Monday, November 27, 2017

First Tier Stunning Price Tag: Stanford Law School

Tuition: As you can see, full-time law students at Leland $tanford Junior Univer$ity will be charged $58,041 in tuition – for the 2017-2018 academic year. I realize that the school touts its financial aid program, however that is a ridiculously steep cost for anyone who does not come from a wealthy family. 

Estimated Cost of Attendance: According to this same page, the world-renowned school lists an approximated room and board figure for those living in university housing. They also refer to a variance in other items. Apparently, they are too good to provide a more detailed budget for their students. To wit:

“For single students, room and board in university residences costs approximately $24,594 for the 2017-18 school year. Required books, if purchased new, cost about $1,530 a year. Local costs for transportation, clothing, recreation, and the like tend to vary. Most single students find they need to budget a total of at least $92,622 for the school year.” [Emphasis mine]

The areas delineated add up to $84,165. Deducting that from the estimated COA, everything else – from Netflix to auto repairs and health insurance – will amount to roughly $8,457. In the San Franciso area, of all places. Perhaps, the administrators here just assumed that all pupils will still be on their parents’ Cadillac health plan. Otherwise, it seems that these areas are low-balled. But I will be fair to this school anyway. 

Seeing that actual, breathing, living law students require expenses for the full year, and not just for nine months, I will prorate the non-direct items. Doing so, we reach the following, more accurate total COA of $103,639 – for full-time, single students at $tanford Law School. Again, this is for a single, solitary year of a program that takes six semesters. If that figure doesn’t make you faint, then I extend my congratulations to you – for having the foresight, i.e. sheer luck, to come out of the right birth canal.

Ranking: $tanford Law $chool is rated as the 2nd best law school in the country, by US “News” & World Report. This honor used to belong to Harvard Law $chool, but it seems that Harvard’s huge first year law class sizes have hurt their overall reputation. While the cost of admission is outrageous, keep in mind that it is a full 10 spots better than the next best school in northern California, i.e. UC Berkeley $chool of Law. That makes a significance difference when it comes to Biglaw placement and landing article III clerkships.

Employment Placement Statistics: Let’s peruse the school’s Class of 2016 Employment Summary Report. You will notice that there were 183 members of this cohort. Of that figure, a total of 176 were reportedly in full-time positions –within 10 months of earning their law degrees. That is an effective placement rate of 96.2 percent.

Then again, four graduates were in posts provided by the law school or university.While this is not a large number, in a small class size it has an impact. In this case, the employment placement rate would be 94.0%, without those four jobs. Remember when third tier commodes and second tier sewage pits were proclaiming – on their websites and recruiting materials – that 97.9 percent of their alums were employed within nine months of earning their JDs?

Head down to Employment Type. Fully 96 members of this class were in private law practice. Of that amount, five grads were in law firms of 101-250 attorneys, 11 more reported landed jobs in offices of 251-500 lawyers, and 76 JDs were employed in firms of more than 500 attorneys. Not bad, huh? Furthermore, 45 members of this class acquired coveted federal clerkships. This is what awaits those who attend real law schools.

Average Law Student Indebtedness: US “News” lists the average law student indebtedness - for those members of the $tanford JD Class of 2016 who incurred debt for law school - as $137,625. By the way, only 75% of this school’s 2016 graduating cohort took on such astounding debt. Don’t forget that this amount does not include debt from undergrad, and it also doesn’t consider accrued interest, while you are enrolled in school. See how quickly your debt load increases, when you are not making any payments. Of course, this is not a concern for a large portion of the class.

On a positive note, while Stanford is ranked 2nd best in terms of overall quality, it features the 43rd highest amount of average law student debt. That means that this must be one hell of a bargain for the student. Plus, fully one-quarter of the last graduating class did not take out a single dime in non-dischargeable debt for a law degree from a real school! The world is their expensive oyster.

Conclusion: Stanford Law School appears to be a safe bet for most of the students who are enrolled in that institution. While the vast majority of law students in the United States are taking a stupid gamble to calculated risk, these young men and women are simply biding their time – until they can earn big dollars in academia, Biglaw, or in private industry. The cost of admission is immense, but it seems to be worth the price tag. Plus, if you come from established money, you can get the degree at no cost. 

Keep in mind that TTTTs are now charging $45K+ in annual tuition – and they provide their graduates with garbage employment prospects. And for comparison purposes among other comparatively strong in$titution$, look at the employment placement data for 12th ranked UC Berkeley SOL, right down the road from this law school. You will notice a meaningful difference in how their grads are viewed by Biglaw and federal court$. That should be informative for prospective law students.


  1. “$tanford Law $chool is rated as the 2nd best law school in the country...[t]his honor used to belong to Harvard Law $chool...” WRONG. According to “Judging the Law Schools” rankings, Western Michigan University TTTTThoma$ M. Cooley Law $chool is the 2nd best law school in the country.

  2. There is a meaningful difference in how Stanford and Cal grads are viewed by Biglaw and Federal Courts. Stanford placed 45 out of 183 (25%) grads into Federal Clerkships. But Cal only placed 39 out of 330 (12%) grads into Federal Clerkships. Stanford had a smaller cohort yet still placed more grads into Federal Clerkships. According to the ABA employment data, both Stanford and Cal appeared to have placed 50% of their grads into firms of 101+ attorneys. But remember, students who obtain Federal Clerkships often deferred Biglaw jobs for a year. We can assume that because Stanford has more students in Federal Clerkships, the school probably placed a higher percentage of students into Biglaw.

    Stanford also discloses more employment data and information than any other ABA law school I have seen. Stanford reports that of the 4 grads in JD “advantage” jobs, 2 went into consulting and 2 went into technology. The school also reports that of the 4 grads in “professional” jobs, 3 entered banking and 1 entered tech. The school reports the salary range of the students in business ranged from $60k -$225k. Cal did not provide additional information about the 11 grads in JD advantage jobs and the 2 grads in professional jobs. A lot has been written regarding these JD advantage jobs. Toilet law schools include just about everything in the JD advantage category, the jobs are lower paying, and the students never intended to pursue these jobs when they enrolled. But in the case of Stanford, the grads probably choose to work at tech companies like Google rather than at a Big law firm. I even question whether Stanford’s school funded jobs are meant to prop up their employment stats or to provide some type of opportunity for grads. According to Stanford, the 4 grads employed by the school are “Fellows” working at outside public interest legal organizations. It is certainly possible Biglaw allowed these grads to defer their start date so they could pad their resume with a Fellowship.

  3. This is one of maybe two or three law schools in California that may actually be worth the price of admission.

    Nando speaks the truth here, kids. If you're paying the same insane amount, and maybe even more, to get your LaVerne or Thomas Jefferson JD, you really need to seek a mental health evaluation immediately. There is a night and day difference in career opportunities and outcomes for graduates from Stanford and some no-name bottom ranked law school. Don't find this out the hard way.

  4. I didn't realize Stanford grads did that much better than their Berkeley counterparts.

    So much for the T14.

  5. So it's worth it even if you have to take out the full amount in loans?

    1. I wouldn't say that. Stanford is in Old Guy's Tier 2: "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."

    2. Certainly not. You'll wind up owing around $200k, perhaps more. Even with a Big Law job, that is just an excessive amount of debt. Especially after taking into account any undergraduate debt you might have, your first year salary will be considerably less than your total debt, which is very undesirable.

  6. Still no guarantee that this degree will produce a full-time permanent job as a lawyer or an equivalent job several years out of law school. As long ago as 15 years ago, I knew a Stanford Law grad who was forced out of the legal profession after not bringing in enough work to a law firm that brought him in as a partner. The supply-demand imbalance of lawyers vs jobs hits graduates of all law schools. The early career results do not fairly represent the employment outcomes down the road. If you can get into Stanford Law, you can get into medical school and a medical specialty with a far better guarantee of a career with full-time permanent work where you have a good chance of earning the starting salary at big law or more. Not so if you go to Stanford Law. It is a throw of the dice.

    1. Since when does getting into an ivy league law school mean you are qualified to be a medical Doctor???
      I prefer someone who is a real scientist and talented in medicine rather than a quack.

  7. I knew a guy who went to Stanford Law and was basically unemployable for biglaw for working for the Sierra Club.

  8. Wait a minute, Nando: that's for "room and board in university residences". Are both room and board available there all year long? Probably not. The dining halls are presumably closed for a lot of holidays and likely for most or all of the summer as well. The residences, too, are probably closed for significant periods. Students would have to cover some of their own meals—probably with limited or non-existent access to cooking facilities—and live elsewhere for part of the year.

    How much would that cost? Well, the charge of $24,594 per academic year for room and board strikes me as steep indeed. If that charge covers nine months, it comes to $2733 per month—for a bedroom in a dormitory and institutional meals. In light of that figure, how much would you expect to spend on temporary housing and food for three months in the summer? Probably even more. So the annual cost of attendance is probably also higher than
    Nando's estimate.

    1. Don't stop there. That $300k bill is if it were paid the day it's due. The interest on it over time makes it unimaginable, especially over a couple decades.

    2. Using last year's prices, Law School Transparency estimates that the cost of attendance, if fully financed with student loans, would generate a bill of $341k at the time of graduation. As you said, the debt would continue to grow rapidly, with interest accruing at the rate of 6% or 7%. If amortized over 20 years, that debt would generate payments of $2600 a month and a total of $625k.

  9. It's a sad state of affairs when you must attend the number two school in the nation and spend $300,000 to even have a reasonable chance at a successful career as a lawyer.

    You don't need to go to the number two school to have a successful career as a doctor; indeed most U.S. medical schools would do.

    You don't need to spend anywhere near $300,000 or attend a top school to have a successful career in such professionals as education, optometry, RN, medical imaging technician, actuary, professional engineer, or a CPA.

    P.S. As an aside, and as a comparison, does anyone know what it would cost to gain license to teach math in California from one of the approx. 14 Cal State Universities, and what the typical salary might be of a math teacher in California?

    P.P.S. Please also consider stopping chasing the chimera of becoming a "professional" and consider a skilled trade, like plumbing, which come to think of it, is a profession in its own right.

  10. @ 12:07pm,

    Thanks for reminding us of TTTThoma$ M. Cooley rating itself as the 2nd best law school in the nation. Here is the link to the Elie Mystal ATL post from February 8, 2011. The entry was labeled "Latest Cooley Law School Rankings Achieve New Heights of Intellectual Dishonesty." Enjoy this opening:

    "It’s Christmas morning here at Above the Law. Thomas M. Cooley Law School has released a new set of law school rankings designed to make Thomas M. Cooley Law School look good. Back in 2009, Cooley incredibly ranked itself the 12th-best law school in the country.

    Now the farce reaches new and glorious heights. In this latest edition of Cooley’s own Judging the Law Schools rankings, Cooley has rated itself — wait for it, wait for it — the SECOND BEST law school in all that land. That’s right, #2! Harvard is #1, so according to Cooley, if you can’t get into HLS, you’d be making a wise career decision to go to Cooley instead of, oh, I don’t know — YALE. Click over to the Cooley website if you want to see the full list; I don’t want to befoul ATL’s pages with a breakout of Cooley’s top ten.

    This, my friends, is funny. But it’s also serious. Because there are real people studying at Cooley right now, and I don’t think they understand how horrible it makes the school look when the administration publishes things like this….

    There are a lot of legal educators who hate the U.S. News law school rankings. There are a lot of people who think that the way U.S. News does things is wrong. But whatever chance you have of making your alternative rankings gain traction flies out of the window when you put yourself at #2 — four tiers higher than where U.S. News has you."

    That was a true classic, in the law school scam. Sadly, I'm sure several TTTT prospective law students at the time bought that filth.


    Take a look at the Law School Transparency report for $tanford Law $chool. Here are the numbers for the class that entered that august in$titution of higher learning in Fall 2016:

    25th percentile LSAT: 168
    50th percentile LSAT: 171
    75th percentile LSAT: 173
    25th percentile UGPA: 3.75
    50th percentile UGPA: 3.89
    75th percentile UGPA: 3.95

    Now, let’s review the numbers for the cohort that started their “legal studies” at the 2nd best law school in the country, in Fall 2010:

    25th percentile LSAT: 167
    50th percentile LSAT: 170
    75th percentile LSAT: 173
    25th percentile UGPA: 3.74
    50th percentile UGPA: 3.88
    75th percentile UGPA: 3.94

    As you can see, this school actually became slightly more selective in their admissions process in those seven years. First year enrollment was 180 students in 2010, and it was at that same level in Fall 2016 as well.

    From the LST Overview page, for $tanford Law $chool:

    Employment Score: 89.6% for 2016 grads
    Under-Employment score: 4.4% for 2016 grads
    Bar Passage Rate: 90.1% for the Class of 2015
    Non-Discounted Cost: $341,284 for those starting in Fall 2017

    By the way, here are the LSAT and undergraduate GPA metrics for those who started in Fall 2016 at the festering pile of excrement now known as Western Michigan University Cooley Law School:

    25th percentile LSAT: 138
    50th percentile LSAT: 141
    75th percentile LSAT: 147
    25th percentile UGPA: 2.6
    50th percentile UGPA: 2.9
    75th percentile UGPA: 3.2

    See the difference, lemming? Stanford doesn’t have to self-publish some pathetic rankings scheme where it lists itself as the 2nd best law school in the country.

  12. Stanford was historically a little more competitive than Columbia and NYU back when the latter two were on a par, but not as competitive as Harvard. Issue is going to Stanford if you want to work on the East Coast. You may or may not get Big Law on the East Coast from Stanford. Law students who are closer to the job have the advantage.

    Stanford leapt far above Columbia and NYU as these two schools swelled their class sizes and started taking hordes of transfers from low ranked schools. The Columbia natives were losing out on jobs because there were now much too many Columbia and NYU grads on the job market, not to mention grads of lower ranked schools.

    Pulling back their class sizes to 200 would have saved Columbia and NYU some pain in the rankings and clearly raised their median admissions scores.

    Today with the small class slze of Stanford, is a no brainer to pick Stanford over the NY schools, even if you want to work in NYC. Even if you don't get big law, you have a better shot at good jobs later on in your career from Stanford than from Columbia.

  13. The majority of big law associates are gone in 5 years or less. Is there any data on where most large firm partners went to law school?

    Even if you don't make the cut, having Stanford and silk stocking firms on the resume do have significant pull later on, and the Cardinal alums do really help out each other.

  14. Even if you hate the practice of law (and if you're a normal person you will hate it) you can always go into something better with that Stanford law degree. So it opens doors.

    1. No you can't. With the Stanford Law degree alone, you can't practice medicine, be an RN, be a medical imaging specialist, be a professional engineer, sign an audit report or be a certified public accountant, be an actuary, be a public school teacher, be a professor (except for law), or, in most states, be a plumber, just to name a few things you can't do.

    2. Sorry, but that's not true. Except in the legal profession, a law degree—even from Stanford—closes far more doors than it opens. We have discussed this over and over.

    3. I agree with Old Guy. I interviewed for non legal jobs years ago. The HR folks were incredulous that I would want to work for them. "You're just looking for a job here until a legal position becomes available. We will have wasted all our training money on you." Never got an offer. (One must recognize that the HR person probably sees you as having accomplished something they don't consider themselves capable of achieving: earning a law degree, and are somewhat in awe of your education. They don't know the work and life styles that go with the degree. (I am about 8 months into the last 24 to 36 months of my "career.")

  15. This is a steep price. But it's for one of the premier degrees in the entire fucking country. If not world. It's right up there in terms of prestige with a medical degree from a top medical school or a degree from Wharton or MIT. It has to be worth it.

    1. I don't think that law degrees and medical degrees from equally prestigious schools are comparable. Medical degrees win hands down every time.

    2. Congratulations, 8:43, on your admission to Cooley.

    3. The whole point is that a medical degree from Stanford almost certainly guarantees that a person can hold a full-time permanent job as a doctor for a career. The same is not true for any law degree, even if it is from Stanford.

      Most people reading this blog are too young to understand the extremely high level of unemployment and underemployment of older elite law school grads. Unfortunately, many of you will find out too late.

      It is a good market for elite law school grads in their early 30s. The same is not true of older elite law school grads. Law jobs are not secure. They don't last a career for most lawyers. The problem, which is humongous, comes up when you need to find a full-time permanent job to employ you for the rest of your career after working as a lawyer until your 50s. For most elite law graduates, it is not going to happen.

      Medical jobs are more secure. They don't disappear usually unless you really screw up.

  16. Let's go over some secondary student publications at this school. Enjoy these descriptions:

    "Stanford Law & Policy Review (SLPR) is one of the most prominent policy journals in the nation and informs public discourse by publishing articles that analyze the intersection of our legal system with local, state, and federal policy. SLPR is ideologically neutral and solicits articles from authors who represent a diversity of political viewpoints.

    Founded in 1989 by Stanford Law School students, SLPR has long been a forum not only for academics but also for high-profile policymakers to publish articles on hot-button issues. Past contributors include Bill Clinton, Joseph Biden, John McCain, Charles Schumer, Charles Rangel, James Baker, Russ Feingold, and Jeb Bush. SLPR has been cited multiple times by the U.S. Supreme Court and over fifty times by other federal courts. It is published widely and available at all major law schools and policy thinktanks."

    Who knew that think tanks could be a single word? The best use of this journal is to line your parrot's cage with a copy of the damn thing.

    "The Stanford Technology Law Review (STLR) strives to present well-rounded analyses of the legal, business, and policy issues that arise at the intersection of intellectual property law, science and technology, and industry. STLR publishes exclusively online, providing timely coverage of emerging issues to its readership base of legal academics and practitioners.

    STLR publishes feature articles, working papers, and perspectives from scholars, distinguished practitioners, and students. Materials are presented in a reader-friendly environment featuring simultaneous text and footnote viewing, hypertext links to supporting material, and access through the World Wide Web, Lexis-Nexis, and Westlaw. STLR‘s electronic format allows immediate reader response as well as ongoing Virtual Symposia.

    Membership in STLR provides students with interests in technology the opportunity to work with noted scholars in their fields of interest, develop strong writing and editing skills, and gain experience with Internet publishing technology. As a relatively new and growing organization, STLR also affords unparalleled opportunities for leadership and a chance to leave a legacy at Stanford Law School."

    If you managed to stay awake after reading those three paragraphs, congratulations. As a student, you would be much better off using your free time going to the gym or getting a part-time job - rather than editing articles on this TTT publication.


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