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Better Shop Around

Vivia Chen

March 2, 2011

Fotolia_14587347_XS I'm a bargain shopper. So I see no shame in hunting for the best deal for your money--be it a cashmere sweater, a sports car, or a law job.

Given how precarious the legal market has been in the last few years, don't you owe it to yourself to be a good shopper--especially before you assume years of debt to finance your legal education? So what are the best deals for aspiring lawyers? And where should you hang up your shingle, once you get that degree, so that you can comfortably pay off those hefty debts?

On the law school front, The National Law Journal recently looked at which law schools delivered the best value based on tuition and the percentage of graduates who got jobs with the 250 largest firms in the country. (NLJ also has a very useful article about the go-to law schools for leading firms.) University of  Chicago and Howard University--two very different law schools--won the prize:

The University of Chicago Law School [tuition in 2010 was $44,757] was ranked No. 1 on the NLJ's Go-To Law School list, with 58.97 percent of its 2010 graduates taking jobs at NLJ 250 law firms. At the same time, it was ranked No. 18 in terms of law school tuition costs, meaning that 17 schools out of the 50 on the Go-To list cost more.

Howard University School of Law, which was ranked 31st on on NLJ's Go-To Law School List, got big firm jobs for 15.04 percent of its 2010 graduates. That's not a big number, but it's respectable for a school that's not known as a feeder to big firms. Moreover, it was "the third-cheapest school among the 50, charging $24,490 in 2010 for tuition."

And the school that gets the thumbs-down on value? Cardozo School of Law, reports NLJ. "Of its 2010 graduates, 12.6 percent landed NLJ 250 jobs, for a ranking of No. 34 on the Go-To list. Cardozo's tuition was $45,170, making it the 14th most expensive school among the 50." (It even edged out Harvard and Stanford on the tuition front.)

And once you have that J.D. in your hot little hands, where should you go to work? If you want a thriving legal market and high value for your money, you might want to consider places other than glam spots like New York, L.A. or Chicago.

According to the ABA Blog, some of the best markets for lawyers are off the radar screen--sometimes way off. Put it this way: On ABA's hot list are places where The Olive Garden and Red Lobster would be considered destination restaurants.

Here's the ABA's top ten cities for lawyers:

1.  Augusta, GA., & Richmond County, S.C.

2.  Birmingham, ALA.

3.  Bloomington & Normal, ILL.

4.  Chattanooga, TENN., & Catoosa County, GA.

5. El Paso, TEX

6. Greensboro & High Point, N.C.

7. Modesto, CALIF.

8. Odessa & Midland, TEX

9. Reno-Sparks, NEV.

10. Rockford, ILL.

For these markets, the average salary ranges from $130,000 to $150,000--which probably can buy you a nice house with a sprawling lawn in one of the tonier neighborhoods. Not to mention that you can afford to eat to your heart's content at The Olive Garden.

 

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? E-mail The Careerist's chief blogger, Vivia Chen, at VChen@alm.com.

Photo: Fotolia

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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