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Topics - Ashley1033

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Choosing the Right Law School / Why I picked an unaccredited law school
« on: September 03, 2015, 10:30:12 AM »
I decided to write about this topic because I wasn't able to find much other feedback about my particularly special situation with law school. Hopefully someone out there is in a similar situation and can take away something positive from this post. As this is my first post ever here, so let me give you a quick background of myself to help explain how I reached my decision(s):

I didn't decide to go to law school until about 5 years ago, and I just turned 32 this year. I was a decent student in high school, graduated with a 3.0 and never got into trouble. I went to a community college planning on completing a computer science degree when I met a girl, had a baby with her, then married her and moved an hour away from home (young and dumb). I temporarily stopped school to focus on a decent paying full-time job and to help raise the family. Eventually, I had a second child, my wife lost her job, and we were forced to file chapter 13 bankruptcy. After 9 years of marriage, we divorced and I moved back to my father's home for a few months. I picked college back up and I am currently in the last year of finishing my Bachelor's Degree in English and Sociology. As part of the divorce agreement, I have to pay child support and have to supply the children with health insurance, so for the foreseeable future I have to have a job that offers benefits. I soon met a girl I went to high school with and we have been married for a little over two years now. Being in a good financial situation, our house is paid off and the only bills we have besides utilities are two car payments. I currently hold an excellent job for a local company in the billing department with excellent pay and benefits for our area. We have our own in-house legal team comprised of two attorneys and a paralegal. My dream is to one day retire from our in-house legal department.

So my dilemma with picking a law school was very tough. Since I need a job with benefits for my children, I knew that my smartest choice was to find a part-time law school program. If I were to try a full-time law program, I would have had to quit my job, lose my benefits, and be in breach of my divorce contract. I would have had to possibly wait until the kids were 18 before going to law school in that case but I would be graduating in my 40s. In addition, my current employer is paying for 100% of my undergrad tuition and 50% of my book costs. I live in TN so I initially thought about UTK, Belmont, Duncan School of Law, and Nashville School of Law. I did not consider Vanderbilt because I'm not an ivy-league genius and I don't feel as if I could compete. Besides, I would have to foot the $240,000 bill myself even if I did get accepted. I also did not consider Memphis because it is too far a drive (I would not consider moving either). My cumulative GPA right now is a 3.49. This put me at the median of UTK's stats, and well above Belmont, Duncan, and NSL's median as well. I hesitantly let the idea of UTK go since they do not have a part-time program, and neither does Belmont. I looked closely at Duncan for months but then I noticed that their part-time program was now going to be only during the daytime hours (8am-3pmish). I work M-F 8-5pm so this was disheartening to discover since this was my last chance at an ABA school. NSL became my only choice. It's a two hour drive one-way for me, which is fine.

I paid $1,000 for an online LSAT prep course and studied for about 12 hours a week. Before I started, I scored a 143 on a practice test. Towards the end of my 3 month study period, I was testing in the low to mid 150s. I took the February LSAT and was extremely disappointed that I received a 144. I consider myself to be an intelligent person that thinks logically and excels at standardized tests, so this was very upsetting to see how low I scored. I felt a little better once I realized that this test was meant to test your ability to think in a certain way and not how "smart" you are or aren't. I still play logic games for fun and study the meanings of words like "if" and "only if". I was working my full-time job as well as going to school full-time while I studied for the LSAT. I feel that if I were to truly spend my absolute best time studying, I could achieve my original goal score of 160, or even higher, if I ever decided to retake the LSAT again. Well, my LSAT score is right at the median score for NSL, and my GPA is about 0.5 points higher than its median. I figure my chances are pretty good given that I submitted what I felt was an excellent personal statement along with 3 excellent letters of recommendation (one of them being from one of our in-house attorneys who graduated from NSL as well) and some extra curricular background activities.

I only mailed off my application two weeks ago and only today has NSL received my CAS report. I hope to hear back very soon for a decision of admittance for the 2016 August semester. For those who may not know, NSL is only state-accredited (can only practice in TN). It's my understanding that the only thing keeping NSL from receiving ABA accreditation is the lack of a full-time faculty. It is a part-time only night school program that totals about $25,000 after four years.  I never plan on leaving TN, so I have no pressing need to have an ABA accredited education. Since my employer is willing to pay for my entire NSL tuition and book costs, this comes down to being a no-brainer decision. I really have no desire to work in biglaw.

I realize that this entire situation seems to have played out fine and the decision was easily made. This was not the case for a long time. I have read many forums and opinions from others whose entire online life seemed to be to discount the credibility of law schools ranked below the top 50 and those who consider applying to such schools. I'm here to say that there indeed is a time and a place for certain unaccredited or unranked law schools. One of the biggest things to consider between law schools is the amount of debt you will have when you graduate. Luckily for me, it isn't only the benefit of having my employer pay for my tuition, but the schedule is the only way that I attend while keeping my job. I'm obviously a non-traditional student, so a non-traditional school is perfect for me. Perhaps most of you here are not the ones I'm speaking of, but I feel as if many people out there are receiving bad opinions simply because their situation is different. Ask yourselves: if you had to pick between paying full price for a T14 school, paying for half price of a T100 school, or going for a free ride to an unranked school, would this influence your choice of school in any way?

I hope this post reaches those who need the encouragement and assurance for those who are on the fence about a decision like this. Don't hold all opinions as the end-all decision maker for yourselves. Look into all avenues and don't worry about negativity if your situation is anything but traditional. I will keep you guys updated on my situation as time goes on. Thanks for reading, if you've made it this far!  :)

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