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Messages - CA Law Dean

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31
M / Re: Monterey College of Law
« on: March 02, 2014, 02:14:39 PM »
Recent reports from the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC) indicate that law school applications for Fall 2014 have decreased for more than 86% of the traditional ABA law schools across the country. These numbers are following a trend that was seen nationally for the two previous academic years. It is too early to know how MCL will fare this year, because our admission cycle starts, and ends, about two-months later than the traditional ABA law schools. (We will continue to take regular applications through the end of May and late applications through the end of July.) However, last year we experienced a 20% increase in admissions during a period when the national trend was a 20% decrease.

I have been asked why MCL seems to be avoiding the declines being experienced in other law schools. Of course, since each law school and community is different, there is no way to know the exact reason. However, there are a number of factors that I think reflect positively on MCL and are likely to be influencing new applicants.

First, MCL has been able to control our tuition increase and maintain a unique guaranteed tuition policy. At a tuition cost of less than $70,000 for the completed degree, MCL is less than one-half the cost of many of the large traditional ABA law schools in California. Furthermore, we believe that we are still the only law school in California that guarantees that a student’s tuition rate will not increase during their tenure at MCL.
Second, as an evening program, most of our students also work during the day, creating the opportunity for them to pay-as-they-go and minimize the need for large student loans. It is common for our students to start working in law firms while they are in law school, providing practical experience and an early jump on job opportunities.

Finally, MCL has a history of taking a more practical vs. philosophical approach to legal education. All of our faculty are practicing lawyers and judges who are expected to bring their practical experience into the classroom. In addition, MCL has expanded our student clinical workshops and externship programs to provide every student the opportunity to participate in practical skills training prior to graduation.

As a small, regional law school, I know that we don’t necessarily face the same market challenges that are found in the large urban areas. However, I would like to think that our ongoing success reflects in some large part the values that come from being a community-supported law school with strong roots in the local bench and bar.

32
You won't find any disagreement from me related to the dramatic rise in the cost of legal education. I have been outspoken about the current disconnect between the cost of the JD/license and the market value/career value ratio. There are certain factors that are relatively easy to identify as contributors, but no easy solution.

Federal loan funds detached from school/employment outcome measures and market sustainability is a huge problem, but only now considered an issue in law due to the current supply/demand/starting salary market correction at the top end of the food chain. The relationship between tenured faculty and direct education in classrooms/clinics is disproportionately skewed to underwrite "academic scholarship", not student instruction. A three decade economic boom in BigLaw fueled irrational starting salaries that, in turn, fueled an unsustainable growth in law applicants/student loan balances that required BigLaw starting salaries to service the debt obligation.

. . . and at the risk of showing my age, we are dealing with an age of entitlement during which the lessons of  hard work, competition, risk, and failure are considered to be societal, not individual responsibilities.

All said, I remain optimistic for the legal profession and new lawyers who are intelligent in the ways of the world . . . and not merely the LSAT and GPA. I share the belief that there are interesting and challenging legal opportunities available. How can you follow the news, locally, nationally, or internationally and not see the myriad of legal issues that we are facing . . . and the next generation of lawyers will be solving.

I believe that the next 3-5 years will see a correction in the cost/delivery model of legal education. It will be painful and arguably unfair for those who made individual decisions without understanding the market trends and the effect on near-term jobs/salaries. It is unconscionable that traditional law schools, BigLaw, and the federal guaranteed student loan system will not be held accountable. However, that is the price of a free economy. As a "Keynesian economist" with a law degree running a law school . . . I accept this as the reality of the marketplace and American society. What I can do about it is to remain a small voice in a big discussion that argues for meaningful change, and models it in our one small corner of the academy. Perhaps amidst the tumult we can influence the outcome.

33
Total amount, not per student. It pays for the State Bar staff review of the annual self-study report. I assume that ABA schools pay a similar type fee with their annual self-study reports.

34
We pay an accreditation fee ($2,500) to the State Bar Committee of Bar Examiners every year with our comprehensive self study and a site visit fee ($15K) very five years for the site team visit and report. Our accreditation regulations follow most of the same rules and standards found in the ABA rules, but scaled to our smaller size and delivery model.

35
For those who might be comparison shopping: 2013 Law School Tuition Costs

California ABA Law Schools
$157,794   University of Southern California, Gould School of Law
$152,406   Stanford University Law School
$148,692   University of California, Davis School of Law
$144,204   University of California, Berkeley, School of Law
$140,418   University of California Hastings College of the Law
$135,663   University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law
$134,940   Pepperdine University School of Law
$134,151   University of California, Irvine School of Law
$132,690   Loyola Law School, Loyola Marymount University
$131,580   University of San Diego School of Law
$131,550   Southwestern Law School
$131,100   California Western School of Law
$131,040   Santa Clara University School of Law
$130,608   Chapman University School of Law
$129,135   University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law
$127,092   University of San Francisco School of Law
$126,030   Golden Gate University School of Law
$126,000   Thomas Jefferson School of Law
$122,196   University of La Verne College of Law
$120,780   Whittier Law School
$118,800   Western State College of Law

California Accredited Law Schools
$77,400   San Joaquin College of Law
$74,250   Trinity Law School
$72,660   JFK Law School
$70,550   University of West LA
$68,000   San Francisco Law School
$66,650   Monterey College of Law
$59,724   Lincoln Law School - San Jose
$58,632   Glendale College of Law
$57,620   Empire College of Law
$56,760   Santa Barbara/Ventura Colleges of Law
$55,860   Humphreys College of Law
$40,420   Lincoln Law School - Sacramento
$40,236   Cal Northern Law School
$31,080   Southern California Institute of Law

36
M / Re: Monterey College of Law
« on: February 23, 2014, 05:28:28 PM »
For those who might be comparison shopping: 2013 Law School Tuition Costs

California ABA Law Schools
$157,794   University of Southern California, Gould School of Law
$152,406   Stanford University Law School
$148,692   University of California, Davis School of Law
$144,204   University of California, Berkeley, School of Law
$140,418   University of California Hastings College of the Law
$135,663   University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Law
$134,940   Pepperdine University School of Law
$134,151   University of California, Irvine School of Law
$132,690   Loyola Law School, Loyola Marymount University
$131,580   University of San Diego School of Law
$131,550   Southwestern Law School
$131,100   California Western School of Law
$131,040   Santa Clara University School of Law
$130,608   Chapman University School of Law
$129,135   University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law
$127,092   University of San Francisco School of Law
$126,030   Golden Gate University School of Law
$126,000   Thomas Jefferson School of Law
$122,196   University of La Verne College of Law
$120,780   Whittier Law School
$118,800   Western State College of Law

California Accredited Law Schools
$77,400   San Joaquin College of Law
$74,250   Trinity Law School
$72,660   JFK Law School
$70,550   University of West LA
$68,000   San Francisco Law School
$66,650   Monterey College of Law
$59,724   Lincoln Law School - San Jose
$58,632   Glendale College of Law
$57,620   Empire College of Law
$56,760   Santa Barbara/Ventura Colleges of Law
$55,860   Humphreys College of Law
$40,420   Lincoln Law School - Sacramento
$40,236   Cal Northern Law School
$31,080   Southern California Institute of Law

37
Law School Applications / Re: REJECTED, ETC. TODAY
« on: February 20, 2014, 10:49:30 AM »
REJECTION! Not fun. Actually downright depressing. However, for law school applicants in California (and anyone else who intends to live and practice in California at least 3-5 years after law school graduation), there may still be an alternative.

Consider a California-Accredited Law School
Consider one of the 17 California accredited law schools (such as Monterey College of Law). The State Bar of California, not the ABA, accredits these regional schools. Many of them have very respectable bar pass rates (competitive with the unranked ABA law schools), are a fraction of the cost of the traditional ABA schools, and offer part-time programs so that you can actually begin working in law related jobs to gain relevant experience before graduating.

Strong Ties to the Local Bench and Bar = Jobs!
Most have strong ties to the local bench-bar that result in jobs after graduation. Of course this is not the path if your goal is to work in a large urban center in a multinational law conglomerate. But if the idea of being a small firm lawyer, DA, Public Defender, Legal Services lawyer, or solo practitioner is what you are after . . . select one of the California accredited law schools in an area that you might like to live/practice and get an application in . . . right away. Then go visit to see if it fits your goals. Ask hard questions about bar pass rates, costs, job placement, clinical, programs, etc. Most of the non-urban areas of California need lawyers (despite the articles in the national news) and many of them are great places to live and raise a family if you have not already decided to be a big city lawyer.

Practicing Law in California
The biggest limitation is that upon graduation from one of the California accredited law schools you must take (and pass) the California bar exam first. You cannot go directly to another state and sit for their bar exam until you are licensed in California (and some states will require minimum years of practice as well). That is why the option is primarily for those who already know that they want to live and practice in California.

Bottom line, if you really want to be a lawyer, make it happen . . . and a California-accredited law school may be just the place for you.

38
M / Re: Monterey College of Law
« on: February 20, 2014, 10:41:57 AM »
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.

39
Reviews, Visits, and Rankings / Re: Are CBA schools a joke?
« on: February 08, 2014, 11:34:34 AM »
As a 2014 cycle update, Monterey College of Law (a CBE law school), completed a 2009-2012 alumni employment survey after being encouraged to do so by Kyle McAtee of Law School Transparency (www.lawschooltransparency.com). We can now report that 88% of our graduates were employed 9 months after graduation and 91% are currently employed.

40
Reviews, Visits, and Rankings / Re: Weighing TX law school options
« on: February 08, 2014, 11:26:28 AM »
Prior to moving to CA to serve as dean of a small regional law school, I lived and worked in Texas. I am also a Univ of Houston law grad. In Texas there is UT and the other law schools. That doesn't mean that there is anything wrong with the other law schools or that UT is perfect. It is just recognition that UT is the premier Texas law school  . . . has been and likely will always be.

That said, UT is very difficult to get in, it has huge sections, and you will need to be an extraordinarily good student to graduate high enough in the class to get preferential BigLaw jobs.

There is absolutely nothing academically wrong with Baylor. However, going to law school in Waco does not provide much of a leg up on employment. Since it is academically similar to UH, SMU, Texas Tech, and SoTexas, I agree with Citylaw. Apply to all and see if you can get scholarship offers.

St. Mary's, TxWesleyan, TxSouthern, Thurgood Marshall are not in the same academic tier.

Geography has a lot of influence in job offers in Texas. UT dominates Austin (and everywhere), but SMU holds its own in Dallas as do UH and SoTexas in Houston and St. Mary's in San Antonio.Texas Tech rules West Texas.

All said, think ahead about what you want to do with your law degree and it might help your decision.


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