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Messages - CA Law Dean

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What sounds better on your professional resume? "Successful Master of Legal Studies degree" or "academically dismissed because of (marginally) low first year law school GPA?"

This idea does not fit everybody . . . but for a few (now former) first-year law students , it might be a viable option to at least consider: If you have completed (with grades of 60 or above) up to 18 units of first-year law school courses, but have been academically dismissed from an ABA or California-accredited law school because you fell below the minimum required 1L GPA . . .  you may still be eligible to transfer to Monterey College of Law and complete our Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree program in two semesters. If you have an alternate plan to re-enroll and finish your JD, this idea is definitely not for you. However, if you prefer not to walk away from the time, money, and emotion invested in a full year of law school, or don't want to sit out the required two years before you are eligible to re-apply to a JD program . . . you might want to at least consider this program.

Monterey College of Law's MLS degree is the law school equivalent of an MBA or MPA. Similar to these degrees, it is an academic non-licensure degree that does not qualify a graduate for any specific job. However, as a Masters degree, it may improve opportunities for teaching positions, higher pay scale in public service jobs, and other opportunities in related industries such as finance, real estate, contract administration, public safety, and human resources. The MLS degree is a 36-unit curriculum including regular law school courses in the JD program. MCL will accept up to 18 transfer units from ABA or California-accredited law schools, which means that the remaining 18 units can be completed in two semesters. This is a residential (not distance education) program, so it does mean that you will need to move to the beautiful Monterey Peninsula area (Big Sur, Pebble Beach, Carmel, Santa Cruz). However, the other benefit is that all MCL courses are in the evening, meaning that it is possible to work during the day to offset the cost of your degree program . . . or if you are in the enviable position of not having to work, you can "work" on your surfing, golf, fishing, or hiking when you are not studying for evening classes.

As I previously said, this is not for everybody. However, if you are reading the "transfer" discussion thread because you did not have a good 1L experience at another law school , this might be a "plan B" to get closure on your law school experience in a positive way.

Law School Admissions / Re: SMU Law Applicant- Chances of Getting in?
« on: June 25, 2013, 08:56:17 AM »
Bottom line, you have all the right things going for you . . . and have clearly done the hard work to position yourself to be a competitive law school candidate. The last step is to do what it takes to do as well as possible on the LSAT. LivingLegend is spot on about the scores required. But also, you need to think about the money as well. You cannot change your GPA, but every point on your LSAT above 160 will affect your scholarship offers. Above 170 and you might be in the range of a full ride with your other factors. The numbers in play are the $250K COA (cost of attending) that you will pay for SMU and any other private law school. With that in mind, you should consider investing in the time and money for a rigorous LSAT prep course. I know they can cost up to $2K, but since you have a business degree, I shouldn't need to tell you what the rate of return of that investment could be if you can improve your scholarship and stipulation conditions (minimum 1st year grades required to retain scholarships into year 2 and 3).

Finally, I also agree with LL . . . PLEASE do not get wrapped totally up into SMU or bust. It is a perfectly fine law school (mediocre by most national standards, above average in Texas, but extraordinary in Dallas - FYI, I am originally from Dallas and taught at TTU, SMU, UH, and TWU). When it comes time to send applications, cast your net wide . . . You will be surprised at your opportunities.

So I am heavily weighing my options on what to do after I graduate. It looks like I am going to graduate with a BA in Psyc with a 2.4. I worked through college, traveled home quite a bit to help family and just had so much on my mind that it affected me everyday. But my last 2 years I have improved my grades as much as I can. I have NO volunteer work and moving home back to the Indian Reservation with family I don't see any volunteer work to be found. I the first person in my family to get a 4-year degree. I just want to know if I have any chance of every being in law school. I have a lot to offer, but the thing is I don't have the factual evidence to prove it (volunteer work, better grades, etc.) There is nothing for me here on the reservation to let me grow as a person and I don't feel as passionate about anything else other than law school. How could I improve my application to any law school? If you would like to know any more information, ask me. ex

cb070 . . . do you want the "anything is possible if you work hard enough" speech or the "tough love, here is reality" speech?

MFL350 is correct that the ONLY option that even gets you into the "anything is possible with hard work" scenario is to dedicate several months of compulsively dedicated hard work on preparing for the LSAT and prove that you have what it takes (to yourself and potential law schools) by getting a high score (I would guess 155 is the minimum and 160 would be better). In other words, you need to show that your 2.4, which in blunt honesty is a simply terrible GPA if law schools are considering whether you can be successful in graduate school . . . is not a reflection of your academic potential.

I admire your honesty about your situation, but frankly, lets be realistic here . . . look at it from the law school's standpoint . . . what does any of that have to do about whether you have the fundamental academic ability to be successful in graduate school? Essentially you are saying, nobody (including you) knows, since you haven't had a fair chance to find out during college. Being an URM does help . . . but you need to be realistic that you are still competing with URMs who faced many similar challenges AND graduated with much higher GPAs.

Consider the scenario you have presented . . . I didn't do well, but I am moving BACK to where I don't have the resources to succeed (or am facing the same challenges that resulted in a 2.4). Here is the tough love part . . . you need to get it into your head about how you want to move FOREWARD, not BACK. Law school is not about wishes, good intentions, and volunteerism (although those are certainly admirable qualities that are an asset). Law school is about really, really, really hard work so that you will eventually be in a position to counsel people and advocate on their behalf about the most fundamental and critical issues in their lives . . . losing their freedom, children, jobs, livelihood. It is a wonderful profession and career . . . but to show that you have what is necessary, you need to get straight about . . . and be in a position to prove . . . what you CAN do, not look for excuses (even those that are understandable and unavoidable) about what you have NOT done.

End of tough love . . . the very fact that you are looking into law school tells me that somewhere there is a spark in you that might be interested in rising to the challenge . . . go for it . . . but only if you are willing to work for it. If you take MFL350's advice, prepare and do well on the LSAT . . . and are interested in living and working in California, feel free to contact me at Monterey College of Law (where I am Dean), one of the California accredited law schools. We are all about second chances . . . and provide a comprehensive academic support program for those who are willing to make the commitment to do what it takes to succeed.

Hopefully, no hard feelings . . . and Good Luck.

Choosing the Right Law School / Re: Lincoln Law School in San Jose
« on: June 19, 2013, 08:29:26 AM »
Does anybody (who is familiar with LLS) have any opinions positive or negative about Lincoln Law School in San Jose, CA.  I personally would like to attend an ABA, however i do have a family and do work 40 hrs+.

Awww. Jonathan . . . not considering Monterey College of Law just down the road? Just kidding . . . OK, maybe not . . . OK, just kidding. As dean of MCL, I know LLS and its dean very well.

I can confirm that it has all of the attributes that your parents have noted, particularly that it is less than 1/2 the price of Santa Clara Law School. However, just like all CBE schools in the same town with ABA schools, it lives in the shadow of Santa Clara. LLS graduates have to compete "heads up" with Santa Clara graduates for local law jobs. This means that you need to do really well at LLS to be competitive for traditional law jobs, whether they are in public or private sector. However, you have the advantage of NOT graduating with $250K in law school loan debt which will be a huge advantage when it comes to the point of considering job opportunities.

On another point, I am more concerned about how well you have worked out the balance between the 40+ hour work schedule, family, and law school, since you have brought it up right away as part of your consideration. LLS, like MCL is a part-time, evening program . . . but that still requires classes 3 to 4 nights per week, three hours per class, plus study time of at least 2 (and frequently 3) hours of reading, outlining, and study groups outside of class for every hour in class. It is doable . . . because many of our MCL students are the same and are successful. But it requires a family commitment and, if possible at least some job flexibility, particularly during exams.

The last item to consider is to check on the availability of supplemental writing, tutoring, academic support, and supplemental bar review programs. (This is important at ABA as well as CBE schools.) I am not familiar with that level of detail about LLS's current program, but I can tell you that MCL has found that to effectively support our full-time working students, we needed to add a department with an Asst. Dean of Academic Support, study skills workshops, exam skills workshops, and when necessary . . . private tutors in order to support their academic success. The BarBri bar review program is also included in our tuition, along with a modified, full semester, evening review program every spring with supplemental, graded practice exam sessions. In other words, we realize that non-traditional working students need extra support to be successful in law school and on the bar exam.

I have no first-hand experience, but a number of recent transfers to MCL from LLS indicated that (in their opinion) LLS has a more traditional "sink or swim" program. Although they were struggling at LLS, they have flourished at MCL with the additional academic support. (Just something to keep in mind. Of course, this has no negative affect on those at the top of the LLS program.)
On another note, i was also curious about low tier vs out of state law school.  Will i have more success finding a job with a degree from University of Hawaii or UNLV in California or a local but lwoer tier school in California like Golden Gate or USF?

I fully agree with the previous post on these issues. They are " spot on."

Good luck . . . law school is an exciting adventure and sets the stage for so many options for an interesting career.

Online Law Schools / Re: California to tighten bar admission rules?
« on: June 18, 2013, 08:56:10 AM »
I agree that it sounds like you made the right choice. That said, you need to take all of your remaining bar-tested subjects with the attitude that every single one of them are now part of your extended bar preparation program. You cannot rely on the false illusion that the bar prep course will fill in the "holes" on courses that you receive sub-par grades. I also highly recommend that you look ahead to the schedule for Bar Bri's early start program that provides extra time. Our experience is that non-traditional working students cannot get through enough of the Bar Bri "cram" course AND do enough graded practice exams and MBEs to be adequately prepared for the California bar exam.

Good luck. 

Choosing the Right Law School / Re: Can i get in to an ABA?
« on: June 18, 2013, 08:44:28 AM »
I think that MFL350 basically has provided sound advice and I agree that taking a review course and retaking the LSAT is your best alternative if you are serious about attending an ABA law school. It is easy to get several different views of your statistical chances by using one of the law school predictor web sites. They are described here: I would add that because of the lower application rates this year, your numbers could possibly still get into one of the lower tier California ABA law schools (Golden Gate, LaVerne, Whittier, California Western, Thomas Jefferson Law School). HOWEVER,you really need to pay attention to the discussions going on regarding cost vs. loan debt vs. employment opportunities.

If you haven't reviewed, you are not fully informed about the implications of your choices.

Although I am certainly not an unbiased opinion (as the dean of one of the CBE accredited law schools - Monterey College of Law), I would highly recommend that you at least consider whether a CBE accredited law school might better fit your learning style. I am particularly reacting to your comment about being a poor test-taker. Schools like MCL have small classes and also have specific academic support programs for individuals who need to improve their test-taking skills. Your profile (149/3.2) would be close to MCL's median, so you are much more likely to fit in at a law school like MCL than at the typical ABA program in which your profile would place you well below the entering median scores. MCL graduates have also shown success on the CA bar exam. Like most of the CBE law schools MCL has strong ties within our local employment market, which is of growing importance to law school graduates. This means that you should also consider where you would most likely like to live and practice law as part of your law school selection process.

If you are considering this cycle for enrolling fall 2013, you also need to move quickly. Since you already have your LSAT, most of the CBE law schools (including MCL) are still accepting applications, but you are within a few weeks of missing the cut off.

CBE law schools are not for everyone, but it certainly is worth some investigation as you consider options.

I am interested in agribusiness, which i know both these schools don't really offer, but everyone who I have talked to in this industry didn't go to school and concentrate in ag, they just got into it after graduation.

I would rather pay more to be happy then go somewhere that I loathed just to save some money

How about if I make your decision harder, not easier . . . welcome to the law school approach of making you think past what seem like the most obvious choices. In full disclosure, I am the dean of a CBE law school Monterey College of Law, so I am in no way unbiased . . . but hopefully, I can provide some additional considerations that might challenge the standard assumptions.

First, you should go to if you have not already done so and determine your "COA" . . . cost of attendance between the schools you are considering. The estimated cost of attendance for both of these schools (and McGeorge would be similar) is slightly higher than $70K per year for about a $210K total over three years. Unfortunately, that means that although you should be congratulated on receiving scholarship offers . . . what you have been offered is insignificant in the big picture. You didn't say how you will be paying for law school, but if it is through student loans, you will be graduating with a ten-year obligation of about $2K-$2.5K per month for ten years. This means the first $30-40K of your post-law school annual salary will be solely going towards your annual student loan debt. In this context, it is important for you to also have looked at the employment opportunities for agribusiness. You state that these schools are not known for graduates entering this field . . . so how will the alumni network help you, even if it is closely knit and engaged (as most law school alumni networks will be). Is anyone paying $100K for USF or SCU graduates in the agribusiness field? Because if you are not making $100K, after deducting your $40K student loan costs, living in SF on less than $60K is a pretty modest existance for the ten years after graduation.

If you want the blunt truth . . . all three schools that you are considering are relatively low-ranked in employment statistics. That should concern you . . . and your level of concern should be directly proportionate to the level of student debt (undergrad and law school) that you will have upon graduation.

Keep in mind that in SF, your competition will not just be your classmates from USF and SCU, but Stanford, Berkeley, Hastings, and any other top tier law school grad who wants to move back to SF to practice.

So here is another consideration. At the risk of being self-promotional . . . where do you think the largest agribusiness concentration is located in California? Monterey County! Whether it is lettuce, strawberries, artichokes, or grapes . . . some of the largest grower shipper companies in the world are here along the central coast.

Monterey College of Law is the only law school in the central coast agribusiness region. As an accredited, evening program . . . your goal could be to get started in agribusiness while attending law school in the evening and graduate with actual experience in the industry. Your consideration is how much more competitive would that make you? Keep in mind that MCL costs less than one-half of any of the three schools that you are considering . . . and since you would be working while attending law school, you can pay as you go and reduce much, if not all of the need to take out huge student loans.

OK, enough of the advertisement . . . it is just that with such a specific area of interest, and the dominance of that industry in the area surrounding our law school . . . I just wanted to provide an alternative for you to consider.

Good luck in your decisions . . . the fact that you are carefully weighing your options before you commit speaks well for your ultimate prospects.

Law School Admissions / Re: Good enough soft factor?
« on: June 08, 2013, 08:01:04 AM »
took the LSAT once, 155, gpa 2.89

The direct answer to your question is that with your statistics, there is no T14 law school that will care about your work experience enough to overcome what are considered median or below scores/grades. In fact, your statement that you don't really want to practice law will be seen as "an admission against interest" for most (maybe all) of the elite schools. You have a great story for an MBA program, not a law program.

OK, so what to do? Since you have asked for advice, a couple of thoughts:

1. You have missed the 2013 cycle for the elite ABA law schools and your current LSAT/UGPA are too low anyway. You can't change the grades, but you can change the LSAT. Use the next year to apply the same energy and discipline that was successful in business to actually prepare for the LSAT and raise your score 15 points. A 170 and strong "softs" at least gives you some chance of getting into a "top" law school.

2. Forget the elite law school route. Your current score/GPA will still get you in this year to a number of ABA law schools that are still taking applications because admission numbers are significantly down (as much as 30% at some schools). Time is ticking and you are within a few weeks of missing it altogether so you would need to get your act together quickly. California would provide the most choices because there are so many law schools (21 ABA and 18 California accredited schools).

3. Since it sounds like you are mobile, consider one of the CBE (California accredited) law schools. They cater to non traditional law students just like you. They have evening only classes that would allow you to continue involvement in your current business or start a new one. Since your business interests are in hospitality, you could pick from locations in high-end hospitality markets such as Monterey/Carmel and Santa Barbara . . . urban markets such as LA, San Francisco, Sacramento . . . or high-tech markets such as San Jose. All of these schools are still taking 2013 applications, but they are also in the last few weeks of their cycle.

Hope this helps.

Online Law Schools / Re: Current ABA Response to Distance Education
« on: June 08, 2013, 07:25:02 AM »
There is no question that legal education is well behind the curve in embracing alternative delivery methods such as online and hybrid courses. The is really no excuse other than law schools have not been forced to make the changes and the typical law professor tenure model does little to encourage improved or revised classroom pedagogy. That said, there is also a valid point that not everything that we have traditionally expected to be part of the legal education experience is being replicated (or preferably improved upon) in the current models of online law degree programs. Learning law is best achieved as a group experience. Unlike other disciplines, it really isn't just about reading the materials and taking exams. As I have said in other threads, it is hard to know what you don't know unless you are challenged by a classmate or faculty member or you have the benefit of listening to and engaging with other opinions. Can this be achieved in an online environment . . . absolutely. Is it the format that the current online law school models are using . . . not really. Therefore, although ABA regulations are fairly challenged for being about money, unionism, and a cartel mentality, there is still work to be done before online legal education is shown to provide an equal (or I hope . . . better) education. We are working on a hybrid model at our law school that would take advantage of on-site and online education . . . but it is a slow process since we are sensitive about any one group of students being at risk if an attempted course redesign turns out to be ineffective. An effective bar review program can make up for some inadequacies . . . but only to a limited extent.

Although Monterey College of Law is a brick-and-mortar CBE accredited law school, we have allowed our sudents to take courses at California Southern as an alternative in situations where they have an unavoidable conflict with a required on-site course. Our students have had a very good experience with CalSouthern courses. The books and syllabi are frequently the same and the students report that faculty are very responsive. Fair warning, it is not a program to undertake unless you are very self-motivated and an excellent time manager. You do not have the benefit of class and faculty peer pressure to keep you on-track and it could be easy to languish along the way. I also believe that it is essential to establish an online study group if you are not going through the program with others who you know. In the process of studying law . . . it is difficult to know what you don't know . . . unless you have someone, or a class environment, with whom, or where you can test your understanding and hear other opinions. Going it alone in an online program will provide only one-half of the learning process if you don't develop an academic support environment to help expand your exploration of the ideas and concepts. This can extend into the bar review process as well which is one of the reasons that I believe the pass rate is low for online programs. It has nothing to do with the curriculum or faculty (they are likely to be perfectly adequate). . . and everything to do with how difficult it is to try and learn law on your own . . . and a whole lot less enjoyable.

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