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Law school choice and negotiations options

PowerScore Staff
PowerScore Staff
Posts: 6576
Joined: Wed Feb 02, 2011 4:19 pm
Points: 3,249

In the below transcript, PowerScore CEO and law school admissions expert Dave Killoran provides a student with some admissions advice.

Brian: "Hi Dave, I need to first thank the PS Bibles for putting me in this great position to begin with! Pending waitlist movement (4 t14 waitlists, and still pending at NYU) I have narrowed my choices down to 3 schools and calculated the debt I would leave each school with:

Virginia (250k), WashU (90k), Wisconsin (30k, in-state & alma mater)

I am not interested in big law, but I am interested in clerking (preferably federal to help with future academia dreams), working for the government (potentially federal, though I could be happy with state probably as quality of life and a reasonable work week is important to me), or in another public service role. If my grades turn out right I would eventually like to make my way into academia/teaching perhaps. Landing a full professorship would be my most highly desired mid-career outcome I think after getting some government work experience under my belt, though I know that is a fairly remote possibility and I need to not necessarily make plans with that goal in mind.

I do not want to be stuck in one employment market for the next 3-4 decades but am otherwise pretty flexible on that end besides generally not wanting to live in huge cities due to high COL. Since I am not planning on big law, a strong LRAP program is of course very enticing/important for my post-law school financial situation. If I know I am committed to public service work, does that make an astronomical debt burden more theoretical since I would be on a school or government forgiveness route? What other factors should I be thinking about here? I will be attending all 3 school's ASWs this spring.

The estimated debt burdens at graduation again are Virginia - 250k, WashU 90k, Wisconsin 30k. My WashU scholarship is 130k total - would I be able to get UVA to budge at all on their current $0 offer in comparison with that?

Thank you in advance if you have any thoughts! (Love the new pod as well!)


Dave Killoran: "Hi Brian,

Thanks for the questions! There is a ton to unpack in your post, but let's start at the end: UVA will likely not respond to the WashU offer. Their rankings aren't close enough, and this goes to the point we made at the end of episode 5 about negotiations—the schools need to consider themselves comparable.

Next, it's beneficial that you have your career paths strongly in mind here. From a clerkship standpoint, UVA is obviously the strongest, with placement rates about double that of the other two schools. And I know you aren't interested in biglaw, but keep in mind that those numbers reflect the esteem a school is held in within the legal profession, which extends to academia. UVA at 69.3% biglaw dwarfs WashU at 44.9%, which dwarfs Wisconsin at 11.3%. On a purely academic track, UVA is clearly the best choice here. But is it worth 250K? If you went public service and used UVA's VLFP II program(, then you could severaly discount costs but of course you have to meet the program requirements. I haven't done an LRAP analysis of UVA any time recently, so I don't feel comfortable making anything other than general comments here at the moment.

As far as WashU vs Wisconsin, these are schools that give you different outcomes as well. Wisconsin is basically a lot of public service and small firm work, WashU is trying very hard to climb the ranks into the real major leagues and places like a climbing school. while you can go to Wisconsin and end up a professor, it's not easy at all, and you are more likely to end up in public service. WashU gives you more options, and may well be worth the extra $60K given your stated preferences.

In which case, how much do you desire the opportunity to get that professorship? UVA makes you pay for it, but the chances are far better coming from there than the other two, although WashU gives you a shot. Wisconsin put you in public service almost certainly. So, the question is are you willing to take on the debt for the shot at academia?

I hope that helps, but you have a tough decision here!"