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Messages - Maintain FL 350

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Law School Applications / Re: Exaggerations on Law School Application
« on: January 09, 2013, 11:35:55 AM »
On my application to law school, I exaggerated my involvement in campus activities. 

Let's be clear: you didn't exaggerate, you flat out lied. However, the lies were fairly minor and involved a non-critical aspect of your application (as opposed to GPA/LSAT/criminal activity, etc.).

In my opinion, it is ALWAYS better to disclose the issue than to sit around nervously hoping that no one discovers the lie. Admittedly, it is unlikely that this particular lie would be discovered, but why take the chance? Starting now you are expected to act in conformity with the bar's rules. In these situations the bar almost always views the cover up as worse than the lie. The only thing that can likely hurt you here is not disclosing.

I don't know what state you're in, but it's not inconceivable that the bar application will ask about organizational membership (especially officer positions). They will have your law school application, and may compare the two.

Lastly, no one on this site is a representative of your state bar. The opinions you get here are just that, opinions. Follow your state bar's rules and don't count on anonymous advice from me or anyone else.   

Law School Applications / Re: GPA 3.88 LSAT160
« on: January 04, 2013, 03:30:49 PM »
Both Livinglegend and Jack24 have provided excellent advice, I'll just add a couple of points.

You're a splitter, which makes it a difficult to predict where you'll get into. I was in a situation similar to yours, with the numbers reversed (average GPA, high LSAT). I was told by almost everyone that I should apply to a ton of schools, see where I got accepted, and attend the one with the highest ranking, period. I chose instead to accept a large scholarship at a locally/regionally respectable school, though not a prestigious one. It was the right decision for me, and it may or may not be the right decision for you.

Spend some time thinking about what you want to do after law school, whether it's big firm work, the prosecutor's office, solo practice, whatever. Be realistic, and objectively evaluate your strengths and weaknesses. I think most of my classmates started law school with the intent to become biglaw associates, federal prosecutors, judicial clerks, etc. The fact is, only a fraction of law school grads get those coveted positions. You'll face very well qualified competition, and you should have a backup plan.

Next, consider what type of school you need to graduate from in order to accomplish that goal. If you want to work at a 500 lawyer firm in LA or NYC, you better find a way to translate that 3.88/160 into an acceptance letter from Yale. If you want to work as a county prosecutor, the local law school might be just fine. 

Now think about how finances will affect your goals. Will a $150-200k student debt prevent you from going solo, or from taking a job with the public defender? Alternatively, what if you rack up that debt with the hope of obtaining a biglaw job and simply don't get hired? It's a very real possibility. Will that $2000 per month payment prevent you from buying a house, or a new car, or saving for retirement?

Finally, although the above posters have already mentioned this, think about location. Very few schools have the kind of elite reputation that will get you hired based on pedigree alone. The vast majority of schools have local/regional reputations, and your job connections, internship possibilities, etc will be local. The law school rankings, in my experience, matter less the further away you get from the elite schools. A local T3/T4 may have better post-grad opportunities in it's immediate area than an out-of-state, non-elite T1 or T2.

Good luck!

Transferring / Re: No more beating around the bush
« on: January 03, 2013, 11:41:08 AM »
What gives you the best chance of making that salary is getting hired by a big firm. Here's what gives you the best (but not the only) chance at biglaw:

1) Transfer somewhere other than SMU, someplace higher ranked, like UT. (I assume you want to stay in TX?) SMU is a good school with a good regional reputation, but biglaw jobs are incredibly competitive. You'll be competing against others who are also top 2%, law review, etc and from bigger name schools. Those firms are snobby, and pedigree matters.

I'm sure that some SMU grads get hired into biglaw, as I said SMU has a good regional name. But if you want to know what gives you the best chance at biglaw, try to transfer to someplace like Harvard, Yale, Penn, etc. In this market I'm sure that big firms in DFW get applicants from those schools, and you'll have to compete against them.

If you want to live outside of TX, try to get into a nationally recognized school.

2) Remain in the top 5-10% (at least) after you transfer. This is not as easy as it sounds, as you'll be competing against a different, higher performing class. Try to get on law review, if possible (sometimes not open to transfers). 

3) Obtain a biglaw summer associate position, and do a great job. Most of the people I know who went into biglaw worked summers at a firm and made connections. The only potential snag I see here is that your first year and half worth of grades are from a lower ranked school. I'm not sure how biglaw would view that.

With that said, here are a few other things to consider. Biglaw is not the only satisfying or even lucrative area of practice. Plenty of lawyers who are solo practitioners or small/mid-sized firms partners do just fine, comparable to biglaw partners. I've met a guy who has a small firm that specializes in class action suits, and could buy and sell most biglaw partners with the change in his pocket. Being a DA or federal attorney isn't too bad, either.

Biglaw is one of the few areas, however, where you can make that kind of money straight out of law school, so I understand the attraction. The hours required and the stress level are high, and many burn out quickly. That's one of the reasons you should do a summer biglaw job, to get a flavor of the practice. 

It's also possible that yo could get hired into biglaw coming from a smaller name law school, like the one you're at. I went to a local school, and some of my classmates were hired by biglaw. You have the grades to be competitive, but I admit I don't know the TX market at all. If you could negotiate a better scholarship at your current school, however, it might be worth it.

You have to accept that even with awesome grades you may not get hired into biglaw. These jobs are limited in number, and you won't be the only applicant with a high GPA. Make alternative plans, scope out smaller well-paying firms, and gain as much marketable experience as possible.

 Hope that helps, and good luck!

I agree with the above posters. Since there is no real penalty for retaking the test, he's got nothing to lose. I'd advise taking a prep course if possible, and treating the LSAT like a job: be absolutely disciplined, follow a routine, and don't procrastinate. The LSAT is a weird test, but it is learnable if you can put in the time to figure it out. I think he probably stands an excellent chance of improving his score.

BTW, I thought Liberty University was a traditional brick & mortar school? Do they also offer an online degree?

What do you mean by "bombed"? What was his actual score?

The decision of whether or not to retake should be based on whether the taker has reason to believe they can do better. If he only studied for a week, he can probably improve.

My question would be this: if you have a 3.89 GPA, you clearly understand the value of studying. Why, then, did you blow off the LSAT? Does he actually want to go to law school?

General Board / Re: JD vs. MJ
« on: January 02, 2013, 06:52:27 PM »
I was looking for alternatived to naot have to dish out 100k+ for a JD degree. I'm aware that a MJ degree won't allow me to practice and/or be licensed, but I was more less wondering what I can do with it in the legal industry.

Right, I understand. I don't think you can do very much at all in the legal field with just an MJ.

The "legal field" is essentially comprised of attorneys, paralegals, legal secretaries, arbitrators, law professors, and few others. Without a JD you're (obviously) limited to the non-attorney positions like paralegal. The problem is, I don't think an MJ would help there either. Paralegals and legal secretaries don't typically have a master's. Experience is what's required for those jobs. Arbitrators and mediators are usually (though not always) lawyers or retired judges. Again though, you have to have significant experience to get those jobs, an MJ alone won't cut it. 

One possibility might be expert witness. With your engineering background you might be able to provide expert testimony in engineering related cases. An MJ is not required to be an expert witness, but if you could tailor an MJ to compliment your engineering knowledge it might help.

I am a practing lawyer and I honestly don't know what an M.J is I just googled it and it appears to be a degree dealing with health regulations. Perhaps this could help you land some administrator job at a hospital, but it will not allow you to represent clients in court.

My understanding is that an MJ is sort of like an LL.M, but it's designed for non-attorneys. They're typically marketed as degrees that will enhance the individuals understanding of the law. They might have some use for people who work in heavily regulated areas (like healthcare). I believe there are different MJ programs focusing on different types of law.

I really question the degree's utility on a cost/benefit basis. I suppose if you work and field where you regularly interact with attorneys the MJ might help you understand the law and processes better. Is that worth the cost of tuition? Maybe, maybe not. It reminds me of the "Executive JD" that a few schools offer.

General Board / Re: JD vs. MJ
« on: January 02, 2013, 11:16:26 AM »
Well, I'm not exactly sure what you'd do with an engineering degree and an M.A. in jurisprudence. I'm not trying to be overly negative, but I don't think many jobs are looking for that unusual combination.

I'll tell you what you can't do: practice law. Most jurisdictions require a J.D. in order to be eligible to take the bar exam (California has a few unique exceptions). Most of the higher paying jobs in the legal field (those equivalent to what you probably already make as an engineer) are going to require a J.D. and bar membership.

Something like an M.A. in jurisprudence might help with landing job in law enforcement or as a paralegal, but even then some field-specific experience is going to be required (paralegals get trained and licensed, law enforcement go to the academy, etc). Personally, I wouldn't care one whit if a paralegal had an M.A. (or even a B.A.), as long as they had experience and good references. I suspect most employers wouldn't care, either. It's also possible that the degree has some academic value if you wanted to teach, but you'd still need a J.D. regardless.

Frankly, I'm suspicious of degrees like the M.A. in jurisprudence. I think they're primarily vanity degrees, which is fine if you have the time and money and want to hang another degree on the wall. I think the potential real world benefits of such a degree, however, accrue to very few people. Bottom line, if you're willing to spend two years and a bunch of money on an M.A. you might want to go for the gold and get a J.D. It is much more difficult, expensive and time consuming, but the payoff is better. With you engineering background you can do patent law, a very lucrative field. 

Law School Applications / Re: Law School
« on: January 02, 2013, 12:37:11 AM »
which Law Schools do I have a chance of getting accepted to.

Do you have an LSAT score yet, or at least a practice score?

Without an LSAT score it's impossible to say where you should apply to, beyond pure speculation. If you don't have a score yet, focus for now on keeping your grades up. Get the highest GPA possible. As soon as you can start practicing for the LSAT. Take a prep course if possible, and devote as much time to it as you can. Your LSAT score, in my opinion, is more important than your GPA. A very high LSAT score can work magic that a high GPA alone can't.

One thing I think you might want to consider is do you need that dual degree?  A lot of times dual degree programs aren't worth the extra investment for a lot of people. A lot of schools offer JD/MBA programs for instance, but the MBA isn't much help in the actual practice of law. 

I agree. An additional graduate degree is almost never worth the added expense if you want to practice law. There might be a few situations in which an M.A. or Ph.D might help, but I think that those benefits accrue to a very small number of people who are seeking very specific types of employment. For example, if you wanted to practice natural resources law I suppose an M.S. in environmental science or geology might help you understand the subject matter better, and therefore make you more marketable. Even then I'm not sure. The vast majority of legal jobs only care about the J.D., and an M.A. in some random unrelated field is unnecessary.   

This isn't about standards, it is about diveristy. Non ABA schools offer people who would not normally have a chance at being lawyers, a shot at the bar.  What is wrong with that? People who don't pass the bar don't factor into anything, so this is nothing but an attack on those who might pass the bar without the ABA imprimatur.

I agree, and that's why I have mixed feelings on the subject. I think it's extremely important to offer alternative routes to bar admission for working adults. However, it's also important to have meaningful standards for legal education, since an attorney should possess knowledge beyond that which is required to pass the bar exam.

Here's my question Jon:
Aren't schools like Concord and Taft already providing that alternative route, along with decent bar pass rates? Both schools consistently post the highest pass rates, are accessible to working adults, and offer a real shot at bar admission. Other unaccredited schools, however, seem to be taking peoples' money without actually producing any lawyers. I think there's a distinction to be made, and I'd hate to see the baby thrown out with the bath water.

I think we'll probably see a compromise. Perhaps only registered unaccredited schools will qualify for bar admission, and some minimum bar pass rate will be required in order to gain "registered" status. Or perhaps CBE accreditation will be extended to distance learning schools, after all. 

As I've said before, the unaccredited schools are going to have to meet Calbar halfway. If a school is consistently posting bar and FYLSE pass rates in the 0-10% range year after year, it's legitimate to question the school's policies. That's not purely snobbery (although elitism plays an ugly role in this matter), it's also basic consumer protection.

It also appears that about four CBE schools posted 0% pass rates in July. If Calbar were to adopt bar pass rates as part of the CBE accreditation process (as I've heard they're considering), perhaps we'd see the number of CBE schools decrease, too.


I really have mixed feelings on this topic. As Livinglegend said, I tend to think that if someone has met the moral character requirements and can pass the bar exam, why not admit them? Much of the opposition to unaccredited schools is simply based on snobbery.

On the other hand...

The statistics don't lie. Several unaccredited schools posted bar pass rates for July 2012 that were zero. Others were in the single digits, and a few were in the 25% range. Keep in mind, that's after a significant number of underperformers have already been weeded out by the FYLSE. These schools are unaccredited for a reason, and it's because they haven't met either the CBE or ABA standards.

FYLSE and bar pass rates that are so low indicate that either 1) the school's admission standards are insufficient, 2) the academic program is not rigorous enough, or 3) both. I suspect it's the last one. There is an issue of consumer protection to be addressed here, too. If a school has either a low single digit or zero bar pass rate, and has had that rate for a while, should they be permitted to take people's money by claiming to offer a quality legal education? I'm not really a fan of the "nanny state" mentality either, however. Thus my mixed feelings.

Statistics on the last bar exam in Jun 2012 state the passage rate percentage for CA Accredited was 31% for first time takers, repeaters 10% and all takers 19%.  For all takers in the unaccredited category - 15%, not much difference between CA Accredited and the Unaccredited and the repeaters for unaccredited was 12% HIGHER than the accredited 10%.

California ABA schools averaged a 77% first time pass rate this last July, 31% for CBE accredited. Even the lowest performing California ABA school (Thomas Jefferson) was 52%, not bad at all considering the difficulty of the CA bar.  If you look at the CBE schools, they tend to vary quite a bit more than the ABA schools. Some were 0% passing, others were around 50% or higher, but the numbers of takers tend to be much smaller than ABA schools.

A few unaccredited schools acheived decent pass rates, but again, the numbers of takers tended to be very small. San Luis Obispo posted a 67% pass rate, but only three people took the exam. Concord and Taft seem to be the most consistent performers, and are often in the 25% range. These schools are the exceptions, however. Most of the unaccredited schools posted pass rates in the 0-20% range, with repeat takers scoring about the same. 

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