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Online Law Schools / California to tighten bar admission rules?
« on: December 28, 2012, 12:02:04 AM »
According to Calbar's website, the state bar's Task Force on Admission Regulation and Reform will meet in January to discuss, among other things, whether admission to the California bar should be limited to ABA and CBE graduates.

Such a restriction could have significant consequences. California is one of only a handful of states that allows non-ABA grads to sit for the bar, and has traditionally been the jurisdiction of choice for graduates of unaccredited law schools. The concern seems to be the very low pass rates (often in the single digits), and the ethical issue of allowing a school to take tuition from students who have such a statistically low chance of passing.

I assume that the Task Force would issue some kind of report or recommendation, which would then be considered by the bar. As far as I'm aware there is no real movement among the legal community to so limit admission, but it probably wouldn't be opposed either. Interesting, we'll see what happens. 

Very true.  I must note that you shouldn't disregard those X State University students. 

Don't get me wrong, I don't disregard those students one bit. There are plenty of powerhouse state research universities (Berkeley, UCLA, Michigan, etc) that offer incredible educational opportunities and have reputations that are at least as good (if not better) than many Ivies. Every year a number of people from those highly regarded public institutions get accepted at the most elite law schools. My only point is that elite law schools tend to be snobby, whether they admit it or not, and an undergrad degree from Harvard or Yale probably gooing to help.

Here's another possibility: the LSAT score spread might be unevenly distributed, with a much higher percentage of top scorers coming from elite undergrad institutions. Although I've never seen any data on this topic, it would seem to make sense that an academic superstar who got into Harvard or Caltech as an undergrad would have a statistically better shot at scoring high on the LSAT as opposed to the guy who had mediocre grades and SATs.

Online Law Schools / Re: ABA is not an option (unfortunately)
« on: December 21, 2012, 09:28:44 PM »
Better yet, why not have a national bar exam? Some people will say "Oh, but if you don't pass a particular state's exam then you haven't demonstrated knowledge of that state's laws." Well, lots of states currently have reciprocity agreements that allow a person admitted in one state to be admitted in the other without such a demonstration of knowledge. It doesn't seem to cause any problems.

Can you imagine the plummeting bar pass rates, however, if we adopted a national bar exam based on the California bar's format?

Please also understand that the elite schools will give unstated preference to applicants who graduate from peer schools.

I often hear people saying that it doesn't matter where you go to undergrad, all the law schools care about is your GPA/LSAT. Although GPA/LSAT are obviously the single biggest factors, I've seen anecdotal evidence that undergrad pedigree indeed matters (especially at elite institutions).

I was told by a former Ivy League law professor that roughly half of the incoming class at his law school were from the other Ivies. The next biggest group were from elite liberal arts colleges (Williams, Amherst, etc), then prestigious non-Ivy universities (Stanford, Northwestern, etc). He said that only a handful were from random state universities, small non-elite colleges, etc.

I also had a friend who graduated from an Ivy with a 3.3 GPA. He got accepted to schools that someone with a 3.3 would not normally stand a chance at getting into. His impression at the time was that the reputation of his undergrad institution helped immensely. Lastly, I went to a prestigious non-Ivy for undergrad. One of the law schools I applied to called to tell me I was accepted and had been offered a substantial scholarship. The admissions rep actually cited the "excellent reputation" of my undergrad school as a factor.

None of this is definitive or scientific evidence, I just find it interesting. Undergrad prestige probably works like other soft factors: it's not determinitive, but it helps. 

Incoming 1Ls / Re: Baby Bar
« on: December 18, 2012, 12:33:20 AM »
It's tough, but it can be done. I prepped for the bar while getting three or four hours of sleep per night because my infant daughter was waking up constantly. During the day I'd be groggy and stressed out, and I still only got a fraction of the study time that my peers enjoyed because I had other familial obligations. It is much, much easier to prep for the bar if you're young and single. If you can take two months off work, that's great, and you should do it. I'd also advise writing practice essays and PTs from day one. I felt that my bar prep course was great at teaching black letter law, but didn't spend nearly enough time on how to efficiently write essays and PTs.

I hadn't heard of the CBE bar pass rate proposal, but it seems like a good idea. 50% over five years is hardly onerous, unlike the ABA's standard which requires a school to be within 15% of the state wide average. (Not such a big deal in North Dakota, but very unfair to small local schools in California who have to compete with Stanford and Berkeley on the toughest bar exam in the nation).

If you pass the California Bar, you're likely to find a job somewhere and if not, there is always the option of opening your own practice.

I more or less agree, with the caveat that opening your own office and finding paying clients fresh out of law school is no small task. It can be done, but it's tough.

The best move is to attempt to get a job at the City or District Attorney's office somewhere, or to work in the Public Defender's office, obtain a good amount of trial experience on the County or State's dime, and then lateral your way into a big law job. That's how to do it.

Unfortunately, that option is almost non-existant right now. I can't speak for the rest of the country, but in California (the only state an unaccredited graduate is likely to get licensed in) government hiring is nearly at a standstill, and has been for some time. The state is broke and the government law offices have had their budgets cut significantly. They routinely don't have the money to replace attrition, let alone create new positions. When they do get the opportunity to hire a few new attorneys, they are flooded with hundreds of resumes, many from experienced attorneys. The government market is very competitive right now, and an inexperienced graduate of an unaccredited school would face an enormous uphill battle.

Choosing the Right Law School / Re: Should I go for a better school
« on: December 17, 2012, 07:00:44 PM »
My LSAT preptests are averaging around 165 and getting better every week.  I'm hoping by February I'll be testing btw 170-175 consistently

At this point, without a real live LSAT score, everything is pure speculation. The LSAT is a somewhat weird exam and you can't assume that you'll score in the top 2-3%. Practice LSATs are alright, but it's not uncommon to score significantly below your highest practice exam. Practice exams simulate, but don't actually replicate, testing conditions and stressors. 

That said, assuming that you do score very well on the LSAT you could probably get accepted to several other Michigan schools. UM seems like  longshot with a 2.61 GPA (even with a high score), but MSU, Wayne State, and Detroit-Mercy might all be options. Also, considering your age and the fact that you have a family, you might want to consider a scholarship at lower ranked local school instead of a huge debt from a higher ranked school. If you're roughly twenty years away from retirement you may want to steer clear of a $100-200K debt. I started law school as a non-traditional student in my early 30s, and used my high LSAT to obtain scholarships. It was definitely the right move for me, and it may or may not be the right choice for you.

Depending on your goals after law school a full scholarship at a place like Cooley or Detroit-Mercy might make sense. Take the time to seriously think about your post-law school plans. If you plan on opening your own office, joining a small firm, or going into government work, it may not matter too much where you go. If you want Biglaw or federal jobs, then it will matter big time. Take all of these factors into account and don't base this enormous life changging decision on the USNWR rankings or what anonymous people like me say.

Incoming 1Ls / Re: Baby Bar
« on: December 16, 2012, 11:22:57 AM »
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. 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. 

Law School Admissions / Re: GPA padding.
« on: December 15, 2012, 06:01:37 PM »
The good news is that you've got some time to prepare. The people who get accepted with GPAs in the 25% range are often either splitters (with very high LSAT scores to compensate) or have amazing softs, or both. Nevertheless, it can be done. Just remember, even if you don't get into T14 you can still get a solid legal education and have a great career. The vast, overwhelming majority of successful lawyers didn't go to a T14.

Law School Admissions / Re: GPA padding.
« on: December 15, 2012, 05:40:50 PM »
Do you have an LSAT score yet? That's going to be an even bigger factor than your GPA. Assuming that you can successfully raise you GPA to 3.5, you'd probably need to score around 170 to have a shot at NYU or Cornell. No small task.

Incoming 1Ls / Re: Baby Bar
« on: December 15, 2012, 10:27:39 AM »
Congratulations Jenni, I'm glad you passed!

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.

Duncan, I'd go a step further and say that's essentially how you pass the bar exam, too. Take a look at the examples of passing bar essays on Calbar. The rule statements are often short and direct and the analysis is good, but not incredible. I think my law school placed a higher value on in-depth analysis than the bar examiners. If you fail to identify issues on the bar however, you're toast. The best analysis in the world won't score you enough points to pass if you miss a major issue.

One of the major obstacles people face on the bar essays and PTs (and, I assume, on the FYLSE) is simply organization. I knew a lot of classmates who knew the black letter law and could apply it to fact patterns. What they sstruggled with was distilling that mountain of info into a cohesive, easy to read format. The bar graders are going through hundreds of essays, and you've got make your essays as clear as possible. If you bury a key point in the middle of a long, complex paragraph that is otherwise full of brilliant analysis it may be missed. Writing good essays, whether it's law school, the baby bar or the bar is a learnable skill, but it takes lots of practice.

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.

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.

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