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Messages - Duncanjp

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I realize this is an old thread, but it's worth a revival to balance some of the information posted here.

I'm a veteran. When I first enrolled in law school, I had connected with the other vets in my class by the second week. We all quickly learned who the other vets were, what branch everyone served under, and what MOS (job specialty) everyone held. Wherever life takes a vet, he or she knows who the other vets are. If you did not receive an honorable discharge after your tour of duty, you are not only not in the clique, but you're likely to be ostracized by other vets if they find out you were kicked out. But you know that already. My career began with an interview in a field I knew nothing about. The interviewer had also done a tour in the military and we spent a full hour doing nothing but swapping stories about our time in the service. He hired me on the spot. But if my interviewer had learned that I received less than an honorable discharge, he would have stopped talking about the military immediately, and my interview would have ended on the note that several candidates were being considered. I never would have heard from him again.

You have to seriously F up to get kicked out of the military. This is true even if the discharge was for something fairly innocuous like being gay or getting caught with a little weed, for which they had almost no tolerance when I served. If the Army punts you from its ranks for something that didn't involve moral turpitude or a violent crime, then it was your judgment that failed you more than your conduct. To illustrate, soldiers who want to continue being soldiers do not smoke weed on base or have sex in the barracks with each other. It's too risky. That said, those who in the past were given a general discharge for being gay probably have nothing to worry about, other than the homophobia that they might face anywhere. Attitudes have changed. But you'd almost have to walk in the door announcing your sexual preference in order to overcome the blemish of a general discharge. If the discharge was for any other reason except medical, you'll have provide details that are probably very regrettable.

If your interviewer never served, you may be able to conceal your service record. But if your interviewer ever served in any branch, you'll have a difficult hurdle to get over. And given the legal field's interest in an attorney's background, it'll probably be a tough thing to conceal without lying, even if the interviewer never served. Fortunately for you, most people do not serve in the military, so the failure to connect as fellow vets may not matter with every firm that gives you an interview. But a general discharge will matter to some of them, and it will absolutely matter if the firm is run by a veteran. 

Job Search / Re: For all those who cry about our jobs stats......
« on: September 02, 2012, 01:01:26 PM »
Also, a 3.0 and a 4.0 are miles apart, Duncanjp.  At most state universities, a 3.0 in a liberal arts degree doesn't require hardly any effort.  Maybe some 4.0's aren't "that" impressive, but a true 4.0 shows dedication.    That said, a 3.6 and holding down a job is pretty dang impressive. A 3.0 and holding down a job shows you have the skills of a highly functioning primate, at least.

I wasn't belittling a 4.0, Jack . It's certainly impressive, regardless of the graduate's major. My point was that a person who has the luxury of going to college without having to hold down a job ought to get good grades. Working at BK or wherever is time-consuming, and it drains the person both mentally and physically. The student who can get good grades in undergrad while holding down steady employment simply demonstrates discipline, character, and a clear work ethic, which are highly marketable traits to have. This doesn't mean that a person with a 4.0 might not also possess the same traits. But the student with a high GPA who doesn't have to work has only proven that he or she did what one should expect of them during college. Obviously, they're capable of learning. But it doesn't really demonstrate much about their work ethic when required to do something they don't want to do, or whether they'll take mental health days on a regular basis, or how well they're going to cope with angry clients, insensitive bosses, snide co-workers, and the weekly grind out in the real world. Incidentally, I used to work with somebody who, unbelievably, had a custom license plate that read 4.0 GPA. Even if pretentious, he was a very intelligent guy. But his interpersonal skills created a thick glass ceiling over his head, which kept him from ever getting anywhere close to a position in management. My point is that, standing alone, a GPA, like the LSAT, is an imperfect predictor of later success.

That's anecdotal, I realize. I think Cher is correct, though. A person who works her way through college and gets a 3.3 would almost certainly have gotten a much higher GPA if she had not had to work at all. But she's shown things that the 4.0 has not necessarily shown: (1) the ability to manage her time under a substantially harder schedule; (2) an ability to juggle multiple, diverse responsibilities; and (3) an ability to function successfully outside the ivory tower of academia. Furthermore, there is a good probability that the working student with the solid GPA is going to have a healthier, more cooperative ego, than the 4.0, who will be tempted to think he's above mopping a floor or making a pot of coffee. After several years in management, I've seen enough of both to know and can declare from experience that a good attitude has far more to do with success in business (maybe not government) than one's superior knowledge. The person who has to work through college knows that she's not entitled to anything, and nobody's going to hand her a dime. The student who never worked through college may or may not know that, but as an employer weighing candidates, it crosses your mind - especially if you had to work through college yourself.

All of that being said, 10 or 15 years out of college, the playing field levels. Nobody is going to be uber-impressed by your 4.0 or the fact that you worked your way through college. Your credentials and success will speak for themselves. If you're right out of school looking for work, you stress your 4.0 if you have one, or you stress your character + solid GPA if you worked. There's no shame in either. But there's no excuse for getting a really low GPA, whether you worked or not. That person has shot himself in the foot big time. That person has shown that he cannot learn new things, cannot juggle responsibilities or manage time, and probably had no discipline in college at all. Would have been better waiting until he grew up a little before enrolling.

If you've read any of my posts on this or other topics you'll see that I'm not a snob when it comes to legal education. My own degree is from a small, regional school. But I have personal, recent experience with government law offices, and hiring is much more competitive than you seem to think. At both the office I worked at, and the office my wife (a local government attorney) currently works at, an online or unaccedited grad would not have gotten an interview no matter how good their writing sample was. And if you can't get the interview, who cares how good your interpersonal communication skills are? A Calbar grad might have gotten an interview if they had 5-10 years of relevant experience, but unquestionably there is a strong preference for ABA grads.

It's possible that in a rural county with fewer applicants the results would be different, or that small firms would not be quite so competitive.

Per usual, Roald, you write a well-considered, matter-of-fact post here that reflects an admirably balanced point of view. Personally, I would be intimidated to try to compete against ABA grads in a job competition outside of my career field (title insurance). You touch upon an undeniable reality about job hunting today that cannot be denied. I've held management positions with the responsibility for hiring and firing. A few years before the economy tanked, I ran an ad for an entry level position in my department and I received 150 replies. And again, that was before the crash. The only way I could handle the response was to automatically eliminate everyone who had not graduated from college, which was the vast majority. After that, I looked at where they attended school, what they studied, and where they had worked. I also paid attention to the quality of the writing in their cover letters, but I didn't get to the writing analysis until after I had assessed their academic credentials. Those with just an A.A. from a junior college went out with the others. Ultimately, I whittled the interviews down to two people who had graduated from the same UC that I graduated from, and one other who graduated from the local Cal State U. I hired one of the UC applicants and we enjoyed sharing the bond for the whole time that we worked together. For that reason, unless the employer has a non-ABA background herself, those from non-ABA schools who hope to be competitive against ABA grads probably need a wake-up call: they're going to be filtered out. Local governments are going broke. ABA grads themselves can't find work, and do-it-yourself legal websites are starting to tear into the opportunities that non-ABA grads once had. Non-ABA schools can be an appropriate choice for people in my shoes, but for those who hope to compete for work on the strength of nothing more than their academic credentials, I can't imagine settling for less than the very best school that would give them admission.

BTW, there is a lot of talk about if someone goes to an online school they won't be able to get a job.  Many threads by grads of traditional schools focus on getting a job.  Can get, hope to get, can't get.  A job.  With the horrific tuition debt they were snookered into shelling out they have to get a job.  Most folks who go to online schools already have a job. They're older, which is why they went or are going the online route.  They're not looking to "get a job."  By going to NWCU you can get a good legal education, without the debt, and without the worrisome need of having to "get a job", any job, to pay off that debt.  Freedom has it's advantages.  Including the advantage to quit law school if the person decides they don't like it at a minimum investment.  Same afterwards.  Don't like being a lawyer?  Fine the person has a nice JD on their resume & can go find some other place & way to live out their life.  For myself I've owned my own business for 24 years.  Lawyering is my fun retirement plan :)  I will never put my life in the hands of another person ever again.  That's what "having a job" is.  Putting one's present life in someone's else's hands.  Traditional law students are forced to do that.  ..... my clock...whatever that expression is.  Ticks me off big time!  All government backed student loans are meant to do is have a new little taxpayer enter the system, forced to enter the system, while they are walking the exit steps of law school.  In fact any school or college.  People think the government is loaning out money from the bottom of their hearts or something?  Hah!   Do law students think those job employment salary figures are meant to benefit the students?

You draw an important jobs distinction between ABA and non-ABA students, a point that seems to fly over the heads and under the radar of those who melodramatically predict failure if one does not attend an ABA school. Nobody disputes the greater prestige of an ABA degree and the advantages that attach to it. Years ago, I would not have thought to go anywhere else. And yes, a percentage of non-ABA grads become victim to the underlying truth of such warnings. But the ABA has its victims as well, which needs no addressing here. More importantly, time changes one's needs and goals, and not every prospective law student wants to work in biglaw. Besides, the percentage that actually lands and survives in biglaw represents only a fraction of employed attorneys. Not every prospective law student wants to leave her home state. Not every prospective law student is concerned with finding work at all after passing the bar. And not every prospective law student can justify the exorbitant cost that an ABA program requires, even if the cash to pay is readily available. That's why I chose to attend a CBE school. I'm 15 years into a career that I love with hundreds of connections and colleagues. It would be asinine to abandon my career path now to take a job defending criminals or hoping to find an entry level position in biglaw. CBE schools and online schools especially generally serve a different demographic than ABA schools. Older, experienced professionals who are looking to advance their current careers and rise above the ranks of laymen can get a lot of mileage from a non-ABA education, while saving themselves a small fortune in the process. Non-ABA students are frequently highly driven people who have but one immediate goal: get the license. The elitist claim that nobody would opt for anything less than ABA if the money and the intellect were not lacking ignores a fundamental reality: not every prospective law student needs the ABA advantage to derive a significant benefit from a legal education.

Any attorney that doesn't respect an opposing counsel is probably going to get their ass handed to them. If an attorney has passed the bar they can file motions against you, order sanctions against you, etc, and if you respond with your honor he/she went to an online school their motion for summary judgment doesn't count will not be much of an argument and your client will lose the case and you may be disciplined for saying that.

There are sitting judges from California bar schools and I imagine it is only a matter of time until a judge from an online school gets appointed if it has not happened already. Try disrespecting a judge based on what school they go to and see how it works out.

Again I don't think anyone is arguing California Northwestern or any Online school is going to open more doors than ABA school and there are likely firms that will not hire non-aba yet alone online law grads. There are also places that won't hire you unless you went to Harvard, but in a country with 300 million or so people in it there will be different opinions.

I personally wouldn't attend an online law school, but I am one. There are people out there that won't attend law school unless they get into Harvard, Yale, Stanford. There are people that won't date anyone that doesn't look like a supermodel and there are people that couldn't possibly drive anything less than a 2009 Ferrari. There is a broad range of expectations in this world and whether online law school works for you or not is a personal decision. Talk to people directly involved with the school and not just the PR department as they are certain to paint a rosier picture than the reality that is their job after all.

Always be wary of anonymous internet posters that know nothing about you, your situation, or what is best for you myself included.

Online law school may work out it may not and if any of us knew how our decisions would turn out life would be a lot less stressful. Again use your common sense when making the decision and good luck to you!


Pretty eloquent comment. You clearly have a widescreen option for your field of vision. Well said.

Minority and Non-Traditional Law Students / Re: Hello/Bonjour
« on: June 30, 2012, 10:26:33 PM »
Bonjour, Sophie. I know several people here in California who were not able to advance to the second year due to poor grades. Those who retook the first year have all had much better results the second time around. I think what you may need to do is get a calendar and block out the times that you do not have available to study, whether due to work, class, or whatever. Then you can determine when your schedule will afford you the time to study. Make yourself a schedule and discipline yourself to stick to it.

Online Law Schools / Re: Abraham Lincoln University, School of Law
« on: June 30, 2012, 08:35:03 PM »
Roald offers you some excellent advice. Pay close attention to him.

I attend Lincoln Law School of Sacramento, which has only CBE accreditation. Having already established a solid career that I do not intend to abandon after I graduate, attending a state-accredited school makes sense because what I will be doing after I pass the bar won't depend upon the prestige of my J.D. That said, if I had gone to an ABA school, even more doors might have opened up in my career that will otherwise remain closed. However, just getting the license will vault me far above my lay colleagues and position me to do bigger and better things. If you can say that, then maybe a non-accredited school would serve your purposes. But Roald is right about the pass rates.  I know people who have had to take the baby bar their success rate is dismal. The pass rate is typically only 20 percent. There are contributing factors to the low percentage. For example, some of the students who have to take it were those who could not pass ordinary first-year law school exams. If you cannot pass a simple crim law final, you're going to struggle with the FYLSE. Some say that the baby bar is particularly difficult. I don't believe this is true. The fact patterns that I've seen from it are ordinary tort and contract problems, which any average law student should be able to pass with ease. But the statistics don't lie. Bar and baby bar pass rates for those who study at non-accredited schools speak for themselves. Even brick and mortar CBE schools like mine grapple with bar pass rates. I've heard that the percentage of CBE graduates who ever manage to pass the bar hovers around 70 percent. I've met people who have failed the bar five times or more. That's got to be devastating. Think carefully about what you're doing and what your goals are before choosing a school.

Current Law Students / Re: Is Law School a jungle?
« on: June 30, 2012, 01:40:58 PM »
second one more like julie's favorite show, raising leafy ferns.


Just speculating here, but the unrealistic expectations of some (perhaps many) who enroll in law school doubtless stem from inexperience with the world outside their college dorms. The money fallacy is one aspect. But I'd really like to know how many young grads are attracted to law school every year after watching TV dramas and movies that glamorize the practice of law by featuring supermodel attorneys who snap a constant barrage of witty moral barbs at slimy male associates and hero lawyers who zealously rescue the innocent accused from the reckless grip of injustice. It's entertainment, I guess, if you like that sort of thing. My wife loves those shows. (Committed law student here and I usually can't stand shows about lawyers unless Marisa Tomei is involved.) But the reality is that practicing law can be a lonely occupation, with heavy pressure, long hours, and unfortunate consequences for snapping too many witty moral barbs at people. Smart attorneys keep their mouths shut most of the time. The attorneys I work with and the professors at my school are all very bright people, but God, they're also terribly ordinary for the most part. There is very little sparkle and glam. In fact, several attorneys of my acquaintance, excellent lawyers who have toiled in law for many years, have assumed the rather sad demeanor of old soldiers who have simply seen too many people die.

But nobody in her right mind wants to sit and watch that.

Incoming 1Ls / Re: Baby Bar
« on: June 14, 2012, 08:49:08 PM »
I also am new to posting here, but have been quite disappointed with the negativity on these boards. 

Welcome to the reality of law school forums, Glen. Negativity I can handle. But I really struggle with the lack of civility and petulant disposition of so many of those who post on law school forums, whether this one or others. Law school forums are unequivocally the rudest topical forums I have ever experienced on the internet. I might post more often if I thought I could get a polite, vigorous discussion about issues and points of view, which can be thoroughly enjoyable. I like banter and I respect alternate points of view. But the second you express an opinion of any kind on a law school forum, those who disagree frequently seize the chance to launch reprehensible personal attacks. And they don't really warrant a response because replying just gives them fuel to keep showing how juvenile they are and how incapable they are of serious discourse. I would have expected more from law students. A lot more.

That said, Falconjimmy, Fortook, Cerealkiller, Roald, and a couple of others on this forum are very capable of holding intelligent conversations about issues without telling you to stfu just because they disagree.

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