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Discus: College Confidential Café: 2004 Archive: Law Schools
By Starbucks (Starbucks) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 09:41 pm: Edit

Hey-
I know this may be a complex issue, but what exactly do law schools, such as Harvard, look for in applicants?
Thanks

By Yackityack (Yackityack) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 09:59 pm: Edit

Way high LSATs, way high GPAs, not being a slacker.

By Thenarrator (Thenarrator) on Sunday, September 12, 2004 - 10:05 pm: Edit

that about sums it up. internships/work experience/extra curriculars in related areas help, but the bulk of admissions requirements are LSAT and undergrad GPA.

By Thinkingoutloud (Thinkingoutloud) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 12:00 am: Edit

Before you decide you want to be a lawyer, try to examine the profession in detail. We have so many more lawyers in this country than we could ever need. Being a lawyer is a zero sum game. In other words, lawyers rarely create wealth the way a business owner or a furniture maker might. Although there are exceptions, most lawyers simply take from one person and give to another while exacting a fee. Do we really need our best and brighest worrying about how divorcing couples split their assets? The glut of lawyers is only getting worse. The reason is that law schools have a high student to teacher ratio and, thus, usually make a profit that can be spent elsewhere at a university. If your goal is to make a lot of money, law is not the right business. You can make far more as a business owner or as a manager at a major corporation. When you see surveys showing high lawyer's salaries, you need to consider that those surveys usually do not reflect that lawyers have to pay their business overhead, health insurance, and retirement. Many lawyers are leaving the practice of law due to dissatisfaction. Find out why before you decide on law school.

By Imblue (Imblue) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 03:26 am: Edit

Also keep in mind that the lawyers who make a lot of money also work a lot more than 40 hours a week.

To answer the original question: high LSAT (roughly 80%) and high GPA (roughly 20%).

By Wrathofgod64 (Wrathofgod64) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 04:11 am: Edit

wait, so r u saying it's completely unlike the highschool admissions process to college where there's a HEAVY emphasis on ECs and non-academic stuff

By I1lmatics (I1lmatics) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 08:20 am: Edit

"Before you decide you want to be a lawyer, try to examine the profession in detail. We have so many more lawyers in this country than we could ever need. Being a lawyer is a zero sum game. In other words, lawyers rarely create wealth the way a business owner or a furniture maker might. Although there are exceptions, most lawyers simply take from one person and give to another while exacting a fee. Do we really need our best and brighest worrying about how divorcing couples split their assets? The glut of lawyers is only getting worse. The reason is that law schools have a high student to teacher ratio and, thus, usually make a profit that can be spent elsewhere at a university. If your goal is to make a lot of money, law is not the right business. You can make far more as a business owner or as a manager at a major corporation. When you see surveys showing high lawyer's salaries, you need to consider that those surveys usually do not reflect that lawyers have to pay their business overhead, health insurance, and retirement. Many lawyers are leaving the practice of law due to dissatisfaction. Find out why before you decide on law school. "

One of the most factually corrupted posts.. ever. You are taking personal opinion an attempting to spin it into fact. Show proof please.

By Welshie (Welshie) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 01:15 pm: Edit

My dad's a [bankruptcy] lawyer and he seems to enjoy his job... at least enough to keep "encouraging" me to consider law as a profession. I know at the firm he works at they keep bringing in more and more lawyers so it's true that there are more and more lawyers "joining the force" but none of the new guys I've met, nor any of the older founding partners, seem to discouraged with the work.

My uncle, a recent Columbia Law graduate, also worked as a law clerk to a New York appellate judge and is now working at a big New York law firm and says that although the work is demanding (sickeningly long hours at such a big firm in a big city) he says he definitely enjoys the work because it is all worthwhile work. Again, not a discouraged lawyer.

Perhaps Thinkingoutloud had some bad experiences, I don't know but I don't think it is appropriate to, as I1lmatics put it, spin opinion into fact.

By Gianscolere (Gianscolere) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 03:50 pm: Edit

"wait, so r u saying it's completely unlike the highschool admissions process to college where there's a HEAVY emphasis on ECs and non-academic stuff"

the other poster had the right idea. at most law schools (including the very top ones), LSAT counts for about 75% and GPA 25%. they also usually require thoughtful responses to "why law school and why now" essays.

By Titanz05 (Titanz05) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 04:54 pm: Edit

This may seem dumb, but I want a JD, not to become a lawyer, but to help me be a better business person. My cousin did this and seems like a very good plan to me.

Any suggestions?

By Starbucks (Starbucks) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 06:24 pm: Edit

alright- what kind of classes should I be taking? I'm a freshman at UPenn, and I want to major in bio and dual degree with Wharton. I'm currently sitting in on 5 classes, but I'll have to drop one soon, since my max credit load is 4.5. My classes are:

Intro to Molecular bio
Sex Differences: Behavioral Biology
Intro to Evolution of the Brain
Multivariable Calculus (may drop this one)
History of Ancient Greece

It seems that my schedule is very slanted towards bio, which is my major, but how will it be looked upon when i apply to law schools?

By I1lmatics (I1lmatics) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 06:38 pm: Edit

It's a lot of extra academic work, but yes most business would love to hire someone with a law degree. Look at the bald guy on the new season of the apprentice. He is currently a lawyer, yet seems very impressive... so far.

By Hayden (Hayden) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 06:51 pm: Edit

I think your career plan has a lot of merit. Legal issues are so pervasive in our society, that having a legal degree would be a big plus to any employer.

I also agree with those who took issue with Thinkingoutloud. Lawyers do not just practice bankruptcy or tort law! A law degree is a great platform for everything from contract negotiations to arbitrage financing.

Good luck.

By Idiias (Idiias) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 10:17 pm: Edit

I really liked thinkingoutloud's post. It made me reconsider things a bit. especially about getting rich. I'm still contemplating between my MBA or my JD...as we speak.

By Hayden (Hayden) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 10:27 pm: Edit

If your goal is to get rich, then being good in your field, provided the field is high-paying to begin with, works everytime. But Thinkingoutloud's comparison doesn't work, because he/she is comparing a business owner or manager, to an attorney. The problem is that most people don't start out as owners or managers. They start at the entry level. It may be true that the pay is more or less the same at the top of business and the top of the legal field.

But in many - perhaps even most - fields, the starting pay at a major corporation is much, much lower than the starting pay at a major law firm. Just something to keep in mind if making money is the end game.

By Asianalto (Asianalto) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 10:29 pm: Edit

Ok, this is a little weird, but are there lawyers who aren't high profile at all (as in, don't really deal with people, courts, etc) but do a lot of research instead? Kind of like...scut work lawyers? If so, what are they called?

By Thinkingoutloud (Thinkingoutloud) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 10:31 pm: Edit

Titanz05, I would strongly discourage you from obtaining a law degree in order to do better in business. Once you get the law degree, initially you will be perceived as a lawyer (yes, you should take the bar) and not as a business person. Someone with an MBA from a good school will be given preference over someone with a non-business undergraduate degree and a law degree. If you really wish to get a law degree, you may wish to consider getting a JD/MBA. It means going to school for four years instead of three for law school only. Most good MBA schools want you to work two years before starting the MBA program. If you decide to get a JD/MBA, you can usually start right out of college. If course, you better like school a lot. You can always come up with exceptions to what I am saying, but in general my comments are realistic.

By Thinkingoutloud (Thinkingoutloud) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 10:49 pm: Edit

Some of you have criticized my earlier post. Maybe I have not explained my position as well as I should have. First, I believe that after 20 or 30 years of a career, you will ask yourself not only how much money have I made but you will ask what have I accomplished. A carpenter can point to the houses he has built. A teacher can point to all of his students who have achieved great things. What can a lawyer point to? A bankrupcy lawyer can point to all the debtors he has freed of their debts. A criminal lawyer can point to all the people he has kept out of jail. Yes, I realize there are exceptions, but is this the accomplishment that our best and brightest should focus on? Frankly, I would rather see our best and brighest focus on enhancing our economy through invention and innovation. If you are smart enough to make it through law school, you are smart enough (with right education) to start a new business or create wealth in our society. We already have enough lawyers and don't need to waste any more talent on the legal profession.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 11:04 pm: Edit

Thinkingoutloud has a very good point that the JD/MBA is a good option to achieve what you want. I'm also in agreement that top lawyers, in general, do not become on the whole nearly as wealthy as top MBAs. During the bubble partners in major law firms were making about $1 million/year. Partners in investment banks many, many millions. Management consulting partners several times the lawyers. CEOs and top execs many times the lawyers pay as well. Starting salaries look good out of law school but then you'll compete 10 years for the honor of becoming partner while the MBAs dwarf you financially. My brother was in his first year at Harvard law school when he came to understand this and quickly applied to the B school as well. As most of his peers in the joint program, he never worked as an attorney but the addition of the law degree served them well in a wide variety of fields.

There are several interesting threads on corporate law and law v. business to be found in the archieves.

By Thinkingoutloud (Thinkingoutloud) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 11:06 pm: Edit

Being a lawyer is a zero sum game. For example, if a husband and wife have marital assets of $100,000 and they decide to divorce. If the legal fee is $1000 to each lawyer, then the husband and wife split $98,000. Each lawyer has rendered a service but neither has created wealth to our society. Here's another example. Defendant negligently drives his car into plaintiff causing injury. Plaintiff sues defendant and gets an award of $50,000. Defendant (or his insurance company) pays plaintiff $50,000 from which plaintiff's lawyer deducts a fee. Plaintiff's lawyer rendered a service but all that happened was money went from one pocket to another pocket. No wealth was created for society. Let's compare a lawyer with a cabinetmaker. The cabinetmaker buys lumber for $500. He takes the lumber and uses his labor to build cabinets for a new home. He sells those cabinets to a home builder or home buyer for $5,000. Here the cabinetmaker has created wealth. He has transformed the lumber into a product with a much higher value. My point is that even professions not requiring three years of intense study, can produce more wealth to society than do lawyers. This is something to consider when deciding whether to be a lawyer.

By Welshie (Welshie) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 11:07 pm: Edit

What can a lawyer point to? A bankrupcy lawyer can point to all the debtors he has freed of their debts.

As I said before, my dad is a bankruptcy lawyer, and perhaps I'm biased, but he often tells me of the joy he gets in helping those people that have stumbled into bankruptcy. Heck, I've pulled up to the courthouse to see my dad giving both of his clients hugs. Another instance, I found some old correspondence letters to my dad from a client just telling him how much of a blessing he and his staff is to her. There is far more that goes along with being a lawyer than just numbers and docket reports.

Because of where we live (the southern end of the San Joaquin Valley), the majority of his clients are farmers and so he isn't exactly helping "crooks" get out of debt. He is helping those that entered into a volatile industry and career.

But let me close with some sort of credibility to my posts. I don't want to be a lawyer. I've told my dad many times that I don't want to be lawyer. I don't want to here about people's [financial] problems (bankruptcy), don't want to protect a criminal or send a man to a horrible sentence (criminal) and I don't want to handle the intimidating corporate law. My dad's quick response was simple. He simply expressed to me how much he loves he job, as hard as it is and as frustrating as it can be, because he is told many times how much of blessing he is in the lives of his clients.

Do the best and brightest need to commit themselves to invention/innovation? No. The best and brightest need to find what drives them, what inspires them to live and seek that as a career. For my dad, that is helping people out of debt and for others it could be helping people with health problems and others could aspire to be great businessmen, that is what drives them and I encourage each of them to pursue that path.

By Thinkingoutloud (Thinkingoutloud) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 11:27 pm: Edit

The glut of lawyers is only getting worse.

The 1980 census showed U.S. population as 226,542,199. In 2000, we had 281,421,906. This is an increase in population of approximately 24 percent.

The number of new lawyers admitted in 1981 was 33,996 according to the Nat. Conf. of Bar Examiners. In 2000 the number of new lawyer in that year was 47,160. This is an increase of over 38 percent.

If you only look at 2000 forward and these percentages remain the same, it means the glut will continue to get worse every year.

Maybe one state can serve as an example. In 1980, Virginia had law schools at U.Va., William and Mary, Washington and Lee, and University of Richmond. After 1981, Virginia added law schools at George Mason, Regency, Appalachian, and just recently at Liberty. Doubling the number of law schools in Virginia is not good economics for the legal profession. It is good economics for the schools because the large classes per teacher mean lower operating costs and greater profits.

By Thinkingoutloud (Thinkingoutloud) on Monday, September 13, 2004 - 11:45 pm: Edit

Welshie, sounds like you Dad is in the right profession. I am not saying we don't need lawyers. We clearly do. My focus is broader than the individual. In other words, if we could take all the really smart people in the country and then allocate them (assuming it was possible) to the professions that would best benefit our country, I believe the number of people allocated to the legal profession would be cut substantially (maybe by as much as 2/3rds.) If you are searching for your place in the world, I think this is something to consider.

If I could piggyback a little bit on Mom101's post, I would add that the average lawyer charges by the hour. There are only so many hours in the week and, thus, there is a natural cap to a lawyer's income. Yes, partners at very large firms earn a portion of what associates may bill, but the vast majority of lawyers do not work for large firms. Just look in your yellow pages and you will see most firms are between five and ten lawyers.

By Riflesforwatie (Riflesforwatie) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 08:21 am: Edit

That's funny that an MBA is being compared to law. I've actually heard that there's a glut of MBAs on the market... and that the degree is so common and general that it doesn't really "mean anything". I've heard that many MBAs are having tremendous problems getting anything with their degrees.

By Welshie (Welshie) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 09:52 am: Edit

Again, let me offer what I have seen with MBAs in my life. My brother-in-law has his MBA and has had it for sometime. However, he has never been able to find himself a steady job or place in the work force. This last couple of years he has had to jump from a job at a brokerage to a job at the bank and still no real "success." All of the positions he's held have been equal or lesser to the jobs of coworkers without the degee. I'm not saying that an MBA means no job, but I can at the very least say that an MBA by no means guarantees instant job opportunities but the same can be said about all degrees. Again, pursue what you believe to be right and what inspiries you. When your heart in in your work, you will see results.

By Mom101 (Mom101) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 10:20 am: Edit

In my comments note I compared MBAs at top schools to law degrees at top law schools. I agree that a mediocre or lesser MBA isn't necessarily going to be a great ticket. But a law degree from a lesser school also isn't going to get you a job at a major firm out of school.

By Patient (Patient) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 10:46 am: Edit

If all there is to life is wealth creation, I don't think that law is the way to go. However, Thinkingoutloud, not all lawyers charge by the hour. There is a certain candidate in the national arena right now who made his fortune on contingency fee malpractice cases. Many others in that same situation. Also, lawyers in major firms do not stop with their billable hours plus the profits from their lower-paid associates. They also invest in their clients and many of them made millions that way (in the now fairy-tale-land of the dot-com era). Also, if they are earning a lot and not spending it all on conspicuous consumption, the bright savvy ones invested their earnings and made multiples of their annual earnings. In-house counsel also typically have stock option packages which--again, in an earlier day and who knows, maybe also in the future--can make millions. I know that several of my law school classmates were fortunate in that regard.

Not defending the profession or maligning it, just pointing out that while your argument does apply to hourly rate lawyers, that is not all there is.

By Alwaysamom (Alwaysamom) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 12:52 pm: Edit

Deciding on a profession should not only include taking a look at the issue of creating wealth to society. There are many millions of individuals in professions which do not create wealth, e.g., most in the service industry. With the assumption that lawyers do not create wealth, you are ignoring the situations where their work will improve the financial situations of businesses, both large and small, through various types of transactions; where they are putting programs in place for clients who are required to improve their compliance policies due to new regulations and laws; all which benefit shareholders, and thus society. These are just a couple of examples of the type of work that many lawyers spend their time participating in everyday. Not all, or even most, lawyers are practicing bankruptcy or criminal defense law. Even if you look at the collateral effects of financial success at lawfirms, you can see how it can affect employees of such firms, suppliers of every type, resultant business associates, etc. Lawyers don't exist in a bubble where they don't interact with other businesses and colleagues in other fields.

In any case, I wouldn't choose ANY profession, simply on the hope of making lots of money. While it's important to be able to earn a good living and be able to support yourself and your family in a good lifestyle, there are never any guarantees. The education process to be a lawyer is a long, arduous, and expensive one. If you're good enough to get into a good law school, and good enough to be hired on to a reputable firm after graduation, then you're fortunate. You then have many years of working as an associate, probably 60-80 hours a week if you're at a large firm. You'll earn excellent money but have about a 1 in 10 chance of ever being invited into partnership. Now, some individuals are content to remain an associate forever, and some firms will keep some associates around, but not all. I think what most students who are interested in a life in the legal profession must ask themselves is what kind of lifestyle do I want 25 years from now. It works for some but not all. It can be a very rewarding career for many, in many different areas of law, but there are so many different options in the profession, that it is difficult to generalize what it's like.

By Yackityack (Yackityack) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 01:58 pm: Edit

Welshie, where are you from? I'm from Turlock in the central valley.

By Welshie (Welshie) on Tuesday, September 14, 2004 - 07:57 pm: Edit

I'm from Bakersfield.

By I1lmatics (I1lmatics) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 10:35 am: Edit

"I'm also in agreement that top lawyers, in general, do not become on the whole nearly as wealthy as top MBAs."

When comparing two professions be careful not to only include the "top." Look at it from a wider perspective. Average lawyer salaray vs. average mba salary. Lawyer's make more as a whole.


"Being a lawyer is a zero sum game.... Plaintiff's lawyer rendered a service but all that happened was money went from one pocket to another pocket. No wealth was created for society.."

Thinking: There is a major flaw with that statement. Something like 75% of all business in the United States operates that way. Service industry vs. Production industry. Your "cabinet makers" only account for less than 25% of how business is done in this country. If that is what your basing your quarrel with lawyers on, then you might as well include all other service professions as well.

By Thinkingoutloud (Thinkingoutloud) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 07:36 pm: Edit

I1Lmatics said:

"Thinking: There is a major flaw with that statement. Something like 75% of all business in the United States operates that way. Service industry vs. Production industry."

I think I understand your point, but I am not drawing a distinction between service businesses vs. manufacturing businesses. It is possible for a service business to create wealth. Google would be a good example. The company does not make any products, but it creates wealth by letting small companies advertize and get their products to new consumers. Google generates millions of dollars for itself and has transformed numerous employees and investors into millionaires or billionaires. That's real wealth creation. There are numerous businesses which do not generate wealth but are nevertheless essential. For example, a dentist renders a services (along with some pain) in return for a fee. No wealth is created in that transaction, but were would we be without them.

By Jekyllnhyde10 (Jekyllnhyde10) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 07:48 pm: Edit

Friend now attending Harvard Law he was Validictorian, President of debate team, captin of lacross

By I1lmatics (I1lmatics) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 08:45 pm: Edit

"For example, a dentist renders a services (along with some pain) in return for a fee. No wealth is created in that transaction, but were would we be without them. "

I agree. Now spin that into the law field. A lawyer renders services in return for a fee. No wealth is created in that transaction, but where would we be without people to defend or in some instances exhibit our fundamental rights as US citizens?

By Thinkingoutloud (Thinkingoutloud) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 10:05 pm: Edit

I1lmatics, I agree with your last post. Of course, we need lawyers. There are many good things lawyers do to benefit our country. My concern is the number of lawyers and the amount of human talent unnecessarily wasted on the legal profession. Even though dentists perform valuable services, would you be in favor of tripling the number of dentists? I would not. We currently have two to three times the number of lawyers we need to function as a society (yes, it is just an opinion). I can't quote you the figures, but I remember reading that China graduates something like 5 times the number of engineers graduating in the U.S. If China can improve its engineering training, we may find ourselves being out-innovated simply because our engineers are too few in number. Throughout history, our economic power has depended on a free economy and building a better mousetrap. I fear that will evaporate as long as we send so many of our best and brighest into professions that benefit them but not the rest of the country.

By Jrpar (Jrpar) on Wednesday, September 15, 2004 - 10:17 pm: Edit

"In my comments note I compared MBAs at top schools to law degrees at top law schools. I agree that a mediocre or lesser MBA isn't necessarily going to be a great ticket. But a law degree from a lesser school also isn't going to get you a job at a major firm out of school."

I disagree. The key is your grades in law school. Large firms will look and do hire beyond the top law schools, but you will need top, law review, grades. Just look in the Martindale Hubbell listings for the large NYC firms.


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