Saturday, March 20, 2010

Considering King Hall?

While in Los Angeles on other business recently, I glanced at an e-mail that I had received from my Alma mater UC Davis Law School (King Hall), and I noticed that the law firm of Alston & Bird was hosting a reception for King Hall alumni and admitted students on Monday evening March 15th, 2010.  I RSVP'd at the last minute on Friday afternoon March 12th, then found my way to the aforementioned reception the following Monday evening.

While there were many King Hall alumni who were happy to see each other, the reception was primarily an opportunity for these alumni to meet and greet King Hall's newly admitted law students.  On this note, with rare exception, most of the students who are admitted to King Hall this early in the admissions cycle have at least one other law school that is courting them.  Of the admitted students that I spoke to [sic] on Monday evening, the name of the same tier-three law school in Los Angeles kept coming up [sic].

Apparently, the tier-three law school in question was offering a generous scholarship to several promising first year law students (commonly known as "One Ls.").  However, said promising students would lose those scholarships if they failed to finish in the top ten percent of their first year class.

Regardlesss of your academic prowess, the likelihood of *NOT* finishing in the top ten percent of any law school class is a high probability/high consequence outcome.  Moreover, by virtue of the fact that most tier-three law schools flunk out up to one-third of their first year class, you'll be lucky to make it to your second year at such a school.

Such is not the case with King Hall.  Virtually everyone who starts law school at King Hall finishes.  And while a small number of people drop out for various personal reasons, and a substantial number of people drop out because they are disappointed with their first semester grades, almost everyone who sticks it out at King Hall graduates and about 90 percent of them pass the California Bar Exam on their first attempt.

Prior to attending law school, I had never been on financial aid, a process that is truly degrading.  But the powers that be at King Hall went out of their way to make that process as painless as possible, which is one of the biggest reasons why I stopped considering other law schools after King Hall gave me a generous financial aid offer.  However, it wasn't until after I graduated from King Hall that I came to appreciate how unimportant student debt was in the grand scheme of things.

While the cost of a law school education has increased dramatically since I graduated from King Hall, what remains a constant are federally funded Income Contingent Loan Repayment Plans.  (These are a special type of student loan consolidation program.)  Most people discover these plans only after they go into default on their student loans, but the time to sign up for these plans is sooner rather than later after you graduate from law school.  To wit, below a certain income threshold, you are not obliged to make any payments with an income contingent repayment plan, and after 25 years, the outstanding balance of your student loans is forgiven.  (Note:  You'll still owe income taxes on the amount of your consolidation loan that is forgiven.)  Of course, if you do land a high paying job, then you'll be able to afford higher student loan payments, which is all the more reason why you should choose a law school that will give you a good education rather than one that lures you in with a scholarship that you can easily lose.

Another source of indecision among newly admitted law students at King Hall is the relative obscurity of UC Davis.  Prior to applying to law school, I'd never heard of UC Davis.  But the more I learned about it, the more I liked it.  Of course, the law is a very regional profession, and the UC Davis law scool is best known in Northern California, getting its stiffest regional competition from the UC Berkeley law school (commonly known as Boalt Hall). And given the stronger name recognition that UC Berkeley has nationwide, the only real advantage that King Hall has over Boalt Hall is the quality of life that comes from living in a charming small town like Davis for three years.

If there's one factor that has kept King Hall obscure, it is its proud tradition of public interest law.  That is to say, given the choice between a high paying job with a large law firm and starvation wages representing the poor, powerless, and oppressed, the best and brightest at King Hall will typically choose the latter.  Call me quixotic, but I am proud to be a part of that tradition.

So, . . . what about you?  Considering King Hall?  Check out my King Hall FAQ, and let me know if there's anything I left out [sic]. 

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