I’m Going To a TTTT Law School But Want To Shoot For The Moon

QFirst off, I have to say thank you for your column about BigLaw snobs. It made me feel better about my choice to attend a geographically convenient, cheaper (9k/year vs 30k/year) law school in my hometown. ATL makes me want to puke.

I am entering 1L next week after years of putting off law school. I know I want to be a lawyer, but I didn’t want to go to law school without getting some solid life experience under my belt and without having a plan for the type of law I want to practice. I decided I love dispute resolution, mediation and arbitration. My TTTT school has an international program they are awfully proud of. I am wondering if it is realistic to get involved with international law and ‘shoot for the moon’ when it comes to my future or if I should just resign myself to a local life of mediating divorces. Not that I would mind that at all, truthfully… but why not go for gold if you think there’s a chance?

To rephrase, do you think I’ve got a shot at getting a job a hot-shot Federal agency or even an international firm if I’m coming from a TTTT school? If you were interested in dispute resolution law, what would be your ‘plan’ for law school? (what would you try to do during your summers and even during the year to give yourself the best shot at gainful employment after graduation?)

Thanks again for considering my question, I love your column.

AHere’s my advice: Calm down.  You’ve already made the decision to go to law school – whether it’s a T1 or a TTTT, it’s still law school – so that that part of the equation is done.  Take a deep breath.

To me, your only objective right now should be to gain a solid legal education.  That’s it.  Remember, it’s impossible make an informed decision without any information.

As for finding work after school, it will be tough.  Lawyers are resume snobs.  Fact. Big firms don’t interview candidates from TTTT schools.  Fact.  So if you really want to “shoot for the moon” you’ll need to gussy up your resume as much as possible.  Law review, great grades, internships… It still won’t be easy, but it’s possible. Fact.

Now, as to your specific questions regarding International Law, Federal Agencies and “dispute resolution law,” my advice is:  Don’t worry about it.  First of all, I have no idea what dispute resolution law really is.  Honest.  I’m pretty sure most mediators are former judges and highly experience litigators.  In other words, that’s not a career you jump into right out of law school.  As for International Law, take a few classes, see if you even like it.  If you do, apply to some firms or Government Agencies that specialize in it.  But for right now, chill and enjoy the last few weeks of summer.

Ex-Bitter is a former big firm lawyer who now doles out advice to anyone who asks. Got a question? Email it to advice@bitterlawyer.com. Or read more Advice from an Ex-Bitter.

14 Comments

  1. CNM

    August 20, 2010 at 11:49 am

    Yeah, most mediators I know are all former judges or semi-retired lawyers with a background in whatever the topic of the mediation is.  I have, however, heard of court-ordered mediators in smaller tort claim cases.  These people are also lawyers first- often litigators- with a mediation side business.  I mean, how would you be able to evaluate potential damages in a case if you haven’t litigated similar cases in the past?  So, my advice is to concentrate on a substantive area of the law in law school, in addition to your interest in mediation.

  2. quado

    August 20, 2010 at 2:30 pm

    Getting the federal jobs is not that hard.  Of course, it depends on what agency you’re looking at.  The State dept. might be a challenge.  Working for say…the consumer protection agency isn’t going to be that far of a stretch out of law school.  Many fed positions want new attys so they can mold them and get them to follow their guidelines more easily.  I have a family member who has 25 years trial experience and he wants to kind of retire into a fed job.  They don’t want him, they want new people.

  3. BL1Y

    August 20, 2010 at 2:43 pm

    If you want to be accredited by the AAA as a mediator, you’re going to first need something like 8 years of mediation experience, which means working as a mediator for a court, which generally means having something like 5 years in legal practice.  I hope you mean you’re interested in ADR as an advocate, because becoming a mediator is simply not an option as a first career.

  4. Sienna

    August 20, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    The only people from Tier 4 schools that get the Big Law jobs graduated at the top of their class.

  5. BL1Y

    August 20, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Sienna: False. What you meant to say are the only people from T4s with ANY law job are at the top of their class. I would say the people with family connections get the big law jobs, but they won’t end up at a tier 4 school in the first place. Their undergrad credentials and legacy status will at least get them into tier 2.

  6. Anon

    August 21, 2010 at 7:00 am

    Good advice.  Study hard, get good grades and figure it out.  No easy path these days–especially when you go to a no name law school (like i did).  but remember this, no matter where you go or what your class rank is, at the end of the day, you’ll still be a lawyer.  an unemployed lawyer perhaps, but that’s besides the point.

  7. Bill

    August 21, 2010 at 8:16 am

    You must work very hard, and do very well.  All too often men who go to law school start diddling with the college girls nearby, who are very impressionable and do not know T1 from T4 schools, thinking that they may be able to snare their very own lawyer who will support them for the rest of their lives.  The women do not realize these men may turn out to be failures, and the men, interested in having sex, neglect their studies, leading them to become the very failures these women were hoping to avoid by letting them bone them in the first place.  As a result, what you get is a freshly minted lawyer with a banged up luke war babe who winds up with a mediocre job (if he’s lucky), and soon has a kid or two to support.  The babe cools off in every way, leaving him with an alimony and support check (and his medocre job, if he’s lucky to keep it.  WHAT IS THE LESSON FOR YOU OUT OF ALL THIS?  Men:  Keep your nose in the books while in law school (not in some babe’s crotch), study hard and get a good job.  Once you do, you will have your pick of the babes who may be a bit shopworn, but likely to stick it out with you for the long-term.

  8. F.U.

    August 22, 2010 at 9:13 am

    The women law students can all get good jobs if they are attractive.  Men in the law are starved for the attention of women who are maybe 5 or 6+ out of 10, as the majority of existing women in the law are not (i.e., you need look no further than the Supreme Ct to see what I am talking about—Sotomayor, Kagan and Ginsburg).  With that as an incentive, what 1/2 way decent woman wouldn’t make a bee line for the law books?  Why is it that we see men slobbering all over the place to get a whiff of LF10 or Alma Federer?  Why?  Because they are presumptive beauties in our eyes—i.e., not the type that will turn into Supreme Court “beauties” if you get my drift.  So my best advice for the women is to go to school, work hard, and get a good job where you will be the highlight of someone’s law firm.  Who knows, you could become a partner at the firm if you’re not married off to the managing partner ahead of time.  Either way, you have a good shot if you work hard, like the other people here say…good luck to you.

  9. Sienna

    August 22, 2010 at 6:32 pm

    BL1Y: Disagree. A lot of people choose to go to a 4th tier law school if they receive a full ride, or the school is close to their home. If you do well in law school, you can get a job. I don’t care what tier your school is in the rankings. Only the really young law students care about tiers. If you want to be a lawyer, you have to graduate at the top of your class to get that big law firm job. I don’t know why you want to work for a big firm, but to each his own.

  10. BL1Y

    August 23, 2010 at 7:12 am

    Sienna: That’s just plainly false.  If you go to a top 10 school and (during a decent economy, not right now of course) graduate anywhere but the bottom 10%, you will probably be able to get a big law job.  I was around the 70th percentile at NYU (just guessing, we don’t get official class ranks), can’t interview my way out of a wet paper bag, and I landed a big law job, and I know people with worse grades than me who did as well.  If you go to a TTTT and are anything but #1 in your class, odds are you won’t even land a big law interview.  The lowest ranked school my firm hired from was #28 Boston College. The lowest they interviewed at was #72 St. John’s.  The tier 4 students don’t have a chance.

  11. Magic Circle Jerk

    August 23, 2010 at 9:11 am

    Unless you’re the first or second in your class, no biglaw for you!

  12. Guano Dubango

    August 23, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Sienna, you sound smart. If you are at all good looking, and want to date me, please post a picture and your e-mail address.  I can assure you, you will be very happy with me.

  13. Gunners = Glorified Law Dorks

    August 24, 2010 at 5:22 am

    I think it’s doable. You don’t have to get a big law job to get into mediation. You need to get a decent job, develop some experience (and some networking connections).  There are training courses for mediation and the more people you know, the more people will refer you as a mediator. Just concentrate your 1L year on studying really hard to set yourself ahead of the pack, then start focusing on internships, etc. TTTT isn’t the end of the world…

  14. Content Associate

    August 24, 2010 at 7:29 am

    You can’t just become a mediator.  The jurisdiction where I practice you must first be a practicing lawyer for a certain number of years and then get trained and certified by the state bar.  Additionally, as previously stated, most mediators are old judges and well known and respected litigators by local peers.  If no one knows you, they are not going to choose you as a mediator.  You have to make a name for yourself first as a litigator.

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