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Messages - Duncanjp
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« on: May 07, 2013, 09:00:26 PM »
I applaud the movement to require CBE schools to meet minimum bar pass rates or risk losing their accreditation. There is something wrong with accredited schools that base their fees (and advertising) on being accredited if they do not produce graduates who have a fighting chance at passing the bar. That would go for any ABA school as well. If all you want is to learn the law for its own sake and you have no interest in sitting the bar, then an unaccredited institution is the place to be - with fees relative to that purpose. But accreditation needs to encompass certain minimum standards, and for law schools, the most important measure of their effectiveness is the bar pass rate.
That said, many factors influence pass rates: position in life, academic capacity of the student, quality of the education, availability of resources, quality of bar prep, etc. I'm glad that CA at least offers those who didn't get a 3.9 at Stanford a shot at becoming a lawyer, if they have the other intangibles in place.
« on: May 05, 2013, 01:12:15 PM »
As a dean of a CBE law school (Monterey College of Law), I can confirm that what makes California accredited law school programs different is that we are scaled in size and cost to more closely meet the needs of the local community. Our law degree costs about $65K . . . not $150K. As a part-time evening program, our students are encouraged to start working in law-related jobs during law school, not only reducing the need for student loans, but in most cases providing the opportunity to get actual experience in different practice areas (and law firms) to identify a preferred area of practice after graduation. In some ways, our format is much closer to the medical school practicum model than the typical ABA program. I think that you will also find that the bar pass rates for good students at CBE schools is competitive with the unranked ABA law schools.
Actually, my biggest concern are the bar pass rates for CBE schools. After doing some research, it appears Monterey does a bit better than those in the Los Angeles area. Do you think that bar pass sucess rates are largely due to the individual or the school they attend? Or do you think the CBE schools do not fair quite as well because students are not required to have a bachelor's degree or have higher LSAT scores as ABA schools? Would like to get your opinion on that.
Several factors influence bar pass rates for CBE schools versus the pass rates for ABA. Lower academic requirements for admission may be a factor, but I'm convinced that it is not the predominant reason - or even a terribly significant one - for the lower pass rates by CBE grads. The students who graduate from CBE programs have all shown that they can perform competent legal analysis and they can pass the same law school exams that you'd find at any ABA school. The real difference lies in the attention to bar prep that CBE students on average are able to give. ABA students are predominantly unemployed or part-time workers at most. They tend to enjoy the luxury of having substantial amounts of time to study the law and to prepare for the bar. Conversely, most CBE students have full-time jobs, and a large percentage cannot take a two-month leave of absence from work to concentrate on the bar. This is the critical difference. The quality of the education itself is no different after they've weeded out the first-year students. Put ABA students in the same shoes as CBE students, or vice versa, and I have no doubt that the pass rates would virtually mirror one another.
« on: May 05, 2013, 02:48:11 AM »
Let me again ask "CA Law Dean" to present employment statistics for his/ her schools recent graduating classes 2010, 2011 & 2013 similar to what the ABA requires its members to present.
Please also provide bar pass stats for your school and the bar pass stats for other CAB schools.
The tenor of your posts sounds suspiciously like you would seek to discredit Monterey COL, its dean, and CBE schools in general if given the chance. Or at least to needlessly assert the superiority of an ABA education over the pedestrian variety of a CBE school. Correct me if I'm wrong. But that's how your posts read.
I attend a CBE school - Lincoln Law School of Sacramento. Our pass rate on the last bar exam was something over 50%, but less than 60%. I don't recall the exact number and I'm not inclined to look it up. Pass rates are posted on the State Bar's website if you want to see them. Nobody claims that CBE grads pass the bar in the same percentages that ABA grads do, or that they have any hope of even coming close. But CBE schools cannot be compared with ABA schools in many ways because unlike ABA schools, CBE schools are not populated with droves of 20-somethings with no professional experience and nothing to do but study the law. CBE schools are primarily attended by working adults, who juggle careers, families, mortgages and night school all at the same time. Landing a job in BigLaw is not on a CBE grad's bucket list. My classmates and I are already gainfully employed in career positions, primarily in law or closely-related fields. A significant number of my classmates work in government - that's Sacramento for you. But the point is that CBE grads do not typically get their degrees and then commence a desperate hunt for lucrative work in the impacted field of law. ABA grads have got that covered well enough without our help. A CBE education is more often a tool to further existing careers. I doubt that most CBE schools keep meaningful records of how many grads are working in law nine months after graduating, although I could be wrong on that point. They definitely keep tabs on who passed the bar. But such records arenít mission critical the way they are with ABA schools, regardless. ABA schools are flooding the country with well-educated, but inexperienced, highly-indebted young people competing for a handful of jobs, many or most of which pay only moderate salaries under the best of circumstances. The employment stats for CBE graduates actually look pretty good, at least to the end that most of us already work in the legal field and we don't seem to have the same problem on average of having to scramble to find employment after graduating.
Furthermore, the affordability of CBE schools means that even those grads who have assumed some debt by the time they finish are not laden with the chains of Jacob Marley. What you probably want to hear is whether any significant percentage of CBE grads are working in BigLaw nine months after graduation. The answer is no. BigLaw is the province of top ABA schools. But it's a hell of a big country, and legal services are needed everywhere. Of all the legal services provided in this country, what percentage is handled by traditional, BigLaw firms? That's mostly rhetorical. I don't know the answer. But I would risk two bucks the percentage provided by small and medium law firms is significant, and those firms hire a lot of CBE grads. Such firms frequently have partners who went to CBE schools.
Passing the California bar definitely presents a greater challenge for CBE grads on average than ABA grads. This is not because they're dumb or less academically capable than the average ABA grad. Those who struggle academically get weeded out in the first year, and pretty mercilessly. Those CBE students who go the distance, however, tend to be exceptionally driven, focused people. Unfortunately, not everyone who completes a CBE program is able to abandon his or her job (and income) for two or three months to immerse themselves in preparing for the bar. ABA grads generally have the good fortune to have nothing going on their lives but law school and bar prep, which is by design. And good for them. My mission isn't to worry about how lucky ABA students are, but to focus on my own task. Having watched my classmates progress over the last three years, I'm confident that the average CBE student who makes it through the entire program could handle the typical ABA student's life and educational program with one hand. I mean, if you can pass law exams while working full time, you can certainly pass law exams when you donít. CBE schools do not dumb down their courses. Contracts is contracts. Con law is con law. Most of my profs went to ABA schools themselves. Some of the finest professors I have ever studied under have been my instructors at my humble CBE school. It isnít the quality of the education that truly distinguishes ABA schools from CBE, nor even bar passing rates: itís the station in life of the average student.
« on: April 28, 2013, 03:42:00 AM »
The idea of enrolling in law school struck me like a thunderbolt. It was an awakening that turned into a personal mission, a goal, and I committed myself to the challenge almost instantly. By committed, I mean that absolutely nothing short of some personal tragedy can stop me from achieving my goal. The J.D. that evening law students earn is as much a testimony to their endurance as it is an academic achievement. As an insurance underwriter, I have a rewarding career in a field that I love. It requires a lot more than 40 hours a week. The upshot is that tackling the rigors of even a part-time evening program (three nights a week, 6:30 - 9:15, and study all weekend) has been the most difficult thing I have done in life since my tour of duty in the Marine Corps. In certain ways, managing a career and part-time law school at the same time is harder than anything they threw at me in the USMC. It takes extraordinary courage, stamina, determination, commitment, passion, and focus to succeed. You need to have an insane, blinding desire to become an attorney. But the dean is correct: it can be done. I'm doing it. I'm a 3E currently preparing for my final exams, with just one more year to go. Then on to the bar. I still can't see the top of the mountain, but looking back, it's a hell of a long ways down. We keep climbing. But you have to accept that you will be holding down two full-time jobs for the next four years. Except during the breaks, your life will have only two prongs: the job and law school. There will be little time for anything else, so you need to steel yourself for total commitment. But it isn't just an exercise in misery. Honestly, law school is fun. Yes, it's challenging, but you'll start to get passionate about learning the law, and while you might lose a few loose friends during the journey, your true friends will still be there. And plus, you'll make a lot of new friends in class.
We lost some 50 percent of our class after the first year. People started falling out by the third week, which I thought was pathetic. The rigors of the program were just too difficult for a lot of otherwise nice people to handle. But poor grades on the first-year final exams also took out a substantial number of people. However, of the students in my class who survived the first year, I can think of only one who has fallen by the wayside over our second and third years. There's something to be said for that. The first-year survivers tend to go the distance.
There's also something to be said for the camaraderie of evening law school. I don't know how it is in regular law school, but in a CBE night program such as the one I attend, and probably CA Law Dean's at Monterey as well (correct me if I'm wrong, Dean) you go through the program with pretty much the exact same people from the beginning to the end. Other than summer school, there isn't the same picking and choosing of courses from an array of possibilities, as in college. Everyone takes the same program of courses and you tend to sit with your friends in every class. By the second year or earlier, you know everybody in class by first name, and everybody knows you. It's pretty cool. I'm proud of my classmates, because I know that they're all enduring the same hell that I am, juggling work, school, families, and mortgages. The people who succeed in night school have an astounding degree of determination and drive. But Livinglegend has a point. During the school year, and especially during that all-critical first year, you need to be "all in." You can't bluff your way through law school like you might in a college lit class. If you're prepared to make the necessary sacrifices in your social life in order to focus on the work demanded of you, you can make it.
Another thing I haven't mentioned, and it's as important as anything, is that you need support. You need the support and understanding of your spouse, your employer, your family and your friends. The grind takes a toll on relationships, which is why you may lose a few of your looser (I didn't say "loser") friends. You may also start to take inventory of your relationships after a couple of years of law school and decide to punt some of the losers (this time I mean "losers") the hell out of your life. You're surrounded by so many inspiring professors and go-getters, and your free time is so precious that wasting it on unambitious, uninspiring, unmotivated old friends will start to feel like putting on a pair of dirty old shoes that you lost in the garage five years ago. So you take them off and throw them away. It's not elitist: it's water seeking its own level.
Law school is a fantastic experience. And boy, is it eye-opening. After three years, I want it over with so badly I can taste it. But I'm getting closer and closer to my goal. No turning back. Set that goal, keep your eyes on it, prepare for success, and you, audacious climber, may reach the top of the mountain. Lots of us are doing it.
« on: April 10, 2013, 12:26:51 AM »
I've been out of the Marines since December 2009. I'm not sure how hard it was to land a JAG position for them. I know at least 3 of them actually went to law school while in the Marine Corps, so they got promoted faster even though we started training at the same time. I mean want to say that each class had 6 spots for future JAGs and there were 6 classes a year.
Officer Candidate School weeds out a lot of people. My OCS class had a 48% retention, not sure how many of them were lawyers. Lots of people can't handle the physical demands of the Marine Corps and OCS is even tougher than enlisted boot camp. The Marines also have programs that active duty members can apply for that they send you to law school and that's your job for 3 years, you just have to graduate, pass the bar and then owe 5 years to the Corps. I had a friend qualify for that program but I don't think she graduated since she works for Amazon now as a recruiter.
Sorry for being all over the map here, I'll talk Marine Corps all day.
Semper fi, Lawyurd.
In my con law class last night, we were discussing how difficult it is to hold down a career position during the day while putting oneself through law school at night. I remarked that my four years in the Marine Corps was a cakewalk compared to the four-year madhouse of law school. Of course, that isn't really true, but it feels like it sometimes.
« on: April 07, 2013, 05:15:23 PM »
In another light: why buy a formula one race car to commute to work everyday?
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.
« on: April 06, 2013, 07:37:05 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.
« on: April 06, 2013, 01:04:29 PM »
Given the current state of the legal field, it's certainly risky to enroll in law school if one does not have a clear purpose for doing so.
A Terrible Purpose
"I want to be a lawyer because my favorite TV shows are courtroom dramas."
A Better Purpose
"I have spent five years in [insert field] and a law degree would advance my career in that field."
« on: April 02, 2013, 11:32:04 PM »
I agree with you that the mere activity of learning the law is well-suited to online study, Jon. But becoming a successful attorney involves more than just rote memorization of esoteric rules and learning to perform legal analysis. What do online programs substitute for the face-to-face relationships you form in brick and mortar law schools? I don't believe that the importance of forging relationships and making friends with your classmates can be overstated. (It would take some effort.) Seeing the same people in classes month after month and year after year cements those relationships. I usually prepare for my exams by sitting alone in my den with the door shut, laboring over practice exams and outlines. But the rest of the time, it seems like a mistake to brush off the all-important element of networking if your goal is to succeed in the legal field.
« on: March 31, 2013, 02:02:20 PM »
I don't have time to confirm the statistics that anonymous internet posters assert in threads such as this, even when properly cited. But assuming the numbers are correct, the obvious conclusion is that nobody who is serious about becoming an attorney enrolls in such an institution. A law degree, even from an ABA school, doesn't really have that much value if you don't pass the bar. It's like having a plumber's license when you work in insurance. And prospective employers in non-legal fields may see you as potential trouble for their HR departments. To be a good fit for an unaccredited, online approach to law school, you really have to want to know the law strictly for the sake of knowing a little about the law, with no expectation of its having any practical application. Example: a minimum security inmate with regular online access might be a good candidate, if the school would admit him. (And why not? He's got nothing but time and it's not like they're serious about producing attorneys.) Another might be a retired senior with loads of free time and curiosity, whose doctor has instructed him to start exercising his mind before he loses it. But that's a gamble, seniors who read this. The cure may become the cause.
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