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Messages - Maintain FL 350

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This issue has been discussed pretty extensively in other threads, check put some of the older threads.

In my opinion, state-accredited law schools can be a good choice for the right student. Generally, if you have the opportunity to attend an ABA school that's probably a better idea. The key is to really take the time to consider what you want to do after law school, and to think about whether or not a non-ABA degree can help you achieve that goal.

The cost of attending SJCL is (I think) about $50-60,000. That's a huge investment of money and time. Whether you're considering a state school or an ABA school, you need to think about whether the cost of attending will be outweighed by the benefit. In other words, after spending $50-60K will you be able to get a job that will allow you to make thise loan payments?

The job market is very, very tight right now, and I'm sure it's tighter for Calbar grads vs. ABA. Nonetheless, I seem to remember that SJCL has a good reputation in the central valley, and many of the local attorneys are grads. If you plan on staying in the immediate area, SJCL probably has a decent alumni network that can help you get some experience with internships, etc. Outside of the central valley, you'll have to compete against grads from bigger name schools.

As far as working in juvenile dependency, a degree from a state school probably won't hold you back, especially considering your experience as a social worker. The biggest problem you'll face in that field is that there are very few jobs available. The dependency positions that are state/county funded have had their budgets slashed, and the government dependency jobs (county counsel, DCFS) are almost all on a hiring freeze. When a position does open up, they get flooded with applicants.

One last point, and please don't take this as criticism: the LSAT is easy compared to the bar exam. The LSAT is one morning long, and covers a few topics. The CA bar exam is three days long, covers something like 16 topics, and is notoriously difficult. If you had a tough time with the LSAT you might want to think about how you'll handle the bar exam before you drop 60k on law school.

Good Luck with everything!

Unaccredited schools have a much lower pass rate, but ABA pass rates are also much lower than other states.

For the February, 2012 bar:

ABA grads (including U.S. Attorneys): 3025 / 1547 passed
CBE grads: 538 / 141 passed
Unaccredited: 363 / 68 passed

Calbar's website breaks it down into specific categories, but those are the basics.

I've met many grads from different ABA schools who have had to take the Cal bar three or four times in some cases.   Similar to what FalconJimmy is saying, I believe my T4 has certainly focused on preparing us for the bar.  Low bar pass rates are reasons to take away a schools accreditation.  That happened to the University of La Verne after they produced just a 35% (not quite sure on the exact number) bar pass rate in July of 2011, but they were given back their accreditation earlier this year.   So while bar pass rates are not everything, it is still a significant factor.  An ABA bar pass rate that low is just unacceptable. 

In most states it is nearly unheard of for an ABA grad to have to take the bar three or four times. This is part of the problem I have with the ABA's one-size-fits-all approach to evaluating bar pass rates. Their methodology leaves almost no allowance for the varying difficulty levels between state bars. The ABA compares a school's first time pass rates to other ABA schools within the state.

If you're in Arkansas, for example, that means your school is compared to the only other school in the entire state, both with nearly identical admissions criteria (AK at Little Rock/AK at Fayetteville). If you're in Wisconsin, you don't even have to take the bar! But think of what that means to a small CA school: a CA T4, taking students with roughly the same GPA/LSAT profile as the Arkansas schools, is evaluted against Stanford/Berkeley/UCLA/USC. Even the "mid-range" CA schools like Loyola/Pepperdine/San Diego have average LSAT scores in the 162-164 range. In many states a 164 would be sufficient to gain admission to the state's top law school.

I was using La Verne as an example of how negatively this policy affects otherwise decent schools. Keep in mind that previous to about 2006, bar pass rates were not a big part of the ABA's criteria. Schools occasionaly, sometimes inexplicably, have a bad year. We saw it this year with San Francisco (32%), and last year with Thomas Jefferson (35%). USF is usually much higher, this was an anomoly. TJSL has already increased to 60% since last year. La Verne had the bad luck of having a low-pass year while they were provisionally accredited, which the ABA is much more willing to take away than full accreditation.

In 2009 bar pass rates plummeted state-wide, and La Verne's dropped more than most. They had 35% in 2009, then 47%, 53%, and 57% for the succeeding years. As a result, the ABA waived the usual accreditation rules and granted La Verne approval without having to start the whole processthe over. Their "ultimate bar pass rate", another method the ABA uses, actually exceeded the ABA's requirements. (I think it's around 91%). If you look at the schools that have had problems with the ABA over bar pass rates, they've all been California schools: Western State, Whittier, Golden Gate, La Verne, and now perhaps San Francisco and Thomas Jefferson. I think that fact indicates that there is something unique about the CA bar, and it would make sense to adjust the requirements accordingly.
Frankly, I think any school that can take students with low GPA/LSAT combos and get them to pass the hardest bar exam in the country at 50-60% for first timers, 90% overall, is probably doing a decent job. Also, this bar pass policy encourages T4s to admit huge classes then slash 30% (or more) in order to maintain higher pass rates. Ironically, the ABA says it's against this practice. 

BTW, I'm going solely off of memory on the percentages I quoted. If I'm wrong feel free to correct me.

I think the objective data indicates that the CA is the toughest substantively, not just because of a unique grading rubric.

MBE: CA requires a scaled score of 144 to pass, most states require a scaled 127.5 to pass

Performance test: CA requires two, three hour long PTs. Most states require either 1 three hour, or one 90 minute PT.

On Civ Pro and Evidence essays CA requires federal and state law analysis, I believe most states only require FRCP/FRE.

Length of exam: three full days, many states (though not all) are two/two and a half.

The low pass rate is not just due to students from unaccredited schools, they actually make up a fairly small percentage of all bar takers in CA. The overwhelming majority of takers are from fully approved ABA schools. The low pass rates for grads of out of state ABA schools is, in my opinion, the best indicator of the CA bar's difficulty. For the 2011 bar, Harvard grads had a 75% pass rate.

Just for purposes of illustrating why I am so critical of USNWR's ranking scheme:

The average for CA ABA schools was 62%, with most falling in the 50-60% range (a few schools with very high pass rates skews the average). Keeping in mind that CA has the toughest bar exam in the nation, consider the following:

As I stated earlier, Western State's Feb. 2012 first time pass rate was 92%, higher than every CA school except Stanford, and yet WSU is ranked T4.

University of San Francisco had a 32% pass rate and is ranked higher than WSU.

La Verne had a pass rate exactly equivalent to Davis and Hastings (50%), which they accomplished with 4% academic attrition as opposed to the 30% commonly seen at T4s. Nonetheless, Davis and Hastings are T1 and La Verne is T4.

Many T1 out of state law schools had pass rates which were significantly lower than CA T4s. I understand that bar pass rates are not the only metric to consider when evaluating schools, but I also think it speaks to the absurdity of the rankings scheme.

Western State just posted a 92% first time bar pass rate for the February 2012 California bar, and has been averaging 75%-80% for the last few years. Anyone who thinks you're at an inferior school is simply ignorant. BTW, I'm not a WSU grad, so this isn't just an attempt to brag about my alma mater.

Good point.


Why do these issues always have to get framed in the most extreme terms?

An ABA degree is not the only path to success, that is evidenced by the thousands of non-ABA attorneys practicing in CA. However, in terms of getting hired as a DA/PD, you have to understand how much things have changed since 2008. Yes, there are non-ABA DAs working in just about every county in the state. Those people are great, experienced attorneys who do a great job. Many of them were hired years ago, when DA/PD jobs weren't paying very well and it was hard to attract top ABA grads. That simply isn't the case anymore. Two major events changed the level of competition for those jobs: First, they started to pay a lot better and offered great benefits. Second, the economy imploded. DA/PD jobs are now highly sought after, and the local offices are receiving resumes from people who would never have applied for a government job 10 or 15 years ago.

Please understand that I am not making this up, the objectively verifiable evidence is out there if you want to find it.

Does that mean that a non-ABA grad can't get hired? No, of course not, but it's one more hurdle that the applicant will have to overcome. The school you referred to in Chico, California Northern, is CBE accredited. There is a big difference between CBE accredited and unaccredited in the eyes of many employers.

For anyone who doubts me, don't take my word for it. Go to Calbar's website and use the advanced search function to look up various DAs offices.  See how many new hires are ABA grads, how many are CBE, and how many are unaccredited. I took a look at a few rural counties in northern CA, the kind of place I figured would be more likely to hire non-ABA grads. Of the DAs hired since 2000, nearly every single one was an ABA grad. There were a handful of CBE, and zero online. In the more populated counties it was 100% ABA across the board. Now, if you go back 20 years or so you'll see a lot more CBE grads at those offices, but that's not reflective of what hiring is like now.

I don't doubt that someone can get a great education outside of the ABA scheme, in fact I'm highly critical of the ABA for lots of reasons. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I have huge respect for online grads who pass the CA bar. But if you're going to say that it's "hogwash" that an ABA degree is required to get a job as a DA, back it up with some evidence.

I'm not necessarily a fan of the current system, but to deny it's existence is counterproductive.

It is a huge difference, but not entirely correct.   There are a few states which will allow distance learning graduates to take the state bar, though they may have practice requirements before allowing them to do so.  This has been discussed ad nauseam on here - do a search.

5 years practice and motion in to the DC bar but no one seems to understand that here.  Iowa has a similar motion in with a few twists.  Even if it is theoretically possible to take a bar in a few other states, they will make it difficult for you to qualify. Online grads are not welcome except in California and DC.

Jonlevy is right. The thing to understand is that individual state bars are not required to admit anyone. They can put all sorts of restrictions in place, and it's absolutely fine. The total number of jurisdictions that will clearly admit an online student is two: California and DC. Other jurisdictions may admit an online grad on special motion or petition, but this is not guaranteed. In those states you essentially have permission to apply, that is all. They can still turn you down.

Personally, I'd like to see all state bars follow CA's lead and open the doors to people who have chosen a path different from the ABA scheme. But pointing to a few anecdotal examples of online grads who have been admitted in various states misses the point: most state bars will actively work to keep you out.

Like I stated before, I'm coming out of law enforcement so if I was to practice law, I would prefer to work for the District Attorney's Office. After all, I would rather contribute by keeping criminals in jail rather than trying to keep those individuals out. The Cal-Bar school near my house is not correspondence, and a large number of their graduates are hired by the D.A.'s office. They also have a courthouse on site that is run by the Superior Court of California, so there is a lot of networking between the students of this school and the D.A.'s Office. If I couldn't get a position with the D.A.'s Office, I would open my own practice as I would not like to work for a law firm. Hence my situation, and the reason why I treading lightly and trying to weigh my opinions . . .

If your goal is the DA's office, the local CBE school is a much better bet than online. Ask your local DA if they've ever hired an online grad, and I promise you the answer is "no". A couple of decades ago jobs like the DA and (especially) Public Defender were considered relatively easy to get. The pay was low, the turnover was high, and most new hires came from small ABA schools or CBE schools. That's not the case anymore. The pay is decent, turn over is practically zero, and most offices are on a hiring freeze. When jobs do open, they are flooded with applicants and can be very picky about who they hire. It's not at all uncommon now to see Public Defenders from UCLA, Davis, etc.

At some DA/PD offices you can still get hired as a CBE grad because the local CBE school is the only game in town. However, even at  those offices you will be competing with both ABA and CBE grads who have several years of experience under their belts. If you decide to go to the CBE school, do everything you can to score an internship at the DA, and do a great job. Personal connections matter, and it will help immensely when a job opens up.

Good Luck!

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