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Q: I’m pulling my hair out over this one: I was recently accepted into Fordham’s part-time program, with guaranteed admission as to full-time status after my first year. Then, there’s St. John’s. Not only was I admitted to their full-time program, but I was given a 50 percent tuition scholarship. Do I go to Fordham, accruing debt along the way, or do I go to St. John’s (admittedly, not as well-regarded as Fordham, but making strides) and enjoy my scholarship? K.K. New York A: Stop pulling out your hair because ultimately you will be able to make the right decision. Let’s try to talk it out. If you have read my column in the past, you know that I would usually tell you to attend the school with the highest ranking. However, in your particular situation, I think we need to examine the pros & cons of both schools. According to U.S. News & World Report, Fordham’s law school is ranked at #32 out of 182 ABA-approved law schools. Not a bad ranking, particularly if you plan to practice law in New York City where Fordham is well known and respected. And the statistics are pretty darn good. For example, the faculty to student ratio is 17.5, which is better than Harvard (18.6)! (But nowhere near as good as Yale which comes in at 8.3!). On the other hand, still following the U.S. News & World Report’s ranking system, St. John’s comes in dismally as a second tier school with some rather worrisome statistics when compared to Fordham. For example, the Bar passage rate is only at 79.4 percent at St. John’s, whereas Fordham’s is 87.5 percent (as a point of comparison, Harvard’s is 93.7 percent and Yale’s is 95.0 percent). If you are thinking about working for a law firm, you should be aware that 67 percent of Fordham Law School’s graduates work in a law firm but only 52 percent from St. John’s have jobs in law firms. It would appear that St. John’s alums end up more frequently in government legal jobs; that figure is 20 percent as compared to only 11 percent from Fordham. However, all of the above is relevant only if you religiously follow the ranking system set out by U.S. News & World Report. There are many other factors that must help shape your decision about what school to attend in addition to the ranking of the school. You may be surprised to hear this from me since I always have preached to my readers to accept the offer from the law school with the highest ranking. Ordinarily I would also say this to you, but I have the sense from your question that you are more concerned about the financial aspect of law school as well as starting your 1L as a full-time student. Because of these concerns of yours I would suggest you set aside the rankings for a moment and take into consideration your special needs and circumstances before deciding which law school you will attend. By the way, if you start out at St. John’s, did you check to see if Fordham allows transfer students? If so, you could attend St. John’s your first year and then transfer to Fordham as a full-time student as you start your 2L. You might even be pleasantly surprised by your experiences at St. John’s and opt to stay there. Some of the factors you need to consider besides school rankings are the support of the career services office and the alumni network once you are getting ready to find your first (or second, or third) job. Do a number of law firms come to the school for on-campus interviews? Or do you have to seek out 2L summer and first year associate jobs on your own? How good is the law library? What is the quality of the teaching? I am sure you can come up with many other questions along these lines. I really think the bottom line of your decision has to be in part based on how much you are willing to apply yourself while in law school, particularly during your first year. If your mission is to be at the very top of the class then, ultimately, you will be in a great position for excellent employment upon graduation. There is not a major firm in New York that will not interview, or hire the top ranked students from second and third tier law schools. All you need to do is look in Martindale Hubbell and you will see that the top firms have attorneys from every law school. Obviously there is a certain degree of uncertainty as to how you will ultimately do in law school, as there are always factors that are out of one’s control. However, if you feel fairly confident that you are willing to do whatever it takes to be the best you can be, then I suspect you will do quite well in school. The main difference then will be that given the choice of the #1 student at Fordham and the #1 student at a lesser-ranked school, a potential employer might go for the candidate from the higher ranked school. I suppose that in the end I would tell you to go to Fordham even though it will be part-time for a while and even though you are going to rack up incredible student loans. Not knowing your personal situation puts me at a disadvantage because my advice comes without pertinent information about you. However, all things being equal, I would definitely go for the higher ranked school simply because I have seen that work out better for candidates over the years. Please keep one thing in mind: As a recruiter I am very concerned with school and class rankings because my clients are concerned with these rankings. However, there are many opportunities out there aside from those on which the recruiters work. Class and school rankings are important for a certain segment of the legal jobs and are much less important for other positions in the world of law. Before you decide which offer to accept, think about what you want to do with your degree. If you do not think that you will be applying for the types of jobs that use the rankings as a benchmark, go to the school that best fits your lifestyle and your economic situation. Please let us know what you decide to do. Best wishes! Sincerely, Ann Israel President, Ann Israel & Associates Ann Israel is the legal profession’s Dear Abby. A New York legal recruiter since 1979, Ann is president of the National Association of Legal Search Consultants.

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