Background: The 0L has just gotten into a couple of second-tier law schools off the waitlist, and is still on the waitlist at CU, which he says he would attend at sticker "without a second thought.""
The rising 2L advises the 0L that while "CU is a phenomenal school and my experience here has been outstanding, CU is too expensive."
This surprises the 0L, on the grounds that "CU is the best law school in the region and I believe that any graduating student that did relatively well and has some decent drive to succeed should find success."
The rising 2L responds:
If you do get in, I'd recommend not going unless you want to be a broke lawyer for the next X years depending on debt. Same goes for all these schools. Expected outcome for sticker with no money in the bank should be 150k debt with a 60k job. Some people want that and that's cool. I mean, seems like everyone is in debt nowadays and if you really want to practice law that's fine. Just know what the expected outcome is going in. I don't doubt that that CU gets the better jobs in the state because I've seen that, but if the expected outcome at DU is 45k instead of 60k it really doesn't change anything. Both dudes are starting out totally broke. That should be the takeaway.
Don't plan on being in the top ten percent, grades are so random. I was above median in two classes and below in the other two last semester, without a clue as to why. This is normal.
Probably don't go to law school.
(I don't know who the rising 2L is, although he's indicated he was a student of mine last year).
Now on one level R2L's advice is pretty good all things considered. He's starting to come out of the 1L bubble, and beginning to grapple straightforwardly with the fact that almost all law schools these days are a bad idea at sticker, and that people just shouldn't do that (CU is a relatively cheap school; everybody gets in-state tuition after first year, and COL in the Boulder area for a student isn't anything like NYC or DC or LA etc., but nevertheless an entering Colorado resident 1L who debt finances attendance is going to end up with $178K in loans per this calculator). Non-resident 1Ls can tack on another $10K to that figure).
On another he's still living in a mental world in which his expected outcome is a (legal?) job that pays $60K. How many 2010 CU law grads -- the most recent year for which the figures are available to me -- got a job paying at least $60K? The reported salary data indicates that about 24 grads got jobs with law firms paying that much or more, along with six people in "business" and a couple in government. So that's 32 out of 183 grads -- 17.5% of the class, which happens to be exactly the same number of 2010 grads who were unemployed or whose status was unknown nine months after graduation.
Now it's true this probably understates the number of grads making $60K or more, since half the grads who had jobs of some sort didn't have their salary reported. (The uncertainty arises because I suspect an auditing of these salary numbers would produce a certain degree of exaggeration on the part of the grads who did provide salary information). So perhaps 20% or even 25% of the class was making $60K. It's unlikely to be more than that since as is typical with law school reporting all the grads who had jobs with larger law firms had reported salaries (This is mostly because people with high salaries report, but also because big firm salaries are quasi-public information and can therefore be reported by CSOs per NALP reporting rules with or without the cooperation of graduates).
Here is a very rough cut of the mental map of the median student enrolling at "solid top tier regional law schools" these days (CU is ranked 44th right now).
0L: I probably won't get a six-figure job straight out of law school but it's very likely I'll get a $60K job unless I'm at the bottom of the class.
After 1L: The median outcome is $60K which frankly is pretty scary given this cost structure so I really need to hustle.
After graduation: I don't have a $60K job and neither do any of my friends. What was I thinking?
Unfortunately while 0Ls and 1Ls get tossed out of their bubbles eventually, law school faculty can (and largely do) stay in theirs.