Author Topic: Should I spend the money to go to a top law school or do a Legal Apprenticeship?  (Read 1147 times)

indexpues

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I've been accepted to several top law schools, what folks in the legal industry call "T14 schools." But I'm considering not going to law school and instead taking the route of becoming a lawyer through something called Reading The Law.

Reading The Law is an alternative path to becoming a lawyer by doing a legal apprenticeship. If you're interested, you can find information at https://readingthelaw.org/ or https://readingthelaw.org/forum. Specifically, I'm considering California's Law Office Study Program, which is California's formal RTL path.

My baseline thinking is the cost of law school is so expensive (not worth the cost; tuition alone would be about $55,000 per year) and after talking with many people in the legal field, law school doesn't seem to be the best place to acquire legal skills (and so neither worth the time investment). Which makes me think a reading the law apprenticeship is a smart and financially-wise way to achieve my goal of becoming a lawyer. I understand there's a certain amount of status that comes with a JD from a T14 school. But this is not a big factor for me because I'm confident in my abilities to do good work and build a network with or without a JD.

I'd appreciate any perspective others might have on my situation? What heuristics might you use to come to a decision? Thank you! 

I'm a red panda

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If you aren't Kim Kardashian (who is planning to read the law) can you find an internship? Will it be prestigous enough to secure you a job?

Reading the law is extremely rare, as far as I can tell. If it was a viable alternative to law school, I'd suspect more people would do it. I'd go to law school.

John Galt incarnate!

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If you aren't Kim Kardashian (who is planning to read the law) can you find an internship? Will it be prestigous enough to secure you a job?

Reading the law is extremely rare, as far as I can tell. If it was a viable alternative to law school, I'd suspect more people would do it. I'd go to law school.

I've heard of only one individual who became a lawyer  via California's  legal apprenticeship program. As I recall they  apprenticed  in a law office located  in the far north of California.

« Last Edit: May 21, 2019, 05:29:08 PM by John Galt incarnate! »

red_pill

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Have you considered not becoming a lawyer?   There are a billion reasons not to - including a thread two above yours right now that is all about being ashamed of the legal profession. And for good reason. The world does not need any more lawyers. 

The best article I read on not going to law school was this:  http://tuckermax.me/why-you-should-not-go-to-law-school-3/  (warning, Itís a bit offensive, it is Tucker Max after all).

Just donít go.   Think of another option. 

mozar

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I'm concerned that you don't have full scholarships anywhere. If your goal is to get into a top firm you can go to a lower ranked school with a full scholarship and if you graduate in the top 5% (2% or whatever) you'll get the same job offers as the graduates of the top schools.
What exactly is your goal? If you just want to learn the law go to a cheap school and become a public defender. That is reality right there. If you say what it is you want to do with a law degree you might get better advice.

Eta: if you are a woman and/or person of color go to the t14 school. It will make a huge impact on your life.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2019, 09:10:27 PM by mozar »

former player

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Retired UK lawyer here.  If you have the right mindset for the law you will be able to learn it equally well whichever route you take.  The apprenticeship route may leave you with some theoretical gaps and the law school route may leave you with practical application gaps.

I think I'm a red panda has it right about the apprenticeship route in that it's going to be all about making and keeping personal connections.  If you have, or can make, a route into an apprenticeship, and you are confident about your personal qualities as an employee, then there is no reason against it.  But succeeding doing things that way will depend entirely on your personal ability to be a financial and social asset to the firm you are apprenticed at so that it is unquestionably in their interests to keep you on for the duration of your apprenticeship and then as a long term employee/potential partner. If they let you go at any point then that could very well be the end of your legal career, as you won't have the backup of a law school name and qualification behind you to entice other employers and they could very well be suspicious of why you would move on from the place you apprenticed.

Whatever you think of Kim Kardashian, she's not stupid and she can work the personal connections better than almost anyone.

Kayad

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I went to a T14 in California.  The apprenticeship route is a bad idea.  If you make it, only self employment or the crummiest of jobs will be available to you, and I donít think you could be admitted to any bar other than Californiaís.

If you donít want the debt (a legitimate concern), better ideas are:
Look carefully at your t14s public service loan forgiveness programs.  If that is a path you are interested in, that can totally change the financial calculation. 
Apply to tier 2/regional law schools.  If you can get into the t14s, you should be able to get good scholarships at a t2 if you cast a wide net.
Donít go to law school.  Be a paralegal, or something else entirely. 

What type of law do you think you are interested in?
Do you want to live and work in California?

Linea_Norway

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Have you considered not becoming a lawyer?   There are a billion reasons not to - including a thread two above yours right now that is all about being ashamed of the legal profession. And for good reason. The world does not need any more lawyers. 

The best article I read on not going to law school was this:  http://tuckermax.me/why-you-should-not-go-to-law-school-3/  (warning, Itís a bit offensive, it is Tucker Max after all).

Just donít go.   Think of another option.

That was an interesting article.

Another thing to consider is the AI/robots. From what I have understood, legal work could be one of those professions to be taken over by AI's during an early stage.

Trifele

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I went to a T14 law school outside California, on my own dime (some scholarships, but lots of loans).  I'm FIREd now.  Law was a good career for me, but I really wish I had instead gone to a second tier school.  I don't feel like the big law school name gave me THAT much of a leg up, and boy did it cost me.   I could have FIREd quite a bit sooner if I'd gone to a second tier school.   

Personally I think if you really want to work as a lawyer you should skip the RTL route and do law school -- second tier.  If you're getting multiple offers from T14 schools, chances are you can get scholarships at a second tier school.  Everything @Kayad said above^ is spot on.  Recommend you read that post again.  Good luck! 

caleb

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I'm concerned that you don't have full scholarships anywhere. If your goal is to get into a top firm you can go to a lower ranked school with a full scholarship and if you graduate in the top 5% (2% or whatever) you'll get the same job offers as the graduates of the top schools.
What exactly is your goal? If you just want to learn the law go to a cheap school and become a public defender. That is reality right there. If you say what it is you want to do with a law degree you might get better advice.

Eta: if you are a woman and/or person of color go to the t14 school. It will make a huge impact on your life.

I agree with everything @mozar wrote, and I'll add a few points.

The bar passage rate is low in CA, even for people from good schools.  People who try to take it without going to law school very, very rarely succeed.  Sinking years and years of your life into a path that's unlikely to lead to even basic successes like passing the bar and then getting a job seems like a serious gamble.  Just because you've been an outlier and beat the odds thus far in your life doesn't mean you should assume that will hold going forward.

Most lucrative legal placements out of school are a product of pedigree and institutional networking.  I don't care how charming you are, you're not going to be able to replicate a Stanford network without going to Stanford.  Because there are so few hard skills in the law, it's the soft stuff that determines outcomes.

But, if you really want to do legal work and you're not just thinking it's a short path to a fat paycheck, you can do it with minimal debt.  If you have been admitted to several T14 schools (commitment deadlines for next fall have passed, so have you already committed?  or are you hypothetically thinking you'll be admitted next year?) you should be able to get full tuition paid at a second tier school with a nights and weekends program.  Do the nights and weekends program for free while working in a law-related job during the day to pay your bills.  Network like crazy.  When you finish you should be able to find a job doing real legal work that will pay the bills.  There won't be pots of gold showered upon you your first day on the job, but you won't be drowning in debt.

However, if your goal is early retirement, I would caution strongly against law in any form.  Law is not a path to rapid financial independence.

ReadySetMillionaire

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I agree with others in this thread:

1. Make sure you really want to go to law school. Being a lawyer is almost nothing like you see on TV or you hear in the media.

2. Try to minimize your debt as much as possible. Law school attendance is down (I think) and schools are being pretty aggressive with scholarships. If you want to stay local to where your law school is then a Tier 2 or even Tier 3 school is perfectly fine.

3. On that note, DO NOT get obsessed with the status of schools. It hardly, hardly, hardly matters in the real world. The only caveat is if you desire Big Law, Art. III clerkships, or Fed Gov, and by the sound of your post, you aren't considering those career paths.

4. Going the RTL route would be an unmitigated disaster and constrain your career significantly.

5. Whatever school you go to -- take the subject matters that are on CA's bar exam. It's a notoriously hard exam, so use your law school experience to prepare you for it instead of taking philosophical type classes.

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All of this said, I thoroughly enjoy being a lawyer. I enjoy being entrusted to solve people's problems and I like running my own business.


John Galt incarnate!

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Have you considered not becoming a lawyer?   There are a billion reasons not to - including a thread two above yours right now that is all about being ashamed of the legal profession. And for good reason. The world does not need any more lawyers. 

The best article I read on not going to law school was this:  http://tuckermax.me/why-you-should-not-go-to-law-school-3/  (warning, Itís a bit offensive, it is Tucker Max after all).

Just donít go.   Think of another option.

To complete my education I chose to earn a JD instead of a PhD in philology. When I matriculated I said to myself: "maybe I'll practice law or maybe I won't." By the time I was a junior I decided  I didn't want to practice so after I graduated I never took the bar exam. The greatest satisfaction earning a JD has given me  is the acquisition of constitutional knowledge  I put to use when discussing  constitutional cases and issues. Constitutional scholarship is my favorite pastime.

When a senior, while looking through a stack of old magazines I dropped one, Time or Newsweek. It opened up to a one-page article titled "Why I quit practicing law," a coincidence I'll never forget.

What I hate most of all about lawyering is its mendacity.  My  cognizance of a  lawyer's obligation to give their all for their client fails to mitigate my despisement of   what I call their "advocacy rhetoric," the knowing falsehoods they announce in public.
 
« Last Edit: May 22, 2019, 10:12:25 AM by John Galt incarnate! »

John Galt incarnate!

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I agree with others in this thread:



2.  Law school attendance is down (I think)

It is.

A few  years ago various law schools started reducing freshman admissions.


 If you want to stay local to where your law school is then a Tier 2 or even Tier 3 school is perfectly fine.

Indeed.

The presiding superior court judge in my county graduated from a tier 3 school that offered classes at night.



Nick_Miller

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I have to admit when I read the OP about "reading the law," I was like, "What the hell?"

So I can't opine on that, as I don't even know what it is, but frankly with law school, hardly anyone cares where you graduated from. BigLaw and huge corporate clients might care but 99% of other employers and clients don't care. At all. I mean, do you ask your doctor when they walk in the exam room, "Hey where did you get your MD?"

NorCal

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If you want to go work for BigLaw and make BigLaw salary, you NEED to go to a top school.  And possibly graduate near the top of your class, depending on the economy in your graduation year.

If you want to work as a lawyer in a smaller firm or company, and make commensurately less money, look at lower priced alternatives.  I don't know about apprenticeships specifically, but there are lower priced schools as well.

I hear some states are now requiring law school as a prerequisite to practice, but admittedly don't know the details.  Check your state requirements.

ReadySetMillionaire

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If you want to go work for BigLaw and make BigLaw salary, you NEED to go to a top school.  And possibly graduate near the top of your class, depending on the economy in your graduation year.

If you want to work as a lawyer in a smaller firm or company, and make commensurately less money, look at lower priced alternatives.  I don't know about apprenticeships specifically, but there are lower priced schools as well.

I hear some states are now requiring law school as a prerequisite to practice, but admittedly don't know the details.  Check your state requirements.

Bolded isn't necessarily true.

John Galt incarnate!

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OP, I am  curious to know, over the last five years or ten years  how many people  have availed themselves of California's  Reading the Law program?

Of them, how many  have successfully "graduated" from it.

Of them, how many  have passed the California bar exam?
« Last Edit: May 22, 2019, 12:15:29 PM by John Galt incarnate! »

Nick_Miller

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OP, I am  curious to know, over the last five years or ten years  how many people  have availed themselves of California's  Reading the Law program?

Of them, how many  have successfully "graduated" from it.

Of them, how many  have passed the California bar exam?

Of them, how many have full-time employment as an attorney in California?

Watchmaker

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I mean, do you ask your doctor when they walk in the exam room, "Hey where did you get your MD?"

Every time. (Or, more likely, I've already googled them.)

Kayad

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2. If you want to stay local to where your law school is then a Tier 2 or even Tier 3 school is perfectly fine.

3. On that note, DO NOT get obsessed with the status of schools. It hardly, hardly, hardly matters in the real world. The only caveat is if you desire Big Law, Art. III clerkships, or Fed Gov, and by the sound of your post, you aren't considering those career paths.


The quoted portion of point 2 is key, especially in smaller states.  I.e., If you want to work in Montana go to U of M, because 50% of practicing attorneys will be from there.  I disagree a bit that school pedigree ďhardly, hardly, hardly matters.Ē  My fancy expensive degree has opened a lot of doors for me, in several states.  But if I had it more dialed in before law school where I wanted to live and what type of law I wanted to do, I could probably have made it to where I am (great job in federal system) going to the local law school for a third of the cost.