Monday, November 05, 2007

A swervy path to law school

A MoneyLaw correspondent asks:
NewspaperI am a 2006 college graduate, and I have been writing and reporting for various publications since I left school. My passion for journalism has taken a swervy road and has led me to a sincere interest in going to law school. I actually took the LSAT in college and did extremely well, but my grades are very average. I'm already in debt due to school, and while I wouldn't mind incurring more debt to go to law school, I don't really have the money to go take any post-bac classes to improve my GPA. Is there any particular path you would suggest I follow to get into a decent law school?
Answers from our contributors and readers are welcome in the comments to this post.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Post-bac" classes won't improve your GPA as far as LSAC and law schools are concerned. Depending on what doing "quite well" means, you shouldn't have too much trouble. I was in what I assume to be similar shoes last year. I found the forums at Top Law Schools and Law School Discussion to be very helpful (not to mention the data at Law School Numbers). Finally, with some real work experience under your belt, you might strongly consider Northwestern.

11/06/2007 9:03 AM  
Blogger Richard Peck said...

Please don't correlate what makes a law school "decent" with how it is "ranked." I live in a city that is home to two law schools: one in the top 50 (let’s call it ABC) and one in the bottom 50 (XYZ). A degree from XYZ won't open any doors for you in Washington or on Park Avenue. But here, XYZ is the alma mater of about a quarter of the lawyers in town, who practice in every segment of the community. None of those lawyers consider themselves "cellar dwellers" or “bottom feeders” or think poorly of XYZ grads, because they know it's a "decent" school. When all is said and done, where you go to law school has a lot less to do with your success (however you define it) than what you do with whatever you learned from wherever you learned it. (Unless you want to be a law professor or clerk at the United States Supreme Court, in which case forget all this, fill out about 15 applications and hope for the best. But I digress.)

Lawyers who went to "higher ranked" schools and have with a less than favorable impression of XYZ and its grads find out soon enough (usually right after getting his or her ass kicked) that it produces some outstanding lawyers. One of this state’s Senators went to law school at ABC; the other went to XYZ. (Honest. I’m not making this up.) Last time I checked, their votes were equal.

Also, don’t sell yourself short on where you should apply based on your opinion of your test scores or GPA. (Or because your path is “swervy.” Law professors understand “swervy.”) If a law school has a median LSAT of 161 and GPA of 3.5 (or is it the mean? I can never tell them apart) it follows that some 145's and 150's and 2.9’s were admitted. (Otherwise, wouldn’t its medians / means be 179 and 3.9?) If a law school has something to offer you, apply.

Finally, although people "apply" to attend law school, imho it's far more important for you to “admit” a law school based on what you want and what it can do for you than to let a law school “admit” you based on what it wants and its view of what you can do for it. Speaking for myself, at the end of the day whether I attended ABC or XYZ mattered little to either school (there's always someone else right behind who will gladly fill the seat). But it mattered a great deal to me. So go where it feels right for you, based on what you can afford. It's your decision, based on your criteria, for what you want to do. And tell anyone who doesn’t like it to kiss your ass.

11/07/2007 8:06 PM  

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