The ABA student community is a swell group of people to get to know, but honestly, who can deny that there is a surfeit of unemployed, deeply-indebted, ambitious young ABA graduates out there who don't know whether to go uphill or down bearing the chains of their coveted interstate law degree? How many ABA graduates would not be more than happy finding steady work in their home town alongside some blue collar, state-accredited attorney?
A substantial number of attorneys here in California, including judges and district attorneys, received their J.D.s from state law schools. They passed the exam. Becoming a lawyer simply means you've read society's rules and know how to play the game. It's becoming less elitist all the time to be an attorney, and the massive debt that attending an ABA school creates, just so you can become another unemployed lawyer who has hypothecated the next 20 years of his or her life, needs to be weighed. The point is, there is no dishonor in attending a state-accredited law school. Every single person who passes the Bar exam in his or her given state hopes to find meaningful employment in the field. Some do, some don't. Getting the gig is the object, not bragging about the train that got you there. Granted, if you're still in your 20s or 30s and you want to go to law school, you should prepare hard for the LSAT and get your tail into an ABA school. Absolutely. An ABA degree will help an inexperienced greenhorn get a foot in the door. But if you're over 45, with a family and a mortgage, and you've already established a solid reputation in a given field with a career that could be enhanced, perhaps perfected, by getting a law degree and becoming a member of your state Bar, then forget about an ABA education. You don't need it. It's a waste. A state-accredited school will do nicely and you won't squander three times as much in tuition to serve clients who couldn't care less one way or the other where you went to law school. After you reach about 40-45 years old, the object is singular: get the license. Get The License. Period. Then you can wield it in your field of expertise to parry opponents and any who stand in your way.
Ha. I wish I'd said that.
if you do this, please do not whine when you do not get a job
employers know that it's more difficult to get into an ABA school. you say there are tons of unemployed graduates of ABA accredited schools. this should mean something.
That's my point: it does mean something. It means a lot of people are being suckered into blowing enormous sums of money by the lure of a false hope that having an ABA degree will place them fat in the middle of a lucrative position in an office suite atop San Francisco or New York. Or that merely having an ABA degree guarantees them that they'll land a job. No degree guarantees anybody anything: you make of it what you can. But whatever the benefits and greater opportunities of having an ABA degree may be, the returns drop precipitously for older students, especially those with years of experience who have already forged careers in particular fields. For us, a state-accredited school is just fine. My professors are all judges and practicing attorneys. They know what they're talking about and they tend to be enthusiastic communicators. They have also not hidden the fact that statistically, the A-B students are the ones who pass the Bar exam. Students in a state-accredited school with a 2.0 GPA do tend to have problems passing. Regardless, I see absolutely no reason to join the stampede of 20-somethings into massive debt when you are considering law school at 45-50 unless you have money to burn. The prestige of the ABA degree will not pay off. And if you do not intend to relocate to another state, the ABA benefits diminish even further.
If you're 25 or 30, sure, get the best education you can afford. If I were 20 years younger, I would definitely set my sights on an ABA school by spending six months or a year preparing for the LSAT. I went to UC Davis and got great grades as an undergraduate. It's not my philosophy in life to settle for less than that of which I'm capable. But I'm also a realist. If you've established yourself in a worthwhile career that could be enhanced by admission to your State Bar Association, then why on Earth would you want to blow all that money on an ABA education? It would be a total waste.
At this stage of the game, it's only about getting the license. Nothing else. I may have squandered some time in my life, but I'm not about to waste my money. The reality is, very few employers are likely to hire an older law school graduate solely
on the basis of where he or she attended law school. If you're young with no experience in a field, then all you've got is your degree. Make it the best degree you can. But my resume hinges on the 20 years of experience I've gained in my field. A J.D. will enhance my resume, but it won't form the cornerstone of it, ABA or not. And it would show an incredible lack of vision on my part to take a step backwards in my career now by accepting a position as a public defender or an associate attorney somewhere at half my current salary. Not to mention the disappointment that my wife would rain down on my head for the loss of income.
And regarding whining, frankly, the only whining I ever hear is from the multitudes of deeply indebted ABA graduates out there scamblogging about how they can't find work to pay off their school loans. I've never heard any state-accredited law school graduates griping about their debt and how unfair the world has been to them. Further, I know numerous working attorneys who went to state schools. The J.D. is simply what you make of it. Honestly, a person who wants to go to an ABA law school really needs to consider what he's doing - and why - a lot more carefully than a person entering a state school. Granted, there are law firms that won't even talk to graduates of state-accredited schools. But at my age and station in life, I don't need those law firms. I only want the education and a chance to sit the Bar. When I graduate from my locally reputable, state-accredited law school, I won't owe anybody so much as one thin dime. I'm paying as I go. And I'm in the top 5% after the first year, so I believe I have a reasonable chance of passing the Bar exam on the first try if I can keep on keeping on. We'll see about that later. I know the stats. But the only whining I ever encounter comes from the ranks of disgruntled elitists blaming their ABA schools for their personal failures. Boo hoo. I moonlighted for years to keep my mortgage paid. My patience for whiners is fast evaporating.
As I said, if I were 20 years younger, I would set my sights on an ABA education. I can't dispute the greater prestige of an ABA degree. But if you're an older person who is entrenched in a career already, who merely wants to enhance that career by becoming a licensed attorney, then you don't need an ABA degree. State-accredited law schools serve the purpose fine and they don't put you 30 years in the hole.