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USNWR: Is Law School Worth It?

crankyoldmancrankyoldman 700 replies59 threads Member
The anecdotes probably should be ignored, but the numbers(only 52% think the education is worth the cost).

https://www.yahoo.com/news/law-school-worth-recent-law-grads-134944305.html
19 replies
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Replies to: USNWR: Is Law School Worth It?

  • makemesmartmakemesmart 1775 replies14 threads Senior Member
    I was told that you need to be in top (14?) law schools to make some kinds of justification.
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  • PublisherPublisher 12316 replies167 threads Senior Member
    @makesmesmart: It is not necessary to attend a Top 14 law school in order to justify one's decision to pursue a career in law.

    Most who are accepted to a T-14 law school have the numbers required to qualify for a full tuition & fees scholarship at a lower ranked law school.

    Of course, even with a full tuition scholarship, law school is costly as one must still pay for room & board & books in addition to sacrificing 3 years of income.
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  • PublisherPublisher 12316 replies167 threads Senior Member
    edited October 2019
    It is best to evaluate each potential applicant to law school on an individual basis in order to assess whether or not attending law school would be a reasonable career move.

    For those with significant student loan debt from their undergraduate degree, it is probably not wise to take on additional student loan debt for law school.

    For those who plan to attend law school because they do not know what to do with their professional lives & have no meaningful career path, it is also likely not to be a wise move.
    edited October 2019
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  • PublisherPublisher 12316 replies167 threads Senior Member
    The top 3 law schools--Yale, Harvard & Stanford--do not award merit scholarship money, but may offer need based financial aid.

    Most, maybe all, of the Top 14 law schools do offer merit money--often designed to lure away those admitted to Harvard, Yale or Stanford.

    I believe that Georgetown Law School, typically ranked at #14, offers scholarships & need based financial aid. Even transfers can be awarded need based financial aid by Georgetown Law School.
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  • PublisherPublisher 12316 replies167 threads Senior Member
    For those who know that they want to practice in their home state & are not interested in working in biglaw, then there may be some very affordable options.

    For example: Instate tuition at the University of North Dakota law school is about $12,000 per year. Very reasonable for those who wish to practice in the Dakotas.

    Many state law schools charge around $20,000 per year tuition & fees. Top 14 law schools charge about $65,000 per year for tuition & fees--but graduates from the top law schools have access to the highest paying law jobs.
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  • PublisherPublisher 12316 replies167 threads Senior Member
    edited October 2019
    My best guess is that law school is not a wise investment of time, money & lost income for well over one-third of those who finish law school.

    Top 14 law school grads often need to secure a high paying job in biglaw after graduation in order to pay off their law school student loan debt.

    The typical new associate with a biglaw firm lasts about 4 years, although many only survive for a couple of years. After three or four years in one biglaw law firm, many leave as a "lateral" to another biglaw firm.

    Equity partnerships in major law firms are becoming increasingly rare. If one does not get offered a partnership (either equity or non-equity) after 7 or 8 years in biglaw, then they are expected to move on. Most associates either leave or are asked to leave well before they hit the 7 or 8 year mark.

    Biglaw salaries vary by market. In NYC, for example, new attorneys on the Cravath scale lockstep system start at $190,000 plus a bonus of about $15,000. The next year that entire class moves up in pay in lockstep.

    Biglaw in secondary cities may start first year associates at $160,000 plus a $10,000 to $15,000 year end bonus.
    edited October 2019
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  • PublisherPublisher 12316 replies167 threads Senior Member
    edited October 2019
    The article cited in the original post asserts that average law school debt is slightly over $108,000 and the average starting salary for new lawyers is about $88,000.

    I know a handful of young attorneys who had almost those exact figures. The biggest mistake they make is only making the minimum required loan payments. This causes the loans to grow & get out-of-hand if one doesn't receive substantial pay raises & apply the increase in income to loan payments.

    If the numbers work out to $120,000 in student loan debt for law school and one expects a starting salary of just $85,000 to $90,000, then law school is probably not a wise investment. However, if one can finish law school with just $50,000 to $60,000 in total student loan debt, then it may be a wise investment for those who enjoy practicing law.
    edited October 2019
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  • PublisherPublisher 12316 replies167 threads Senior Member
    edited October 2019
    If thinking about attending law school, one's best use of time & money would be for LSAT preparation.

    A high LSAT score opens up doors to the best law schools & to the best scholarship offers from law schools.

    What constitutes a "high" LSAT score varies by school and is usually determined by any particular law school's median LSAT score for the most recent matriculated class of law students. So, for example, if the median LSAT score for Law School X was & is 163, then any LSAT score of 164 or higher would be considered a high LSAT score for that law school.

    Yale Law School, the smallest & most selective of the top law schools, maintains a median LSAT score of about 173 on the 180 point scale. Accordingly, if one earns an LSAT score of 174 or higher, then there is no need to retake the LSAT as a score of 174 exceeds all median LSAT scores for all 200 ABA acredited law schools in the US.

    Canadian Law Schools also use the LSAT, but tend to value applicants' undergraduate GPA slightly more than one's LSAT score. US law schools do the opposite & give more weight in the admission's decision to one's LSAT score than to one's undergraduate GPA. (Canadian law schools are more generous when calculating one's undergraduate GPA than are US law schools.)

    In short, in the US, one's LSAT score can result in law school admission and in significant law school merit scholarship money.
    edited October 2019
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  • cbreezecbreeze 4773 replies92 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2019
    If one does not get offered a partnership (either equity or non-equity) after 7 or 8 years in biglaw, then they are expected to move on.

    Currently, a lot of biglaw firms have extended it to 8-10 years. Some lawyers who are promising but not quite partner material are promoted to counsel and can stay there indefinitely until they quit in frustration.
    edited November 2019
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  • PublisherPublisher 12316 replies167 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2019
    OP asked: "Is law school worth it?"

    Above The Law is running an intro into a 10 minute youtube video of a current Columbia law student repeating "No" for the entire video. WARNING: Do not play the video as it messed up my computer.

    FWIW: Columbia Law School has a reputation for being quite intense & competitive.
    edited November 2019
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  • bluebayoubluebayou 28255 replies213 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2019
    The article cited in the original post asserts that average law school debt is slightly over $108,000 and the average starting salary for new lawyers is about $88,000.

    While perhaps true, the numbers are worse than meaningless as law school salaries are bimodal, i.e., almost no one makes the 'average'. Plenty of the t14 grads make big law and start at $190k+bonus. Grads from law schools far down the food chain can make $55-60k, IFF they can find a legal job, which is sobering number if you have just assumed $100+k in debt.

    https://abovethelaw.com/uploads/2018/06/NALP-Class-of-2016-Salary-Distribution-Chart.jpg
    A high LSAT score opens up doors to the best law schools & to the best scholarship offers from law schools.

    Avoiding debt is always a good thing, and an extra few points on the LSAT can result in thousands of tax-free dollars in merit aid. It's the easiest money that one will ever earn!
    edited November 2019
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  • PublisherPublisher 12316 replies167 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2019
    Not sure that I agree 100% that salaries for recent law grads are bimodal despite having read that for the past decade or so from several credible sources. There are exceptions.

    Law salaries vary by region & location within that region & by type of employer.

    Also, for those who want biglaw, it is not as elusive as rumored if one works in a specialty area for a few years & enters biglaw as a mid-level or senior associate.
    edited November 2019
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  • PublisherPublisher 12316 replies167 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2019
    @cbreeze: What percentage of new lawyers hired into biglaw make it past the 5 year mark ? Past the 7 or 8 year mark ? With the same firm as well as a lateral to a second biglaw firm.

    Thanks in advance for your response !
    edited November 2019
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  • bluebayoubluebayou 28255 replies213 threads Senior Member
    Law salaries vary by region & location within that region & by type of employer.

    Absolutely, but if you research the salary number, the bimodal distribution goes back at least two decades -- since the dot-com hiring frenzy. The the 1990's were a different story.


    https://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/07/16/the-toppling-of-top-tier-lawyer-jobs/?mtrref=www.google.com&gwh=B72B17FE81350F5A0C39145583AC11B0&gwt=pay&assetType=REGIWALL

    https://www.tourolaw.edu/cso/docs/2008Salaries.htm


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  • cbreezecbreeze 4773 replies92 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2019
    @Publisher, What's your point for being so snarky?
    Since you said your comments are based on what you've read online, I am sure you are capable of looking them up yourself.
    edited November 2019
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  • PublisherPublisher 12316 replies167 threads Senior Member
    @cbreeze: Wow, you have totally misinterpreted my post. I was simply asking a question because you seem to be on top of this.
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  • PublisherPublisher 12316 replies167 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2019
    For the law school class of 2018, the average student loan debt is above $115,000 (about $89,000 for public law schools & approximately $130,000 for private law schools) according to a story today in Above The Law.

    The average law school student loan debt of over $115,000 is an increase of about $7,000 from the prior year's (2017) graduating law school class.
    edited November 2019
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  • PublisherPublisher 12316 replies167 threads Senior Member
    edited November 2019
    Annual bonus figures are out for Cravath: (as reported by Above The Law)

    Associate bonuses awarded on a lockstep basis:

    1) $15,000 pro-rated for class of 2019
    2) $15,000 class of 2018
    3) $25,000 class of 2017
    4) $50,000 class of 2016

    5) $65,000 class of 2015
    6) $80,000 class of 2014
    7) $90,000 class of 2013
    8) $100,000 class of 2012

    Bonuses are same as for last year.

    Cravath sets the standard for biglaw associate compensation.
    edited November 2019
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  • PublisherPublisher 12316 replies167 threads Senior Member
    Cravath scale (base salary & 2019 bonus scale):

    Year 1) $190,000 base salary & $15,000 year end bonus

    Year 2) $200,000 base salary & $25,000 bonus

    Year 3) $220,000 & $50,000

    Year 4) $255,000 & $65,000

    Year 5) $280,000 & $80,000

    Anecdotally, few biglaw associates last 5 years or longer at their initial firm.

    Year 6) $305,000 base salary & $90,000 year end bonus

    Year 7) $325,000 & $100,000

    Year 8) $345,000 & $100,000
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