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Chances for Columbia/NYU Law?

marmar1964marmar1964 1 replies1 threads New Member
I'm a junior undergrad @ Clemson University. I'm considering finishing with one of the following degree configurations:

(1) Dual degree in philosophy (BA, concentration in law, liberty, & justice) & physics (BS), with a double minor in mathematics & legal studies;
(2) BA in philosophy (concentration in LLJ) with a quadruple minor in physics, mathematics, legal studies, and political science.

I've been planning on graduating with option (1) and only just considered switching to (2). I've almost completed my philosophy degree, but I haven't gotten far enough into physics to surpass minor requirements, so I wouldn't have taken any needless classes. I also haven't declared physics as a major yet, so my transcript wouldn't show any change.

Aside from that confusion, I'm on my school's debate team (internationally competing -- would have participated in the World Championships 3 times before graduating, & plan to be president my senior year), ethics bowl team (made it to the national championships either 2 or 3 times by the time I graduate), treasurer & president of our Swing Dance Club (separate years), & I'm hoping to start up our school's mock trial team within the next year. I've also achieved general honors & will achieve departmental honors in philosophy by the time I graduate. My GPA is 3.61 right now, & I haven't taken the LSAT, but based on practice tests, I should score in the low 170's.

I want to go into either human rights law or civil rights law, & I want to practice in NY, so I'm looking at Columbia & NYU, although I'd also be happy with Cornell (& maybe Fordham). I'm looking for advice on whether to drop physics to a minor & pick up a political science minor. I'm also looking for any realistic shot I have at getting into either of those schools, & what I can do to increase my chances.

Thanks!
14 replies
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Replies to: Chances for Columbia/NYU Law?

  • bluebayoubluebayou 28255 replies213 threads Senior Member
    Majors/minors are pretty much irrelevant. Can't do much about your GPA at this point, so score 172+ to increase your chances at Columbia. Be prepared to pay sticker, however.
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  • SlippinJimmySlippinJimmy 39 replies0 threads Junior Member
    Just focus on bringing up your GPA. Having a quadruple minor or a double major-double minor is not going to impress any law school admissions officers. If you have space in your schedule, go ahead and take classes you're interested in — but what do you gain by completing all those extra degrees? And even extra curriculars have a pretty limited effect on law school admissions. You really want to shoot to have an LSAT and GPA at or above a school's medians to give yourself a really good shot at admission. Softs can help, but the raw numbers are what matter the most.
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  • HappyAlumnusHappyAlumnus 1177 replies46 threads Senior Member
    Don't major or minor in law, liberty, justice or legal studies--anything law-related as an undergrad class should be removed from the lists of anyone headed towards a top law school.

    Get your GPA up a bit (at least 3.7 but ideally 3.8+) so major in whatever will do that, and ace the LSAT. If you need to drop extra majors or extracurriculars to get your grades up a bit and ace the LSAT, drop them.
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  • Demosthenes49Demosthenes49 1622 replies4 threads Senior Member
    @marmar1964: I'd go for the BS in physics. When you get to your T14 and realize that there is no work in human rights law and civil rights work isn't what you thought, you'll be happy you can take the patent bar and go into IP work.

    I would recommend you take some time to intern in a law office. You really should get an idea what law is before you commit to it.
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  • HappyAlumnusHappyAlumnus 1177 replies46 threads Senior Member
    @marmar1964, do not waste your time interning in a law firm in Clemson; the experience you will have will be completely unlike one in a NYC law firm. Maybe some of the national firms in Greenville would be somewhat comparable, but I doubt it. (I'm not being a NYC snob-- I spent a lot of my childhood in Clemson, including among lawyers there.) Do internships that are in sync with your life's passions.
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  • Demosthenes49Demosthenes49 1622 replies4 threads Senior Member
    @HappyAlumnus: Working in a small firm doing trusts won't be exactly like working in secured transactions at a NYC BigLaw office, but it's a lot closer than watching Law & Order. The latter being where most prospective lawyers get their idea of law. The OP wants to do human rights work, which is a big signal flag for "I know nothing about the practice of law." Some experience--any experience--would be for the best.
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  • marmar1964marmar1964 1 replies1 threads New Member
    To be clear, I recognize that law isn't like Law & Order. I would be partial to civil/human rights work in fields of family law or immigration, & that's a perspective coming from taking several law courses & speaking extensively to past/current lawyers (including people working in estate law, medical malpractice, & patent law, among other fields). I've discussed their day-to-day proceedings, & I recognize that "working in human rights law" will likely mean working in a large firm & perhaps seeking out pro bono experiences in litigation with NGOs if I can find the chance. I don't blindly plan to just start traveling the world straight out of law school.
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  • Demosthenes49Demosthenes49 1622 replies4 threads Senior Member
    @marmar1964: I'm glad you've spoken to other attorneys. I still recommend getting some hands-on experience.

    At a big firm you will be limited to 50-100 hours per year. You'll spend the remaining 1900 (minimum) doing major litigation. You can't live your life for 2-5% of your time. If family law interests you, spend some time interning in a family law firm (and don't both with NYU or Columbia unless they give you a full ride). If immigration, go spend a semester interning there. You should experience these things before committing to them.
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  • HappyAlumnusHappyAlumnus 1177 replies46 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2016
    @marmar1964, I don't recommend focusing on working/interning in a law firm before law school because (1) people who I've spoken with from my law school say that it doesn't help in admissions, (2) the work that you do as an intern/non-JD holder is nothing at all like a lawyer (and especially a more senior lawyer) does, (3) the culture and overall experience that you can have from firm to firm will vary tremendously, (4) coming from a top law school you will have the chance to spend 40 years of your life in a law firm, which suffices for law firm time, and (5) life is short so it's better, in my view, to spend time gaining a variety of experiences that are in sync with your life's passions (which will help your law school admissions prospects, even if only a little bit).

    Law is long hours, stress and lots of reading and writing, often by yourself. If you've dealt with situations like that (and anyone who spent a lot of time studying solo in a reputable college has), then you know what it's like and there's no need to replicate the experience by working in a law firm before law school. I spent my college years holed up studying, so that style works for me and I knew what I was getting into before joining a firm. (And I very much like law firms, due to the working style of most of them--lots of solo reading and writing.)

    Instead, spend time learning about different fields. If you like human rights/immigration law, work for a human rights/immigration nonprofit in a non-legal capacity--that will be much more enriching.
    edited November 2016
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  • Demosthenes49Demosthenes49 1622 replies4 threads Senior Member
    @HappyAlumnus:

    1. I agree that it doesn't help with admissions.

    2. The work may or may not be similar. At my internship I did legal research, which is the same no matter how senior you are, and basic motion work. Either way, you probably have the opportunity to at least observe the work you'll be doing if you follow the path.

    3. I agree culture varies tremendously. Don't visit one law office expecting every other one to be the same way.

    4. The fact that you'll get to spend 40 years doing law after law school is precisely why you should spend some time before. I'm sure it hasn't escaped you how many lawyers are unhappy with their choice of profession. Many of these people are unhappy because they are trapped doing something other than they thought they would be doing. The only way to guard against this is to show these people what law really is before they've committed to it.

    5. I agree you shouldn't neglect the rest of your time. That doesn't sound like the OP's problem. It also doesn't mean you shouldn't spend at least some time kicking the tires.
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  • bluebayoubluebayou 28255 replies213 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2016
    I'm sure it hasn't escaped you how many lawyers are unhappy with their choice of profession. Many of these people are unhappy because they are trapped doing something other than they thought they would be doing.

    I would submit that they are most unhappy with the work-life imbalance. The voluntary turnover in Big Law is yuuuuge. (We gotta a lot of pampered undergrads who seem to think that they should be able to work ~45 hours a week for a six-figure income, so they go to LS with their liberal arts degree.)

    And I'm not sure that punching a time clock as an intern a few afternoons a week would get that experience.

    edited November 2016
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  • HappyAlumnusHappyAlumnus 1177 replies46 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2016
    I would say that since you'll have a 40+ year career, having first-hand experience with non-legal options is wise. I've only been a lawyer, other than "summer in high school" jobs that weren't career-focused, so I have no idea whatsoever about what other careers could be like. I like being a lawyer and plan to do it until retirement, but I also don't know what I might be missing.

    However, if I had gotten experience in other fields, perhaps I would have had a very different career.

    In order to have a successful and happy career, it's important to know yourself and what you like, and you can get that by exposure to varied fields.

    If you go to a top law school, you can have a 40 year career as a lawyer if you want it, even if you have zero experience with law beforehand; law is the default option that you can always have if you want it. You can also have a huge range of options at any time. You're not locked into a 40 year career as a lawyer, though, and you can go do something other than law at any time, so it's important to know what else is out there and what might make you happier, if law does not.
    edited November 2016
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  • Demosthenes49Demosthenes49 1622 replies4 threads Senior Member
    @bluebayou: Let's say it's work life balance. Would you still agree that it would be beneficial to see that in action, rather than just hearing about it? I certainly find that directly experiencing something is more visceral than hearing stories about it.

    @HappyAlumnus: I don't disagree that a person should also experience non-legal options, if those interest them. I just think they should experience the legal ones too. Preferably before throwing a quarter million into it.
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  • bluebayoubluebayou 28255 replies213 threads Senior Member
    Would you still agree that it would be beneficial to see that in action, rather than just hearing about it?

    Sure, but since seeing it is impossible with OT rules; and that is my point. It's one thing to see a bleary eyed Associate at 9 am and feel empathy for him/her, but its quite another to be pulling those all-nighter's and weekends yourself. Night after night. Weekend plans constantly cancelled. Just doesn't happen to an intern.

    Heck, even partners who are known screamers may pull their punches with the low-level staff, and keep the good stuff to berate the Associates behind closed doors.

    Not saying that working in a Firm is a bad thing. I just disagree that the experience would be all that much more valuable in comparison to other jobs.

    For example, the law firm that I deal with weekly has an intern who answers the phone and manages the front desk while studying for the LSAT. Nice and quiet in Reception. Value of 'seeing' the Law/Firm in action? Virtually nil.

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