Evaluating Law School Debt & Careers Through LST Pro
I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Kyle McEntee, Executive Director and Co-Founder of Law School Transparency. Kyle is a licensed North Carolina attorney with a J.D. from Vanderbilt University Law School. While still in law school, Kyle was voted Lawyer of the Year by readers of Above the Law. At age 26, the ABA Journal named him a Legal Rebel for his work “challenging the institutional gatekeepers of the legal profession” and the National Jurist has named him the 5th most influential person in legal education. He is the chief programmer behind LST’s innovative web-based tools, which are accessed for free by over 200,000 users per year. Kyle is also one of the youngest members of the legal profession to have been nationally recognized for his work.
What motivated you to start LST?
Fundamentally, the organization was founded to help students make informed career choices. When I applied to law school in fall 2007, I didn’t know what kind of jobs were out there. I didn’t really know what lawyers did, the job outcome information I found had no depth, and I was left with the U.S. News rankings to figure out where to apply and attend. But then Vanderbilt changed my decision process by providing a list of where its 2007 graduates worked (employer name + location). This helped me, so my friend and classmate Patrick Lynch and I decided during my first year at Vandy to ask other law schools to do the same. We believed others should be able to make informed choices too.
Unfortunately, as we prepared for our ask, we uncovered a number of shocking, deceptive practices. Eliminating fraudulent statistics became priority number one.
What are the most important issues related to employment that law school applicants should keep in mind?
Many of the issues pertaining to deception have been eliminated thanks to LST’s advocacy. Law schools must now publish detailed employment data instead of relying on a top-line rate that counts associates at Skadden the same as part-time baristas at Starbucks. We also succeeded in changing disclosure norms, such that the majority of schools now go way above the minimum reporting requirements. With the underlying data, you can verify most claims law schools make that sound too good to be true.
But the availability of better data only gets an applicant so far. The key to making meaningful use of statistics is understanding what you want from your J.D. It’s fine not to know for sure, but direction up front helps immensely. Talk to lawyers in and around your network about how they found their jobs and what practice is like. If you don’t know many or any lawyers, or even if you do, we have a podcast called I Am The Law that profiles lawyers around the country about their jobs, including the oft-ignored business side of practice. The insights our hosts bring out of our guests may help you figure out a good career path for you, including whether it makes sense to pay more for a more prestigious degree when your goals don’t require it.
That said, be sure that whatever debt you take on, you know exactly how much your payment will be when your first payment is due six months after graduation. Pay attention to how you will service that debt with a typical salary for the jobs you want. Debt is not necessarily a bad thing, but there are always trade-offs.
It continues to be a buyer’s market for applicants as demand for law school declined as word about legal job availability got out and tuition continued to increase. Take advantage of this and get the best price you can.You must act professionally, but professionalism does not require you take the first offer or view any offer as an act of generosity. It is a transaction between you and prospective schools.
This past November, you launched LST Pro. What is it and how does it serve law
It’s a subscription service that helps prospective law students decide where to apply and attend law school. As of today, it includes three parts.
1) PowerScore Test Prep put together the Ultimate LSAT Guide to help applicants determine the best path to their ideal score.
2) The Legal Career Compass is a psychometric assessment that helps users figure out what practice areas and settings best meet their personality, strengths, and ambitions.
3) The LST Wizard creates a ranking based on personal career ambitions, debt aversion, and more to find an applicant’s best, most affordable options. It also assesses admissions chances and provides a scholarship estimate.
How can people sign up?
Thanks, Kyle, for all you do to help law school applicants make good decisions, and to hold law schools accountable. I hope my readers take advantage of the LawSchoolExpert coupon code. (And, by the way, everyone who signs up to work with me for “The Works” law school admission consulting package before August 30th will get a FREE membership to LST Pro!