Saturday, October 21, 2017

First Tier Heist: University of Chicago Law School

Tuition: If you have a heart condition, do not read the next sentence. Full-time tuition at the Univer$ity of Chicago Law $chool amounts to $61,626 – for the 2017-2018 academic year. There is also a Student Life fee of $1,164. I’m sure that you will have plenty of time – in between studying your brains out in the library, home, or city bus – to take advantage of what it offers. First year students will also be assessed a $75 Transcript Fee, plus a Computer Allowance charge of $1,500. What a bargain.

Total Cost of Attendance: According to the same page, the law school lists the total estimated COA as $93,414 for first year students, and as $91,839 for those in their second or third year. Think about that for a moment. Let that figure sink in, and if that doesn’t take your breath away, then you are from a wealthy background or from a truly connected family. Then again, you could merely be a fool.

The school lists room and board as $16,830; personal at $2,880; and transportation costs as $2,502. In order to get a better picture of the total annual price tag, we will prorate those three items. Student loan fees, books and supplies, and health insurance costs will remain unchanged. This is fair, since actual students will require expenses over a full calendar year, and not just for nine months.

After prorating those three areas, the more accurate estimated Total Cost of Attendance is $100,818 for first year law students at the Univer$ity of Chicago. However, it is "only" $99,243 for second and third year students. Keep in mind that these costs are for a single year of law school! Good luck avoiding the need to take out private student loans, for your first-rate “legal education.”

Ranking: As you can see, the Univer$ity of Chicago Law $chool is rated as the 4th greatest and pristine land school in the land, by US “News” & World Report. Then again, it is a full six spots ahead of Northwestern University Prtizker SOL. That makes it the best in$titution of “legal education” in the Windy City. And tuition is not much more expensive than Northwestern’s law school.

Employment Placement Statistics: You will notice that there were 215 members of the University of Chicago 2016 graduating law class. Every one of them reported working in full-time, long-term positions within 10 months of receiving their law degree. By the way, 10 of them landed jobs that were funded by the law school or university. That’s one way to ensure full employment.

Scroll down to Employment Type, to see how well the class is doing. In fact, 144 were employed in private law firms within 10 months. Of that figure, 19 were in offices with 251-500 attorneys – and 107 were with firms that have more than 500 lawyers. It would be interesting to see what portion of these come from families who can afford to foot the bill for their law degree. As you will see shortly, nearly 40% of this class did not take out a dime in student loans to attend law school.

Another 36 landed article III clerkships. These guys will do just fine, once their year is complete. This school is expensive as hell, but it might actually be a relatively safe bet. Keep in mind that most Biglaw associates are churned and burned within 3-5 years. Hopefully, you earn enough in that short span to repay your student loans.

Average Law Student Indebtedness: USN&WR lists the average law student indebtedness - for those members of the University of Chicago JD Class of 2016 who incurred debt for law school - as $134,148. By the way, only 62% of this school’s 2016 graduating cohort took on such toxic debt. Remember, this amount does not even include undergraduate debt – and it also does not take accrued interest into account, while the student is enrolled.

Here's some more good news. While the law school was ranked 4th best in terms of overall reputation, the school’s 2016 graduating class was only the 50th most burdened by additional law school debt. I suppose that does make it a great deal, for those smart enough to gain entry. It’s even better for the 38 percent of this class that did not take on any student loans for law school. That is nearly 2/5 of the entire cohort. Have fun competing against those rich young men and women for the best law jobs out there.

Conclusion: If you are not from a ridiculously wealthy family, or you are not married to a top rate cardiologist who wipes his ass with $20 bills, then you have no business attending such an outrageously “institution of higher education.” It’s a sad statement, but I’m not the one who made the rules about wealth and connections being the rest route to “success.” By the way, the rich kids in your class do not even need the credential. It’s more of a vanity thing with them. When they’re playing at Augusta National or having their next yacht party – comparing their Rolexes – it might give them something to talk about with their friends or associates. Based on this Wikipedia entry, the Univer$ity of Chicago Law $chool was “founded by a coalition of donors led by John D. Rockefeller.”

Here’s something else to consider: even if you break your neck trying to join The Club, you may never really fit in with your surroundings. History provides countless examples of this outcome. And if you don’t manage to become a tenured “law professor” or a Biglaw partner, you may struggle to repay your student loans. It seems that even medium-sized law firms don’t want supposed Biglaw failures or washouts – and there aren’t a ton of in-house positions afterward, either. In the end, if you feel the outrageous cost of admission is worth it to you – and that you can commit fully to a spartan lifestyle for several years – then feel free to enroll. Sadly, too many lemmings think that they have a shot at these types of jobs – with a JD from a second tier diploma mill. Per usual, if you are rich, enter with no hesitation.


  1. Holy shit! $100K for a single year of law school. Wow, just wow.

  2. That's a lot of money to spend three years jerking off to Nietzsche with Brian Leiter...

    Of course, if you're rich and connected, no one's going to give a rat's ass. Once you're in the club, you're in.

    But borrowing full fare here seems like a risky gamble. Probably still a good deal if you can get a full tuition scholarship though.

  3. A lot of parents mortgage their homes, borrow against their savings and dip into their retirement funds to pay for professional schools. Interest rates from anywhere but the federal student loan program are lower than under the student loan program. Not clear all these people are rich. Some are just making sacrifices. Some people have working spouses during law school and others have worked for a few years and saved. You probably have a lot of debt among that 38%. It is just not federal student loan debt. A relative of mine paid for some of law school through his grandfather, who borrowed against stocks the grandfather owned.

    Chicago is a small, high quality law school. You still have the problem of not enough post-big law jobs. You are still subject to up or out from a top law school. and may not be able to get a legal job later on because of class year hiring in most jobs.

    Women and minorities have poor longer-term employment outcomes from top law schools, it gets worse the farther out you go.

    Once you are over 50 and out of work, having gone to Chicago does not protect you against in a market where jobs simply disappear, and you will have a very hard time getting a new job with your Chicago Law degree. No one cares that you went to Chicago. They care that there are multiple young applicants from Loyola Chicago who worked in big law and have had fewer jobs than you. The employers want to hire the young people, not the 55 year old Chicago grad.

    It is all about the poor legal job market you see, and oversupply. Sure, Chicago helps.

    But if you want to be able to work continuously until you qualify for unreduced Social Security benefits at age 70 and actually pick up a pension check of any type, you have a much better chance from any US medical school or even going into teaching.

  4. There comes a time when you have to put down your ambitions, ego, utopian fantasies, ideologies, and delusions, and see the world for the way it is.

    Law school is for rich people.

    Maybe it shouldn't be, maybe it wasn't in the past. Today, it's for rich people.

    If you do not have alternative sources of economic support - rich parents, high earning spouse, etc.. - then law school is not for you.

    1. It wasn't always this way. When I graduated 25 years ago my total debt was around 60k. My first job paid 28k. After one year I went out on my own and did okay. Still do. I will work until I'm 70 but there's no sense crying about it now. There are far, far, far better ways of earning a living that practicing law. Kids, don't do it. Do something else.

  5. This is still a gamble. If you are one of the ones taking out loans you have to land biglaw. And you have to live on Ramen noodles and in shitty tenement housing. And you have to pay that back in less than 5 years.

  6. Old Guy places Chicago in Tier 2 (, which he describes as follows: "Rich kids should feel free to attend these. Others should not enroll without a substantial discount and should weigh the risk of a bad outcome carefully."

    Fully financed with student loans, a JD from the University of Chicago would run up debt well in excess of a third of a million dollars. That's far too much. I recommend borrowing no more than $75k for this school—and that figure may well be too generous.

    Nando astutely points out that people who don't come from money will not fit in at a first- or second-tier yacht club. I'm the poster boy for that.

  7. great post. a good reminder/snapshot of T8 and above instead of blasting nonT14s.

  8. There was a beautiful hotel my spouse and I want to go to. The cost of the hotel was about $1 a minute for the time we would be staying there (or was it $2?). Anyhow, it doesn't matter whether it was "worth it" or whether I could save up to "afford it;" there is just no way I could enjoy staying in hotel where I would be, say, counting the minutes I waited to check in or for a waiter to come over and give us our check, and be thinking to myself, there's $10 spent waiting in line or $10 spent waiting to spend more money, or what have you.

    Similarly, there's just no way I could concentrate on my studies or enjoy college life where I would be thinking things like "I just spent $100 for this worthless career services meeting" or "$1000 for this worthless lecture on a fox" or what have you.

    Charging that amount of tuition for law school is just plain wrong.

    Even rich folks have (better) alternative uses of $300,000.

    1. Three hundred thousand for law school is $10k per three-hour course. One could hire private tutors for less.

  9. There aren't too many in house positions for former biglaw associates. And other white shoe firms do not hire failed associates at other large firms. If you get in here and you aren't rich you have to make certain you repay your student loans in that 3 to 5 year window.


    Let’s take a look at what it takes to gain admission to the 4th best law school in the entire country. Law School Transparency provides the following figures for the class entering Fall 2016:

    25th percentile LSAT: 166
    50th percentile LSAT: 170
    75th percentile LSAT: 172
    25th percentile UGPA: 3.90
    50th percentile UGPA: 3.95
    75th percentile UGPA: 3.90

    The numbers have stayed roughly the same for the past seven cycles. Here are the figures for the cohort that entered the Univer$ity of Chicago Law $chool in Fall of 2010:

    25th percentile LSAT: 168
    50th percentile LSAT: 171
    75th percentile LSAT: 172
    25th percentile UGPA: 3.59
    50th percentile UGPA: 3.78
    75th percentile UGPA: 3.87

    As you can see, the school now seems to put a little more emphasis on the applicant’s undergraduate GPA. Also, the 25th and 50th percentile score have gone down slightly. However, at an elite in$titution, this is significant. Plus, it seems that the school has not been rated this high before, in recent memory, by US “News” & World Report.

    Here are a few more metrics to take into account, courtesy of LST:

    Employment Score: 93.5% for 2016 grads
    Under-Employment score: 4.7% for 2016 grads
    Bar Passage Rate: 93.8% for the Class of 2015
    Non-Discounted Cost: $335,937 for those starting in Fall 2017

    There is a discrepancy between the school’s ABA Employment Report and LST’s figures re employment and under-employment. Perhaps, Law School Transparency is looking at the jobs provided by the university and law school. Also, it does not appear that anyone is taking on $335K+ in student loans – to attend this in$titution.

    I suppose several ultrawealthy families may be paying an immense cost. Then again, I imagine that many of the rich students are receiving some sort of discount, in the form of scholarships. After all, we are talking about the group that attended expensive boarding schools from an early age - and had the best tutors, access to better programs, and numerous other advantages. Don’t expect too many of these pupils to be struggling on the essay exams.

    1. Those numbers exclude the transfers Chicago takes from Loyola law sewer, Kent, DePaul, U of Illinois, and other schools. Chicago plays the transfer game just like all the other law schools to bring in more tuition dollars while maintaining the appearance of high standards.

  11. I'd bet that the rise in GPA is attributable largely to grade inflation and selective enrollment in easy courses.

    1. No doubt grade inflation played a key there. Another thing is even the people smart enough to get into U. of Chicago law took some of the easiest undergrad majors out there. Not quite Legally Blonde material. But not far from it either. It's not too hard to get straight As in the Humanities classes.

  12. The $100k yearly price tag is enough to make anyone sick. Even the rich kids parents. You know, rich people don't stay rich by writing a bunch of giant fucking checks.

    1. That's a steep opportunity cost - $300K and three years of lost salary and benefits. Anyone who can get into Chicago Law can get a great job with a bachelor's degree.

    2. Parents who write a third of a million in checks to the U of Chicago are not spending their last penny. Most of them would cheerfully pay half a million if they had to.

      In his book Failing Law Schools, Tamanaha discussed the difference that money makes in the selection of a law school. When a little rich kid gets into Harvard, either Daddy or the trust fund sends some fat checks to Cambridge, and that's that. A real person, by contrast, must choose between Harvard at full cost and, say, Vanderbilt at low cost (because of discounted tuition). Often Vanderbilt will be the choice. Consequently, the monstrous cost of tuition exacerbates Harvard's aristocratic character. But the same thing happens at Vanderbilt, where the rich kids sign up directly while the real people choose between paying dearly at Vanderbilt and paying much less at William & Mary.

    3. Vandie is a fun school for above average people. While studying in the library there, I never felt the grotesque atmosphere at Cornell or any med school.

  13. From the standpoint of someone walking in the door, even without family money, the financial aspects may look doable.

    Harvard has pretty generous loan forgiveness programs. My relative, who graduated recently, is having their third year tuition forgiven. The relative was already living in Boston with their working spouse, so the room and board was not an extra cost. The relative got a job in the summers after first and second year - the first year job probably modestly paying.

    The relative took a federal student loan out with plans to have it forgiven by working in the government or a non-profit. Now this person worked for several years after college and must have had at least one year's tuition saved. Maybe the student loan was not for all that much money.

    The parents are professional - not poor but also not wealthy. They probably did not contribute to law school.

    The real issue here is longer term outcomes for most people from schools like Harvard and Chicago. Unless you are a white male, your ability to earn a good living, comparable to what first years out of Harvard earn, is really a crap shoot long term. The longer term outcomes are not great for many women and minorities and even for some Ivy League blond haired blue eyed white males who went to all the right schools. New jobs that pay close to the starting salaries for first years are not available to most of the older women and minority (or even older male) grads of Harvard, Chicago and other elite law schools. Many middle aged or older, experienced graduates of these schools cannot get any full-time permanent legal jobs because law jobs are insecure, and there are relatively few law jobs for older, more experienced lawyers.

    If you cannot get a job at older ages when you want one, the fact that Daddy paid or you got third year forgiven and the student loan forgiven and that you have the PRESTIGE of graduating from Harvard or Chicago does not make the degree worthwhile. You cannot eat PRESTIGE.

    It is really dumb to get a degree with an expiration date that is much shorter than a normal person would want to work.

    A degree that has a reasonable probability of having a much shorter shelf life than most people want to work is a good way to describe law, even if your degree is from Harvard or Chicago.


    "Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project

    The Civil Rights and Police Accountability Project (PAP) is one of the nation’s leading law civil rights clinics focusing on issues of criminal justice. Through the lens of live-client work, students examine how and where litigation fits into broader efforts to improve police accountability and ultimately the criminal justice system. Students provide legal services to indigent victims of police abuse in federal and state courts. They litigate civil rights cases at each level of the court system from trial through appeals. Some students also represent children and adults in related juvenile or criminal defense matters. Students take primary responsibility for all aspects of the litigation, including client counseling, fact investigation, case strategy, witness interviews, legal research, pleadings and legal memoranda, discovery, depositions, motion practice, evidentiary hearings, trials, and appeals. A significant amount of legal writing is expected. Students work in teams on cases or projects, and meet with the instructor on at minimum a weekly basis. Students also take primary responsibility for the Clinic’s policy and public education work. PAP teaches students to apply and critically examine legal theory in the context of representation of people in need. It teaches students to analyze how and why individual cases of abuse occur and to connect them to systemic problems, often leading to “public impact” litigation and other strategies for policy reform. Through our immersion in live client work, we engage fundamental issues of race, class, and gender, and their intersection with legal institutions. We instruct students in legal ethics and advocacy skills. And we seek to instill in them a public service ethos, as they begin their legal careers. Students are required to complete, prior to their third year, Evidence, Criminal Procedure I, and the Intensive Trial Practice Workshop. Constitutional Law III is also recommended."

    I suppose this would give the future Biglaw associate a taste of "social justice" - before they represent the largest polluters and white collar criminals on earth. By the way, how often do poor people who get pummeled by the police obtain a big settlement? Apparently, cops merely have to state that they feared for their life, when they shoot a suspect in the back - and then they are back on the force. This clinic will not change that fact.

  15. Harvard's low income protection plan covers full time law-related work in the private sector as well as public service employment.

    There is a move to improve the plan.

    Problem is that the program helps pay off law school debt. Once the debt is paid off and the graduate still has low income, they are on their own.

    The employment results for top law schools long term today are becoming more like PhD outcomes, where a lot of people just have bad outcomes. The thing is that the troubled PhD market has been well known for generations of students.

    The thing about law is that the rosy first year employment outcomes mask the dearth of jobs relative to law graduates and to licensed lawyers. Using first year employment statistics obfuscates the seriously declining incomes of elite law graduates as they get older because structurally law forces out at least half of the lawyers who start with full-time permanent law jobs after law school graduation. The numbers of jobs - first year, establishment jobs, solos and licensed lawyers don't lie. They don't add up unless experienced lawyers have to leave the establishment jobs in droves long before retirement.

  16. Virginia Tech, Wake Forest, and Iowa have ended their full-time MBA programs. Arizona State is offering its full time MBA program for free.

    The MBA programs know what's going on, and are taking appropriate action.

    Law schools need to do the same.


    "Mission of the Law School

    Educational Mission of The Law School

    UChicago Law aims to train well-rounded, critical, and socially conscious thinkers and doers. The cornerstones that provide the foundation for UChicago Law's educational mission are the life of the mind, participatory learning, interdisciplinary inquiry, and an education for generalists.

    What sets UChicago Law apart from other law schools is its unabashed enthusiasm for the life of the mind--the conviction that ideas matter, that they are worth discussing, and that legal education should devote itself to learning for learning's sake.

    Learning the law at UChicago Law therefore is a passionate--even intense--venture between and among faculty and students. It begins in the classroom where students share the stage with the professor. The professor does not lecture, but instead engages the group in a dialogue. Known as the Socratic Method, this dialogue presents students with questions about thorny legal concepts and principles. Energized by this dialogue within the classroom, students seek opportunities outside the classroom for further conversation and learning in one of UChicago Law's clinical programs, with one of UChicago Law's three student-edited journals, or in one of UChicago Law's many extracurricular offerings (there are more than forty student organizations at the Law School), and in numerous lunchtime events involving speakers or panels.

    Honoring UChicago Law's history and commitment to interdisciplinary inquiry, faculty draw students' attention to insights from the social sciences, the humanities, and the natural sciences beginning on the first day of class. UChicago Law's unique first year required course, "Elements of the Law," introduces students to the law as an interdisciplinary field and gives students the tools to continue the interdisciplinary inquiry throughout their legal education.

    UChicago Law remains committed to legal education as an education for generalists, although students with particular interests will find it possible to study topics in depth through advanced and more specialized courses. Emphasizing the acquisition of broad and basic knowledge of law, an understanding of the functioning of the legal system, and the development of analytic abilities of the highest order, a UChicago legal education prepares students for any professional role they might choose--legal practice or legal education, entrepreneurial ventures, international private or public law practice, corporate practice, government service, alternative dispute resolution including arbitration and mediation, or work with non-profit organizations. Graduates do many things in their careers, and they all take with them the analytic skills emphasized during their years at the Law School."

    The concept of “the life of the mind” is meaningless drivel. This is further confirmed by the school’s emphasis on “an education for generalists.” Law firms and employers want professionals who can be efficient and get results – not someone who will pontificate about their pet political or social causes. Then again, some grads will go on to become “law professors.” They can do minimal amounts of “work” – and get paid handsomely via federal student loans. It’s a nice racket, if you can gain entry into the club.


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