unsolicited advice

For the 0Ls (Prospective Law Students)

UMN Law

It’s that time of year again. Law school acceptance letters have gone out and the future victims students are trolling the student blogs.

My advice? Run.

If you’re not going to run, then consider these 5 tips:


Do not go to law school just because your humanities major did not give you any marketable job skills.

That’s like signing up for the military because you won’t condescend to work retail as a B.A. The legal job market collapsed last year. If you were looking for riches and employment, then try Starbucks or business school…or the military. At least they’ll pay for school if you survive.


When considering schools outside of the top 10 (or maybe top 20) focus on the schools in the state/market you want to practice in.

Your New Mexico JD isn’t as powerful in Maine, even if the New Mexico school is ranked slightly higher than Maine’s Bumble School of Law.


If you are choosing between a well-ranked school and a scholarship at a less prestigious school, ask whether the scholarship is contingent on your GPA or class rank.

Most students at these schools will lose their scholarships because of the curve. And yes, your competition is as smart and motivated to keep their scholarship as you are.


Much of the prep during the summer before law school is a waste of time.

Your time is best spent working, because your scholarship or loan money may not come in until classes start. Working out also won’t hurt, because law school is the land of coffee and pizza.


If you really want to know what law school is like then read law student blogs.

An outline of my 1L fall semester is here, and an outline of 1L spring is here.

Again, I recommended that you run, so don’t batter me with nasty messages this fall about how I ruined your life because this blog convinced you that law school is all sunshine and lollipops. It is not. Run.

Tweet any questions to @dennisjansen.

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  • Ricky Nelson
    February 20, 2010 at 12:31 pm

    Point 3 is slight hyperbole. I don’t think most students at all “less prestigious school” lose their scholarships, though I suppose all of this depends on how we define “well-ranked” and “less prestigious”. I’ve been interested in scholarships to lower the debt load of law school and I’ve asked schools about how many students keep their full scholarships and they’ve all had percentages above 50%. I have some friends at some of these schools and they’ve said most people keep them. Perhaps your experience (or the experience of your classmates and other law school friends) has been different.

    Questions that you should ask about scholarships and the sort

    1. What percentage of students keep their full scholarships for the entirety of law school. Make sure the question includes the phrase full scholarship as some schools have a lower threshold to keep half the scholarship.

    2. What is the expected percentage increase in tuition during your time at the law school. Your scholarship becomes less meaningful if your school decides to go the Berkeley route and leech the money off their students like it’s water

    3. What is the curve? (if your scholarship is GPA contingent). You should know just how hard it is to keep it.

    Obviously if you can talk to a student that hasn’t been designated to sell the school and ask them all these questions would be good. As much as a I hate to say it, this is one thing those law school message boards may be useful for (with appropriate grains of salt)

    • Jansen
      Jansen
      February 21, 2010 at 4:48 am

      Valid points. The worst I’ve heard from one of our transfers is that her school in Cali had some classes with a 1.9 curve. Eek.

  • Live-Fire — Fearfully Optimistic
    February 20, 2010 at 12:54 pm

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  • Anon
    February 21, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    As a fellow UMN 2L, I would also recommend that everyone RUN.

    Two years ago I never thought I’d be saying this, but I wish I had joined the military instead of come here.

    • Jansen
      Jansen
      February 21, 2010 at 10:28 pm

      The benefits are amazing, I hear. USAA!

  • butterflyfish
    February 22, 2010 at 8:07 pm

    May I post this at Wish I Would Have Known?

    • Jansen
      Jansen
      February 22, 2010 at 8:21 pm

      But of course!

  • Ann K. Levine
    February 26, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Good post, but another point: You are more likely to be able to keep your scholarship if you had a good UGPA. If you are one of those folks with a 2.5 and a great LSAT (hence the scholarship to the lower ranked school), then it’s a tougher bet that you’re the person who will be likely to keep the scholarship. (A tough but true statement). If you don’t have a proven track record of success in the classroom (because you’re bored in lectures or undisciplined or for whatever reason) then it’s less likely you’ll meet that threshold to keep the scholarship. Of course, many people turn themselves around and become grown-ups about their academics in law school, but it’s one thing I tell my clients with low UGPAs to consider.

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