Law School Discussion

Specific Groups => Minority and Non-Traditional Law Students => Topic started by: CA Law Dean on April 03, 2013, 10:58:33 AM

Title: Never too late
Post by: CA Law Dean on April 03, 2013, 10:58:33 AM
As Dean of one of the 17 California accredited law schools, our entering class last year ranged in age from 24 to 64. I just finished an analysis of bar pass results for the past 7 years and there is absolutely no difference on bar pass success based on age. Of course, the best option for an older student is combining your law degree with previous business or professional experience so that you are not starting from scratch. Non traditional (older) students frequently need help ramping back up to the classroom experience, so I recommend non-traditional students seriously consider a part-time program and if you are in California . . . look seriously at one of the smaller, state accredited schools that can provide better academic support. As Dean of Monterey College of Law I would be glad to share our experiences with non-traditional students. Don't let anyone tell you differently . . . law school at 40+ is very different from law school at 20-something.
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: jack24 on April 03, 2013, 11:16:06 AM
Bar passage rates, huh?

What about average incomes five years after graduation?  Any difference there?
I don't see employment statistics on your website.  What percentage of your grads are employed in full-time long-term legal positions that require a law degree?

Why should someone consider a part time program?  If a calbar accredited law school is worth the investment, why not finish and be a lawyer as fast as you can?
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: CA Law Dean on April 03, 2013, 02:57:06 PM
Jack, I know that you have been reading all the press about crippling student loans, no jobs, and no practical training . . . I have too. The difference is that these issues are absolutely true in most of the large urban centers where the urban legend continues that there are $150K+ first-year associate jobs in elite law firms. What is not being written about is that  in many of the non-urban regions of the country there are jobs to be had . . . small law firms, DAs, Public Defenders, legal services . . . the list is long and the legal service needs are great. However, your point about salary level is indeed correct. The average small-town lawyer makes a good, but not exceptional living with salaries starting at $50,000-60,000 and growing to $150,000 to $200,000 as a senior lawyer. What that means is that student debt becomes the driving force in employment choices, not professional choice. What makes programs like ours different is that we are scaled to directly meet the needs of the community. Our law degree costs about $65K . . . not $150K. As a part-time program, our students are encouraged to start working in law-related jobs all through law school, not only reducing the need for student loans, but in most cases providing the opportunity to try out different practice areas to identify a preferred area of practice. In this scenario, there isn't the rush to finish as quickly as possible, and by doing so, graduate with no meaningful practice experience. In some ways, our format is much closer to the medical school practicum model than the typical ABA program.

Although I do not have an employment statistic available for you . . . I can say that we are unaware of any recent graduate being unemployed . . . since we are commonly the source of matchmaking between local law firms and our graduates. Employment statistics are a little more challenging for part-time programs since a number of our graduates go to law school fully intending to remain in their original profession. Most commonly this includes realtors, small business owners, financial planners, non-profit administrators, etc.

I guess the point is that is that there are viable alternatives to the one-size-fits-all model of "elite" legal education. It is not intended to be a replacement for those who desire an ivory tower, big firm future . . . but after 40 years it has been demonstrated to be an extremely effective model for our community, particularly for non-traditional law students.
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: jack24 on April 03, 2013, 03:25:33 PM
Well I am an attorney in a medium city with one of those 50-60k jobs.  I went to an ABA school that charged 400 per credit.   There are hundreds of applications for almost every job.  I'm planning to live paycheck to paycheck for a few more years, and then I believe I'll see the upside.

I have nothing against your model.   I think it's just fine for people to go to your school if they decide it is for the best.  I just believe that non-traditional law students have fewer working years and less opportunities than their younger peers, so taking on a large amount of debt to go to a non-ABA school is even more risky that it would be for a 22 year-old.   Unfortunately, most schools don't have the data on what their graduates earn several years after law school.  Bar Passage Rates and Employment Rates are nice and all, but they are far less helpful in the financial analysis.
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: CA Law Dean on April 03, 2013, 05:18:19 PM
Jack, I fully agree on all your points, particularly the idea that non-traditional older students need to carefully consider how many years of practice they expect after graduation. Our experience is that if they can "pair" their legal training with pre-existing work experience (i.e. realtor doing real estate law, social worker doing family law, police officer doing criminal law) they do not get treated as a typical "first-year" associate. They are much more likely to be successful opening their own practice and being accepted by clients as proficient.
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: Duncanjp on April 06, 2013, 05:37:05 PM
Thank you for the comments, Dean.

I'm a non-traditional student finishing my third year at a CBE school (Lincoln in Sacramento). The quality of the education equals or surpasses anything I received from East Carolina University or UC Davis in undergrad. I can't speak for all CBE schools, but I don't honestly know how even the highest ranked ABA school could improve on the presentation of the material that my school delivers. My professors are sitting judges, local prosecutors and defense attorneys, all of whom know their subjects well and clearly enjoy teaching. It's a great bang for my buck. I know that the degree won't have the prestige of Stanford or Berkeley, but the quality of the education is fantastic nonetheless. Inasmuch as I'm firmly entrenched in a career underwriting position for a national insurance company, I can't imagine abandoning my position after I pass the bar to become an associate attorney in some unfamiliar field of practice. It would be a step backwards and would probably cut my salary in half. No thanks. My attorney-mentor at work advised me at the outset that the goal is simply to get the license. Perhaps if I were 20 years younger without the experience and contacts, I would have set my sights on a loftier program. I can't kid anybody: I would love an ABA degree. But raiding my retirement savings just to get one at this point in the game is a difficult sell. I have a great chance of seeing an ROI from my investment at Lincoln. Just becoming an attorney will vault me out of the realm of lay underwriters, many of whom have been working in the field for twice as long as I have. But the satisfaction and prestige of an ABA degree isn't enough to justify paying three times as much in tuition to get it. And the odds of receiving any meaningful ROI from an ABA degree seem a greater risk than a less prestigious degree for a third the cost.

I've been an advocate for CBE schools on this forum for a couple of years. They aren't for everybody, but they're a good choice for the right candidates. I'm one of them.
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: lawyurd on April 06, 2013, 07:11:59 PM
I wish I had the option to go to a CBE school.  I recently moved from California to Florida and law school options are not as plentiful here.  The closest school is apparently not very good and the good ones don't really cater to nontraditional old guys like me.  I have a federal government job and I believe that a JD would give me an advantage since we deal with contracts all the time.   Not sure if I can justify $150k or more in school debt.  This is why I am torn between a low rated, high tuition ABA school or a more reasonably priced online law school.   
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: Rocketdog2017 on April 07, 2013, 09:28:35 AM
I have a federal government job and I believe that a JD would give me an advantage since we deal with contracts all the time.   Not sure if I can justify $150k or more in school debt.  This is why I am torn between a low rated, high tuition ABA school or a more reasonably priced online law school.

Read your post: I think if debt is your main focus, and you don't want to make the practice of law your primary profession, the choice in school would be more clear: choose the lower cost IF that lower cost school will offer you a decent quality legal education. (sorry for the run-on sentence)...LOL

In another light: why buy a formula one race car to commute to work everyday? (unless you live in Germany)
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: Duncanjp on April 07, 2013, 03:15:23 PM
In another light: why buy a formula one race car to commute to work everyday?

Good analogy.

That said, three of my company's attorneys who went to CBE schools have all candidly confessed in one form or another that their non-ABA J.D.s in fact limited their careers. I know that I will never run my company's legal department. But I wouldn't expect to, even under the best of circumstances. The people who head the various legal departments all went to T-14 law schools. My expectations are realistic: to become in-house counsel and keep the company of career attorneys who went to great schools. I'll do whatever they tell me to do. Works for me. In fact, it's going to rule. And none of the people I work with on a daily basis have any concept of the elitism of the law school hierarchy. To them, an attorney is an attorney.
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: livinglegend on April 07, 2013, 05:54:54 PM
I attended an ABA school, but agree with Duncan's point for the most part an attorney is an attorney. There are some places that have elitism and anyone attending a CBA school should be realistic in their expectations as they are unlikely to clerk for the Supreme Court right out of law school, but there are plenty of people in need of legal representation and most clients simply want an attorney to resolve their problem with a law license from any school you can accomplish a goal for your client.

I don't think anyone even CA Law Dean would encourage someone who wants to work for Cravath or O'Melveny & Meyers to attend Monterrey College of Law as those doors will be closed, but someone that wants to do Family Law, Criminal Defense, even small civil Litigation in the Bay Area particularly Monterrey itself it is likely a good option for the right person.
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: CA Law Dean on April 07, 2013, 09:40:23 PM
LL has it right and I think Duncan is doing a good job of keeping it all in perspective.
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: jack24 on April 09, 2013, 01:04:05 PM
I attended an ABA school, but agree with Duncan's point for the most part an attorney is an attorney. There are some places that have elitism and anyone attending a CBA school should be realistic in their expectations as they are unlikely to clerk for the Supreme Court right out of law school, but there are plenty of people in need of legal representation and most clients simply want an attorney to resolve their problem with a law license from any school you can accomplish a goal for your client.

I don't think anyone even CA Law Dean would encourage someone who wants to work for Cravath or O'Melveny & Meyers to attend Monterrey College of Law as those doors will be closed, but someone that wants to do Family Law, Criminal Defense, even small civil Litigation in the Bay Area particularly Monterrey itself it is likely a good option for the right person.

"An attorney is an attorney."

I understand your point, but it's simplistic.  Attorney jobs really aren't equal, and most people are only cut out for a certain percentage of attorney jobs.  Students should avoid severely limiting their options.   Yes, any licensed attorney can open a small firm and chase down family-law leads.   In that sense, an attorney is an attorney.   I believe most students don't know what kind of attorney they want to be, so it's important for them to have as many options as possible.  Otherwise, you are playing roulette with your future.   You may be perfectly cut-out to be a staff attorney for the state supreme court, but you may not be a good fit to be a commision-only personal injury attorney.

You need passion, you need to be able to pay your debts, and you need the right personality for the jobs that will be available to you.  Just remember that there is almost as much variety in the legal industry as in the general economy.
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: legalpractitioner on April 09, 2013, 05:27:15 PM
Put another way, if you have a Harvard JD you could clerk for a Federal Judge or have the option of representing SSI claimants if that's your cup of tea; unranked and lower ranked school graduates don't have the same band width of options. The lower ranking your school, the fewer options you will have straight out of school.  However, in the scheme of things helping SSI claimants may indeed do more good for society than being the hatchet person for a corporate schill  judge or an insurance company or god forbid a bank!
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: CA Law Dean on April 20, 2013, 05:20:44 PM
Put another way, if you have a Harvard JD you could clerk for a Federal Judge or have the option of representing SSI claimants if that's your cup of tea; unranked and lower ranked school graduates don't have the same band width of options. The lower ranking your school, the fewer options you will have straight out of school.  However, in the scheme of things helping SSI claimants may indeed do more good for society than being the hatchet person for a corporate schill  judge or an insurance company or god forbid a bank!

JL, I think you have merely re-stated the obvious . . . and it it just as true in other graduate programs as well, business, engineering, architecture . . . top schools and top graduates get different choices. However, you provide such a one-dimensional view of life after law school. I graduated in the 70's from what is now appx. a 50th ranked school (they didn't rank the schools when I graduated) from a southwestern state, but even then I knew that SCOTUS was out of the question and my mid-class ranking wouldn't get me in to the urban high-rise BigLaw practice. None of that is new information. Wasn't then, isn't now. However . . . there are really interesting things that can be done with a law degree . . . business, finance, entrepreneurship, non-profit . . . many of which could care less about your school and class standing and much more about your initiative, creativity, drive, work-ethic, etc.
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: legalpractitioner on April 20, 2013, 06:22:17 PM
Actually I agree, law students often do not understand that the JD is just the beginning and after graduation fall into a rut.  How many California lawyers are needlessly afraid of federal court, criminal law or trying something new for fear of making a mistake or looking foolish? In the EU, a European lawyer can practice in any member state - in the USA we have over fifty different state and territorial bars with a lot of needless barriers erected.  As a non ABA grad, I can practice in a handful of states but have been admitted in 4 different UK jurisdictions.  I often wonder if our mainstream law schools foist an unnecessaruly restrictive worldview on their students?
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: CA Law Dean on April 21, 2013, 11:09:36 AM
I think we completely agree on this . . . how could it be that lawyers who are perfectly capable, licensed, and experienced in one or more states and then come to California and only have a 20-30% pass rate on the California bar exam? Reciprocity is virtually non-existent in the US. The only real explanation is the unionism/cartel approach to American attorney licensure.
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: legalpractitioner on April 21, 2013, 09:49:52 PM
Even stranger California does have a reciprocity agreement with Ireland of all places:

Only lawyers qualified in one of the jurisdictions listed below may be eligible to sit the QLTT:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, California (with one year PQE in California), Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, England and Wales, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, New York (with one year PQE in New York), Norway, Pennsylvania (with five years PQE in Pennsylvania) Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Scotland, Switzerland, New South Wales and New Zealand.

http://www.lawsociety.ie/Documents/education/qltt/QLTTInfoPack.pdf
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: CA Law Dean on April 23, 2013, 10:59:22 AM
. . . I am disappointed that my Texas license doesn't count . . . particularly since the current Texas Governor kicks around the idea of secession from time to time.
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: legalpractitioner on April 23, 2013, 06:05:45 PM
Just shows that California's Bar can negotiate deals if it wants to - no rhyme or reason why a California lawyer would need only 1 year experience and a Pennsylvania one five?  The reciprocity is that Irish solicitors can sit the California bar.  New York gets no reciporcity with Ireland despite having a big St Paddy's Day Parade every year.

This demonstrates why an optional national bar would be a good idea.
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: livinglegend on May 03, 2013, 01:24:35 AM
Having an individual state bar exam is a great money maker for each state. I think that is the real reason for the system clearly the MBE is basically a national bar exam, but I think big states i.e. Califronia really enjoy the revenue of a $500 moral character application and an $838 bar exam fee from 10,000 or so students every year. Not to mention the annual $410 bar member fee they receieve where would all that money go if there was a national bar exam? :)
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: LawGirlScrivener2 on June 28, 2013, 07:10:02 PM
Dear California Law School Dean:

Thank you for your words of encouragement.  I am a non-traditional student who understands the rigors of

academia.  My former profession allowed me the honor and privilege of staying close to where I did my under-

graduate studies. I recently started studying for the LSAT and wanted to get a feel for the updates on

standardized testing.  It was comforting to see that people in my age cohort will be attending law school.

My under-graduate GPA: 3.67 (Weighted). 

Indeed, the college I attended did not foster grade inflation.     

I needed to feel the pulse of the non-traditional student-find an educator that could speak frankly about non-

traditional students and find my academic travel direction.   My first barrier, I thought was age, but that is not

a major factor, my next journey will be study, study, study.     

I enjoy research and look forward to working with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department Defending

Peace Officers through research methods.   My emphasis will be Criminal Defense upon entering law school.   

I am totally excited about this journey-finding my "True North", is wonderful.       

One again, thank you for your input on the matter of non-traditional students attending law school.     
Title: Re: Never too late
Post by: legalpractitioner on July 05, 2013, 09:18:41 PM
Ultimately, there is no national law license due to some inscrutable 10th Amendement issue.  Much the same like states being allowed to make a complete mess of insurance regulation.