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Messages - Duncanjp

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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."

Online Law Schools / Re: NWCU by the numbers
« on: April 02, 2013, 09:32:04 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.

Online Law Schools / Re: NWCU by the numbers
« on: March 31, 2013, 12:02:20 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.

Current Law Students / Re: How do lawyers get clients?
« on: February 10, 2013, 10:04:01 PM »
see scabs on knees?  from ambulances stop suddenly.

Why do you post on LSD, Julie?

Wait. Maybe that question answers itself.

you so deep, einstein.  your community college crowd must give you lots ego reinforcement.

LOL. Indeed they do.

There are many answers to your question, but one of the most important things you can do is network with other attorneys. Constantly getting your name, face, and work product in front of as many other attorneys as you can will put you in the pipeline for referrals. It'll start out as the kind of work the referring attorney doesn't want, but work is work. That's how you build experience, self-confidence, and a networking system, i.e., relationships. You've got to sell yourself  not your soul: your service and expertise. It takes a while. You need to be determined to succeed.

Current Law Students / Re: How do lawyers get clients?
« on: February 09, 2013, 02:12:06 PM »
see scabs on knees?  from ambulances stop suddenly.

Why do you post on LSD, Julie?

Wait. Maybe that question answers itself.

In an ideal world Id be able to practice all day long to the point Id be able to give lectures on the LSAT, but realistically I work two jobs, cant afford a prep course and can only study a few hours a week on a borrowed book from my local library.  I have no problem understanding LSAT concepts it's the time factor that I struggle with

1. Even though CBE schools are less expensive than ABA, attending a CBE school is an expensive proposition. Law school wants money every time you turn around. If you can't afford an LSAT prep course, you're going to have a rude awakening once you enroll somewhere - anywhere. Not that prep courses are critical, but a serious student would find a way to get into one, especially if he's already received a score in the low 140s on a formal administration of the test (versus self-testing).

2. You can buy study guides from LSAC and elsewhere for $20-$40. If you're limiting your preparation to a few hours a week with a book borrowed from the library, you aren't approaching the LSAT with nearly the energy, dedication, and determination that you need to apply to it. You should be tackling practice exams every evening and all weekend for months before the next LSAT. Not a few hours a week.

3. Part-time attendance at law school is a second full-time job. If you don't devote the time to it, you'll waste your time, their time, and your money.

Just some food for thought. Law school success demands that you be all in, or not in at all.

Incoming 1Ls / Re: Baby Bar
« on: December 17, 2012, 10:20:08 PM »
I have mixed emotions about unaccredited law schools. One the one hand, they may serve a purpose for the right person. On the other, that purpose is probably something other than putting a J.D. on one's resume in furtherance of applying for jobs as an attorney.

Hi Duncan (I used to post as Roald, but got bored and changed my nom de plume). As usual, I think your analysis is spot on. Unaccredited schools can be the best choice for the right student. Much of the criticism of unaccredited schools is unfair and comes from younger ABA students who don't understand the benefits that may accrue to an older student who just wants to further their career, and couldn't care less about biglaw. Like I said, I've met attorneys (and even a judge) who graduated from unaccredited schools.

That said, in order for someone to determine whether or not an uaccredited program is right for them they've got to understand the potential limitations of such a degree. And it's here that I see some blissful ignorance (or denial) on the part of some unaccredited students.

I go back and forth on this issue of unaccredited law schools. Clearly they serve a purpose, but it's equally clear that some issues with FYLSE and bar pass rates exist. Are the low FYLSE pass rates due to a lack of academic rigor? Or is there a lack of meaningful feedback to the students? Or is the problem with admissions (letting in unqualified students)? Maybe it's a combination of these and other factors.

As I said, much of the criticism of unaccredited schools is unfair and is based on snobbery. Nonetheless, if unaccredited/online programs want to be taken seriously they've got to meet the rest of the legal profession half way. It's not enough to just say "Everyone else needs to change their attitude." They are going to have to significantly boost their FYLSE/bar exam pass rates. Until then, I don't think much will change.

You mentioned that your CBE degree is only a notch above an unaccredited degree, but I'd disagree. CBE schools are accredited, just not by the ABA. In California the bench and bar are well stocked with CBE grads, and many CBE law schools have good local reputations. I've worked at offices where CBE grads worked alongside UCLA grads, but where an unaccredited grad would probably not even get an interview, period. That may be unfair and short sighted, but it's true nonetheless.

The fact is, the CBE schools have already proven that non-ABA degrees can be accepted by the legal profession if they adhere to predictable, accepted standards. 

LOL. I thought you sounded like Roald as I read your post. Hilarious.

I was being slightly facetious when I said a CBE degree is only a notch above an unaccredited school, but I'm a realist about it, too. It has its limitations. A number of my colleagues who are CBE-educated attorneys have also admitted to me that not having an ABA degree has definitely held them back in their careers. But from where I sit, there's nowhere to go but up.

You're correct that unaccredited schools need to figure out what they're doing wrong insofar as improving the number of their graduates who ever pass the bar. I can't see wasting my time and money - especially the latter - on a legal education if I didn't plan to pass the bar exam. There was an article that came out a few months ago about a proposal to require CBE schools to reach a minimum average pass rate of 50% over a five-year period or lose their state accreditation. I think that's a sound idea, personally. The education is just too expensive to get all the way through the program and then find yourself unable to get over the last hurdle.

I've noticed that my professors are starting to talk more and more about the bar and what it takes to pass it. My con law prof in particular likes to spend five or ten minutes at the beginning of each class to put things into perspective for us. He's a great guy, but a very sobering individual. About two weeks ago, he said to us, "You're all working adults, some with families, some with mortgages. It can be tough to take eight weeks off from work to immerse yourself in the law and do nothing but prepare for the bar. But you need to be thinking about how you're going to do that now, while you still have a year and a half to go. Consider your competition: all those students who graduate from ABA schools. Do you think they're going to be working 40 hours a week during those eight weeks leading up to the bar exam?" You could have heard a pin drop. He didn't even need to shake his head. So it's an ominous road ahead when you're a night student with a career. I can't even imagine what it must be like facing the bar while attending an unaccredited school.

That said, I still have 19-20 months before I sit the bar. I'm already in bar review classes, which will run twice a year until I take the bar. I'll be spending the next 20 months working on my approaches and my issue-spotting skills. And I've informed my boss that I'll need to take a leave of absence to prepare for the bar when the time comes. So I hope I've got a fighting chance. I'm sure trying to do what it takes. But this is a steep hill to climb.

Incoming 1Ls / Re: Baby Bar
« on: December 15, 2012, 01:32:53 PM »
I agree. This illustrates one of the problems I have with unaccredited programs. Unaccredited programs accept almost everyone and have little in the way of prerequisites. Bachelor's degree not required, good UGPA not required, LSAT not required. In other words there's no "weeding out" process previous to matriculation and many unqualified applicants are admitted. Not surprisingly a huge number fail the FYLSE and bar exam.

Certainly there are smart, successful graduates of unaccredited schools. I've had the pleasure of meeting several. Statisically, however, these graduates are the exception, not the rule. If someone hasn't demonstrated that they can succeed academically or on a standardized test (LSAT), I'm not sure what criteria (if any) is used to determine that they'll be able to pass the state legal exams.

Hi, Maintain. Good, thoughtful post. I have mixed emotions about unaccredited law schools. One the one hand, they may serve a purpose for the right person. On the other, that purpose is probably something other than putting a J.D. on one's resume in furtherance of applying for jobs as an attorney. I attend a CBE school. My decision to enroll required a balancing test similar to that which students of unaccredited schools would have to apply, even though my school is accredited in California and the school enjoys local respect. With an unaccredited school, you get the education, for whatever it's worth. A CBE school is only a few notches above that, since outside of the local legal market, the J.D. is pretty well meaningless, except maybe to non-attorneys. But I understood that when I enrolled. For me, the goal is less about enhancing my resume for job hunting and more about developing my capacity to analyze risk as an attorney. Once I've passed the bar, my mission will be accomplished. I already have an established career in insurance underwriting. A killer degree from a ranking ABA school would be suh-weet, but I don't believe it would advance my career much further than my blue collar J.D. will. Not enough to justify the hit that my retirement savings would take, at any rate. I'm in law school because 15 years into my career, I felt like I'd reached an insuperable plateau. I work with other lay underwriters who have been doing the same thing now for 35 years. My only shot at rising above my lay peers is to become underwriting counsel. With a CBE education and a bar card, I'll rise well above my colleagues and I won't have to spend 35 years in the business to do it. The license makes all the difference. And my company is completely behind me. My mentoring attorneys have all said, "Just get the license." Fifteen years ago, when I had no experience and no industry contacts, the advice would have been different. But my law school alma mater won't matter as much once I pass the bar because my position and reputation within my company are already firmly established. That said, I'll never run the legal department. But that's not my goal, anyway.

I think unaccredited schools can serve a niche market of people who just want to learn how to apply the law, but don't intend to become BigLaw attorneys. On a more basic level, they also provide people who would never be accepted by regular law schools with a chance to ride the bumper cars, as it were. Maybe their chances of success are slim, but inasmuch as the law applies to everybody, I believe everybody should have an opportunity to take a stab at it. If they get a hard dose of reality, well... That's life. But with unaccredited schools, at least giving it a try doesn't come at a ridiculous, crippling cost. And if they succeed against the odds, they'll do with the license whatever they can.

Personally, I would not not attend any institution of higher learning that wasn't at least accredited by my state. The statistics are scary enough for evening students like myself for passing the bar, so students of unaccredited institutions really need to weigh the realities. But accreditation itself is a competitive field, and the higher the accreditation value, the higher the cost of enrolling. Prospective law students need to identify the point where the cost-to-value ratio satisfies their goals and investment-backed expectations.

Incoming 1Ls / Re: Baby Bar
« on: December 15, 2012, 01:09:54 AM »
Jenn is right. The key is issue spotting. I got a terrible grade on my crim midterm, which was the first law exam I took after the LSAT. Unfortunately, I didn't have the luxury of taking pre-law, so I really didn't know what I was doing. Thankfully, it was weighted only 25% of my grade. There was a homicide and I threw every factoid of law in the book at it, whether it applied or not. Puking law. When the exam ended, I hadn't addressed all of the issues. I hadn't even addressed the whole call of the question. But by the time I took my final, I had figured out the game. When they said, "Go," I didn't even open my test. I took the scratch paper and wrote down a checklist of all of the crimes and inchoate crimes, and all of the defenses we had covered. As I went through the facts, I had my finger on my checklist and I check off every single one, plus every plausible crime for analysis, even if I could see that it didn't have all of the elements. And boom: aced the final. That's how you pass law school exams. You spot all of the issues and talk about them intelligently. The baby bar is no different. If you hit all of the issues and talk about them with the right rule, passing the BB should be a snap.

That said, if somebody is reading a fact pattern on the BB, and they start talking about torts when the problem is crim, then they need to just give it up. They aren't lawyer material.

Oakland Raider games rule. Some of the most fun I've ever had.

Incoming 1Ls / Re: Baby Bar
« on: December 11, 2012, 11:46:12 AM »
Here's another reason so many people fail the Baby Bar: Most of the people taking it are complete morons who don't belong anywhere near the law.

I don't think a pejorative term like "moron" is necessarily a fair or accurate way to describe those who fail the baby bar. Skill in any field is relative and people aren't morons simply because they aren't quite as adroit as others when it comes to applying the law to a set of facts.

However, there is truth in your statement. I've been maintaining this exact point for some time now, if trying to express it a little nicer. The reason the baby bar seems hard is because so many of the people who have to take it have already demonstrated that passing law exams gives them trouble. I've read some of the essay questions that appear on the baby bar. They look like ordinary law school essays to me. Nothing more difficult than the essay questions I faced with my first year final exams. It's all the same material. Contracts is contracts. Torts is torts. Crim is crim. It's easy if you know your outline and you've gotten some decent feedback on enough practice tests. There is no good reason to fail the baby bar unless you fail to prepare properly, you write at an elementary level, or you just can't think logically under timed constraints. My guess is that the majority of those who fail the exam do not prepare properly, or effectively. They haven't practiced writing about the law nearly enough. But most law students who passed their first year exams by a comfortable margin would have no problem passing the baby bar. It'd just be another exam to them. The BB's reputation for difficulty reflects only the perceptions of those who struggle to pass ordinary law exams to begin with.

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