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Messages - CA Law Dean

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Update on MCL's Master of Legal Studies degree program. In addition to the description in the previous post, please note that changes in the California accredited law school regulations now permit a transfer student in the MLS degree program to continue in the JD program if their grades improve to meet the 70.00 minimum standard for progressing in JD degree program. Therefore, a law student who had a poor academic experience in another law school, but who might thrive in the smaller, hands-on, academically supportive environment of MCL, could still get back on track for the JD through the MLS degree program. Furthermore, if students successfully complete the mandatory MLS writing program, they may be eligible to graduate with both the MLS and JD degree. Please let me know if you have questions about MCL's concurrent MLS/JD degree program. It is new for the 2014-2015 academic year.

M / Re: Monterey College of Law
« on: April 15, 2014, 10:55:00 AM »
Just a short reminder that Monterey College of Law is still accepting applications for the Fall 2015 semester. If you are considering law school, which I assume you are if you are following this discussion board, there is still time to take the June LSAT and apply for fall admissions. MCL is one of the California accredited law schools that will conditionally admit you to Fall 2015 subject to getting the results of the June LSAT. Therefore, if you are considering a fall admission, you should go ahead and submit your application and not wait for the June LSAT results. We also have a very popular summer Jurisprudence course that starts  the first week of July, but you need to have been admitted or conditionally admitted to be eligible to take the course. Let me know if you have any questions about admissions criteria or process.

Law School Applications / Re: Low GPA Questions
« on: April 15, 2014, 10:42:40 AM »
I agree with all of the previous advice and would add one additional consideration. If you have really turned your academic attitude around and believe that you have the initiative to buckle down and get your CPA, you might reconsider attending one of the California accredited law schools instead. First, you will be eligible with your GPA and a 150 LSAT. Second, you can work during the day and attend law school at night to reduce the financial burden and to start getting experience by working in a law firm. Third, these are smaller programs where you will get more attention and academic support. This will be a different experience than the large public school education that you are getting at Davis. Finally, in about the same time that it sounds like you will need to get your CPA (3 years), if you really buckled down as you have indicated you are ready to do, you could be finished with your law degree and begin studying for the bar exam.

So I think that the real question is what you envision for your career. If you are ready to do the work necessary to become a lawyer, why go become a CPA? On the other hand, if being a CPA sounds interesting, you should go do that. Both routes will take a dedicated effort that requires a serious focus and commitment. I think that is the first decision.

Let me know if you are interested in more information about the California accredited law schools. Lincoln Sacramento is close to you in Davis and there are 15 other programs such as ours at Monterey College of Law. Each have somewhat unique characteristics and locations that would likely serve whichever region that you see yourself living and working after graduation.

Where should I go next fall? / Re: Considering Law School
« on: April 15, 2014, 10:18:10 AM »
I generally agree with Citylaw, but will take a different approach here.

Why do some law school graduates never “practice” law? I can answer this question from my own professional experience. Throughout the course of my 35+ year career, my law degree has provided me the opportunity to enjoy a range of different, interesting, challenging . . .  and occasionally profitable . . . professional opportunities. Of course, none have been as rewarding as serving as dean of MCL!

I must admit that I didn’t attend law school with the intention of practicing law in a traditional law firm setting. My first interest was politics, but after internships in state and national congressional offices . . . let’s just say I grew out of that phase. Early in my career, I practiced law as an Asst. State Attorney General. I enjoyed the public policy aspects of the work and the collegiality of working in a legal team environment. However, with an interest in economics and marketing, and a booming economy at the time, I was drawn towards the broader challenges and opportunities in the private business sector. As a management consultant, venture capitalist, public company executive, and entrepreneur, I put my legal education to great use . . .  even though I wasn’t “practicing law.”

One of the most valuable aspects of a legal education is the versatility of the training and the opportunity to integrate it into so many different professions. As a management consultant, I developed a niche practice of law firm consulting, working with individual lawyers and large firms to develop professional marketing plans. This lead me into CLE training for lawyers and eventually back into the law school classroom as a law professor in the areas of law office management, legal ethics, and law-related technology.

To bring the story full circle, it turns out that a combination of law, business, and legal education experience is also a great combination for law school administration . . . and here I am!

So to answer the question, “why do some law school graduates never practice law” . . . I would say that it is because some of us got too busy using our legal education.

I am familiar with Concord's EJD program and would agree with the advice here. Not because the program is faulty, it is not in my opinion. However, it does not appear to meet the OPs needs, which appear to be having a useful degree that will benefit their law career interests. I also agree that if the OP was rejected from Concord's JD program, they probably need to (prepare first) and retake the LSAT.

Now to actually answer the question about DL alternatives, I suggest looking at Cal Southern.

Like all of the online programs, since Cal Southern has almost open enrollment, the bar pass rates are very very low. However, the curriculum is sound, you have to pass the baby bar to progress to second year, and if you are a serious student, you will be eligible to sit for the California Bar exam upon completion . . . something not available through the EJD program.  We use Cal Southern to resolve scheduling conflicts when our students end up with two required courses on the same night and need a DL alternative to avoid waiting an extra year to finish our JD program.

The following link is to all of the correspondence and distance law schools in California:

Law School Applications / Re: REJECTED, ETC. TODAY
« on: April 15, 2014, 09:49:51 AM »
I am sorry to hear that you were rejected from your law school choice. It is always disappointing, regardless of age and experience. If you will share your LSAT/UGPA, I can probably give you a better idea of what influenced the decision. Despite the applicant friendly admissions cycle this year, it still requires understanding the criteria of the target school to better judge your application prospects. In your case, despite having college grades that are likely several decades old (assuming college was prior to the birth of your 22 year old child), the formula of LSAT/UGPA still overshadows any work-life experience for traditional law schools. When you said "I.U" did you mean Indiana University, and if yes, was it Bloomington or Indianapolis?

M / Re: Monterey College of Law
« on: March 07, 2014, 08:06:36 PM »

Glad to provide some additional information regarding our July 2013 bar exam results. Obviously there is nothing good about those results. There is no way to put a good face on a 0-11 cohort. Fortunately for us, despite how horrible that looks, the details provide additional information for consideration. Our graduating class of 2013 that makes up the majority of this cohort divided their first-time test sessions approximately as follows: Out of the graduating class of 20, 5 took the February 2013 exam, 10 took the July 2013 exam and 5 either just took the February 2014 exam or are waiting for the July 2014 exam. As a working adult population, our students schedule their bar prep and exam session based on a number of factors, available work vacation, seasonal work load, finances, family scheduling, etc. This pattern is quite different that the typical law school where virtually everyone graduates in May and takes the July bar exam.

 In February 2013, 4 out of 5 graduated early (December) and passed the exam. The one who did not, skipped July 2013 and sat for a second time February 2014.

In July 2013, the 10 candidates represent the middle and lower cohort of the class based on graduating GPA. Because we host the bar review program, we know that 8 of the 10 did not complete the bar review program (for a variety of reasons, including health, job, family crisis, and in far too many cases . . . poor judgement) prior to sitting for the July exam.  Unfortunately, we knew what that would mean long before the scores were released. In the case of the 2 who did the proper prep and did not pass, the scores were close and we fully expect them to pass on the second sitting. Of the 8 who didn't do adequate bar prep, at least half of them have owned up to the mistake and buckled down to get it right the second time and we would anticipate from past experience that this will be true and the results will reflect their effort. We will still need to see the results of the final 5 who either just took the February 2014 exam or will be taking the July 2014 exam. I anticipate that when the dust settles, the class of 2013 will end up with a 60-65% cumulative pass rate. This is below our expectations and below the results of the classes that preceded them. However, in a small school with small testing cohorts, this is difficult to avoid over a multi-year period.

So, the final observation is that we think (and fervently hope) that the class of 2013 was an anomaly and that our five-year cumulative pass rate of 66-68% better represents the results that our graduates achieve on the California Bar Exam. I didn't mention it before,  but I assume that you realize that the state-wide first-time pass rate in California is 55% and not the 75-80% that is experienced in all other jurisdictions.

Law School Applications / Re: REJECTED, ETC. TODAY
« on: March 06, 2014, 09:31:08 AM »
I frequently hear the question "If I get rejected by my top choice law school, should I just take a gap year and reapply next cycle?" Like many legal questions, the answer is "it depends."

First question. Do you have a realistic chance of meeting he statistical LSAT/UGPA admission standard of the dream school(s) where you have applied? There are quite a few excellent websites that provide free access to analytics that allow you to plug in your LSAT/UGPA and get a multi-school report on your statistical chance of falling within the admitted student range of targeted schools. Doing this analysis is a must. The odds are that if you were rejected by a school, you fell below the 25th percentile of their range.

Therefore, the question is, if you took off a year what would you do to improve your chances next cycle? I hate to sound crass, but curing cancer or solving world peace probably won't help you. You also can't change your UGPA. Therefore, the only variable you control is your LSAT score. Even if your UGPA is below standard, many schools will admit "splitters" . . . applicants with a below median UGPA, offset by a high LSAT.

Second question. "Do you have the time, resources, and testing skills to do what it takes to significantly improve your LSAT score?" Top tutorial programs can cost upwards of $10-12,000. Credible commercial review programs can cost $1,200 - $2,500. To significantly move your LSAT score 10+ points, you should expect to spend several hundred hours of dedicated effort. Add all of this to the "opportunity cost" of waiting another year to enter law school . . . and the career market upon completion . . . and you have the objective information necessary to realistically evaluate whether a gap year will be beneficial.

Of course, there are certainly other reasons that could play a role as well. Maturity, financial situation, family issues, undergraduate burn-out, etc. However, these go to the question of 1L readiness, not dream school admissions.

One final consideration. In the current competitive admissions climate, high LSAT scores can directly translate into significant scholarship offers. The trade-off is that higher ranked "dream" schools generally offer fewer scholarships, and fewer still to "splitters". Your best scholarship offers are likely to come from lower tier law schools . . . but that is a completely different topic.

So my recommendation is that if you are willing to use a gap year to improve your law school choices . . . do it. Otherwise, if you are "all dressed up and ready to go", select a law school that otherwise matches your interests and career goals . . . and get started.

I agree with the recommendations suggested here. I would also add that it is likely that there is a lawyer-referral program through your local bar association that can be a lead for new paying clients and the family law court is likely to maintain a list of court appointed advocates for minors and seniors. This is also paying work, even if it isn't necessarily steady work. Each of these steps moves you closer to either establishing your own practice or having the experience to catch the eye of a family law firm in need of an associate with some experience.

A simple strategy that I have recommended (successfully) to new lawyers who have identified a specialty practice area such as you have, is to set up meetings with every one of your law school classmates (assuming that you have remained in proximity to your law school) who have started practice in areas other than family law. Your crim law, immigration law, corporate law colleagues need to refer their family law cases somewhere . . . Become their go-to family law referral. Along the way, start your own referral list of non family law attorneys to send your referrals to . . . quid pro quo. My recommendation is that you should be spending a minimum of 4-6 hours every week in these type of practice development/marketing activities . . . not just now, but throughout your entire career. That is how you build a sustainable practice, whether you are a solo or partner in a big firm.

Non-Traditional Students / Re: What are my chances?
« on: March 05, 2014, 12:15:43 PM »
Thanks for all the help guys. Where can I find a list of California accredited schools as you guys have mentioned? I looked around and can't seem to find a comprehensive breakdown of each school that is not ABA in California. I'd like to research all my options. Thanks again!

The California State Bar web site is not always the most intuitive. Here is the direct link to the list of all California law schools with web sites. The deans at these schools are all colleagues and I have visited each of the CALS except Pacific Coast. Feel free to e-mail or PM me if you have specific questions about any of the California accredited individual schools.

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