Aug 17, 2009
You Ask…I Answer – How Do I Pick A Law School
I thoroughly enjoy your blog on building a solo practice. I’m only pre-law (1L in ’10), but already like the idea of flexibility and efficiency that comes w/a solo practice, and abhor the thought of sacrificing family life for slavery @ biglaw. Assuming this is the path I want to take, what should be my main consideration in choosing a law school? I’m thinking minimum debt, but would you recommend taking a scholarship @ a top 45 school instead of full price @ a T14?
I know others have given their opinions on this very topic. It’s a very important decision with major ramifications down the road. But I’ll give you my two cents for what it’s worth.
Get the best education you can based not just upon what you can afford today, but what you can afford tomorrow.
First, making the decision to go to law school today is folly for many. I’m talking about those who just think it might be a good idea because they have nothing better to do and their parents think their child should have a professional degree.
If you really have the right motivations to go to law school, and it is whatever motivation will sustain you through the ups and downs intellectually, emotionally and financially, both during and after law school, then you should definitely move forward.
Which law school based upon ‘ranking’? I’m not a fan of law school rankings. Anyone who reads my blog knows this.
However, I am a fan of the best education at the lowest cost and in a location which works for your life. If you are free to move about the country for your education this gives you more choices on all fronts. But if your mobility is limited then so are you choices.
If you know you want to work for a firm then in this economic and professional climate you have to go for a pedigreed education. But that isn’t enough. You must be at the top of your class and start connecting early. Only you know if you want to incur a mortgage-sized student loan for this based upon your commitment to practicing law and your capabilities. Only you know if your expectations for a Big Law placement are realistic.
If you know you want to go solo then your goal is the best education at the lowest cost so you graduate with minimal debt. Student loan debt stops many a lawyer from going solo whether right out of school or because of a lay-off. More often then not students don’t do a realistic cost-benefit analysis when analyzing a graduate degree. You have to look at cost of the loans plus lost income (for some) while attending school full-time and then realistically assess the length of time it will take you to break even based upon your projected income.
Projecting income is like playing the stock market. Every financial planner will tell you to plan conservatively at work with a 7% interest per annum on your 401k. But they never counsel you to factor in the years when you not only don’t earn any interest but lose principal. You have to be able to weather both.
In this climate, knowing you want to go solo, I would encouragel you to give very careful consideration to the overall costs of your education. If you are going to get a full ride at a top 45 school that works with your personal life and professional goals, knowing what I know now as I look in the rear view mirror, I would go for it. And if you are in the top of your class, should you change your mind about your solo ambitions, you’ll still be in very good shape. It’s all about having choices.
Make decisions that give you choices. If you’re laden with debt, it’s a very real bondage.
And I’d like to ask my readers to chime in. This is always a controversial topic and I am just one voice. Let’s hear more.