Getting a BTL and Going to Law School?

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  • #608368

    kfb
    Participant

    Does this really happen? I have a friend who I was in yeshiva/college with and he dropped out of college to learn full time. Next thing I hear is that hes in Harvard law school with a BTL. I still don’t believe him! I don’t get how its possible?

    #934156

    🍫Syag Lchochma
    Participant

    They serve BTL’s at Harvard?

    #934157

    ☕ DaasYochid ☕
    Participant

    Good LSAT marks.

    #934158

    MDG
    Participant

    I have a friend that went from Ner Israel (Baltimore) to Columbia Law School, another top tier law school. He said that you need great LSAT scores. I guess that’s how your friend did it.

    #934159

    akuperma
    Participant

    1. It is possible. The legal requirement is a bachelor’s degree, and any yeshiva that has arranged to give one meets the standard.

    2. Sometimes a school will want to see certain courses on a transcript, but that can always be arranged. Certain subjects and skills, such as writing skills and some knowledge of American history and social sciences, are looked for by admissions committees in some cases but “pre-law” is never required. Some of these skills are critical for success in law school and practising law (particularly writing skills).

    3. The LSAT becomes critical for admission.

    4. Law schools will be highly skeptical, meaning the LSAT is all that more important. One is more likely to go to a non-elite law school such as Brooklyn or University of Baltimore, rather than one of the elite ones.

    5. Law school can be quite expensive, and there is only a chance you’ll end up with a good parnassah. Many law students end up with huge debts that can’t be discharged in bankruptcy, and incomes too low to comfortably pay off the debts.

    #934161

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    If they were really a choshuv school, they wouldn’t take yiddin at all.

    Harvard let him in? ??? ???? ???????

    #934162

    It’s possible; I know of someone who got into Harvard with a BTL.

    The reason it works is because law schools are obsessed with the US News rankings, and one of the only ways that they can control their ranking is by controlling the numbers (GPA and LSAT) of the incoming students. So a yeshiva graduate who gets a high LSAT score is in some ways just as attractive to a law school as a Princeton graduate with a high LSAT score.

    In terms of jobs, a strong majority of students at tippy-top schools get jobs that can help pay off their debts, while at lower ranked schools a strong majority don’t. So it might make sense to go to borrow $150,000 to go to Harvard or Columbia but not to go to University of Maryland. I did a ton of research about this, so if anyone has specific questions I can try to address them.

    #934163

    Torah613Torah
    Participant

    kfb: Why does it bother you? Sounds unlikely to me, but good for him. Maybe he got another degree in the meantime, so he wasn’t going straight from Yeshiva to Harvard.

    #934164

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    As VM notes, it is quite common. If you score 175+ on the LSAT, you have an excellent chance of getting into Harvard as a BTL, and it is sometimes accomplished with 170-175 scores as well.

    Generally, if you score 170+ on the LSAT, you will probably get into a school worth going to even as a BTL. I consider any school in the US news top 13 worth going to. (Yes, I don’t consider Georgetown worth going to. Bite me.)

    As VM said, he did lots of research. So ask him questions. There is also a thread on dans deals forums about this. And you should always check the forums dedicated to the topic you are discussing, so in this case that would be some law school application forums.

    But to anyone reading this who thinks it may be nogeah: It is quite possible.

    #934165

    akuperma
    Participant

    “worth going to” can be very complicated.

    One factor is cost. If you can stay at home, or with in-laws, that is a huge difference. Brooklyn Law School, plus the cost of an apartment, is probably more expensive than Columbia. Part-time law school programs are only at the lower quality ones. There are low cost public law schools, especially if you qualify for the in-state rate. The lower quality ones are often very liberal with financial aid, especially if you have a high LSAT (the trick is you’ll need good grades to keep a scholarship for all three years).

    So, is a degree from a cheap law school (where only the top 10th of the class gets a respectable job fresh out the door) but with no debt better or worse than an elite law school (where half get good jobs straight out of law school) but with $200K in debt (for tuition and living costs while in school)?

    Another factor is what sort of law one wants to practice. Being a prominent attorney in a frum neighborhood doesn’t require a degree from an elite law school (in any event, you start with minimal income and have to build a practice through competence and hard work). Working for “Big law” (well paid corporate law firms, in a thoroughly un-Jewish, and some would say un-Human, environment) expects one to be near the top of the class in an elite school.

    And then there are people who neither know nor care about practising law, but think its a meal ticket. They are probably close to being a “shoteh” and should be encouraged to do something else.

    #934166

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    akuperma: You are mostly correct, but you should know that the legal market is very different than it was several years ago.

    For instance, when you speak of “a degree from a cheap law school (where only the top 10th of the class gets a respectable job fresh out the door) but with no debt” you are referring to a school like Fordham. Except that it isn’t cheap.

    #934167

    benignuman
    Participant

    Popa,

    Georgetown is top 13 (Cornell dropped).

    I know BTL’s that have gotten into every top law school except Yale. It might also be worth it to go to a slightly lower ranked school (but still within the T-14) if you can get an academic scholarship.

    Additionally, if you are pretty confident in your abilities you can go to lower ranked school and then transfer after your first year. For example, someone who finishes top third in their first year at Georgetown or Cornell should easily be able to get into NYU for their second year where their chances of getting a good job are vastly improved.

    #934168

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    Cornell is still better than Georgetown. I don’t care about little year to year shifts in the stupid things US news accounts for.

    Also, please don’t advise transferring. Everybody who goes to law school intends to be in the top 10%. Only 10% do that. Nobody can possibly be confident in their abilities about that.

    #934169

    BenignUman: Nobody at Georgetown gets decent jobs. I had a friend who was top 15% there and the only job he could find was in some far flung office in Westchester because he didn’t get a job in NY. I don’t know how he’s going to cover his loans because the firm can’t possibly pay as much as the NY firms. He’s lucky that Monsey is close enough to commute or he’d have had to move to some podunk town to get any job at all.

    #934171

    benignuman
    Participant

    You don’t need to be top 10% to transfer. In very good, but not great, law schools top 10% will often stay (you are better off as top 10% in Georgetown, than top half in NYU or Columbia).

    Top 33% in Georgetown or Cornell can easily transfer (I know many who have done it). And I think some people can be confident in their abilities to be top third.

    I am curious to know your basis for concluding that Cornell is better than Georgetown.

    #934172

    benignuman
    Participant

    Veltz,

    Did you friend tell you that he couldn’t get a job in NYC or are you assuming that because he works in Westchester? He might have chosen to go to Westchester because the commute is much easier, he can have a better quality of life, etc. Do you know that the Westchester firm pays less than NYC firms?

    #934173

    BenignUman: why didn’t you answer me about people in Georgetown being underemployed? I also think you’re wrong about your next post.

    1. I know someone who thought he was smart and he couldn’t even be in the top half at Harvard. Now he spends his time crying on the phone to other law students about how hard law school is. So you can’t be confident in your abilities to even be in the top half.

    2. I also know someone who transferred from Georgetown to another top 6 school and he ended up in the same far flung low paying unprestigious office as my other friend from Georgetown. In this office, they don’t even have lockstep bonuses the way that real preftigious firms do – they either pay you by the number of hours you work, or they pay you on contingency. How would you like to work for a firm that only pays you a bonus if you win the case?

    3. You might as well admit it – people at Harvard are smarter and better looking than people at Georgetown.

    #934174

    akuperma
    Participant

    Getting a job is not just a function of grades and class rank. For frum Jews, there are many obstacle (even if you can disguise that you are frum) since we are from a radically different culture. If you have a BTL, meaning your secular education is weak, it is even harder. If your goal is to be a lawyer, that suggests very strongly having an idea on how and where you want to practice (its much better to go to law school near where you want to practice, unless you have your heart set on “big law”, which is rarely realistic) and plan accordingly (and try to avoid running up big debts).

    P.S. Georgetown is easily in the top 20, meaning if you get good grades, and have the right academic and social background (something no frum Jew has), employment should be easy especially in the Washington area.

    #934175

    benignuman
    Participant

    Meshuganer,

    1. I don’t know anyone in the top third at Georgetown who couldn’t get a job. I hope the bottom half of Harvard can all get jobs. You might want to recommend that your friend at Harvard call your friend from Georgetown and ask for advice on how to do well in law school.

    2. If I were confident in my abilities I would be very happy with that, after all there would be potential for a huge payout. I bet that your friend from Harvard would be dying to work in that firm.

    3. I’m not admitting anything. But judging by the samples of people I know from each school, there is no way Harvard chevra are better looking.

    #934176

    A friend of mine related a story to me that happened not too long ago (I believe he graduated two years ago, so he started law school 5 years ago). He as sitting in his first day at Columbia’s law school. To start the lecture on a lighter note, the professor asks if anybody has any interesting life story they would like to share. One student stands up and says that she was in Turin Italy and won a silver medal at the 2006 olympics. Another student says that he recently returned from Iraq where he was on his third tour of duty. A frum student in the back of the class stands up and says, “I never attended college.” The professor was confused. “How did you get accepted to school here? This is a very prestigious institution.” The frum student responds, “I learned in a religious school (ie. yeshiva) my whole life, took the LSAT and got a perfect score.” Later my friend found out that he got a BTL from a yeshiva somewhere in New Jersey.

    So I guess it does happen.

    #934177

    jbaldy22
    Member

    It is very tough to do it now. Law schools especially in the northeast have been changing their attitudes towards BTLs. Even Fordham has cracked down (I heard this directly from an administrator there) and while it is possible it is getting much harder. Even with a high LSAT score it will be extremely difficult to impossible to get into Columbia/NYU of a BTL. But if you write a good personal statement and they like you who knows.

    #934178

    akuperma
    Participant

    If someone is trying to use a BTL to get into law school, and needs to assume they will look at the transcript even if they normally don’t, it would be good to have some credits for writing courses, basic American history, and basic social sciences. These can always be picked up from an accredited online university (such as University of Maryland’s University College or Western Governors University). A bit of experience working in a law office might help. Grades from a yeshiva don’t count for anything.

    I’ld really suggest aiming lower and going for a less than elite school that offers liberal academic scholarships and lower tuition (particularly one’s home state university). The non-elite schools rarely lead to a “Big law” job, but most frum kids really aren’t on track for that “bullseye” to begin with, and the non-elite schools are just as good for the “build up your practice” in the less rarified world of neighborhood law – and you don’t want all those debts.

    #934179

    Ender
    Participant

    Jbaldy22: As of now the only difference is in the NY schools. NYU will not consider BTL’s regardless of LSAT scores, this is their official policy. However out of NY for the time being there hasn’t been a real change of attitude towards BTLs

    #934180

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    akuperma: Again, things have changed very dramatically from even several years ago.

    People who go to lower ranked schools don’t just miss biglaw; they frequently miss all law. You can’t just walk out of law school and hang a shingle; nobody in the world will be your client with no experience. And you won’t be able to get experience because you can’t find even a 2 person shop to hire you on. So the dream of being the guy in the frum neighborhood who does everyone’s home closings is very hard to realize.

    jbaldy: I know BTL’s who got into NYU. But, they also got into Harvard. I think NYU is much harder as a BTL than columbia, but is not unattainable.

    #934181

    akuperma
    Participant

    popa_bar_abba: If you don’t get an offer from a major firm (or a job with a government agency), you start at the bottom. Typically you end up working in some lawyer’s office for a pittance (or less) and over time you build up a practice on your own. Traditionally, new lawyers struggled for a while. If you are good, you can make it. Many do. There are plenty of books from the bar association on how to start a solo practice without starving.

    If you want to own a major retail change, you don’t plan to start out as the majority shareholder of Walmart’s. You start small, and build the business. Law is the same.

    The problem is with fools who think that a JD and $250K in debt entitles you to a parnassah.

    #934182

    jbaldy22
    Member

    @PBA I also know BTL’s who have gotten in to NYU just not any in the past 3 years. It is much more difficult now.

    @akuperma experience in a law office may or may not help you depending on the school. Fordham for one doesnt care about it at all.

    In general it seems that a bunch of guys who got btl’s got bad grades and messed it up for everyone else (at least thats what happened in fordham).

    #934183

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    jbaldy: I know one who got in for this year (meaning, currently a 1L). He didn’t go; he went to harvard.

    #934184

    My father got into a good law school (top forty nationaly) with a BTL, but he also had some credits from a real college. Keep in mind that this was many years ago and the requirements most likely have changed. I believe it is much more difficult then it used to be to get into a decent law school, exclusevly with a BTL.

    #934185

    jbaldy22
    Member

    @PBA he must have gotten a 175 or above and applied early. I know a guy who got a 175 had an FDU degree and didnt get in.

    #934186

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    If someone is trying to use a BTL to get into law school, and needs to assume they will look at the transcript even if they normally don’t, it would be good to have some credits for writing courses, basic American history, and basic social sciences. These can always be picked up from an accredited online university (such as University of Maryland’s University College or Western Governors University).

    I do not recommend this unless you are confident you will get A’s in all those classes, and are willing to put in the work to do so. The GPA component of your application is also very important, and a few B+’s can sink your straight A’s from yeshiva.

    #934187

    Maybe we all know the same gentleman, who went from yeshiva BTL to Harvard? Because I know of one, am friends with his mom.

    One thing that I’m sure by now that law schools have figured out is the analytical skills that yeshiva students possess. Face it, yeshiva teaches one how to think, secular education does not. So despite what’s lacking in college education, these yeshiva students often rise to the top of their classes, make law review et al. Of course, that has nothing to do with today’s job market. That’s affecting all law school grads, not just former yeshiva bochurim.

    #934188

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    Maybe we all know the same gentleman

    The one I know is a girl.

    #934189

    Dovnyc
    Member

    Where are some places a girl can earn a BTL?

    #934190

    playtime
    Member

    Is it true that some law schools require only the first year in law school, then you are able to apprentice for a law firm for the next 2 years?

    Did anyone hear of this? Do all law schools allow this?

    #934191

    akuperma
    Participant

    Talmud: IT’s a function of state law, not school policy. New York allows it. It is possible but rare and you need to have a practising lawyer willing to supervise. A serious drawback is that even if you manage to pass the bar exam, it will be much harder to get permission to ever work in a different state.

    #934192

    Dovnyc
    Member

    Please don’t be offended, but how can a frum Jew be a lawyer? A lawyer takes cases of people he either knows is guilty or does not know is innocent and yet claims and defends his innocence with untruths. A lawyer defends thieves in their attempts to skirt their obligations. A lawyer, by proffession, lies in open court. Either knowingly or knowing it may well be lies. A lawyers duty is to seek the freedom of his clients who are a danger to society.

    #934193

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    Please don’t be offended, but how can a frum Jew be a lawyer? A lawyer takes cases of people he either knows is guilty or does not know is innocent and yet claims and defends his innocence with untruths. A lawyer defends thieves in their attempts to skirt their obligations. A lawyer, by proffession, lies in open court. Either knowingly or knowing it may well be lies. A lawyers duty is to seek the freedom of his clients who are a danger to society.

    lol

    That is not what most lawyers do.

    A lawyer sits and reads thousands of pages of documents looking for contract clauses which might be relevant to the transaction at hand. A lawyer drafts thousand page contracts based on previous contracts to accord with the precise terms that the parties want in this case. A lawyer parses through obscure sections of the Code of Federal Regulations and ultimately concludes there is no correct answer. A lawyers duty is to keep on reading and sending emails until he falls asleep in his office.

    #934194

    Dovnyc
    Member

    You agree a frum lawyer should not engage in any of the examples I cited?

    #934195

    kfb
    Participant

    Back to my original post: the reason that I don’t get this whole BTL thing is because my buddy took college as a joke and dropped out after the first year. It doesn’t make sense how he’s in Harvard law with this BTL. I doubt he wouldn’t gotten into Harvard law had he stayed in college.

    #934196

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    A lawyer, by proffession, lies in open court. Either knowingly or knowing it may well be lies.

    That is illegal. A lawyer is not allowed to lie in open or closed court. And usually does not claim anything to be true or not true, in any event.

    And it is also illegal to allow a witness to testify if you know it is lies.

    You agree a frum lawyer should not engage in any of the examples I cited?

    I think you don’t understand what lawyers do, and that is why your examples are not on point.

    #934197

    Dovnyc
    Member

    Yet it is legal for a lawyer to defend and attempt to secure the freedom of a client the lawyer knows is as guilty as sin. It is also legal for a lawyer to fight on behalf of a thief. And a lawyer may, and does, make claims that he does not know to be true. All that is not only legal but is expected of a lawyer.

    #934198

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    Back to my original post: the reason that I don’t get this whole BTL thing is because my buddy took college as a joke and dropped out after the first year. It doesn’t make sense how he’s in Harvard law with this BTL. I doubt he wouldn’t gotten into Harvard law had he stayed in college.

    Sounds like he did the right thing by dropping out of college then.

    #934199

    @dovnyc,

    Your simplistic view of the law/lawyers is laughable.

    Someone accused of committing a crime is entitled to a defense by a competent lawyer. A Lawyer is obligated to zealously defend their client in one of two ways. 1) Raise reasonable doubt as to their clients guilt or innocence by offering an alternate theory of the crime. 2)Offer proof that their client is not responsible for his actions/his actions are justified.

    A “Frum Yid” can do these things without agreeing with the things his client has allegedly done. edited for unnecessary slander

    edited again for unnecessary remarks which may or may not be true, but will unnecessarily sidetrack the discussion.

    #934200

    akuperma
    Participant

    Re; Lawyers lying

    Let us imagine that you were accused of a crime, or being sued. If you were very clever, and knew all the legal rules, you could actively defend yourself. You might know that a oral contract under certain conditions is not binding. You might know that someone relaying gossip heard from someone else is not admissable evidence. You might know a hostile witness who is being threated or bribed can have their testimony disregarded. You might know that you aren’t guilty because the crime requires an intent do something illegal, and your faults were accidental.

    However the average person doesn’t know the rules, and they will get steamrolled. They will be sued over things that aren’t the proper basis to be sued over. They will be accused of crimes they are innocent of. They will lose due to witnesses whose testimony is unreliable and is biased.

    In a traditional Beis Din, the judge will take notice that the law is being ignored and justice is being perverted. In most circumstances, an American judge will only do something if the party speaks up. The American judge is more of a referee between the two sides. Since most Americans don’t know much about the legal system, they won’t know to speak up, and will forfeit their rights. That’s what the lawyer is for. It’s quite honorable.

    A lawyer who lies to the court will risk losing his license.

    #934201

    Yserbius123
    Participant

    I have friends in every spectrum of law school (including Harvard) who got in on a BTL and LSAT alone.

    #934202

    Dovnyc
    Member

    Dear crisisoftheweek: Perhaps that is the Western legal view of the duties of a lawyer and the rights of a criminal, but that is not necessarily the view of the Torah. If a client admits to his lawyer his guilt, the lawyer may still go to court the next day and claim his client is innocent under “attorney/client privilige” laws. That is surely at odds with a Torah man’s obligation.

    #934203

    frumnotyeshivish
    Participant

    @dovnyc: have you ever heard of the concept of kateigor and saneigor? An adversarial system may be more Jewish than you think.

    Additionally, a lawyer can always not take a client (with the rare exception of judicial involvement), the issues are more between the lawyer and the lawyer’s boss. These problems aren’t exclusive to the legal profession.

    Lastly, the question in a criminal case is: according to the government’s rules, has the government provided enough proof to override the presumption of innocence that every person has? This question has nothing directly to do with what the client did or said.

    There is an entirely different question of what happens to people who do bad things but aren’t convicted. I believe God knows what he’s doing, and everyone will eventually face the music for their actions.

    Is any of this a lie?

    #934204

    Back to my original post: the reason that I don’t get this whole BTL thing is because my buddy took college as a joke and dropped out after the first year. It doesn’t make sense how he’s in Harvard law with this BTL. I doubt he wouldn’t gotten into Harvard law had he stayed in college.

    I think what your portraying is not so accurate. First of all, if it were true that he slacked in college even for one year, it’s unlikely that he could have gotten into Harvard. In order to get into Harvard he would have had to have a GPA of at least 3.7 including all courses that he took before getting his BTL, even if they weren’t counted toward his degree. Most people don’t even get a 4.0 in Yeshiva, and if he got straight Bs in college his GPA would have taken a hard hit.

    Second of all, slackers don’t do well on the LSAT. I know there’s a yeshivishe myth of the guy who takes the LSAT on a whim and gets a 180, but that is, as I say, pretty much a myth. I took the LSAT myself; I know other people who have taken it and gone to top schools; none of them fell into it. They literally worked hundreds of hours to prepare for the LSAT.

    Third and less relevant, if it’s any consolation to you, if he did indeed exploit the system to get into Harvard, he is in for a rude awakening. He will be graded on a curve against people who are used to getting straight As in top schools around the country, people who have worked in the most intellectually demanding fields, and people who have known nothing but hard work and success their entire lives. If he’s the slacker you seem to think he is, he will certainly be exposed and forced to drop out.

    #934205

    A lawyers duty is to keep on reading and sending emails until he falls asleep in his office.

    Thank G-d for direct deposit.

    #934206

    yytz
    Participant

    Contrary to what Popa suggested, it does sometimes happen that people graduate from law school, hang out a shingle, and end up with a successful practice. I know people who have done this in the last couple years (out of town). But it is fairly rare — most people don’t have the guts to even try, because it’s not easy. It can be done, but it’s not for the faint of heart.

    The law job market is just awful, awful, awful. Anyone graduating with any kind of job is extremely fortunate. Aside from (most) government jobs, lawyer jobs tend to require long hours and many have negative work environments. This is not exactly conducive to combining Torah study with work and spending time with family.

    Justice Scalia has complained that too many of the brightest people go into law. He argues that society would probably be better off if many of them went into other socially useful fields in which there is not a surplus. I think he has a valid point. Think this over before going into law. Perhaps you’d be happier and make a more positive impact as a physician assistant? (Yes, they make a lot of money too.)

    On the issue of lying lawyers, Popa is right! People always think of criminal law examples, but the fact is that the vast majority of lawyers never represent defendants in criminal cases.

    Bottom line: don’t go to law school unless you’re really, really sure you want to be a lawyer, even if it means long spells of unemployment and feeling pressured to stay in jobs you dislike.

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