Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Applying to Law School Series: Competition for Top Schools Has Grown More Fierce

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Everyone knows that attending a school with a prestigious reputation is an important factor – if not, sometimes, the factor – to acquiring a job in today’s legal market.  Unfortunately, the focus of many pre-law students is just trying to get into law school and not on the job market 3 to 4 years from now.  It’s time to change that troubling perspective, and with that perspective maybe the decision to go to law school altogether.
So what are some good indicators that the schools you apply to are going to get you a job in the end?  An obvious option is to look at the law school ranking reports – and not just over the last year.  Look at multiple years for rankings.  Who is consistently in the top 10?  Are there any schools that jumped a lot of spots to get into the top recently?  How and why did that happen, and is it a good reason to consider them?
Ivy League law schools are always going to be a given. Harvard reported that 96% of their 2012 graduates were employed, while at the national level only 65% of 2012 law grads were employed (and this includes the underemployed).  Clearly Harvard’s reputation affects the odds of its student’s employment upon graduation.   Even if an ivy-leaguer law school doesn’t rank within the top 10, the clout provided by the undergraduate level is often enough. 
Another option is to look at rankings for schools based on their employment reports.  While this data has been questionable over the last five years or so, the information can help you begin to weigh your options, and you can dig deeper into these statistics once you’ve narrowed your list.  Here is a helpful rank provided by Forbes for the top law schools for career prospects in 2015.
If you’re only looking at lower-tiered law schools, you may want to reconsider applying to law school at all.  Again, the job market is extremely competitive and doesn’t appear to be changing any time soon.  Some law schools are closing, such as branches of the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law, and others are struggling to keep their doors open.  Do not get stuck with one or two years of law school debt only to be left out to dry when the school closes before you graduate or are able to transfer.  Even worse, having three years of law school debt and no job opportunities!  Find better investments for your time and money.

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Until Next Time,
Jenny L. Maxey
Author of Barrister on a Budget:  Investing in Law School…without Breaking the Bank

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