California, Law Schools, Reader Polls, Texas

The Decision: Georgetown v. Texas v. UCLA — An ATL Debate

Lat here. Not long ago, Elie and I debated the merits of Harvard Law versus Yale Law, in response to a request for advice from a prospective law student lucky enough to be choosing between HLS and YLS. Then we opened up a reader poll, in which about 60 percent of you urged the 0L in question to go to Yale.

As we move deeper into spring, more aspiring law students will have to make up their minds about matriculation destinations. Today we’ll look at the case of a student who’s choosing between a trio of very fine schools: Georgetown University Law Center, the University of Texas School of Law, and UCLA School of Law.

Let’s hear him out, weigh the competing factors, and vote….

Our reader, whom I’ll affectionately call Future Gunner (you’ll see why later), writes as follows:

I am currently a 21-year-old senior who plans to attend law school in the fall. Currently I am deciding between Georgetown, UT-Austin, and UCLA, but I’ve been waitlisted at a few others. Though I have not received $$ from either Georgetown or UCLA, and 10K a year out-of-state at UT-Austin, I am lucky enough to have parents who could fund my undergraduate education at a public school, and who will be paying for at least my first year of law school.

Two comments. First, I’d urge Future Gunner to think about doing something else in between college and law school. As I’ve said before, “I went straight through from college to law school, but I’d do things differently if I had to do them all over again. In my observation, law students who have done something else before matriculating at law school tend to enjoy and get more out of their legal education experiences than people who go directly from undergrad.”

Second, it’s great that Future Gunner’s parents can pick up the tab for his 1L year. That should allay his worries a bit. Or not:

The reason that I’m writing to you is because at this point I’m not scared of going to law school — I’m f**king petrified. I don’t consider myself to be a typical law school candidate, or some schmuck with a BA who goes to law school for the hell of it. Ever since I stopped growing in eighth grade and realized that the NBA just wasn’t ready for a 6’2 chubby forward with no jumping ability whatsoever, I’ve wanted to be an attorney. I’ve done my research on law schools: in fact, maybe too much. I’ve scoured over forums, blogs, and newspaper articles, read every stat possible, and am now more confused and frightened than ever.

What scared me more was when I spoke with students at UCLA law’s admit day. Though being ranked #15 in the most recent USNWR, half of the 3Ls I met gave me an answer that included “the economy is bad” when I asked about their post-grad plans. I’m ok with a downturn, but the legal market apocalypse that [second-tier] graduates keep preaching about on their blogs constantly keeps me up at night.

One of the few things that keeps me optimistic is the fact that I have a plan, and I know what I want to do. I would like to go into M&A or Securities law, particularly with tech companies. I recently did an internship with one such company that filed for an IPO, and found it to be very interesting (don’t judge me dude, I’m thinking about law school so obviously I can’t be normal). Though I don’t have too much experience in this area yet, I have spoken to a few attorneys and have looked into programs that would benefit me at the schools mentioned above. One thing that I noticed among the unemployed 3Ls is that many came to law school without a clue, and it ended up biting them in the ass. I have a pretty good understanding of how Biglaw recruiting works, what type of classes to expect in your first year, and of course, how law schools BS their employment stats. Yet even with all the information I have accumulated, there is still that doubt in the back of my mind. Basically, I feel like I’m climbing Mt. Everest without a harness, and if I look down even for a second I’m going to plummet to my doom.

To make matters worse, there’s the ever-present worry that my parents’ investment won’t pay off and I end up looking like the son who failed. Between the two of them, they have 7 higher education degrees and since I’m from the Silicon Valley (where the tech industry is still relatively strong) they were a little disappointed that I did not choose an engineering/computer science route. I don’t want to sound like a trust-fund d-bag (if I was I wouldn’t have to worry about employment) but in the environment where I grew up it seemed as though everyone found white-collar jobs quickly, and the prospect of long-term unemployment refuses to leave my mind. Many of my friends are going to be investment bankers, consultants, and software programmers, and even though there’s nothing embarrassing about going to law school, in three years if I have nothing to show for it I honestly wouldn’t know what to do.

Hmm…. not really sure if I have anything to say here. I’d like to reassure Future Gunner, but let’s face it: in today’s economy, there are no guarantees for the vast majority of law students. Going to law school presents risks — risks that might not pay off. Future Gunner is in a better situation than most, since his parents can pay for his first year of school; if his 1L year turns out disastrously, or if he ends up hating law school, he can just walk away, debt-free.

(It would be similarly misguided to tell Future Gunner not to go to law school under any circumstances. I have written in defense of going to law school, and so have many of our readers — even students and graduates of second-tier schools.)

Now, on to FG’s specific question….

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