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Messages - Duncanjp

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Duncanjp, follow me to the Batmobile. You are needed in: Are CBA schools a joke?  Hurry!!!

I still like the 1960s Batmobile the best, but the Dark Knight's was pretty cool, too. Except, c'mon: bullets would've popped those balloon tires easily. I ask you.

This has been a pretty thorough and completely enjoyable, perhaps even meaningful, discussion for a thread. Thank you. Have you changed your decision one way or the other about where and whether to proceed with law school?

Visits, Admit Days, and Open Houses / Re: Are CBA schools a joke?
« on: August 13, 2011, 06:26:44 PM »
Hiya, Falcon. Lay underwriters underwrite less complex transactions than underwriting attorneys, with greater restrictions on the scope of the insurance they underwrite, the geographical territory in which they're allowed to work, and the amount of liability they're authorized to assume. Lay people process claims, but our attorneys actually decide them. A J.D., and more importantly, admission to the bar, will vault me out of the realm of laymen.

Thanks for the explanation.  It makes good sense for you to pursue this, then.  Best of luck.

Thanks. Nowhere to go but up. Honestly, I wish everybody on this forum the best of luck, in all sincerity. Whatever you hope to do after becoming an attorney, the path is long and arduous to get there. People have their particular hurdles. But ultimately, everyone has to pass the same exam. We can debate the wisdom of one's choice of schools, but the fact is that a license to practice law is a bloody hell of a mountain to climb, and there are no guarantees that you'll ever make it to the top once you start. I have to salute all of those who have made it all the way.
I'm tempted here to say, "The cream rises," but there's the first rule of humility: the only difference between God and a lawyer is that God doesn't think he's a lawyer.

Hey! I've been trying to remember a word that I have only ever heard William. F. Buckley use. He began a column with it once, years ago. I believe it starts with a D. It means to call attention to something by saying you're not going to call attention to it a political device. I know it's out there. But I haven't heard it for 25 years. Anybody know what in the pumpkins that word is, offhand? I'd be grateful.

Anyway, best of luck, wherever the river takes you, Falcon. And to all to who are trying this.

Visits, Admit Days, and Open Houses / Re: Are CBA schools a joke?
« on: August 13, 2011, 12:49:45 AM »
I'm an insurance underwriter.

Duncan, I mean this in all sincerity, but that's a very good career field, isn't it?  How will having a JD help you?  Sincerely curious.

Hiya, Falcon. Lay underwriters underwrite less complex transactions than underwriting attorneys, with greater restrictions on the scope of the insurance they underwrite, the geographical territory in which they're allowed to work, and the amount of liability they're authorized to assume. Lay people process claims, but our attorneys actually decide them. A J.D., and more importantly, admission to the bar, will vault me out of the realm of laymen.

Visits, Admit Days, and Open Houses / Re: Are CBA schools a joke?
« on: August 12, 2011, 01:33:19 AM »
I attend a CBA school, Lincoln LS of Sacramento. I love it. My professors are judges and practicing attorneys, many of whom have been teaching there for 20 years or more. It works for me, Amy.

But there is a lot of truth in what people say about an ABA education vs. a state school. While you can get a J.D. from a state-accredited school without selling your soul to the bank, that's about where the advantage of a state J.D. ends. When I graduate, I'll only be able to take the CA bar. There has been some suggestion that I might be able to sit the bar in a few other states after I've practiced in California for 3-5 years, but it's a minority of states and I can't name a single one offhand. On the other hand, my wife's dearest friend since high school went to a state law school in SoCal. She recently retired from the Public Defender's Office after spending over 20 years litigating everything from forgery to murder cases. When she moved back to her family home in Kansas, she inquired about practicing there, and they told her, "So sorry, but you can't take our bar. You went to a state-accredited law school. Get the picture? Now get the hell out of this office."

To me, that's insanely elitist, but reality is reality. Frankly, with the glut of unemployed ABA graduates out there and the exorbitant cost of any law school (even state schools aren't exactly cheap), you really need to know why you want to attend law school, wherever you go. This is especially important if you're considering a state school over ABA. If you already have substantial experience and solid credentials in a particular field, and you know that 1) admission to the bar can only help your existing career, and 2) you will never leave California, then maybe you could make a state school pay off. I happen to fit the rather narrow profile of those who will almost certainly benefit from such an education, and I don't give a rip what they do in bleeping Kansas. I hate the Chiefs and I'm not moving there.

But if you're coming down from Canada, you may want greater mobility than a CBA will afford you. I've heard it said that many, if not most, attorneys end up working in fields of law that they never envisioned for themselves while in law school. It's just where the jobs led them, for good or ill. As a state school student, I'm going to apply my education to my field. I'll never defend or prosecute criminals. (God, who'd want to?) I'm in class with a lot of slightly older students, a retired prison warden, a director of human resources, and some private investigators, for example. I'm an insurance underwriter. Those of us with preexisting fields of concentration will be able to apply our legal knowledge within our chosen fields and as such, the ABA education probably isn't that necessary. But neither I nor probably most of them expect to compete for an associate attorney job in some random field of law after graduating. That would be a big step backwards career-wise, and with all the unemployed ABA grads out there, the competition would be pretty stiff.

And that cost won't change until (1) people stop flooding the schools with applications, and (2) loan money is not made so readily available.  Schools are responding to a (ill-conceived) demand, their seats are full and more schools are being opened.  Until the bubble bursts they will keep lowering the bar for admission.  Heck, Cooley is opening ANOTHER campus in FL.  At $1,200/credit hour that is like printing money.

Hi Hamilton. Up until maybe 20 years ago, when a person entered law school, he or she embarked on a path that most mortals could only dream about. Only a special few got into law school, and by limiting admission to that certain few, the profession preserved its elitism. But the elitism of being an attorney is eroding what with so many new lawyers flooding the market. In some respects, I think it's a good thing. Society holds all citizens accountable for knowing and applying the law in their own lives and in the lives of others you can't cause injury to another's person or property without legal consequences. Since everyone is under the same yoke, how is society improved by limiting access to the formal study of law to just a select few? Granted, more attorneys reduces the prospect of attaining substantial wealth from the practice of law, but at least more people may find access to the law if the glut of lawyers drives down the price of representation.  Law schools could easily maintain the elite social status of being an attorney by doubling or tripling their current tuition rates and abandoning all student loan programs. This would place the education out of the reach of the majority of people seeking admission. But under that scenario, the only people who would be able to study law would be the most wealthy among us. And they would also be the only ones with any access to it. That isn't right. There is definitely a shortage of jobs for new attorneys, but too many people express too much worry about whether other law students will be able to find jobs, it seems to me. If I can borrow from Clint Eastwood, it's what we know about ourselves inside that makes us worry.

Duncan, you're obviously a very intelligent person.  Our stories are remarkably similar.  I'm not even that far away from you as far as age goes.  You've obviously made an informed decision and are comfortable with the various risks involved.

Personally, although there may be a very small set of people for whom a non-ABA school may be appropriate, that set is probably very, very small. 

To me, the frightening thing is that it severely narrows your options.  Going to an ABA school may be problematic, and I think everybody should be aware of the potential pitfalls.  (My opinion?  Half of current law grads are probably going to be very disappointed at their professional lives after graduation.)

The thing that would frighten me about a non-ABA school is that as daunting as the prospects are for ABA-school grads, they're probably an order of magnitude worse for non-ABA grads. 

I have ideas of what I would like to do upon graduation, but who knows.  I have other options.  I can try to go JAG corps.  I can try to apply for work in the federal government.  Just off the top of my head, those are two options that no non-ABA graduate can even contemplate.

I can transfer to a better ABA school if I can get good enough 1L grades.  Again, no non-ABA graduate can even think about this.

Your decision may be appropriate for you, personally.  I just fear that only a very, very, very, very small proportion of your 1L classmates realistically know what they're getting into.  Granted, probably fully half or more of the 1Ls at my school don't know what they're getting into, either, but at least upon graduation, they're eligible to pursue a job in the DOJ or whatnot.

Best of luck to you.  As I said, we're not that different.  You're obviously a very intelligent person.  I hope things work out exactly as you have planned for them to.

Thanks for the compliments, Falcon. The only really intelligent thing I've ever done was to marry for love. But you're obviously just as intelligent as anybody here and you clearly have a generous measure of class to go with it.

I think you're right on target about the benefits of an ABA school. If a person wants options after graduation, ABA is the only way to go. This thread has been an exercise for me to explore some of Hamilton's rhetorical questions. Hopefully, the OP is getting some useful food for consideration out of it as well, in light of the difficult issues that have been discussed. But one of the most poignant things I've heard anybody say anywhere on this forum is your observation, Falcon, that "half of current law grads are probably going to be very disappointed at their professional lives after graduation." That smacks of fact. One of the hardest things to do in life is to find a career that you absolutely love, and then weave your life around it. Too many people of my acquaintance have settled for jobs they hate (the current marketplace for jobs notwithstanding). Somehow I managed to get it right, but I was 34 before I did. Enrolling in law school before you've fallen in love with a career in law seems bass-ackwards to me. It's certainly risky, at any rate. A person should first discover a love for working in law, at least on some level, and when that prerequisite has been established, boom: enroll. Otherwise, I fear the reality of what it means to be a lawyer may be sadly disappointing, if not flat-out boring for many people. In my discussions with classmates about our study habits, the better students consistently describe the bulk of their law school experience as solitary. The really good students that I've met don't seem to be chronically socializing with other students or meeting in study groups to practice spotting issues and to discuss cases. Instead, they're confined to their dens by themselves: reading cases and writing briefs, outlines, and practice exams. In essence, teaching themselves the law and how to apply it. It's a lonely business and not for everyone.

So as I survey the people spread across my class, I know that a percentage, mostly the younger ones, are unclear why they're even there or what they should expect from it. The older students tend to be very clear, on the other hand. Most of the older people expect the law education to enable them to perform their jobs better and to help them stay on top of their game and remain competitive, even if they never pass the bar. That in itself makes the education worthwhile. For example, I have several colleagues, all of whom ought be doing exactly what I'm doing to avoid stagnating at their desks. I don't mean to sound like I'm clapping myself on the back, but after a long day at work, I'm sitting in a classroom learning about res ipsa loquitur or 3PB contracts while my co-workers are all at home eating dinner and preparing for a hard night's TV schedule. The company sees this. Just as importantly, so do our clients. And after a single, swift year of law school, even at a mere state school, I'm becoming aware that I'm pulling ahead of my peers, most or all of whom have been in the business twice as long as I have. Pretty gratifying. At the same time, a lot of important leaders in my company and industry are stampeding toward retirement, and there isn't exactly a surfeit of qualified people to replace them. When those people start calling it a day in the next few years and the powers above look around at their options for promotion, I expect to be standing far apart from the crowd.

You're probably right that there aren't many people who can make a state school education really pay off. But for the right person in the right place with a good plan, I believe it's not as big a gamble as it may appear.

Duncan, out of curiosity, why did you pick a non-ABA accredited school?  Was it the cost, or is there simply no ABA school that's reasonably geographically close to you?

I would never have gotten into a really top school, no matter how hard I tried. I lacked the grades and the time to prepare for an adequate LSAT score. Cost was less of an issue than it might have been 20 years ago. In fact, it was a non-issue on one hand, but it certainly factored in my decision. I read on their website that McGeorge, my local ABA school, only permits its students to work 20 hours per week. Can't do that with a mortgage and a career. That said, once you hit 50, you really have to ask yourself whether spending $140,000 or so on a law degree will ever truly pay off, regardless of the quality of the school. That's a heck of an investment just to fuel what might prove to be nothing more than an ego trip in the end. In my situation, my only chance of making this endeavor pay off is the vertical horizon. I've got a great chance there. But I'm not likely to ever go looking for an associate position with some personal injury law firm, large or small. So I never seriously considered applying to McGeorge. Plus, when I got the idea to go to law school, I only had a scant few weeks, I think about six, to spend my evenings after work preparing for the June LSAT, and you need a score to enroll, even at a state school. I didn't want to waste another year waiting to matriculate at my age. (To those of you in your 20s or 30s, spend the year preparing. You've got the time. Do it right.) So two decades after graduating from Davis with a 3.3 UGPA and taking a lot less time to prepare than I needed, I scored in the average 150s on the LSAT. If I had set my sights on McGeorge, I would have needed to spend six months preparing for it, especially after not having taken a formal exam for so many years. I was a bundle of nerves during the thing. With my score, I would have been a marginal candidate at best if I had applied to McGeorge, notwithstanding my military service and the uber-compelling PS I wrote. And Davis? They would have just laughed. I considered applying for a transfer to McGeorge when I ranked inside the upper 5% after 1L grades came out this June, but honestly, by the time I graduate and take the bar, I highly doubt that the name of the school on my J.D. is going to help me much, regardless of what it is. In sum, the reality check is what propelled me into a state school.

Duncan, you are missing the point.  These so-called "disparaging" comments are not made out of malice, this is real advice and perspective given by people who have been on that path, or who have a different perspective on it.  It is not wise to simply view it as something that must be challenged - stop and listen with an open mind.  It is simply advice that may prevent someone from making a very costly mistake.  The perspective is that rather than invest time and money on a likely worthless JD, one may want to consider some other training or degree.

This idea that doors will suddenly be opened to new opportunity within existing careers is not a common reality - it certainly is not if one is planning on suddenly becoming in-house counsel.  Companies generally look for Sr. Associate/Partner level people for in-house, not a newbie from a non-ABA school.  The legal department will not look at you differently b/c you come from some other branch of the company with specialized knowledge - this is not meant to be harsh, but in-house legal does not need or want new lawyers from within the company.  You need to seriously, critically, and specifically ask yourself WHAT doors will open?  WHAT do they lead to?  HOW do they open?  "Doors will open" is as nebulous and non-descript as "hope and change."  WHAT ARE THE DETAILS?  If those opportunities exist right now, today, why are they not filled then?

I appreciate your insight, Hamilton. I would submit that some disparaging comments that I've read have been made rather smugly, and as I've stated previously, may even betray a certain insecurity in the person giving the advice. On the other hand, much of the advice to stick with ABA schools is solid and well-reasoned. I know very well that I'm arguing a tough case here. The details that you're calling for I'm not going to divulge on an open internet forum, just as a matter of prudence. I work for a national company and I'm attending law school under the guidance and mentoring of three of my company's attorneys. It would be fair to say that not all people have access to such valuable contacts and tutelage. But I would ask you to weigh from the several posts I've made on this thread whether I sound like a person who has not seriously, critically, and specifically asked himself whether admission to the bar would or would not open any doors? I made a thorough inquiry of my company well before I ever took the LSAT. The reality for me is that not all doors will fling wide open just because I pass the bar. But plenty of others will. Those doors are closed today because I'm not an attorney. I should note here that I'm not blazing any new trails, Hamilton. I merely saw where other audacious travelers went before, and decided to follow the same path.

Duncanjp, did you think I was being sarcastic?  I wasn't- I really can understand why someone would pick a state accredited school, depends on the school and area of course. 

I have also known at least one very successful local attorney who went to a state accredited school.  The guy has some inferiority issues that cause him to play games that well- makes him a feminine hygiene product, but that is in his own mind and has nothing to do with his school.  He seems to have gotten a decent education, even if on some level he feels inferior and is constantly trying to prove how smart he is.

You are being attacked from too many angles here.  The in house counsel angle is not as far fetched to me as to some of these other posters.  It isn't my area, but I do know enough to know that often its who you know, not what you know.  Seems like a perfectly reasonable angle to play.

Some smooth compromising (i.e. placating) rhetoric can turn this around to your favor.  I am eager to see how you play it.  :)

Hi Fortook! No, I didn't take that as sarcastic in the least. You're a sincere person as far as I can tell. :) And I appreciate your sincerity, too. (I'm a huge fan of Linus and pumpkin patches.) I'm just enjoying an intelligent conversation until classes commence. It's fun and stimulating to take up a tough cause. Incidentally, some people are just flat-out feminine hygiene products. You can't teach those people to be cool. They come from all walks of life, attending all law schools. And let's never forget, the majority thinks that ALL attorneys fit that description without the slightest discrimination. You cannot be a sufficiently moral person to overcome that perception after you've been admitted to the bar. People hate attorneys.

I've had so much to do over the last year that I haven't had time to play these games about which school a person should attend. It's summer and I'm on break. Yay. But over the last year, I've read many, many comments about the grim by-God realities and dangers of attending state schools, and honestly, nobody has mustered the nerve to attempt an argument in their favor. I've taken it up here for my own self-amusement. Arguments do exist, which you appear to have acknowledged. Sound arguments against state schools also exist. I've conceded as much several times. But I've noticed over the last year that many of the dire warnings against state schools are sweeping generalizations which take into account nothing of the student's circumstances or upward reach. This strikes me as naive and misinformed. Legal careers take many forms. To get work in Biglaw, you had better attend an ABA school. But it's laughable to me to hear people claim that it's critical to attend an ABA school to have a meaningful career in law. Absolute nonsense. If I can draw an analogy from music, some musicians are classically trained at prestigious schools and end up teaching kindergarten. Others get a guitar and teach themselves how to play in their bedrooms, then go on to become The Beatles. We should avoid painting with a broad brush. The spectrum of possibilities in life is large.

I can see how a person defending a state school could be accused of having inferiority issues. That's a risk I've assumed because I live with no fear. (I love that bumper sticker, although I would never put it on my car.) There's probably a grain of truth in it, too. Like I've said, I would love an ABA education. But in a similar vein, it may also be said that those among the ranks of ABA schools who make cavalier predictions about another student's future based exclusively on the information that the student attends a state-accredited law school may have ego issues themselves with which they will have to deal. It may even be the case that some such feel the need to squash the hopes of students of less-expensive schools out of a deep-rooted fear: a fear that in reality, the expense and debt of their ABA education might actually have been unnecessary. I am convinced that some of the vitriol against state schools that I've read in various threads around the internet stems from the same fundamental insecurity that intimidates most state students into quietly keeping their mouths shut.

Anyway, you are a thoughtful and reasonable person, Fortook. It's a pleasure to bounce thoughts off of you. I have to say, I absolutely love law school. I love the challenge. I love the knowledge I'm gaining. Wherever you go to school, this is an awesome experience.

A lot of what you said made sense, until this:

Some of my classmates and I anticipate becoming in-house counsel within our given industries, what with the contacts, experience and reputations that we've built. Great pay, weekends with the family, prestige among your peers, and working in a legal field. A pretty good gig. And a state school degree will do just fine to reach that goal.

Sure about this, are you?

LOL. Yes, I'm sure. I have 20 years in my field and for years I have worked closely with the attorneys in my legal department, several of whom followed the same path I'm taking now. My attorney-mentors have advised and encouraged me every step of the way since I first expressed an interest in law school, and my good grades are partly the result of my accountability to them. I realize that there are no guarantees of anything in life. Like Huck Finn, I'm just rafting down the river and checking out whatever comes along. But unlike some law students, perhaps, I'm not heading blindly downstream toward a completely unforeseeable, unpredictable hope. A law license can only help me.

I'm not saying that a state school would be the best bet for all law students. A young person with no experience, no contacts, no resume and no expertise in a given field could be taking a big chance by attending a state-accredited school. But a person with an established reputation and credentials in a field of concentration may not require the large leap and deep debt of an ABA school to realize substantial benefits from a state law school education and admission to his or her state bar. The decision hinges on numerous factors. Should you go to an ABA school? Do you really need to go to an ABA school? Allow me to dispel the myth: for some people, the answer to both questions is no.

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