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Question for lawyers (about law school)

Discussion in 'Questions and Answers' started by dolfan32323, Jun 23, 2012.

  1. dolfan32323

    dolfan32323 ty xphinfanx

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    Hey everyone,

    I'm looking for advice about what to do for law school. I just graduated this year from undergrad and am set right now to attend the University of Pittsburgh or the University of Denver next year for law school. I had no qualms about this until recently. I really want to live and work in Virginia/DC, but would be equally happy in Colorado. However, I keep hearing more and more how important it is to go to a top 20 school.... both Pitt and DU are ranked 69 and are understandably very regional.

    Has anyone here who has attended law school have any suggestions as to whether or not it is beneficial to take time off prior to attending law school? My GPA is fine (3.4 from a well-regarded institution), but my LSAT was a bit low (158). I was thinking I could take time off, maybe take a few classes at the local college, and reapply next year with a higher LSAT.

    If anybody who has insight to the process would share their thoughts I would appreciate it.
     
  2. finyank13

    finyank13 Reality Check

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    Not a lawyer but work with a bunch of them...from what they say....it isnt so bad taking a break from undergrad to law school whereas law school is obviously very different than undergrad....

    it is when you go to law school, don't take any time from when you graduate after the 3rd year to when you take the actual bar exam....you want to take that ASAP as the information is still fresh in your mind...

    good luck...
     
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  3. dolfan32323

    dolfan32323 ty xphinfanx

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    Appreciate it Finyank. I decided to take a year off and work to help pay the ridiculous tuitions lol. We'll see what happens in a year.
     
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  4. finyank13

    finyank13 Reality Check

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    Ugh tell me about it......

    you could always think of JAG......Navy.....it is a commitment, but they pay for all of it, and then upon graduation you are commissioned and are a Captain...

    talking to kids today coming out of law school, with a min. 120K in school loans without a guarantee of a job is nerve racking......
     
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  5. cdz12250

    cdz12250 Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    Lawyer who recently put his daughter through law school. Here are my two cents.

    If you are willing to kill yourself working like you could never have even imagined, even before going to law school and throughout it; to the point where you grade onto law review at the end of your first semester, make the top five percent of your class, and graduate magna *** laude, it doesn't matter where you go to law school. It puts you in a position to transfer to a Top 14 or, if you stay, to be top 5%, get the summer associateships and clerkships that entails, and get a job at the end because of your law school record, not where you went.

    Mind you, this requires that you take pre-law school prep courses and study efficiently, constantly, every single waking moment. You will have no life, but the reward will be lifelong if you succeed. If you fail, be aware that a greater percentage of the Top 25 get Biglaw or clerkships than the lower tier law schools. You can't be an average student at an average law school if you want a good job in this economy. Matter of maturity and commitment.

    Then again: All a top 20 school gets you is your first job, possibly in Biglaw, or a judicial clerkship. After that, it's how competitive you are in real life. My (75 lawyer) firm's founding partner went to one of the bottom five law schools. Today, lawyers from Ivy law schools work for him.

    My daughter got Biglaw out of Notre Dame, which is #22. She did not grade onto Law Review, but wrote onto a nationally respected secondary journal. Bucked down after her 1L first year, graduated *** laude (not magna) and had clerkships at the White House and the Court of Federal Claims. She is also bilingual. They just happened to need someone like her. There is a lot of work you can do to better your resume. It's like football. It's a question of how badly you want it, how hard you drive yourself, and how much you're willing to sacrifice for it. You can't coast.

    Don't take the time off. You will lose the continuity of studying and you may never go back. Do it all in one shot. Don't be satisfied with the 158. Go to a serious prep course. Then take it again. Most schools count only the last one. The GPA is not outstanding for a Top 20, but you can't do anything about it other than going to a post-bac, if you can afford it. You certainly can change your LSAT, which is more important than the GPA because most law schools are trying to game the admission stats that make up the rankings.

    Good luck, Godspeed and see you in court.
     
  6. jdang307

    jdang307 Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    EDIT:I Just wrote a book, so here it goes.

    The most successful lawyers ten years out aren't necessarily the ones with the best grades that came out to the best job.

    I think with the timeline cdz if he wants to improve his LSAT he has to take a year off. I can't imagine him taking the LSAT, getting a score, applying and being accepted for the fall? Unless I'm missing something here. If you're ready, go now. If not, try and get a better score but to be honest, it's all regional unless you're in top 20.

    First things first. Some advice you didn't ask for. Absolutely positively dedicate that first year to studying and kicking the sh-- out of everyone. Those first year grades are the most important, period. I learned the hard way. I literally went from college right into Law School (like 5 days off due to summer school) and wasn't prepared. I coasted my whole life. Being an excellent test taker I would slack the whole year, study the night before and do great. I'm amazed I got through high school and college. Seriously. Laziest most procrastinating person you ever met is me.

    Then I got to law school and proceeded to land top 85%. That's right I only beat out 15% of my class. It was ego busting. Next two years dedicated myself, learned the tricks (it's not hard) and then proceeded to AmJur a bunch of classes and ended up in the top 3rd somewhere (I don't even remember where). I basically kicked *** the last two years, and other than 1st year probably would have been kum laude at least if not higher.

    Back then about 3 people had laptops in class (I started in 1999). Guy next to me in one class had a laptop and did really well. i asked him what did he do? He had an ancient progam. It wasn't wordperfect but Corel, some other outlining program. Obscure. Didn't even know it existed. But the outlining function was great. Instead of Word's stupid outlining this was intuitive and simple. Press Alt + an arrow to toggle the heading. That's it. A lot of students will take notes, then go and outline from the notes and their reading. I skipped all of that. My class notes, taken in outline form, was my final outline supplemented with whatever I picked up. Saved a ton of time and most of the time I'd be too lazy to outline. Boom, my study material.

    If the professor allows you to use an outline, make a detailed table of contents. That's your issue checklist right there.

    Talked to a second guy who was about as bright as dim lightbulb everyone thought. Magna *** Laude. This guy sounded drunk when he talked. People kept asking him, how the hell did he get such good grades? He says everyone keeps getting bogged down by the minutiae, obscure cases and footnotes they think will impress the professor in an exam. It won't. Know the basics like the back of your hand and you will do great. Study the very basics to the point that you will kill it.

    Those two things alone (and actually reading the material) allowed me to ace my last two years. Doesn't mean anything to you now, but when you go to law school, It will.

    That said, that first year. Man that first year. That first year will determine which opportunities you will have.

    Finally, don't pigeonhole yourself. I thought I wanted to be a corporate lawyer. I wanted to be. I loved Forbes, Kiplinger, Fortune, tech bubble, silicon valley, wall street, all of it. First year out of school I couldn't find a job (damn first year grades). I passed up a few internships with litigation firms for corporate internships that didn't turn out well (didn't help my experience or prospects). A year out I found my dream job. Goldman Sachs subsidiary that provides financial planning to executives in Fortune 1000 companies. Wow dream job! To become a partner you need a law degree or MBA. Some really big names were our clients.

    1.5 years in I quit. Boring as hell and I didn't like handholding CEO's (but their salaries were quite amazing). I wanted to be in the corporate world, but be an attorney. So I found a job as General Counsel and Chief Compliance Officer of a small investment adviser. Bam! Dream Job. SEC, securities law, entrepreneurship, all of it. Helped launch two mutual funds.

    HATED IT. Boring. Paper pushing. Endless paper. It felt so empty. So my dreams in law school turned out to be my nightmares! I thought litigation, and especially personal injury were crap jobs, ambulance chasers, ruining the civil system etc. etc. Now I love it. I transitioned last year and it's fun and exciting again. My point? Don't always think you will never practice in an area. Play both sides, be well rounded. I wish I did moot court etc.

    I'm following some kick arse lawyers in San Diego who are making tons of money, and none of them went prestigious with their law school. This guy:
    http://czrlaw.com/attorneys/nicholas-c-rowley/
    Just got an $85m medical mal settlement (in CAlifornia!) and he went to the U of Laverne. Who? Yes. If you can't go top 25 I highly suggest going to school at home, or where you went to end up. And then just kick arse that first year.
     
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  7. Fin D

    Fin D Sigh

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    Lol @ the site censorship function.
     
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  8. dolfan32323

    dolfan32323 ty xphinfanx

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    Cdz: Thank you for the very thorough write up there. I have decided to defer my enrollment for the year. I am signed up for a prep course and will be working my tail off to increase my score in hopes of getting into a t-14 or at least getting scholarship for the next year. I will be working part-time and trying to find a volunteer position at a legal clinic in South Florida. I'm sure this is the right choice for me and appreciate the warm wishes.
     
  9. dolfan32323

    dolfan32323 ty xphinfanx

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    Thank you so much for the advice. I just bookmarked this and printed out a copy for myself to have in the future. I plan on working my *** off... what's the point of investing so much money if I'm not gonna put in 110%. I'm also open to all types of law and will definitely consider your advice on the various fields. I've actually been working for a criminal defense lawyer and it has been exciting to say the least. I will definitely increase my score (my actual LSAT was 10 below the 168 I was testing at on practice exams), but thankfully I have nothing to lose as I still have my seat at Pitt for next year.

    Also, I'm happy you found something that you enjoy. That's what I hope to discover upon graduation in a few years as well. Are you currently in San Diego? I was just out there, almost attended USD Law but the cost was unbelievably high without a scholarship.
     
  10. dolfan32323

    dolfan32323 ty xphinfanx

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    I've considered this and it is in the back of my mind. I'm hoping I will be able to swing by without this option but it's definitely an excellent opportunity. Many of my friends are actually doing this.
     
  11. rafael

    rafael Well-Known Member

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    I really agree with the advice about not getting caught up in the minutiae. Understand the basics and the reasoning and you can intuit much of the small stuff. I would add that the first year of law school is mostly about scaring you. You get assigned a ton of reading and since it's new concepts it takes most people twice as long to comprehend it. Then you have people in class raising their hands all the time to answer stuff and everybody else starts questioning their own intelligence. And the teachers are teaching critical thinking so they attack your reasoning until they get you to flip. The first time I got called on was in contracts class and the case was Lonergan v. Smith. My original answer was right but she kept nitpicking and and introducing variations until I changed my position (to the wrong answer). I read somewhere that something like 33% of law students drop out that first year. Many do it before the there are any exams b/c they become convinced their not as smart as everybody else. Don't doubt yourself.
     
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  12. dolfan32323

    dolfan32323 ty xphinfanx

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    Thanks for the advice Rafael. I understand that teachers who use the socratic method (most schools) constantly challenge your position whether you're right or wrong. I appreciate the kind words from everyone in this thread. Really, thank you so much. I know I am going to have to work my *** off and be mentally prepared for every day of law school. Fortunately, I think I am ready for this but will now have another year to make sure of this.
     
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  13. Jimmy James

    Jimmy James Ron Swanson

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    I don't think T14 is going to be realistic from where you're at. Top 40 if you position yourself correctly will still work very nicely. Then again, I'm probably the last person to give advice. I did things completely wrong all the way around but am very happy for how it ended up. I'm a public defender, and I love my work.

    I sucked at undergrad. Part of it was illness. Part of it was that frankly college was just never for me. What a letdown. How shallow everything was. I ended up getting a degree at a small school magna *** laude but due to the baggage I had from just hating school at other places ended up with a LSAC-adjusted 2.8 or something like that. I took the LSAT exactly once after one practice test. I somehow bombed the last 15 questions on the test and ended up at 160. I was satisfied. At the time I was living in Georgia and the stats I saw suggested I might even get into UGA.

    I should mention I applied in 2003. I don't know what has happened to admissions since 2008, but post-2001 it seems EVERYBODY applied to law school because I guess there was a recession and people decided more debt was a good idea. LSAC released new materials some time between when I got my score and when I applied. I wasn't competitive for half of the schools I applied to. I chose schools rather haphazardly without regard for what I'd be doing or how things might go. I did no research. In my defense, all of this was because I was testing rather late and figured I'd defer a year if I didn't get into a good school and do it properly. I applied to Appalachian School of Law as a super safety and because they were giving out scholarships like candy up through 2002 (that ended in 2003 -- virtually nobody got one due to endowment issues if I remember right). I applied to Mercer University as a safety. Both accepted me immediately. Seriously. On receipt of my application they immediately sent materials. I missed the deadline for aid at Mercer, however.

    I applied to William & Mary, George Mason, Georgia, and Richmond. The first three rejected me on receipt. This left Richmond. They waitlisted me, and I resigned myself to prep. I learned over that summer how badly I had messed things up and geared up to try to be the weird guy with a 168 LSAT and a 2.8 GPA. I didn't have to do that. Richmond took me off the waitlist with two weeks to go, but I was so marginal they would not let me defer. I interrupted life for my wife and me and moved in with my parents temporarily in Richmond while my wife finished up some affairs and found a job transfer with her company.

    The advice you have gotten about the first year is vital. After the first year, the die is cast. I was Mr. 20th percentile pretty much all the way through. With respect to jdang, I didn't see much point in buckling down in years 2 and 3. That was partly because while I also went to law school to try to do corporate stuff I learned in law school just how horrid that would have been for me. I wouldn't have fit in, and I would have hated it. For me, my escape was criminal law. I love it. I spent my internship and externship time at public interest placements (2 prosecutors and 1 legal aid office). I took care of my grades and kept things very low stress. I finished with a 3.0 and again either in the 20th or 25th percentile of the class. For the guy who got in last two weeks before classes started, I felt passing 20% of the people without having any freak outs was a pretty major accomplishment. A lot of doors were closed to me, but they weren't doors I cared about.

    In my realm, academic credentials and good lawyering seem to nearly have a negative relationship. The worst criminal lawyer in my jurisdiction was a Yale undergrad/UVA law graduate. The best young criminal lawyer in my jurisdiction couldn't handle the stress of the job, but he was an East Tennessee State University undergrad/Appalachian School of Law law graduate. He was top of his class. I work for a Cooley graduate (who has a LLM from George Washington).

    If Virginia practice is your goal, Richmond is a very solid school. I'm talking "real" Virginia, not northern Virginia. Most of the judges around here are Virginia or Richmond grads, with a smattering of Washington & Lee here and there. I'd guess George Mason would be a good place to end up if you want northern Virginia (or one of the DC schools). I'm not sure where William & Mary grads go. I hear North Carolina is a draw for a lot of them, but that doesn't make a ton of sense to me. Virginia is a relatively unusual climate for attorneys, however. There are big firms, but there are virtually no medium sized firms around. The 10 attorney firm just for some reason doesn't happen.
     
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  14. dolfan32323

    dolfan32323 ty xphinfanx

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    Thanks for the advice! I actually just graduated from William & Mary this year. Most W&M law grads end up in DC from what I understand. I am currently on the wait list at George Washington, William & Mary, Washington & Lee, and Richmond. I'm hoping to get off one of those this year but figure if I bring my score up I will stand a better chance next year at these institutions. And I'd be happy anywhere in Virginia, just a great state. I'm glad to hear a recommendation about Richmond, though. I don't know anybody who graduated from their law school.
     
  15. Jimmy James

    Jimmy James Ron Swanson

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    William & Mary is home to my 0.8 GPA that dragged things down so heavily. I cherish a lot of memories there, but I loathe the physics department labs (made an A in the coursework and an F in the labwork twice -- that means an F per department policy).
     
  16. jdang307

    jdang307 Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    Damn they got me too? I put a k-um so it wouldn't get caught but it still did lol!

    Magne come loudly!
     
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  17. dolfan32323

    dolfan32323 ty xphinfanx

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    Wow physics at W&M? You are a brave soul haha. I graduated with a degree in Economics and one in Environmental Policy. The physics department is notoriously tough. You know how tough that school can be then lol. I fell in love with Hampton Roads while I lived there, though, and can't wait to return to the state. I also loved the school, it was unbelievable gorgeous. Just a ***** in terms of school work, but whatever.
     
  18. padre31

    padre31 Premium Member Luxury Box

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    Interestingly enough, there is something of a shortage of jobs for the newl graduated barristers.

    http://nccriminallaw.sog.unc.edu/

    At link there is a link to law school grads who were hired right out of school.
     
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  19. jdang307

    jdang307 Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    Yup that's where I went, USD Law. I got in about two years before they tightened up their admissions so I snuck in :D Jimmy is 1000% correct. Post 2000 everyone applied to law school. When I applied in 2008 everyone was trying to go to silicon valley. My GPA was 2.8. Not so bad considered my first year was 0.8 and I was on academic counseling (one step above academic probation, i.e. their hand was on the trigger). My friend who had the same LSAT but a 3.4 GPA didn't get in one year later. She was devastated. That's why I say I snuck in.

    USD is stupid expensive. Started at $20k when I was there. A few years ago my mom's friends son went, it's up to $40k or something! Obnoxious. That is so high its ridiculous. I lived at home so that helped. But I will say. When the sun's out there is nothing better than the sit outside and watch the lovely undergrads walk by. For a small private catholic school the eye candy is top notch. They call it The University of Spoiled Daughters for a reason.

    Take the year off. Relax. Go in refreshed. If you're having thoughts, and are guaranteed a seat next year with the deferral why not.

    My one regret. Not studying abroad. I still kick myself. The costs for studying abroad was roughly the same as staying here,including your travels, room and board. Dumb dumb dumb. If I could do it again I'd go abroad for a summer. Check that out if the math and money works out.

    Jimmy, I hunkered down more or less because of ego. I'm a slow starter. 0.8 gpa to 2.8. Bottom 15% to top 3rd. I'm lazy but hate failing or losing. Weird right? But that's who I am. It did help me land my first job (the financial planning firm would not hire anyone out of the top 3rd). IT was a good job, and perfect for someone, just not me. I'm happy now with a solo practice 6 months old, and just grinding.

    I've discovered I enjoy the marketing side even more than the lawyering side. So who knows where I'll be in 5 years.
     
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  20. jdang307

    jdang307 Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    It's never been easy.

    Eventually everyone finds a job, but it's not right out of law school. Like I said, I went almost a year without finding one, due to bad decisions I made (foregoing good internships at litigation firms to chase my corporate dream, turns out there are more lit jobs).

    1. Good Grades.
    2. Moot court etc.
    3. Practical experience.

    Nobody is going to hand you a job unless you're in a top 5 school, or graduate come loudly. If your grades aren't cutting it, definitely get practical experience somewhere.
     
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  21. padre31

    padre31 Premium Member Luxury Box

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    Personally Jd I'd think it would be a good idea to have 2 degrees, for example, Law and Criminology.
     
  22. dolfan32323

    dolfan32323 ty xphinfanx

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    Yeah USD was like paradise lol. I wish I had gotten some scholly cause I would've been there in a heartbeat. It really felt more like a resort than a school. Just an awesome, awesome place.
     
  23. Boik14

    Boik14 Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    I am not a lawyer but I can offer you some advice that I watched my younger sister apply as well as a few of my friends....in advance apologies for my continuous bringing up of what my sister did; its just my best point of reference.

    - Your undergrad is done, you cant change it. So what can you do? What you can do is master the holy heck out of the LSAT. I grew up being a mediocre student because I was too cool for school but I took an LSAT practice exam for fun; just walked in blindly one day to a Kaplan center, and scored a 160 without opening a book. My sister scored a 168 or 169 after graduating at the top of her class at Cornell undergrad. That pissed her off. She mastered it though and eventually ended up teaching the class. Get your score up....(continued)

    - and get in to the best school possible. Regional or not, the law field right now is extremely competitive right now because people know the salaries it can offer. My sister ended up being top 5% from NYU. Thats not going to happen for most people. But I know what shes making and I know what some of her friends who went to good schools similar to UD and Pitt are making...trust me there is a significant difference and theres a significance in the ease for you getting a job post law school. Get the best LSAT score you can, get the best grades you can, get in the best school you can...be aggressive, be confident build your resume with law related stuff. This is your chance to punch your own ticket to wherever you want to go.

    - If youre going to go through this hell, and from everything Ive heard its hell, master a few things that can help you. Like I said, my sister went and mastered the LSAT so she could teach it at Kaplan during her 2nd and 3rd years. Take some speed reading classes or drills so getting through a few hundred pages a night will be easier. Youre going to be reading a lot and learning to retain more information is going to be important. Figure out what parts of the LSAT your weakest at, figure out what part of critical thinking you are weakest at, etc.

    - Some people cant handle the pressure which is why 1/3rd of law school students drop out. Get an idea of the courseload for each semester if you havent already and see if you can obtain an idea of what each class is going to entail in terms of coursework at the schools youre looking at.

    - Know which part of law you want to practice. My sister knew she wanted to deal with Health Insurance Law. One of my other friends thought she wanted to work in Family Law. Another friend wanted to do business law. 2 of those 3 are no longer doing what they thought they wanted to do and theyre struggling to pay back loans and live comfortably. Youre not putting yourself through this for fun (unless you have a demented idea of fun). Know what you want to do and know which courses will most benefit you. You'll know which firms you want to intern at in that area and get familiar with some cases in that field via your own research.

    Hope it helps and keep us updated :)
     
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  24. dolfan32323

    dolfan32323 ty xphinfanx

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    Thanks Boik. I've already signed up for a prep course through Testmasters and am aiming to bring up my score as much as possible. What you said about the ease of finding jobs is one of my main motivations for doing this. I appreciate the support everyone, and hopefully will be able to bring some good news to this thread sooner than later.
     
  25. jdang307

    jdang307 Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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  26. Jimmy James

    Jimmy James Ron Swanson

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    One thing to consider may be barriers to entry. If you like it in the east but want a relatively protected state my research suggests go to the University of South Carolina and sit for their bar exam. Admission for an out of state student is a bear but there is a strong preference for Gamecocks among firms in SC.
     
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  27. dolfan32323

    dolfan32323 ty xphinfanx

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  28. cdz12250

    cdz12250 Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    Do not get discouraged by the job figures. This is your whole, entire life you are talking about here, not the first few years, There will be a ton of opportunities as you go along, if you want it badly enough, because there are a huge number of ways to be happy as a lawyer. It may not come right away, but hard work and perseverance always pay off.
     
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  29. dolfan32323

    dolfan32323 ty xphinfanx

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    Yeah this is so true. I'm not put off by this. I've always been a hard worker... failure just isn't an option. Especially when I'm gonna be putting down big bucks for it haha.
     
  30. jdang307

    jdang307 Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    Those numbers are the same from when I came out. You may have a job the day you step out. You may not. Took me one year. You know how that year went? Let's just say I did a good job hiding my fears and concern. My ego was too fragile to let that show through.

    Go to law school to be a kick *** lawyer. You'll be fine.
     
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  31. Boik14

    Boik14 Season Ticket Holder Club Member

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    I cant answer anything about my alma matte's law dept but I can tell you its a beautiful campus with a lot to offer.

    No prob. One other thing i was thinking about...you said youre taking a year off...build your resume with things law related. Find things related to law and participate. Find whatever trade publications and I would familiarize myself with any problems or events in that field.
     
  32. dolfan32323

    dolfan32323 ty xphinfanx

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    In the process of finding a job/volunteer position related to law as we speak actually. :up:
     

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