Monthly Archives: August 2012

Advice for Law School Applicants About Lowering Costs, Reducing Debt, and Choosing a Law School

Cooley’s President and Dean, Don LeDuc, is publishing commentaries on the Law School, legal education, and related topics.  This post summarizes President LeDuc’s advice to law school applicants about the cost of attending law school.

In Choosing a School, Consider Cost Before Considering Prestige

Typical potential law students are not sufficiently cost conscious in selecting a law school, tending to place too much emphasis on perceived prestige and not enough on net costs of attendance.  For some law school graduates, prestige does matter, but that factor should be considered only after a full consideration of cost, which should be the first consideration.  Most law students should seriously consider the lowest cost law school alternative.

1. Be realistic about your chances for admission. Use the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools to determine your likelihood of admission based upon your LSAT score and undergraduate grade point average.  Do not waste time applying to schools that are significantly beyond your profile.

2. Comparison shop the cost of tuition and mandatory fees.  Compare the cost of tuition and mandatory fees at each school you are interested in.  This is very difficult to do because the practices among the law schools vary greatly.  Consult the ABA’s Official Guide, but note that these published figures are not fully comparable and report only last year’s tuition and fees.

3. Determine your eligibility for a scholarship at each school.  Check for eligibility limits for scholarship continuation, such as requiring a minimum law school grade point average or class rank.  These may actually mean that a significantly reduced number of students will retain their scholarships after the first year or even after the first semester.

4. Estimate a net cost of attendance. Compute a reasonably close estimate of the net cost of attendance from the direct costs of tuition and mandatory fees, less scholarships for each school under consideration.  Then rank your schools in order from low to high cost.  Assume that the lowest cost is your best alternative, absent other factors that convince you that a more expensive choice is better for you.

5. Confirm the cost of living in each location you are considering. This varies significantly, even among law schools located in the same city.

6. Estimate the total cost of attendance and determine how much debt you will need to incur to obtain a degree at each school.  With your calculated cost in mind, consider how much you can contribute from personal or family resources toward that cost.  Then, determine how much you will need to borrow to attend each school.  Various models exist that will allow you to calculate your monthly, annual, and total repayment costs, separated into principal and interest.  Seek assistance in doing these calculations so that you understand exactly what your future repayment obligations will be.

7. Now consider whatever other factors that are significant to you in light of the known costs of attendance for each school. Only after you have the cost of attendance in mind, consider location, reputation, or prestige.  A school’s performance on bar examinations and its placement records are relevant, but you should remember that it is the individual graduates who take the tests and seek the jobs, not the schools themselves.  Don’ t assume that you will automatically pass the bar or get a job simply because you attend a particular school or not pass the bar or find employment because you attend a school with lower bar passage or employment rates.

Consider the prestige factor or speculate about bar results or job opportunities with a good dose of reality.  Unlike the fictional Lake Wobegon, the students at American law schools are not all above average.  Aside from personal pride, the prestige of a law school matters little to most of the students that graduate from it.  For most graduates, the amount of debt each has upon graduation is a reality that lasts for years and matters a great deal.

Summary

The cost of education and its impact on law school debt are closely related.  If you are concerned about that issue, and you do not have sufficient resources to pay for law school without borrowing, you should seriously consider selecting the lowest cost alternative available.

Read President LeDuc’s commentary in full.

Click here for all of President LeDuc’s commentaries.

Scroll below to comment on President LeDuc’s commentary.

See Cooley’s detailed national legal employment and recent law school graduate employment reports.

See Cooley on the web at cooley.edu.

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Not Just Another “Day at the Office”: The Work of Cooley’s Immigrant Rights and Civil Advocacy Clinic

Professor Jason Eyster

Professor Jason Eyster

Jason Eyster is Associate Professor of Law and Director of the Immigrant Rights and Civil Advocacy Clinic at Cooley’s Ann Arbor campus.  He has published many articles on immigration and frequently speaks around the world on the topic.

The Immigrant Rights and Civil Advocacy Clinic at Cooley’s Ann Arbor campus combines a real law office serving clients with instruction in skills and ethics to upper level law students.  The clients of this clinic are indigent immigrants who receive legal representation in both immigration and civil matters.  Some cases involve both types of representation, as did recent efforts to help a boy from Honduras receive permanent residence in Ypsilanti, after fleeing his home at fourteen years of age, having been abused and neglected by his parents.  The tortuous path led student interns to Immigration Court in Detroit and to Probate Court in Ann Arbor, as well as requiring the filing of written applications to the Citizenship and Immigration Service and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

This month clinical activities are shifting into a higher gear due to changes in immigration procedures affecting young immigrants, announced by President Obama in July.  Many immigrants entered the United States as children, either through valid temporary admission at a border crossing or through entry without inspection, and remain here without immigrant status.   Many have attended and graduated from high school or served in the armed forces.  For the last ten years, advocates for these children have sought passage of the DREAM Act, which would provide permanent residence for those who complete their education or military service.  While bills have been proposed nearly annually, the act has not been passed and there is no assurance that it will be approved in the near future.  In response to the growing political pressure, the Department of Homeland Security will use an existing remedy, “deferred action,” to grant two-year legal presence to immigrants who entered when they were less than sixteen years old, have been here continuously for more than five years, and have satisfactory school or armed services records.  An estimated 1.4 million immigrants may qualify for this program, but the rights are temporary and the risks of deportation for unsuccessful applicants and their families are serious.  Therefore, qualified legal assistance is essential.

To train and mobilize non-profit legal service providers, I, on behalf of Cooley’s CiRCA Clinic, and other clinic organization directors have met several times to create a comprehensive plan for informational meetings, individual consultations, and large-scale workshops to help qualified candidates complete applications. Cooley Law School students who are currently enrolled in the CiRCA Clinic helped organize a workshop at  Washtenaw Community College on August 7.  The student-interns and I presented the details that are thus far announced to an audience of more than 100 attendees. 

For more than two hours, the attendees asked questions about deferred action.  Many had very complicated cases that will require careful review of their documents and personal histories and of operational instructions for the government processing. 

Because Cooley has the only law clinic specializing in immigrant legal assistance, CiRCA will provide both individually-scheduled intake interviews and a day-long workshop on Saturday, November 17th at the Ann Arbor campus.  The intakes will be supervised by students enrolled in the clinic, but all Cooley students will be invited to attend a training session and meet directly with potential beneficiaries of the program.  Participation in this activity will help satisfy pro bono pledge aspirations

Through direct client representation in court, social justice advocacy and outreach, and events such as the upcoming Deferred Action Workshop, student interns at Cooley’s CiRCA Clinic learn first-hand about the work of a lawyer in an environment that fosters reflection and ethics.

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Summary: Enough About the Ills and Evils of Legal Education

Cooley’s President and Dean, Don LeDuc, is publishing commentaries on the Law School, legal education, and related topics.  This post summarizes President LeDuc’s commentary countering uninformed assertions about the ills and evils of legal education.

According to uninformed critics, legal education is in an existential crisis, law schools must reform, law schools are defrauding the public and the unwary law school applicants, law schools are manipulating their data, there are no jobs for law school graduates, there are too many lawyers, law school graduates have too much debt, law school is too expensive, law is no longer an attractive profession.  A relative handful of critics re-circulate the same increasingly tired arguments, thus reinforcing one another’s views, nearly all of which are not remotely objective and without support in fact.

Don’t Believe the Uninformed Critics

The recession hit our profession hard, but not as hard as the critics of legal education say.  According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the National Association for Law Placement, lawyer unemployment rates are very low.  Legal employment is strong when compared to other professions.  The job market for lawyers is in fact already improving.  Indeed, the relevant consideration for entering law students is not what the job market is now, but what it will be in 2015 or 2016 when they graduate. With the national decrease in law school enrollment in 2011 and 2012, market forces have already affected the future job market.  The result is that a reduced number of students will graduate in 2015 and 2016 into an expanded job market. 

The critics who claim that law school education is not worth the investment have likewise overstated the effect of law school cost and debt.  Their anecdotal stories of students with excessive debt distort, not represent, the true picture, which is that the default rates for law school and other professional school graduates are far below the national default rates for all other educational programs.  They ignore the fact that the overall tuition burden is reduced by about 25% at the typical law school and that 15% of all law students graduate with no debt.

The facts about legal education simply belie the outcry.  Those who read the media and blog reports should do so with a skeptical, if not jaundiced, eye.  Nearly all that is said is wrong, much of it is intentionally misleading if not purposely false, and all of it is missing in context and perspective.  There is no crisis in legal education any more than in other aspects of education.  There is no need for urgent reform, only for reasoned progress in making legal education more responsive to the needs of society and future clients and employers.  The law of supply and demand will adjust law school behavior to the market, unfortunately following that market rather than predicting it.  Legal education is no more or less to blame than anyone else for failing to foresee the recession or in responding too slowly to the glacial economic recovery.  Indeed, we should guard against being too cautious now, when the economy is still recovering and the demographics favor enrollment growth in light of increasing long-term demand for law school graduates.

Read President LeDuc’s commentary in full.

Scroll below to comment on President LeDuc’s commentary.

See Cooley’s detailed national legal employment and recent law school graduate employment reports.

See Cooley on the web at cooley.edu.

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Major Legal Employment Study Shows Law Graduate Employment Better Than Expected

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Cooley Law School has released a series of reports on legal employment in the United States.  The purpose of this study is to insert the nation’s most authoritative data into the public dialogue about the national legal employment picture.  Cooley invites you to comment to this blog.

Much of the current discussion in the media and on the blogs about employment in the legal profession is unsubstantiated, anecdotal, misleading, and incorrect.  Cooley Law School thus decided to study the subject based upon the most authoritative data that can be found — data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) and the National Association for Law Placement (NALP).  The study is presented in two reports.

Report One covers the national employment data compiled by the BLS.  It establishes that employment for lawyers grew during the past decade, even during the recession, and that the environment in the legal profession that awaits law school graduates reflects relatively full employment, particularly in comparison to other professional and management occupations.

Among the BLS top ten management and professional occupational subcategories, employment in legal occupations was bettered only by those employed as healthcare practitioners and technicians.  Lawyers are among the occupations least affected by the recent recession.

Report Two puts into perspective public discussion about the employment outlook for recent graduates from ABA-accredited law schools by placing NALP data for those graduates a 10-year context.  It explains why the employment data used by NALP to establish employment and unemployment rates among recent graduates is both accurate and reliable.  (The 2011 NALP report data has not been released publicly. We will update the report for 2011 once the data is public.)  Report Two concludes that, contrary to the perception advanced by certain media and blogs, the employment rate is very good for law school graduates.

The unemployment rate for 2010 law school graduates who sought to enter the job market was 6.2 percent, and these graduates overwhelmingly obtained full-time professional employment.  While the job market is more challenging now than three years ago, within nine months of graduation around 90.5 percent of the newly-minted lawyers either found employment or entered graduate school.  Of this employed group, 96.7 percent of them reported having found professional employment, and 90.2 percent of those professional positions were full time.

Reports One and Two contradict the assertions that are widespread on blogs and in a segment of the media regarding the employment situation for lawyers, refuting the notion that unemployment among current lawyers and law school graduates is high.  Looking at the data in this context highlights the invalid assumptions and faulty logic in the arguments used by the critics and shows that their conclusions are inaccurate and misleading.  Rather, the facts overwhelmingly discredit these assertions.  Legal education is actually one of the best choices for a career.

Read these reports and tell us what you think by commenting to this blog site.  Also see our media release on the topic.  For more information about Cooley, see generally our website.

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My Journey…is not ending, it is only beginning

Susan Zuiderveen

Susan Zuiderveen

Susan Zuiderveen is a third-year Cooley student serving on an externship.  This is the eighth post in Susan’s outstanding series.

As my externship is coming to an end, I am very sad and I am also amazed.  I am sad because I have met so many wonderful people that I have enjoyed working with and will miss seeing every week.  I am also sad because I have enjoyed being in the criminal court system.  It was wonderful to spend time in the environment in which I hope to work after graduation.  It confirmed that I definitely want to be in the criminal court system as a prosecutor, and it only made me more excited to get started in my new career.

I am also amazed at how much I have learned.  I set three goals for myself at the beginning of the externship, hoping to achieve some knowledge in each area.  The first goal I set was to observe different attorneys to learn skills of effective persuasion in a trial.  In my externship, I have seen several attorneys in many different types of trials including civil and criminal.  I was also able to observe five different prosecuting attorneys in different trials.  It was a wonderful opportunity to see so many different styles and skills of all of the attorneys.  Not only did I learn skills of effective persuasion, I realized that effective skills come in many different styles and personalities.  Each attorney had their own unique way of arguing and persuading, and I was able to observe many different approaches.

The second goal I set was to gain a basic understanding of the court documents and the paper flow in the court system.  By digging into the files and doing my research project, I became more famililar with the paperwork and the filing system used.  But I also learned the human side of the paper process.  I delivered current court documents to staff during the day as as they were needed.  This allowed me to get to know all the individuals and their roles in the paper flow.  There are so many people involved, each playing a crucial role.  I gained an appreciation for the number of people it takes to process and file all of the many documents into the correct files.

My last goal was simply to meet people in the criminal court system.  When I first set this goal, I only thought of it in terms of the people that work in the courthouse every day.  I  never imagined that I would meet so many different people in so many different roles in the court system.  Not only did I get the opportunity to know the judge I am working for and her staff, but I also met and got to know the other three judges and their staffs as well.  I spent time with sheriff deputies, parole officers, attorneys, and court clerks.  There are so many people involved in the court system, and it was wonderful gaining an appreciation for the different roles that are needed to make the system work.

Looking back I am truly amazed at how much I have learned in such a short time in my externship.  This externship exceeded all my expectations and goals and made me feel more confident and more excited than ever to graduate and start my career.  Even though I am sad that my time at the courthouse is ending soon, I don’t feel like it is ending forever.  I feel more like it is just being put on hold for a few months until I can return!

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