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Messages - CA Law Dean
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« on: March 07, 2014, 08:06:36 PM »
Glad to provide some additional information regarding our July 2013 bar exam results. Obviously there is nothing good about those results. There is no way to put a good face on a 0-11 cohort. Fortunately for us, despite how horrible that looks, the details provide additional information for consideration. Our graduating class of 2013 that makes up the majority of this cohort divided their first-time test sessions approximately as follows: Out of the graduating class of 20, 5 took the February 2013 exam, 10 took the July 2013 exam and 5 either just took the February 2014 exam or are waiting for the July 2014 exam. As a working adult population, our students schedule their bar prep and exam session based on a number of factors, available work vacation, seasonal work load, finances, family scheduling, etc. This pattern is quite different that the typical law school where virtually everyone graduates in May and takes the July bar exam.
In February 2013, 4 out of 5 graduated early (December) and passed the exam. The one who did not, skipped July 2013 and sat for a second time February 2014.
In July 2013, the 10 candidates represent the middle and lower cohort of the class based on graduating GPA. Because we host the bar review program, we know that 8 of the 10 did not complete the bar review program (for a variety of reasons, including health, job, family crisis, and in far too many cases . . . poor judgement) prior to sitting for the July exam. Unfortunately, we knew what that would mean long before the scores were released. In the case of the 2 who did the proper prep and did not pass, the scores were close and we fully expect them to pass on the second sitting. Of the 8 who didn't do adequate bar prep, at least half of them have owned up to the mistake and buckled down to get it right the second time and we would anticipate from past experience that this will be true and the results will reflect their effort. We will still need to see the results of the final 5 who either just took the February 2014 exam or will be taking the July 2014 exam. I anticipate that when the dust settles, the class of 2013 will end up with a 60-65% cumulative pass rate. This is below our expectations and below the results of the classes that preceded them. However, in a small school with small testing cohorts, this is difficult to avoid over a multi-year period.
So, the final observation is that we think (and fervently hope) that the class of 2013 was an anomaly and that our five-year cumulative pass rate of 66-68% better represents the results that our graduates achieve on the California Bar Exam. I didn't mention it before, but I assume that you realize that the state-wide first-time pass rate in California is 55% and not the 75-80% that is experienced in all other jurisdictions.
« on: March 06, 2014, 09:31:08 AM »
I frequently hear the question "If I get rejected by my top choice law school, should I just take a gap year and reapply next cycle?" Like many legal questions, the answer is "it depends."
First question. Do you have a realistic chance of meeting he statistical LSAT/UGPA admission standard of the dream school(s) where you have applied? There are quite a few excellent websites that provide free access to analytics that allow you to plug in your LSAT/UGPA and get a multi-school report on your statistical chance of falling within the admitted student range of targeted schools. Doing this analysis is a must. The odds are that if you were rejected by a school, you fell below the 25th percentile of their range.
Therefore, the question is, if you took off a year what would you do to improve your chances next cycle? I hate to sound crass, but curing cancer or solving world peace probably won't help you. You also can't change your UGPA. Therefore, the only variable you control is your LSAT score. Even if your UGPA is below standard, many schools will admit "splitters" . . . applicants with a below median UGPA, offset by a high LSAT.
Second question. "Do you have the time, resources, and testing skills to do what it takes to significantly improve your LSAT score?" Top tutorial programs can cost upwards of $10-12,000. Credible commercial review programs can cost $1,200 - $2,500. To significantly move your LSAT score 10+ points, you should expect to spend several hundred hours of dedicated effort. Add all of this to the "opportunity cost" of waiting another year to enter law school . . . and the career market upon completion . . . and you have the objective information necessary to realistically evaluate whether a gap year will be beneficial.
Of course, there are certainly other reasons that could play a role as well. Maturity, financial situation, family issues, undergraduate burn-out, etc. However, these go to the question of 1L readiness, not dream school admissions.
One final consideration. In the current competitive admissions climate, high LSAT scores can directly translate into significant scholarship offers. The trade-off is that higher ranked "dream" schools generally offer fewer scholarships, and fewer still to "splitters". Your best scholarship offers are likely to come from lower tier law schools . . . but that is a completely different topic.
So my recommendation is that if you are willing to use a gap year to improve your law school choices . . . do it. Otherwise, if you are "all dressed up and ready to go", select a law school that otherwise matches your interests and career goals . . . and get started.
« on: March 05, 2014, 12:35:23 PM »
I agree with the recommendations suggested here. I would also add that it is likely that there is a lawyer-referral program through your local bar association that can be a lead for new paying clients and the family law court is likely to maintain a list of court appointed advocates for minors and seniors. This is also paying work, even if it isn't necessarily steady work. Each of these steps moves you closer to either establishing your own practice or having the experience to catch the eye of a family law firm in need of an associate with some experience.
A simple strategy that I have recommended (successfully) to new lawyers who have identified a specialty practice area such as you have, is to set up meetings with every one of your law school classmates (assuming that you have remained in proximity to your law school) who have started practice in areas other than family law. Your crim law, immigration law, corporate law colleagues need to refer their family law cases somewhere . . . Become their go-to family law referral. Along the way, start your own referral list of non family law attorneys to send your referrals to . . . quid pro quo. My recommendation is that you should be spending a minimum of 4-6 hours every week in these type of practice development/marketing activities . . . not just now, but throughout your entire career. That is how you build a sustainable practice, whether you are a solo or partner in a big firm.
« on: March 05, 2014, 12:15:43 PM »
Thanks for all the help guys. Where can I find a list of California accredited schools as you guys have mentioned? I looked around and can't seem to find a comprehensive breakdown of each school that is not ABA in California. I'd like to research all my options. Thanks again!
The California State Bar web site is not always the most intuitive. Here is the direct link to the list of all California law schools with web sites. The deans at these schools are all colleagues and I have visited each of the CALS except Pacific Coast. Feel free to e-mail or PM me if you have specific questions about any of the California accredited individual schools.http://admissions.calbar.ca.gov/Education/LegalEducation/LawSchools.aspx
« on: March 03, 2014, 08:27:04 AM »
IF you are a California applicant for the 2014-2015 cycle and: 1) are not selecting your law school based on UNNWR rankings; 2) are concerned about the real cost of law school; and 3) learn better in a smaller class environment (35 vs. 100 students) . . . you should seriously consider one of the accredited regional California law schools such as Monterey College of Law. These schools are accredited by the State Bar of California, not the ABA. Many of them have very respectable bar pass rates (competitive with the unranked ABA law schools), are a fraction of the cost of the traditional ABA schools, and offer part-time programs so that you can actually begin working in law related jobs to gain relevant experience before graduating. Most have strong ties to the local bench-bar that result in jobs after graduation. Of course this is not the path if your goal is to work in a large urban center in a multinational law conglomerate. But if the idea of being a small firm lawyer, DA, Public Defender, Legal Services lawyer, or solo practitioner is what you are after . . . consider one of the California accredited law schools in an area that you might like to live/practice and submit an application. Then go visit to see if it fits your goals. Ask hard questions about bar pass rates, costs, job placement, clinical,programs, etc. Most of the non-urban areas of California need lawyers (despite the articles in the national news) and many of them are great places to live and raise a family if you have not already decided to be a big city lawyer.
The biggest limitation is that upon graduation from one of the California accredited law schools you must take (and pass) the California bar exam first. You cannot go directly to another state and sit for their bar exam until you are licensed in California (and some states will require minimum years of practice as well). That is why the option is primarily for those who already know that they want to live and practice in California. Bottom line, if you really want to be a lawyer, make it happen.
If you have questions about any of the California accredited law schools feel free to contact me directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
or go to the MCL website at www.montereylaw.edu
« on: March 02, 2014, 02:14:39 PM »
Recent reports from the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) indicate that law school applications for Fall 2014 have decreased for more than 86% of the traditional ABA law schools across the country. These numbers are following a trend that was seen nationally for the two previous academic years. It is too early to know how MCL will fare this year, because our admission cycle starts, and ends, about two-months later than the traditional ABA law schools. (We will continue to take regular applications through the end of May and late applications through the end of July.) However, last year we experienced a 20% increase in admissions during a period when the national trend was a 20% decrease.
I have been asked why MCL seems to be avoiding the declines being experienced in other law schools. Of course, since each law school and community is different, there is no way to know the exact reason. However, there are a number of factors that I think reflect positively on MCL and are likely to be influencing new applicants.
First, MCL has been able to control our tuition increase and maintain a unique guaranteed tuition policy. At a tuition cost of less than $70,000 for the completed degree, MCL is less than one-half the cost of many of the large traditional ABA law schools in California. Furthermore, we believe that we are still the only law school in California that guarantees that a studentís tuition rate will not increase during their tenure at MCL.
Second, as an evening program, most of our students also work during the day, creating the opportunity for them to pay-as-they-go and minimize the need for large student loans. It is common for our students to start working in law firms while they are in law school, providing practical experience and an early jump on job opportunities.
Finally, MCL has a history of taking a more practical vs. philosophical approach to legal education. All of our faculty are practicing lawyers and judges who are expected to bring their practical experience into the classroom. In addition, MCL has expanded our student clinical workshops and externship programs to provide every student the opportunity to participate in practical skills training prior to graduation.
As a small, regional law school, I know that we donít necessarily face the same market challenges that are found in the large urban areas. However, I would like to think that our ongoing success reflects in some large part the values that come from being a community-supported law school with strong roots in the local bench and bar.
« on: February 26, 2014, 09:24:45 AM »
You won't find any disagreement from me related to the dramatic rise in the cost of legal education. I have been outspoken about the current disconnect between the cost of the JD/license and the market value/career value ratio. There are certain factors that are relatively easy to identify as contributors, but no easy solution.
Federal loan funds detached from school/employment outcome measures and market sustainability is a huge problem, but only now considered an issue in law due to the current supply/demand/starting salary market correction at the top end of the food chain. The relationship between tenured faculty and direct education in classrooms/clinics is disproportionately skewed to underwrite "academic scholarship", not student instruction. A three decade economic boom in BigLaw fueled irrational starting salaries that, in turn, fueled an unsustainable growth in law applicants/student loan balances that required BigLaw starting salaries to service the debt obligation.
. . . and at the risk of showing my age, we are dealing with an age of entitlement during which the lessons of hard work, competition, risk, and failure are considered to be societal, not individual responsibilities.
All said, I remain optimistic for the legal profession and new lawyers who are intelligent in the ways of the world . . . and not merely the LSAT and GPA. I share the belief that there are interesting and challenging legal opportunities available. How can you follow the news, locally, nationally, or internationally and not see the myriad of legal issues that we are facing . . . and the next generation of lawyers will be solving.
I believe that the next 3-5 years will see a correction in the cost/delivery model of legal education. It will be painful and arguably unfair for those who made individual decisions without understanding the market trends and the effect on near-term jobs/salaries. It is unconscionable that traditional law schools, BigLaw, and the federal guaranteed student loan system will not be held accountable. However, that is the price of a free economy. As a "Keynesian economist" with a law degree running a law school . . . I accept this as the reality of the marketplace and American society. What I can do about it is to remain a small voice in a big discussion that argues for meaningful change, and models it in our one small corner of the academy. Perhaps amidst the tumult we can influence the outcome.
« on: February 25, 2014, 09:44:26 AM »
Total amount, not per student. It pays for the State Bar staff review of the annual self-study report. I assume that ABA schools pay a similar type fee with their annual self-study reports.
« on: February 24, 2014, 09:24:29 AM »
We pay an accreditation fee ($2,500) to the State Bar Committee of Bar Examiners every year with our comprehensive self study and a site visit fee ($15K) very five years for the site team visit and report. Our accreditation regulations follow most of the same rules and standards found in the ABA rules, but scaled to our smaller size and delivery model.
« on: February 23, 2014, 05:30:32 PM »
For those who might be comparison shopping: 2013 Law School Tuition Costs
California ABA Law Schools
$157,794 University of Southern California, Gould School of Law
$152,406 Stanford University Law School
$148,692 University of California, Davis School of Law
$144,204 University of California, Berkeley, School of Law
$140,418 University of California Hastings College of the Law
$135,663 University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law
$134,940 Pepperdine University School of Law
$134,151 University of California, Irvine School of Law
$132,690 Loyola Law School, Loyola Marymount University
$131,580 University of San Diego School of Law
$131,550 Southwestern Law School
$131,100 California Western School of Law
$131,040 Santa Clara University School of Law
$130,608 Chapman University School of Law
$129,135 University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law
$127,092 University of San Francisco School of Law
$126,030 Golden Gate University School of Law
$126,000 Thomas Jefferson School of Law
$122,196 University of La Verne College of Law
$120,780 Whittier Law School
$118,800 Western State College of Law
California Accredited Law Schools
$77,400 San Joaquin College of Law
$74,250 Trinity Law School
$72,660 JFK Law School
$70,550 University of West LA
$68,000 San Francisco Law School
$66,650 Monterey College of Law
$59,724 Lincoln Law School - San Jose
$58,632 Glendale College of Law
$57,620 Empire College of Law
$56,760 Santa Barbara/Ventura Colleges of Law
$55,860 Humphreys College of Law
$40,420 Lincoln Law School - Sacramento
$40,236 Cal Northern Law School
$31,080 Southern California Institute of Law
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