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Elie Mystal

Elie Mystal is the Managing Editor of Above the Law Redline and the Editor-At-Large of Breaking Media. He’s appeared...

Joe Patrice

Joe Patrice is an Editor at Above the Law. For over a decade, he practiced as a litigator at...

Episode Notes

Joe and Elie open the mailbag and answer questions from listeners trying to decide where to go to law school. Even if you’re not facing the precise decisions these listeners have, they hit on major issues that all students should consider in making a law school decision.


Above the Law – Thinking Like a Lawyer

Let Us Tell You Where You Should Go To Law School



Intro: Welcome to ‘Thinking Like a Lawyer’ with your hosts Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice, talking about legal news and pop culture, all while thinking like a lawyer, here on Legal Talk Network.


Joe Patrice: Hello, welcome to another edition of ‘Thinking Like a Lawyer’. I am Joe Patrice from Above the Law and with me, as always, is my colleague Elie Mystal.

Elie Mystal: War, huh, good God, y’all, what is it good for? Absolutely.

Joe Patrice: Yes.

Elie Mystal: No, not yes, nothing, nothing is relying there.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, well —

Elie Mystal: Referring to you for the nothing.

Joe Patrice: Right, who sang that song?

Elie Mystal: Actually, I don’t know.

Joe Patrice: Yeah.

Elie Mystal: It might have been me.

Joe Patrice: Let’s keep it with the original which I kind of —

Elie Mystal: It’s Bill James, right? How do we not know this?

Joe Patrice: I used to, frankly I knew until this very moment. Now I’m like, I don’t remember.

Elie Mystal: My rendition was so good that it threw you.

Joe Patrice: Yeah — yeah — no anyway.

Elie Mystal: Google it.

Joe Patrice: Well, let’s not do that because we have Edwin Starr, thankfully we have a producer as an answer. So there we go. Thank you. So yeah, so we’re here on this lovely day in New York.

Elie Mystal: Spring has sprung in New York for us.

Joe Patrice: It has.

Elie Mystal: It is very nice.

Joe Patrice: But the real issue that we’re going to talk about most of the day today here are law school decisions, last episode for those who were listening. We talked about our law school decisions and we asked our listeners and ‘Above the Law’ readers generally to send in what questions they are going through if they are in the process of deciding on a law school now to give us their little scenarios and ask if we can help and we got a ton, ton of responses which — thank you so much everybody. I think I’ve written everybody back who sent in one at this point or we did a few articles about them on the site.

So we may not be able to get to everything but I’ve at least responded to everybody. Thank you so much for the outpouring of help. This is great. We’ll have to do more of these like sending questions.

Elie Mystal: Before we answer anybody though I just wanted to actually grind my gears on the news of the day in our times at this point, which is that we now apparently engage in bombing runs solely to help flagging poll numbers.

Joe Patrice: I mean, I don’t think that’s particularly —

Elie Mystal: You don’t think that’s — you don’t think that the reason —

Joe Patrice: We made a movie about it in the late ’90s, I mean it’s a well-known phenomenon. I don’t think this is different.

Elie Mystal: You’re saying you don’t think it’s new?

Joe Patrice: Yeah.

Elie Mystal: You think that it’s always been okay for the president to bomb other countries just because their poll numbers are bad.

Joe Patrice: Okay, no, but that it’s happened, yes, there’s nothing unique about what has happened is what I’m saying. I don’t think it’s good but there’s nothing like there’s no — it would be ridiculous and disingenuous to have outrage over this at this point because it has been going on for 20-plus years.

Elie Mystal: I think what’s happening is quite unique and I think one of the real dangers here is that perhaps other presidents have had similar thought processes but none of them have been spoiled children with it. What right now we have a narcissist in office and so when you bomb Syria and then all the rest of the media is just like, oh my God, that was so presidential and the poll numbers jumped and all that’s going to encourage him, who is desperate for attention and compliments, all that’s going to encourage him to do is to bomb more people which is what we just saw today.

Joe Patrice: Oh yeah. Yeah, I mean, I think that’s true.

Elie Mystal: We are recording this after we moabbed Afghanistan.

Joe Patrice: Right, I think that’s true sure.

Elie Mystal: I’m confused as to your blasé nature about this, is it just because you’re not Afghani, is that just why you don’t — are you Afghani?

Joe Patrice: No, my issue with it here is that I think one of the more dangerous media tropes has been this ironic anti-normalization. This idea that these acts that are happening now are somehow exceptional from the mainstream. The actual problem is that this has been the mainstream for a long time and this attempt to make this exceptional I think is degrading and demeaning to the whole process but that is not really why I really don’t care about this because I have a bunch of law school things that I need to get through, the actual show, we have 11 of them to go through.

Elie Mystal: We’re not going to go through 11, are we?

Joe Patrice: I’ve got 11 top ones that I was going to try to get through, so that’s why we need to —

Elie Mystal: Can we negotiate down to 9?

Joe Patrice: We are going to see, we are going to see what we do. I mean, maybe they’re really easy.

Elie Mystal: Well, you’re right. I’ll filibuster if I have to but you’re right, they might be easy.

Joe Patrice: First one —

Elie Mystal: First one, let’s go.

Joe Patrice: First one I think is the fun one, when we got it we were like, oh amazing, we have an athlete in our midst. We have a former college Division I athlete who is currently playing professional soccer in New Zealand who is considering going to law school.


Elie Mystal: Don’t.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, well, so he’s reached the point ready to move on from professional sports. Scores weren’t great on the test but that was largely because he had to move mid study period to New Zealand, which is kind of a thing. Looking at options Boston College, Wisconsin, Notre Dame, yeah, so he’s looking at those —

Elie Mystal: So the Jesuit schools and where else?

Joe Patrice: Well, no Notre Dame — Notre Dame is not Jesuit, it’s just Catholic I believe, but Boston College, Wisconsin, Notre Dame —

Elie Mystal: Wisconsin.

Joe Patrice: — those are what we’re looking at interest in sports law so interested in whether or not going to a place with LLMs in Sports is something he should be targeting, and also interested in maybe — maybe just retake the test.

Elie Mystal: Right, so first things first, I think, because of his current profession and general desires, this is a great time to say, sports law doesn’t really exist, right? Like, you don’t go to law school for sports law. Anymore than go to law school for entertainment law, you go to law school and you learn contracts.

Joe Patrice: Yeah.

Elie Mystal: And contracts then become a big part of what you’re going to do in your sports law, entertainment law, fun sounding law practice, right? Anytime your client is a famous person, what they need is a contracts lawyer and that is what — a contracts lawyer or a criminal defense lawyer, and that’s what you’re going to learn in law school.

Joe Patrice: Yeah.

Elie Mystal: So don’t worry about the speciality.

Joe Patrice: This is my take on it too. I think if listeners are new to the show you can go back and I think it’s like episode 2 of this show even we talked about in context of entertainment law how the actual key is not to be an entertainment lawyer, it’s to be a good lawyer and then you will get into the niche after the fact.

Here, I think the only advantage to an LLM program is not getting the LLM because those are not really all that valuable. What would be valuable to it, and barely, would be if they have a strong sports practice like that. There may be people with professional contacts, that might be a value, but frankly, just become a good lawyer and you’ll be fine.

I think though that the real key here is, if you honestly believe that you could do better on the test had you had the proper time to study for it, go be study for it. This is a major investment, you’re mortgaging a lot on this decision, even if you don’t pay money, it’s a major investment of time and professional work. So you should put yourself in the best position before you do it.

Elie Mystal: I mean, it sounds — and I don’t remember exactly the specifics here, but it sounds to me a little bit like he took the test while he was still playing professional soccer, perhaps stop playing professional soccer for a couple months, really put your back into the test and then see what kind of scores you have.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, agreed, so case study two, this person is looking — is actually waitlisted at a bunch of schools now so they may not get in, but they are waitlisted and they have some sense of the financial aid package as they’re going to get. So they are kind of interested in how one would evaluate these, and I believe, yeah, actually this person in particular is interested in going into patent law on the East Coast long-term.

So UT Austin with a $90,000 scholarship, Vandy with a $90,000 scholarship, UCLA with about $50,000 and Washington University St. Louis with about a $150,000.

Elie Mystal: First of all, congratulations to UT Austin, now in the T14.

Joe Patrice: Exactly.

Elie Mystal: It was 90 from Austin and Vandy but more from UCLA, right?

Joe Patrice: Less from UCLA and more from Washington.

Elie Mystal: Yeah. Washington is out.

Joe Patrice: Okay, I think Washington is still a good school but I think that if you’re trying go to the east coast you probably —

Elie Mystal: Yeah, and not — with not insignificant amount of money as well, right? So, UT Austin, net full price versus Washington net with 150, that’s something, but with the difference being relatively — the difference is being within the ballpark.

Joe Patrice: Yeah.

Elie Mystal: I think we can drop Washington and focus on the schools with more of a national poll. Now if you’re really hell-bent on going to the east coast, I would say that both, UCLA and Texas, are not exactly — not stretches exactly they do have national poll. You will see people on the East Coast who have degrees from either of those schools.

But Vanderbilt is kind of your better bet actually anyhow without having too much New York bias, maybe not for New York. None of those three schools are particularly great in New York but the east coast is pretty long and very pelts on it in a way that Texas and UCLA certainly are not.

Joe Patrice: I mean, as I know people who are big law attorneys in New York who went to Vandy. I think that’s probably the right answer for the same reasons you did. That said you’re not going wrong. If you get off the wait-list at any of these schools, you’re fine, you can find your way to New York, it’s just — or DC — you’re just probably best off.


Elie Mystal: Or Philly, maybe it wants to be a patent in Philly.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, I mean there is speeds —

Elie Mystal: There are people who like cheese steaks.

Joe Patrice: Well, no, I mean, Philly-wise as we discussed when we talked about Philly is more of a —

Elie Mystal: Biotech.

Joe Patrice: — bio industry, this is actually an electrical engineer but still — but yeah, I think it’s Vandy. So three, also – wow, also somebody who wants to do IP in New York, but more of an entertainment IP focus.

Elie Mystal: So like he wants to like represent Lin-Manuel Miranda or something?

Joe Patrice: We will see. Here is an interesting one, Notre Dame with a $22,000 a year scholarship, Howard with a $20,000 a year scholarship.

Elie Mystal: Howard costs less.

Joe Patrice: That’s also noted.

Elie Mystal: So —

Joe Patrice: Drastically less.

Elie Mystal: Yeah, so even though it doesn’t sound like it, you are saving a lot of money at Howard.

Joe Patrice: Howard outperforms on professional contacts.

Elie Mystal: Yeah.

Joe Patrice: It does much better at finding, not that it’s — look, you’re going to Howard does not mean you’re going to Harvard but it does much better at finding its graduates jobs than you would expect based on its ranking.

Elie Mystal: Yeah, because I think one of the things that Howard has going for in a way that some other schools is — certainly other schools similarly ranked to Howard, and then I think even schools kind of ranked significantly higher than Howard. Howard has a history and a reputation of taking care of its own. It’s somewhat easier to go kind of into a Howard law grad’s office and be like, hi, I went to Howard too, take me out for coffee, take me out for lunch. Tell me what you can tell me in a way that doesn’t happen in quite the same way at some of the other schools that are even ranked much higher than Howard.

That said, to go to Howard versus Notre Dame, you’re really taking — you are putting your money where your mouth is, right?

Joe Patrice: Yeah.

Elie Mystal: Like you’re taking a huge hit in the established, accepted yada yada yada rankings. This is one of the few — and having just earlier said like don’t go for the specialty, to the extent that this is what you want to work in, entertainment law, right? You are going to be helped more by kind of strong alumni connections than you will with necessarily just straight US News Power Rankings, right?

So, like, if there is a Howard alum who is kind of out there doing the practice that you’re talking about, that might have some bang for your buck.

Joe Patrice: Yeah. I agree. I think that this is a very, very, very tough one. I can go either way. I think I probably lean Howard but it’s, it’s real tight and I would not fault anybody for doing the other one.

In a related one case study for American University, and they are very drawn to the clinical program being so highly ranked.

Elie Mystal: What a sigh!

Joe Patrice: Yeah, their clinical program. That said, the cost of living in DC proper is a lot, meanwhile Howard is the other option which — while in the same area is cheaper to live at. So they are concerned about how there is not many clinics and so on at Howard.

Elie Mystal: I mean, clinics are just — they are not — and they are better than sitting in law school class. I will give you that. Like the clinics are more fun, they are more interesting. You kind of feel like you’re learning by doing and blah, blah, blah, right? But it’s not like a — it’s not like going to clinics, it’s going to make you magically better or able to pass the bar, right? The bar involves kind of sitting in a room and studying, not like being out there with the people, right?

And the only thing that law — especially when you are talking — at the level that we are talking about, the thing that law school is good for is helping you pass the goddamn bar, right? Once you pass the bar you have to actually go out and practice and no matter where you are, so much of your practice you have to learn on the job, because the intricacies of your particular practice are likely to be completely different than intricacies to your clinic. When I was in law school I didn’t do a clinic, but I took some — I had a dalliance, right? with some Italians, yeah, with a battered women’s group, so I kind of did some in law school —

Joe Patrice: Right, filing.

Elie Mystal: Not file like collated some papers for a battered women’s group, right? I thought I was getting great experience there. Then I actually when I was in the firm, like I did my pro bono with the same battered women’s group.

The law school experience had almost nothing to do with the actual experience of working for them pro bono, which then itself had almost nothing to do with my actual practice, right?

Joe Patrice: Yeah.

Elie Mystal: So I just — I’m not saying that clinics are bad, they are actually — you can make an argument to me that I would probably agree with that if we’re going to have a third year of law school, it should all be clinics, but I just — I struggled to see how a strong clinical program is really something that needs to be a — this should be a weighted factor or a deciding factor, in your law school decision.


Joe Patrice: Agreed. It should not be at all I say. I like clinics, I think they are very valuable. They are nice toppings on your cake, they are not anything you should make a decision based on, because you’re going to learn most of what it takes to actually be a lawyer in the job market ultimately. It is useful. I have written before that what’s most useful about a clinic is learning what it’s like to have a lawyer as a boss. That’s kind of useful, because that’s a thing that’s hard to — for some people to grasp and having somebody —

Elie Mystal: Cough, cough.

Joe Patrice: Expect you to make deadlines and what it should look like, that is a useful practice.

Elie Mystal: Having somebody with no social skills expect you to make talent.

Joe Patrice: Right, exactly. So there is some value on that front, but do not make a decision based on that.

Elie Mystal: So that’s another —

Joe Patrice: Yeah, I think that’s another. Yeah, Howard is like coming up roses, our way of doing this, all right.

So five, we have — so we have somebody who has narrowed it down to Tulane and Emory. Looking for a JD/Masters of Public Health Program from New Orleans though.

Elie Mystal: Marvelous.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, so from New Orleans, so it would be much cheaper to go to Tulane, but scholarship-wise it’s only — they are only getting $7000 more per year at Tulane. So they will get $7,000 more and not have living expenses versus going to Atlanta and getting $7,000 less and having to pay to live there.

I mean, my thoughts on this. I know people who have been in the Emory, JD, MPH program, so I have a little bit more of a sense of it. I think that’s worth it.

If that is really the field that you are interested in and going into, it is a much more established program. You have the CDC there, the places where you can work and utilize that good professional context; if that’s the industry you want to go into, I think it’s worth. I rarely say, “pay more money”, but I think it’s worth, it is especially when it’s such a small gap.

Elie Mystal: I will make a slight argument here for Tulane, and it’s only because the questioner is from New Orleans.

Joe Patrice: Right.

Elie Mystal: And so one — there is potentially — maybe they want to stay there, right? So if you wanted to stay in your hometown, you would be better off going to Tulane as opposed to going to Atlanta and then having to come back.

But the big reason why I point out that the person is from New Orleans is that I know — I don’t know a lot of people from Emory, I know a lot of people from Tulane, and one of the things that happens they say is that when you have people from out of state who try to come to school at Tulane they just ain’t prepared to handle the New Orleans aspect of it and kind of end up on hurricaning themselves through college or law school, right?

You have to be used to what New Orleans I think has to offer before you incredibly go to school there. This guy or girl apparently has, and so that they will be able to handle the New Orleans’ aspect of the Tulane education.

Joe Patrice: Fair enough. So case six, Yukon versus Boston College. Situation —

Elie Mystal: Basketball?

Joe Patrice: Yeah, yeah. Situation full ride to Yukon and could live at home if needed to. Boston College about half scholarship estimating that they would end up with around 150 grand in debt if they went to BC.

Also of note, hoping to work in public defender world, Connecticut currently has a hiring freeze, just as a state, but Massachusetts pays too little to their public defenders so they would be willing to go into private practice if they had to, but they are really interested in potentially getting a Connecticut public defender job.

Elie Mystal: Can we just back up for a second? What you mean your goal in life is to be a public defender?

Joe Patrice: Some people have like values and morals and stuff, I mean, not us, obviously, but there are people. I have heard of them.

Elie Mystal: Do they ever want to eat?

Joe Patrice: Yeah. I mean —

Elie Mystal: So, I mean — I know that that sounds like horribly 18:50

Joe Patrice: It does, yeah.

Elie Mystal: But when the guy says, oh, but you would be willing to take a private practice — no s-h-i-t you would be willing to take a private practice job. At some point you’re going to be willing to pay some rent too, and that’s when the private practice job is going to like become important to you.

So just the thought of going to law school specifically for the goal of being a public defender and nothing more than that, and I am getting, I am not saying that public defenders are not doing good important work, but this is not something that you can — it’s very hard to make a living off of that, and it’s very few people who would invest three years of their time, education or whatever to do something with the explicit kind of goal of doing something that going to be able to make a living off of it.

If you are sure, absolutely, go to Yukon, because at that point it becomes really important to carry as little debt as possible.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, I hear that. I think though that I read the willing to work in private practice slightly differently. I read it as a I am willing to rather than try and find some other public interest thing, I am willing to take a couple of years to pay off this debt.

Elie Mystal: Private practice is a bridge to the public defender’s office.

Joe Patrice: That’s what I read, yes. And so, given that I read it that way, I think that — I think you probably end up going to Boston College, because you don’t know when that hiring freeze in Connecticut is ever going to go away.


So go to BC, get that private job, make that money back, pay off those loans, build a reputation and so on there and then you can always go back, and as a more seasoned lawyer you can make the pitch to a government agency that you’re a good choice.

Elie Mystal: As a person who gave up a six-figure salary to make at least that the start a public defender salary in my new career, let me tell you, that’s a hard thing to do and most people can’t do it.

Joe Patrice: I mean, I disagree.

Elie Mystal: I didn’t — my wife made it so that I didn’t have to really do it.

Joe Patrice: Right. I disagree, I think there are actually good people who make very little money and therefore help people. You make very little money and make dick jokes, and that’s a calling and one that I share; however, it’s possible that good people can make less money.

Let’s go to the next one, which is, BCBU, Washington & Lee and William & Mary. So basically they get tons more money in Virginia than they do in Boston. Obviously Boston costs more, but also feel as though they could have done better on the test.

Elie Mystal: Where are they from, do they say?

Joe Patrice: They do, but I don’t think I put it down in my like shorthand notes here.

Elie Mystal: Look, and if you — this is an easy call, where do you want to work? If you want to work in Virginia, in and around Virginia, in the Southeast, maybe with a shot at DC you obviously go to the Virginia schools. If you want to work in the Northeast, Boston anywhere in New England with maybe a shot in New York you go to the Boston Schools and it should be honestly as simple as that.

And if you can’t — and this is a point that I made many times before. If you can’t tell, if you want to live in Boston or Raleigh, you’ve got other problems, right? You’ve got bigger problems in your life, that should be an easy call for you to figure out which of those two very different places you want to live in.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, my sense and this is — I’m putting this out there because this is one of my bullet points when it comes to a decision story. Seriously, if you do think, and not just like wishful, but like there’s some reason that you feel you could have done better on the test, go take the test again. It’s too big of investment not to take it again, see what happens, even if these remain the choices you get, maybe you get more money, I don’t know, but take it again, make sure you’ve got the best — the best groundwork laid before you make this sort of —

Elie Mystal: Also, just because you don’t want to be the Deutsch back, running around law school and been like, I could have done better in the outside, but I chose not – no, because nobody, nobody likes that guy and nobody believes that guy.

Joe Patrice: So let — here this is simple one. Ohio State or UC Boulder?

Elie Mystal: Not Ohio State.

Joe Patrice: That’s what I said, and the thing is they’re both equally good schools really, it’s like ranked 30 in 37. There is no money issue because he’s on a GI Bill, it’s just like —

Elie Mystal: Thank you for your service.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, it’s just like where do you want to be, and I was like, I don’t want to be around people who just talk about the Buckeyes all the time if I can avoid it, you know?

Elie Mystal: In Ohio State, I think that —

Joe Patrice: And Colorado is awesome.

Elie Mystal: What you are going to do in Columbus, I ain’t just know.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, I mean, they’re probably are slightly better like job situations maybe.

Elie Mystal: It really is. Is Cleveland that much of a better market than Denver, really?

Joe Patrice: Yeah.

Elie Mystal: Is Cincinnati going to like blow Colorado Springs away?

Joe Patrice: Yeah, I know, I go to Colorado. Yeah. All right. Now Hastings with a $35,000 scholarship, that renews every year.

Elie Mystal: It’s still pretty expensive.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, it’s every year, so that’s really a —

Elie Mystal: So it’s locked in.

Joe Patrice: It’s locked in.

Elie Mystal: All right.

Joe Patrice: All of these are locked in. So —

Elie Mystal: They think they are locked in.

Joe Patrice: Oh yes, who knows, yeah. So Hastings or USD, Loyola or Pepperdine all with comparable amounts of scholarship, actually a little bit more the other three.

Now, situation, once to live in work in Southern California gets more money there and those schools there obviously not as good as Hastings on paper, but is it worth moving to Northern California and spending the extra money or staying in the market they’re looking to working?

Elie Mystal: I think you stay in the market.

Joe Patrice: I do too.

Elie Mystal: I think you have good options and it’s not like you have bad options right? It’s not like —

Joe Patrice: Not going to Thomas Jefferson or something, right?

Elie Mystal: You’re not going to Thomas Jefferson, right, you’re not going to Arizona Summit, right? So it’s not like you have bad options in Southern California, but just stay in your market, and Hastings is far away from Southern California. You can’t easily hangout with network with people who might want to give you a job or might want to be your clients if you’re all the way up there, so I think you absolutely stay in your market.


Joe Patrice: Yeah, I agreed completely. Probably, USD, but I don’t know like they are all so close.

Elie Mystal: Yeah.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, I take —

Elie Mystal: At that point it becomes —

Joe Patrice: Dealer’s choice.

Elie Mystal: And if it’s — if the money is the same at all three of this —

Joe Patrice: And it is.

Elie Mystal: I kind of — exactly I was about to say, like I probably with no other information USD but like —

Joe Patrice: Wherever you feel more comfortable.

Elie Mystal: If you really liked the professor at La Jolla, like that would be enough to scale.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, exactly, I agree. Harvard, NYU and Penn; with Penn giving a half ride, nobody else really giving anything. This is a Canadian who ultimately wants to go into Human Rights work in Canada.

Elie Mystal: Welcoming.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, so and also diversity is a big issue because Asian descent wants to be in an area where there’s —

Elie Mystal: For instance, we are going to give the A to the Canadian because when you said “diversity” I was like, may be you feel bad for a second.

Joe Patrice: No, Canadians can use A, that’s fine, that’s fine, yeah.

Elie Mystal: Because like if you said it was a black stone I was like welcome yo, I’d feel like that would be totally racist.

Joe Patrice: Well, you should, that would be totally racist. This however is not.

Elie Mystal: Good.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, and dirty Canucks.

Elie Mystal: For the Labatt’s.

Joe Patrice: Dirty Canucks anyway we’re in hockey season — we can – we are in the hockey playoffs, now all bets are off.

Elie Mystal: We are beating the Canadians right now.

Joe Patrice: We are, so Harvard, NYU, Penn with the half ride at Penn.

Elie Mystal: Because you know what I’m going to say, so do you have anything to —

Joe Patrice: HLS is kind of their dream since forever, but it’s $200,000 plus in debt.

Elie Mystal: I mean, are you going to make a — are you, Joe, going to make an argument for Penn?

Joe Patrice: Yes, because that’s the obvious answer. Like you’re getting money at Penn, Penn is an elite school, it is actually higher ranked than the other two in our rankings for a reason. It is not higher ranked in the US News rankings but it’s right there with them. You’re trying to work in a non-profit sector, so the idea of blowing a bunch of money that you don’t have when you could be getting a half ride is that makes the deal.

Elie Mystal: Yeah, so here’s the thing, right? To me there are only three schools that earn your full price and it’s Yale, HLS and Stanford, like those three schools are just at a cut — and one of the things that is different about them that no other school has is that when you go to one of those three schools nobody really asks you ever again why did you go to the law school you went to, right? It’s just — it’s oh, everybody, oh, you went to a good school. It’s taken off the top, it’s baked into the price.

When you’re talking about doing Human Rights work, I totally understand your point that decreasing your debt load is important if you’re going to want to do something, that maybe is not going to pay the highest salary. However, if you’re doing that work as well it’s sometimes good to be around all of the impossibly rich people that you were going to come in contact with at an HLS in a way that you’re — that cut different impossibly rich people than you’ll come in contact with at Penn or NYU.

Joe Patrice: How often have your impossibly rich connections at HLS bailed you out? Oh wait —

Elie Mystal: I mean, I’ve got this job, right?

Joe Patrice: Right, but not through HLS connection.

Elie Mystal: Sorry, kind of, right?

Joe Patrice: I mean —

Elie Mystal: Like Lat pulls — like why does Lat pull my resume out of the pile, like that’s a kind of thing that HLS gives you like.

Joe Patrice: I mean, yeah, I guess HLS, Yale, NYU Columbia, Western New England what? No, we don’t hire necessarily on those grounds and there’s reason of I think that —

Elie Mystal: Not anymore.

Joe Patrice: And look, I think that we’re dealing with — in the nonprofit world, or nonprofit we used to have a non-profit, we have columnist still but we had a columnist who worked at the nonprofit sector who wrote about how most of the big movers and shakers in that field did not go to high-end law schools, and part of the reason is they didn’t do that, didn’t get debt, and then they thrived in this industry.

Elie Mystal: We agree that the worst answer here is NYU at full price.

Joe Patrice: Yes, and I mean, I went to NYU, and as you know, I have it tattooed across my back and everything, but no, it’s obviously the wrong answer.

Elie Mystal: I mean, obviously, you think that the best thing about this guy is that or girl is that she’s dealing with wonderful options, right?

Joe Patrice: Yes.

Elie Mystal: It’s hard to screw it up at that point — I mean, it’s easy to screw it up when you get there and then you have too much cocaine and fail the bar, but assuming that you get on this train and you take it to its logical conclusion, you’re dealing with relatively good options.

Look, Penn for half price is not — is in nobody’s estimation is Penn for half price of that deal.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, I mean, so let me — this is not the actual decision, but let’s hypothetical twist it a little bit if it replace Penn with not to pick on them but BU, replace Penn with BU now we have something to really talk about. We’re like, yeah, you’re not — spending the extra money is probably worth it, good, aren’t we? You are dealing with another top 10 school kind of, so at that point just take the money.

Elie Mystal: I mean, you’re really talking about paying $50,000 extra a year for the HLS stamp?


Joe Patrice: Right, in an industry that may or may not really care about those kinds of gradations. Again, it’s not like it’s BU and our Public Interest guy would have said frankly going to the BU or the UMass Dartmouth for that matter would probably be a better move for you in a public interest sphere because they don’t care as much about prestige, but even if they did, there’s not really a giant prestige trade-off.

Elie Mystal: It’s a pretty real stamp, oh yeah.

Joe Patrice: Sure.

Elie Mystal: I’m not sure if it’s a stamp that’s worth a $100,000 but it’s a pretty real stamp.

Joe Patrice: Sure, but I mean –

Elie Mystal: It’s worth X, right? It might not be worth what — it might — the Delta might be too great in money between HLS and Penn.

Joe Patrice: I agree.

Elie Mystal: But there is some Delta where would it be justified?

Joe Patrice: Look, I want to go into private practice for a while ultimately with an eye towards government service not as a public defender but as the sort of person who creates the awful situation where people need public defenders. I want to go into that kind of work and I want to be a circuit court — at least a circuit court clerk or whatever. If these are the goals that are being talked about then obviously paying the extra for Harvard is worth it. Here that’s not the discussion.

Elie Mystal: I think you’re talking into it, I think Penn, I think you’re talking into it. Go Penn.

Joe Patrice: All right, good. Yeah there we go. So I actually recopied one of these so that was the last one.

Elie Mystal: Wooh.

Joe Patrice: We did 10 so it wasn’t 11.

Elie Mystal: Wooh.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, so there we go. Thank you everybody for sending things as we need to do more of these, we will have a normal episode next but we need to think of some other things that people can write in to us about.

Elie Mystal: I think and I hope people who are listening notice that 10 answers we gave, I think eight of them we suggest the lower ranked school.

Joe Patrice: I think that might be right.

Elie Mystal: One of the things people need to remember is that the US News is just a listicle. If it was called the BuzzFeed listicle of top 200 law schools people would pay it exactly the amount of respect it deserves. Our list, it’s just a listicle, you really have to adjust these things to your own personal situation and you should never ever, ever be in a situation where because one school is ranked a couple of spots higher than another school that becomes your decision-making process.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, that’s absolutely true. I fully echo on that. We will have other things where we ask you to write in going forward. In the meantime just go ahead and write us things I mean absurd stuff, we might talk about it.

Elie Mystal: @ElieNYC.

Joe Patrice: Yeah, @ElieNYC on Twitter for him, @JosephPatrice on Twitter for me. For both of us you can write us at our emails which are  HYPERLINK “mailto:[email protected][email protected] and  HYPERLINK “mailto:[email protected][email protected]. You should be listening to this show, subscribing to this show, giving reviews to this show, writing reviews to this show that like help the algorithms, push it up, and make more people when they type-in “law” in their search, it comes up higher.

You should also get the Legal Talk Network app, that way you can listen to all the other offerings of Legal Talk Network, which are also very good, I mean not as obviously as good as us, but they’re trying and that’s what really matters. No, we are going to really give them a gentle ribbing there mostly because we’re not sure that they listen this far.

So with that said, thank you so much for listening and we’ll be back soon.


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The views expressed by the participants of this program are their own and do not represent the views of, nor are they endorsed by Legal Talk Network, its officers, directors, employees, agents, representatives, shareholders, and subsidiaries. None of the content should be considered legal advice. As always, consult a lawyer.

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Episode Details
Published: April 21, 2017
Podcast: Thinking Like a Lawyer - Above the Law
Category: Law School
Thinking Like a Lawyer - Above the Law
Thinking Like a Lawyer - Above the Law

Above the Law's Elie Mystal and Joe Patrice examine everyday topics through the prism of a legal framework.

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