Return to Blog Homepage

When it Comes to Law School, Should You Choose Money Over Rank?


Yes! I am half of the way through law school.

This means that I am a 2L, and I have just completed three out of six semesters in law school. The good news is I’m halfway there. The bad news is I still don’t have a job.

Let me take you back, way back, to when I was like many of you MSS readers. I took the LSAT, researched law schools and whether they are located in cities that have Trader Joe’s, Pottery Barn, and J.Crew, wrote my personal statement, applied to several schools, then nervously ran to the mailbox every day to await the results. A flurry of letters later, I basically narrowed down my options to two schools: a tier-1 school with a little scholarship money, or a lower-tiered school with a full scholarship.

Granted, the lower-tiered school is by the beach in a temperate-weather city and the tier-1 school is in a town that is frozen seven months of the year, but after meeting with my financial planner, the full scholarship money won in the end.

The financial planner dude explained to us that if I didn’t have a full scholarship and graduated with more debt than I care to envision (have you ever imagined actually laying out all that debt money in front of you, say in a briefcase/Mafia-style or something, in $1 bills? I mean, I think it’s more money than I appreciate because it’s normally just some number on a paper), that would basically be like having a second mortgage. And we don’t even have a house for that first mortgage yet!

So I went with the lower-tiered school/full ride deal. I started school in August 2008. That fall, the economy started tanking and the legal world hasn’t recovered since. I worked hard and got better grades than I hoped I’d get in my 1L year, got into my school’s Law Review at the end of that summer, but jobs aren’t coming like they’re supposed to. Hence it’s January and I still don’t have a summer job for summer 2010, which would traditionally translate into a job after graduation later.

You’re probably wondering: do I regret going to my school? Perhaps I’d fare better with the rough economy had I gone to the other school in the frozen town?

The thought has crossed my mind, but no, I don’t regret my decision. First, I decided to go to a school that openly exercises and espouses the values in which I am a believer, and it has turned out to be a very good thing for the soul. It’s made it easier on the crazed type-A competition front, and perhaps not coincidentally, I’ve made some wonderful friends.

Second, graduating with $0 in debt actually opens up my options. If I keep up the grades and stay in Law Review, I can still get the big law-firm job if I want to, and keep aaaaall the money for myself and my husband (maybe a summer home in the South of France?). Or I might not want to work 100 hours a week and decide to go with a medium or small boutique firm, make less money, and have some sane working hours—hey, it’s not like I have that second mortgage I have to pay up every month. Or I might round up bad guys as a prosecutor and not make a lot of money, or defend those bad guys as a public defender and also not make a lot of money—hey, it’s not like I have that second mortgage I have to pay up every month. Or, if the economy is still this bad, I might just take a year off after taking the Bar and learn to speak French and how to make Julia Child’s beef bourguignon. See? It’s actually freeing.

Meanwhile, I did a little research with that other school in the frozen town. Its employment rate for the class of 2009 so far is lower than my school’s. Apparently it wasn’t a guarantee that I’d get a super job had I gone there, either. If anything, I’d graduate with a second mortgage and be stuck with my choices in the bad economy.

So yes, I’m happy with my choice and I don’t look back.

Besides being a 2L on a full scholarship, Ginny spends her time at Trader Joe’s and browsing J. Crew’s online catalog.