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NicholasSaunders

Should I go to law school in the US?

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I've always wanted to live and practice law in the United States. My GPA will probably end up being around 3.7 and I score between 165 and 170 on practice LSATs so I'm not going to be able to go to the top-tier law schools. Should I go to law school in the US? Will it be difficult to get a student loan? How willing are firms  to hire someone who isn't a US citizen? Would this simply make the task of finding work more difficult, or would this be setting myself up for disaster? 

Also, how difficult would it be to find work in the US if I went to a Canadian law school instead?

Any advice / info / context would be greatly appreciated.

 

Edited by NicholasSaunders

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1 hour ago, NicholasSaunders said:

I've always wanted to live and practice law in the United States. My GPA will probably end up being around 3.7 and I score between 165 and 170 on practice LSATs so I'm not going to be able to go to the top-tier law schools. Should I go to law school in the US? Will it be difficult to get a student loan? How willing are firms  to hire someone who isn't a US citizen? Would this simply make the task of finding work more difficult, or would this be setting myself up for disaster? 

Also, how difficult would it be to find work in the US if I went to a Canadian law school instead?

Any advice / info / context would be greatly appreciated.

 

Which schools are you considered "Top Tier" ?

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This is a perennial issue on these forums and I’m sure you can find stuff if you search.

But the long and the short is that it’s probably a mistake to go to a US law school unless (1) money is no object, due to personal circumstances or scholarships; and (2) you are happy to work—at least initially—in the US; and (3) you get into a top school. 

The reasons are probably obvious: US law schools are incredibly expensive. Even many good schools don’t guarantee you the high-paying corporate law job which can make that debt manageable. But even if you secure one of those positions, is that really what you want? To be shackled to your desk by your debt? Many of the things your peers chase will be inacccessible (e.g. clerkship or the federal public sector). If you decide to come back to Canada after graduation—assuming you are cool paying off your debt on a significantly lower salary in Toronto—you will likely have to write a series of exams in addition to the bar.

Personally speaking, I would only go to the US if I got into Harvard or Yale, which have sterling reputations and relatively generous financial aid/debt forgiveness programs. (Harvard even has a special loan program for foreign students, if memory serves.) I’d think long and hard about anything else. 

You can go to the NY from U of T, Osgoode, or McGill—but, that said, if your overriding concern is working in the US, you should know that it’s hard to pull off.

Anyway, just some other thoughts:

  • Not being a US citizen doesn’t matter all that much except for government employment, where it is determinative. 
  • I’m not sure what the deal is with funding. I think you have to get a loan in Canada (unless you go to Harvard in which case that special program is available to you), but I haven’t looked into it.
  • I do think you flirt with disaster going to the US. Do you think you want to do criminal defence? Public interest work? Government work? Do you want to work a job with regular hours? How sure are you the answer to these questions is no? There are so many unhappy lawyers, and I suspect that part of the reason is the law-school-to-big-law slide. I happen to have no aversion to Big Law, but I’m glad I have the choice
Edited by onepost
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You can probably get into some lower t14s with a 3.7 (out of 4.3 or 4? LSAC GPA is out of 4.3) and a 167. Maybe some scholarship money. Are you a visible minority (the official "list" of them on the lsac site)? If so that helps.

 

Why do you want to live and work in the US? Note that reasons change often, and quickly.

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I don't have much to add to the thoughts and concerns about studying in the US beyond what people have already said. I will note that before you add any detail or comments (particularly about values and reasons) that you appear to be using a real name as your forum username? Posts on this forum are un-editable (after 1 hour), and undeleteable, which you may wish to bear in mind before posting personal information under your identifiable name.

 

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18 hours ago, onepost said:

This is a perennial issue on these forums and I’m sure you can find stuff if you search.

But the long and the short is that it’s probably a mistake to go to a US law school unless (1) money is no object, due to personal circumstances or scholarships; and (2) you are happy to work—at least initially—in the US; and (3) you get into a top school. 

The reasons are probably obvious: US law schools are incredibly expensive. Even many good schools don’t guarantee you the high-paying corporate law job which can make that debt manageable. But even if you secure one of those positions, is that really what you want? To be shackled to your desk by your debt? Many of the things your peers chase will be inacccessible (e.g. clerkship or the federal public sector). If you decide to come back to Canada after graduation—assuming you are cool paying off your debt on a significantly lower salary in Toronto—you will likely have to write a series of exams in addition to the bar.

Personally speaking, I would only go to the US if I got into Harvard or Yale, which have sterling reputations and relatively generous financial aid/debt forgiveness programs. (Harvard even has a special loan program for foreign students, if memory serves.) I’d think long and hard about anything else. 

You can go to the NY from U of T, Osgoode, or McGill—but, that said, if your overriding concern is working in the US, you should know that it’s hard to pull off.

Anyway, just some other thoughts:

  • Not being a US citizen doesn’t matter all that much except for government employment, where it is determinative. 
  • I’m not sure what the deal is with funding. I think you have to get a loan in Canada (unless you go to Harvard in which case that special program is available to you), but I haven’t looked into it.
  • I do think you flirt with disaster going to the US. Do you think you want to do criminal defence? Public interest work? Government work? Do you want to work a job with regular hours? How sure are you the answer to these questions is no? There are so many unhappy lawyers, and I suspect that part of the reason is the law-school-to-big-law slide. I happen to have no aversion to Big Law, but I’m glad I have the choice

Thanks for the reply. 

The two main issues you identify are cost and not being able to work in the public sector. I'm 99% sure that I want to work in the private sector, so the unavailability of public sector work isn't a problem for me. However, the cost is definitely something I'll have to consider; 300 grand (or more) is a hell of a thing to go through life with.

I'd like to clarify a couple things:

When you say "You can go to the NY from U of T, Osgoode, or McGill—but, that said, if your overriding concern is working in the US, you should know that it’s hard to pull off" are you saying that it would be difficult to pull off if I went to a Canadian law school, or difficult to pull off even if I went to school in the US?

Would not being a permanent resident, as opposed to just not being a citizen, significantly impact my ability to find work in the private sector?



 

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2 hours ago, NicholasSaunders said:

When you say "You can go to the NY from U of T, Osgoode, or McGill—but, that said, if your overriding concern is working in the US, you should know that it’s hard to pull off" are you saying that it would be difficult to pull off if I went to a Canadian law school, or difficult to pull off even if I went to school in the US?


Would not being a permanent resident, as opposed to just not being a citizen, significantly impact my ability to find work in the private sector?

1. I was referring to the difficulty of going from, say, Osgoode to a job in New York. Every year some students are hired by firms down south. (At U of T it can be as much as 10% of the class.) But these positions are highly competitive and firms are very grade selective.

With respect to American law schools, conventional wisdom is that NY Big Law is the easiest market to get to. No one cares about ‘local ties’ in NY—and, more importantly, there are a ton of jobs. (The most competitive market is probably Washington, DC.) However! It’s still hard in the sense that you can quite easily go to a T14 law school and fail to secure a position. 

2. It doesn’t really matter. You will have one year of work experience baked in to your student visa. Then, once you have a job, you apply for an H1-B through your prospective employer. If that doesn’t work out, you can fall back on NAFTAs TN status (knock on wood). You may be at a disadvantage with smaller firms, but the big shops hire foreign nationals all the time.

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On ‎9‎/‎21‎/‎2018 at 6:14 AM, NicholasSaunders said:

I've always wanted to live and practice law in the United States. My GPA will probably end up being around 3.7 and I score between 165 and 170 on practice LSATs so I'm not going to be able to go to the top-tier law schools. Should I go to law school in the US? Will it be difficult to get a student loan? How willing are firms  to hire someone who isn't a US citizen? Would this simply make the task of finding work more difficult, or would this be setting myself up for disaster? 

Also, how difficult would it be to find work in the US if I went to a Canadian law school instead?

Any advice / info / context would be greatly appreciated.

 

I would first get an LSAT score, and then reassess the situation. Any decision you make now could be overridden by a really high (or low) score. When you have score in hand, then you'll have some decisions to make.

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