school loans is a panacea. When I was making around what the lawyers in this article made, I still owed over $400 a month in loans, and live in a city a lot more expensive than Pittsburgh. It was doable (but I didn't have twins!). LRAP made it a lot easier.
  • NeonzeusNeonzeus Posts: 1,229Registered User Senior Member
    I should report to all who have heard my concerns over the last few years that my kid passed the July bar and has gotten a job (average student coming out of a top regional school). He's in a small city a few hours away. It's not the field that he wanted, but at least he'll be practicing law. Thanks to income based loan repayments and loan consolidation, he'll also be able to pay rent, put gas in his car and occasionally eat. Only about 1/3 of his fellow grads have found employment so far if you don't count doc-review or other temp work, so he views himself as one of the lucky ones.
  • sybbie719sybbie719 Posts: 16,662Super Moderator Senior Member
    Neon,

    I was thinking about you as my daughter was telling me about her friend who passed/failed the bar. Congrats to your sin for passing the bar and landing a JOB!!!
  • bluebayoubluebayou Posts: 21,292Registered User Senior Member
    Only about 1/3 of his fellow grads have found employment so far...

    Which is why a few extra points on the lsat could be profitable, OP. (Either with a merit scholarship to attend LS, or matriculating to a higher-ranked LS which could result in greater employment prospects.)

    I should report to all who have heard my concerns over the last few years that my kid.... has gotten a job.

    Woohoo! In this economy, a 20-something earning a regular paycheck is an accomplishment in itself. Congrats.
  • NeonzeusNeonzeus Posts: 1,229Registered User Senior Member
    Thanks :-). I'm very relieved. My other kids are pursuing medical fields with better employment prospects, thank goodness. I don't think my nerves would stand worrying about another law student.
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