A recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled “How to Cut Debt, Boost Job Prospects from Law School” (subscription required) addresses some issues raised here over the past few months about careers in the law (See Legal Careers, Not Covered by LSAT Prep, To Be* or Not to Be*, Women and the Law, Lawyer’s Life). The Journal article echoes much of the advice I give about law school; these are the highlights, reordered to my preferences.
- Be a big fish. This is my primary piece of advice. Finishing at the top of your class at a regional law school will grab the attention of employers local employers. Unless you are extremely confident that you will place high enough in a nationally-ranked school to land the type of job you seek, going to a school where you can be a star will likely better serve your career.
- Think about location. This goes hand-in-hand with being a big fish. “[I]n at least half of all states, at least 60% of graduates got an in-state job, according to the National Association for Law Placement, in part because most employers are more familiar with schools in their region.” If you want to find a job on the other side of the country then you should attend a nationally-ranked law school. If you will remain in the area after graduation then being in the 50th percentile of your class at a national school will not get you more interviews than being one of the top ten in your class at a regional school. The school’s alumni are likely to be well-entrenched in the local legal market and will open doors for a person at the top of his or her class.
- Look for transfer opportunities. It is generally easier to get into a nationally-ranked school as a 2L than as a 1L. Be a big fish, excel in your first year, and you may be able to transfer to a nationally-ranked school.
- Consider an in-state public school. “An in-state public law school costs about half as much, on average, as a private school or a public school for out-of-state residents.” If you will not attend a national law school, why pay considerably more to attend a regional school if there is a state alternative?