Getting a BTL and Going to Law School?

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  • #934207

    ari-free
    Participant

    I don’t think we have enough conservatives in law and I’m sure Justice Scalia would concede to my point.

    #934208

    frumnotyeshivish
    Participant

    Veltz – “Slackers don’t do well on the LSAT.” I know a slacker who would strongly disagree with you. I think the LSAT measures ability more than anything. Sure a slacker won’t do as well as s/he potentially could (assuming the slacking is a changeable trait), but unlike Law School itself, it is possible to do exceptionally well, with little work.

    #934209

    yehudayona
    Participant

    yytz: Anybody who’s planning to become a PA because it’s lucrative and it’s easy to get a job should investigate carefully. I have anecdotal evidence that there are not a lot of jobs in the field.

    #934210

    Frumnotyeshivish: Anything is possible. But I spent a lot of time preparing for the LSAT, and discussing it with others who were preparing. I also know a number of people who went to and succeeded at top schools. None of them were smart enough to score a 170 without studying long hours. And a 170 is not really enough for a Yeshiva guy, generally speaking.

    FWIW, I have met one or possibly two people in my life who had the sheer mental acuity to get in the mid-170s without trying. I guess it’s possible that OP’s friend was such a person. But if that were the case, he would not have been slacking in college – just getting A+s without needing to do work.

    #934211

    yytz
    Participant

    Ari-free, it’s true that the majority of lawyers are liberal. But it doesn’t really matter what your politics are unless you’re in a politicized job, like working for a non-profit or think tank (or being a law professor). Only a tiny proportion of lawyers have such jobs.

    Yehudayona, that was just an example. And you couldn’t get into PA school with only a BTL. But as far as I’m aware it’s a quickly growing field. I just checked the Bureau of Labor Statistics webpage, and they forecast that the number of PA jobs will increase 30% from 2010 to 2020, much faster than the average profession.

    #934212

    frumnotyeshivish
    Participant

    Veltz: op said dropped out to learn full time, not “slacking.” Additionally, I scored low 170s without studying much (approx 20 hours total, mostly in a class), and if you only met 2 people marginally smarter than me, you haven’t been meeting the right people.

    #934213

    Frumnot: He posted later that his friend took college as a joke.

    I don’t see any purpose in arguing whether you did or didn’t score in the 170s without major studying. All I know is that the people I know in real life whom I thought were smart before they applied to law school spent significant time studying and scored in the 170-180 range, but mostly closer to 170, after having studied a lot. Also, I can’t tell from your post what conditions you got your score in, but there’s an exponential difference between getting in the low 170s while meandering through four sections one at a time over the course of a day, and taking five sections consecutively under test day conditions.

    If it’s true that you did it under the right conditions, then I would suggest you study more, get your 180, and go to Harvard.

    #934214

    frumnotyeshivish
    Participant

    VM: When I say I scored it, I mean officially. Your suggestions are noted, appreciated, and rejected.

    When you said before that the GPA of credits that are not part of your degree are considered by HLS, how do you know this? How would HLS know every credit you took? Even if they did, LSAC wouldn’t allow such numbers to be included in admissions statistics because of potential game-playing. This means that it wouldn’t affect HLS’s numbers at all.

    The likely reason HLS would accept a BTL over a more demonstrative proof of ability, would be to help their 25/75 numbers, particularly recently, due to the lower number of elite scores applying.

    I see no reason to doubt the story of a slacker with a BTL that got into HLS. I think the reason law schools in the NYC area hesitate with BTLs is if they don’t particularly help with the #s, particularly because many BTL applicants [understandably] don’t do that well once within law school.

    Finally, “took college as a joke” and “dropped out” do not imply “slacker” or even low grades to me, particularly if the reason was to learn more Torah. Quite to the contrary this sounds like a responsible and honorable person who has their priorities in order.

    #934215

    LSAC has a policy of including all credits that you have before getting your degree. Harvard, like all schools, gets the credit information from LSAC. It is possible to game the system a bit that way, but it is harder than it would be if they allowed you to only count your degree GPA because then you could just drop any credits you wanted and have it not count.

    Of course, LSAC does have to find out in order to demand it from you. But if they do find a record of your attendance and realize that you haven’t reported it, they will not allow you to complete your applications until you report it. As an example, I know someone who had Mir mentioned on his transcript from another yeshiva which gave him his degree and LSAC would not process his applications until he got a transcript from Mir Jerusalem.

    Congratulations on your good score. You must be very smart.

    I was not the one who said that the guy was a slacker; that was the impression that the questioner gave by thinking it so odd that this fellow could get into HLS. Otherwise, the question is not so confusing. He was a brilliant, serious guy, and when he decided to leave yeshiva, his brilliance and seriousness paid off in his application to HLS.

    #934216

    More on admissions: The numbers phenomenon is not unique to BTLs. It is well known that law schools perversely prefer higher GPAs from schools that inflate their grades to lower GPAs from schools that don’t. Of course, BTLs are extreme but it’s a matter of degree rather than a difference in kind.

    Also, I find it hard to believe that BTLs generally do noticeably worse than others in law school. I have heard the rumor about Fordham’s study but of the people I know there is almost no trend at all. Since this topic began, I’ve thought through all the people I know who went to law school with BTLs and they either dominated at lower ranked schools or did fairly well at higher ranked schools. Out of the 7-8 people I’m thinking of, from HLS to Touro, I don’t know anyone who ended up at the bottom of any class.

    #934217

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    How would HLS know every credit you took?

    Because when you apply to the bar, they actually do extensive research on you, and call every employer, and every school, and want to know where you were when you were toilet trained, and they will figure it out. And if you lied on your law school application, you will be well toasted.

    #934218

    frumnotyeshivish
    Participant

    pba,vm: LSAC likely reports everything they get to the law school. If I remember correctly, they require all transcripts from all schools that your undergraduate degree came from.

    I was unaware of a requirement or an implication that any more information was desired.

    vm: As far as BTLs doing poorly, I meant relative to their LSAT scores. The LSAT is officially supposed to be a predictor of grades in law school. It doesn’t measure writing ability – the most fundamental part of all law school grades. Writing well usually takes years of training. A BTL unquestionably has far, far, less mandatory writing experience (in English) than the typical student in even an average undergraduate institution.

    The typical law student in a better school has excelled their entire life, including while attending a prestigious undergrad institution. This gives the non-BTL (with the same LSAT) a huge head start.

    I’d be surprised if the Fordham study wasn’t true.

    #934219

    I don’t see any reason for the Fordham study to be true and it definitely doesn’t fit what I know of my friends. Like I posted above, of all the people I know who went to law school, I can think of maybe one who spend any time at the very bottom of the class, and one who spent time at the very top. But ended only refers to 1L – neither finished law school that way. And all the other people were somewhere in the middle.

    #934220

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    If I remember correctly, they require all transcripts from all schools that your undergraduate degree came from.

    I was unaware of a requirement or an implication that any more information was desired.

    Consider yourself now informed. Law schools and LSAC request all undergraduate work.

    As far as BTLs doing poorly, I meant relative to their LSAT scores.

    I have extensive knowledge of many BTL’s in law school. That is not true at all.

    I am unfamiliar with any study, but my recollection of the Fordham rumor is that they found a bimodal distribution among BTL’s (mostly at either top or bottom, but not in middle). Which makes absolutely no sense. My experience is that they fall on a bell curve, with a mean above the general population.

    #934221

    Mobe613
    Member

    my cousin is a btl at colombia and he says that its hard there for the btls and all the mo guys (Modern Orthodox) look down at them because they know that they didnt really go to college. plus they think that most of the yeshivish guys in a good law school prob only got there by pulling some sort of shtick with their resume or transcript. and worst of all there are so many mo lawyers at the types of firms where columbia students interview that they all know that the btls are not serious. i am thinking of trying for the lsat but i dont want to get stuck with everyone thinking i am not really good enough

    #934222

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    my cousin is a btl at colombia and he says that its hard there for the btls and all the mo guys (Modern Orthodox) look down at them because they know that they didnt really go to college. plus they think that most of the yeshivish guys in a good law school prob only got there by pulling some sort of shtick with their resume or transcript. and worst of all there are so many mo lawyers at the types of firms where columbia students interview that they all know that the btls are not serious

    I don’t know about Columbia, but this is not the case at Harvard. I have heard that the BTL’s there brag about not having gone to college, and meanwhile win honors and awards.

    I have a BTL friend at Columbia; I’ll ask him.

    #934223

    akuperma
    Participant

    Someone with a BTL (Bachelor of Talmudic Law, the yeshiva “degree”), or for that matter a conventional B.A. in Jewish studies, or for that matter any degree in the humanities (other than history) or sciences — will be at a disadvantage when they get to law school.

    While it is NOT required for admission, it is very helpful to have a basic knowledge of history (particularly American and to a lesser extent British) and social sciences are very useful, writing and communication skills are critical. If a student is good enough to get into Harvard or Columbia, or even to Brooklyn Law School or SUNY-Buffalo or University of Baltimore, or even good enough to pass the first year and read law – the student probably has the ability to sit down and read up on the subjects they are weak and work on the skills they need.

    Even if someone with a weird background is looked down upon on the first day, very quickly what will matter is whether they can hold their own with the rest of the class and the profession.

    #934224

    TIDE
    Member

    When I was a student at Fordham, I worked very closely for the former Dean, Bill Treanor on a number of projects. He showed me the infamous Fordham study on BTLs and asked me for my impressions – not because I was a BTL myself, but because I was obviously orthodox and learned (we discussed halachic perspectives on various legal issues often).

    Anyway, I can confirm that although as Popa said the study’s conclusions seem strange, the study did indicate that BTL’s LSAT scores or “undergrad” grades were poor predictors of their law school performance, and that 80% of BTL law students over a period of over a decade had placed either in the top 10 or bottom 10% of the class, with no apparent way of predicting were they would end up, and without any equal distribution between those two percentiles. Consequently, the study recommended severely curtailing acceptances of BTL, and certainly to avoid offering them scholarships because there was little way to predict that any particular BTL student would end up doing well and getting a good job after school, thereby extending the schools alumni network, ect.

    #934225

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    Fordham has a funny dynamic as regards BTL’s, because it is the best school in NY which is not Columbia or NYU. Since many frum guys don’t want to leave NY, you have many people there who just missed Columbia/NYU, and are well overqualified for Fordham.

    I still have no way of explaining their data, but I think I’d have also been surprised if the data had mapped the rest of the students.

    Meanwhile, I really want to see this study. They should totally release it to the yeshivish chevra.

    #934226

    TIDE
    Member

    Popa – I believe they thought that releasing such data would be too politically sensitive. Obviously it doesn’t look very good for a law school to be conducting studies about the performance of particular religious groups, though I personally don’t have any problem with it.

    The phenomenon you describe with respect to Fordham’s BTL dynamic, is correct, I think, but I found from my own limited anecdotal experience at Fordham (admittedly because of my relationship with the Dean, my view may have been a bit more overarching than others) that this dynamic is generally true of all of Fordham’s student population. a very large part of the student body is comprised of people who “just missed” Columbia or NYU, either due to borderline LSAT scores, or just barely inadequate GPAs or “softs.” I beleive this is likely true of a number of other schools – Emory (where I am now doing graduate law degrees), BU, UCLA, and some others – that don’t have any particular draw as first choices for anyone, but often end up as the fall backs for people who just missed getting into T14 schools and want to be in a particular geographic area.

    #934227

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    Yes, that is probably true. I think it is more true though for hte frum guys, who frequently choose fordham over Penn, Michigan, Chicago, and every school which is not Columbia, NYU, Harvard, Yale.

    #934228

    TIDE
    Member

    True. That was so in my case also.

    #934229

    akuperma
    Participant

    It makes a great deal of sense that for a yeshiva student, a BTL and LSAT scores would be a poor correlation with anything. Yeshivas (small “Y”) while resembline medieval universities, bare no resemblance to a modern university (yeshivas tend to be collaborative rather than competitive, an emphasis on mastery rather than just getting by with the minimum effort, with much more flexibility and have a greater role of independent work than colleges). It might be worth studying whether most yeshiva students who go to university are either resounding successes or dismal failure (with little in the middle), and what does correlate with making the successful transition.

    I suspect one might find a meaningful correlation by looking for transcript evidence of writing ability (since even a brilliant yeshiva student who does well on the LSAT is handicapped since he is trilingual in Yiddish, Hebrew and Brooklynese/Yeshivish but not standard WASPese English even though only the latter is the lingua franca in the legal world) and having a realistic background in the social sciences and American history. However that’s an hypothesis.

    #934230

    I don’t know if it’s true that the MO guys look down at the Yeshiva guys, but I would not go to law school hoping to impress the MO guys anyway, so it wouldn’t be a major factor. I have heard that some MO partners can be a little uptight about it, especially when people try to use titles like “rosh chabura” on their resume as “fraternity leader”. I would also imagine that in the current poor job market, people who have a strong knowledge of finance or business will have an advantage over Yeshiva guys. But as AKuperma said, good grades in law school can overcome almost anything. The bigger the problem, the better the grades need to be, and you shouldn’t assume that just because 70% of the class gets a job that you will, because you are in fact at a disadvantage. But that doesn’t mean that it’s insurmountable, it just means that you should be aware of the issue and figure out how to deal with it.

    #934231

    TIDE
    Member

    akuperman: I agree with you. It makes sense that some BTL guys really are just that smart and talented and hard-working, so they succeed brilliantly by either excelling in some respects despite poor writing and speaking abilities, or learning what they are lacking.

    Nevertheless, from a statistical standpoint (and I doesn’t understand the science of statistics that well) it seems that yeshiva guys who take the LSAT and go to law school should be a fairly evenly distributed sample set of the general population who fall on a bell curve of ability to succeed in law school. It is statistically strange that 80% of them end up on the extremes and only 20% exhibit average abilities to adapt to their new environment

    #934232

    TIDE
    Member

    Also interesting, I think is the relationship between a BTL’s success in law school and his ability to learn well, and the type of learning he tends to favor (pilpul, halacha, gemarah, shulchan aruch, ect.).

    In my experience, I don’t really see that “good” learners necessarily turn out to be good law students, or vice versa. Though I have found that people who’s learning is heavily focused on halacha and psak seem to do very well in law school.

    #934233

    TIDE: While there is a poster here claiming to have seen the study at Fordham, there are lots of other posters here who know lots of other law students and it doesn’t seem to hold true at other schools.

    #934234

    TIDE
    Member

    Veltz: Fair enough. I don’t really have a good answer. Just relaying what I have seen, and anyone here can choose to believe an anonymous poster or not.

    #934235

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    We need to do our own study. It has to be in one school, and needs to be in a school that grades, and that has a big sample.

    I say let’s study both Columbia, and Penn, but separately.

    This would be kind of hard to do, and we’d need insiders to get us all the BTL’s since we don’t want a selection bias.

    #934236

    TIDE
    Member

    Veltz: Also to consider is the fact that the study tracked the law school careers – grades in all courses, awards, law journal placement, clinical performance, ect. – and post-graduation employment stats for every Fordham BTL that attended the school over more than a decade. I doubt very much that any individual here or anywhere else could make an assessment based on such comprehensive information, which may explain the difference in the results produced by this study and everyone’s own anecdotal impressions based on their friends, friends’ friends, and family, often based only on what these people choose top relay to others.

    #934237

    rebdoniel
    Member

    One of my best friends is a Modern Orthodox rabbi and attorney.

    He majored in Talmud at List College (JTS’s undergrad program), did a Masters in “Talmud and Rabbinics” there, studied at Pardes and the Conservative Yeshiva, and earned semicha from the Rabbanut. He also went to Rutgers Law School and finished with a 3.6.

    He has a far larger set of skills than the typical yeshiva guy in learning, and says that a pshat approach in learning (the ability to learn texts without fanciful mental gymnastics) put him at an advantage over the guys who went to yeshivos where they emphasized lomdus.

    #934238

    Ender
    Participant

    Akuperma:”If a student is good enough to get into Harvard or Columbia, or even to Brooklyn Law School or SUNY-Buffalo or University of Baltimore, or even good enough to pass the first year and read law – the student probably has the ability to sit down and read up on the subjects they are weak and work on the skills they need.”

    From personal experience I can tell you that someone with no secular education whatsoever can do well in law school.

    #934239

    Mobe613
    Member

    I dont know that much about harvard, but i thought i read earlier in the coffee room that somebody said it was hard for the yeshiva guys to get good jobs from there. My cousin says that what is a good sign for jobs in law school is getting a job at one of the top ten firms (he said v10 but i dont really know what that means, I assume its the same thing). How many BTL guys from Harvard, Columbia, Penn etc get jobs at the top ten firms??

    #934240

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    My cousin says that what is a good sign for jobs in law school is getting a job at one of the top ten firms (he said v10 but i dont really know what that means, I assume its the same thing). How many BTL guys from Harvard, Columbia, Penn etc get jobs at the top ten firms??

    Any lawyer knows that:

    A. that is a ridiculous measure of success.

    B. Most Harvard students overall don’t work at a v10 firm.

    #934241

    akuperma
    Participant

    Mobe613 – saying you are entering law school with the hope of getting a job at the top 10 firms (actually, the list is a bit longer, the goal is “big law”) is like saying you want to go to yeshiva, but only if you’ll end up as a Rosh Yeshiva. Even in the top law schools (there are about 20 that have national reputations), most don’t end up in big firms, and many of those end up leaving the big firms (remember that the big firms hire many more associates than they have possible vacanies as partners – the majority work as associates and move one other work).

    Anyone going to law school with the idea he (or she) will end up as a partner in a major firm, especially someone who is Shomer Mitsvos, is seriously deluded. There are plenty of options to get a middle class lifestyle out of law, and presumably someone going to law school does so since they find law interesting as a subject – but going to law school since you expect a prize from entering big law is naive, dumb, and likely to end very badly.

    #934242

    Mobe613
    Member

    poppa- are you a lawyer? How can you just make statements like “any lawyer knows”. Like I said before, my cousin is at Columbia LAW SCHOOL, so I am getting the information from him.

    You could just be making stuff up?

    And even if most harvard students dont work at v10 firms the point is that many do, and that they represent many of the better students at harvard. BTLs are not part of that group, thats all I am saying.

    #934243

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    Your cousin is an idiot. And that’s why he could only get into Columbia.

    #934244

    benignuman
    Participant

    I think that the criteria should be expanded to include people with yeshivish degrees, even if it is not a BTL (i.e. online degrees or guys and girls that did most of their credits in a Yeshiva/Seminary and transferred them to a real college).

    #934245

    Mobe613
    Member

    Poppa – No reason to call names. Actually my cousin got into harvard and penn as well but he got a scholarship to columbia (did really well on his lsats) so he decided to go there. I wont say what year he is, maybe he already graduated, because I am probably giving away too much information already. Also, he heard that it is much easier to be frum at columbia in ny than it is at harvard in boston.

    #934246

    1. BTLs have and do work in V10 firms.

    2. Popa, I do think that there’s something to the idea that yeshiva guys don’t do as well in terms of employment. It is somewhat true that the V10 tend to be super conservative and that definitely doesn’t weigh in favor of yeshiva guys.

    3. On the other hand, the people I know who went to top law schools and got jobs in all kinds of firms outside the V10 are taking advantage of opportunities that they would not have been able to sniff outside of that world. The distinction between Cleary Gottleib and Fried Frank is a lot smaller than the distinction between working in NPGS or working at Fried Frank.

    #934247

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    Yes, you are correct, there was no need for name calling. But your cousin is not representing reality to you. Sure, v10 firms are very prestigious, but only marginally so more than v20 firms and v30 firms.

    And like VM notes, the difference is still really pretty marginal as long as you are still at a 160k firm, when you compare that to other firms or jobs.

    VM: Yes, there is probbaly some hit against yeshiva guys as regards employment.

    #934248

    Mobe613
    Member

    Ok so we all agree. I never said BTLs cant get good jobs or do well in law school, just that on the whole it is harder and there are fewer (although still more than not going to a top law school) good job opportunities.

    Also, what does the “v” in v10 v20 v30 stand for?

    #934249

    Mobe613: I was about to be cynical, but instead I decided to make a serious point.

    Harvard/Michigan/Chicago and other far flung schools are like GPSs and/or the internet, and/or Facebook. If you use them to get what you want within the context of a frum lifestyle, they are an incredible tool. If you want to escape the frum lifestyle, they are great ways to do that. I know people who went to law school to run away. Those people are not frum. I also know people who went to law school without any intention to run away. Those people are frum.

    #934250

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    mobe:

    I don’t think we agree. I don’t think it is that much harder that it should play a very relevant part in someone’s decision.

    #934251

    Mobe613
    Member

    VM- are you trying to deny that sometimes people have every intention of staying frum but are nonetheless tempted by the yeitzer harah to go off the derech, or at the very least decrease the level of their frumkite?

    I think it is decidedly against chazal’s ideas of temptation and self control to think that only people who are “looking to run away” are affected negatively by things.

    There are lots of things that could be good “tools” but we nevertheless stay away from because of the risk that things wont work out the way we want.

    On another lever, many would argue that even if you are right (and it is a function of wanting to be frum or not, but you are wrong), allowing those who want to stay frum to use the “tool” properly, gives cover to those who want to use the “tool” improperly to get away with it. Kol Yisroel Areivim Zeh Lazeh, sometimes even those of us who can handle using certain tools have to refrain in order to make sure others dont have problems.

    #934252

    playtime
    Member

    The LSAT includes an essay at the end which is not counted in the score, but is used by Universities to appraise the applicant. You must be a good essay writer also.

    #934253

    akuperma
    Participant

    Bottom line:

    IF you really want to be a lawyer, go to law school. First, research the range of jobs lawyers do. Don’t assume you’ll end up in “big law” – most lawyers don’t. Go to law school only if you like the idea of being a lawyer, independent of the hope it will give you parnassah.

    Don’t think it will guarantee you becoming rich. Based affordability on the lower paying jobs (civil service, legal aid, small firms, going solo, working for a non-profit) especially when budgetting for student loans.

    Even a BTL (meaning a yeshiva background and no real college) won’t prevent becoming a lawyer. You can pick up what you need on your own.

    The better law schools (the 20 or so “national schools” including NYU and Columbia in New York) are usually the most expensive and offer the best career opportunities, but going to the rest can be more affordable (especially the public ones).

    If you like law and don’t want to bet the farm on going to law school, feel free to become a paralegal.

    #934254

    popa_bar_abba
    Participant

    v stands for Vault. One of the companies that does law firm rankings.

    Another popular ranking is Amlaw. And a third is NLJ

    I’ve heard people talk about the vault and amlaw 100 or 200 firms, and the NLJ250.

    #934255

    Ender
    Participant

    Talmud:

    It is pretty well known that the essay porion of the LSAT is barely considered by law schools.

    #934256

    benignuman
    Participant

    The is no meaningful difference between the Top 10 Vault firms and those from 10-20.

    What you are looking for is generous compensation, decent work-life balance and serious work.

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