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Messages - CA Law Dean

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41
Where should I go next fall? / Re: Can i get in to an ABA?
« on: June 18, 2013, 11:44:28 AM »
Jonathan,
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: http://lawschoolnumbers.com/lsat-prep/lsat-score-predictors. 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 www.lawschooltransparency.com, 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.

42
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 lawschooltransparency.com 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.

43
Law School Applications / Re: Good enough soft factor?
« on: June 08, 2013, 11:01:04 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.

44
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.

45
Reviews, Visits, and Rankings / Re: Top 6 CA On-Line School Ranking
« on: June 08, 2013, 09:59:05 AM »
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.

46

Actually, my biggest concern are the bar pass rates for CBE schools.  After doing some research, it appears Monterey does a bit better than those in the Los Angeles area.  Do you think that bar pass sucess rates are largely due to the individual or the school they attend?  Or do you think the CBE schools do not fair quite as well because students are not required to have a bachelor's degree or have higher LSAT scores as ABA schools?  Would like to get your opinion on that.

Several factors influence bar pass rates for CBE schools versus the pass rates for ABA. Lower academic requirements for admission may be a factor, but I'm convinced that it is not the predominant reason - or even a terribly significant one - for the lower pass rates by CBE grads. The students who graduate from CBE programs have all shown that they can perform competent legal analysis and they can pass the same law school exams that you'd find at any ABA school. The real difference lies in the attention to bar prep that CBE students on average are able to give. ABA students are predominantly unemployed or part-time workers at most. They tend to enjoy the luxury of having substantial amounts of time to study the law and to prepare for the bar. Conversely, most CBE students have full-time jobs, and a large percentage cannot take a two-month leave of absence from work to concentrate on the bar. This is the critical difference. The quality of the education itself is no different after they've weeded out the first-year students. Put ABA students in the same shoes as CBE students, or vice versa, and I have no doubt that the pass rates would virtually mirror one another.

I think all of Duncan's points about bar preparation are right on point. For example, when I arrived at MCL in 2005, about 30% of the graduates took a full-blown bar review course. The others "borrowed" prior course books, took less-expensive on-line courses, self-studied, etc. The result was a cumulative pass rate of about 38% on the California Bar Exam. We now have the BarBri course fee included as part of the regular law school tuition and have 100% participation. We also have a review course that starts in early February and is 3-4 nights a week all the way to the July bar exam. This allows working students to continue working during the day, but still complete the entire review course in time for the July bar exam. We also add several full-day Saturday practice exams that are graded by our legal writing faculty who have been through the calibration (bar grading) training program. Our cumulative bar pass rates for the California bar exam are now 66-68% and are among the top scores out of the 18 CBE law schools. HOWEVER, all of this presumes that the law student was diligent throughout law school, prepared, and performed well on all of their bar tested subjects. There is NO short cut to learning the law. I hate to say that there are no surprises, but we find that hard work and performance in law school, NOT LSAT or UGPA are the predictors for success. I think Duncan is absolutely right that a good student can be successful at any law school

47
Reply to off-line question: There is no hard and fast rule about how many units or what grades are required for transfer units to be accepted at another law school. I suspect that our general guideline at Monterey College of Law is similar to most law schools: we will consider accepting up to 50% of the required units (43 out of 86) for the J.D. If you took a class that we do not offer, we may consider it towards the elective requirements. Any course submitted for an MCL required course must be substantially the same as our course (and if there is doubt, we request a syllabus). Generally we will only accept units in which a grade of 70 or above was achieved, but we will consider all grades in the context of the complete transcript. For example, a student earned grades of 72, 70, 68 . . . we would likely accept all 3 courses. If a student earned grades of 72, 70, 65 . . . we would accept the 72 and 70, but not count the 65 toward graduation requirements.

However, MCL also offers a 36-unit Master of Legal Studies degree that allows more flexibility. As a non-licensure academic degree, MCL will consider up to 18 transfer units from an accredited law school (ABA or California) with the requirement that they must be passing grades. The remaining 18 units must be completed at MCL.

48
M / Re: Monterey College of Law
« on: June 02, 2013, 12:38:21 PM »
Good luck to all the June 2013 LSAT takers! Monterey College of Law is one of the national test sites, but we are full with almost 80 registrants. However, if you are local and have a confirmed registration and have been assigned to an out-of-town test site, contact MCL Dean of Admissions Wendy LaRiviere (831-582-4000) about the possibility of a walk-in opening at MCL. We always have a few "no-shows" and might be able to accommodate you at our test site. BUT, you must contact Dean LaRiviere FIRST, because we are assigned a specific number of seats and test materials. We do not want you to risk missing the test in case we do not have enough exams to accommodate additional walk-ins.

Be calm . . . follow directions . . . and use your time wisely.

P.S. If you have missed the June LSAT, but are still interested in enrolling this Fall in law school, see comment in this thread about the October LSAT.

49
Lots of really good points included in this thread discussion. I wasn't watching the distance education discussion, so I missed the earlier points (sorry), but if I might jump in here, I can probably add some interesting context.

Another issue with CBE schools is I believe (without about 51% certainty so take it with a grain of salt)  Barbri does not offer their services to non-aba students, but I am sure CA Law Dean will interject if that is incorrect. BarBri or Kaplan is really what prepare you for the bar law school builds the foundation, but those courses get you the license. If those courses are available from a CBE school and you do what they say you are likely to get that law license whether from a CBE or ABA school.

Fortunately this is not true. BarBri has a long history of working just as hard with the CBE schools as with the ABA schools. For a period of about ten years, BarPassers was considered a better fit for CBE students, so most of the CBE schools, including Monterey College of Law (MCL - where I serve as dean) offered that program. However, BarPassers is now also owned by Kaplan and has been put on a back burner.

Bar Bri has worked collaboratively with MCL to develop a pilot program that we have designed specifically for our CBE, non-traditional, working students. We are in the fourth year of the program and believe that the results speak for themselves. Without changing our admissions policies or increasing attrition (the two quickest ways to manipulate bar pass rates), MCL has improved our cumulative bar pass rates from 38% in 2005 to 68% in 2011. We are slightly lower after the 2012 results (66%), but that should also increase somewhat as that class gets the opportunity to get a second (and third) chance at the exam.

What has changed? First, we went from about 30% participation in post-graduation bar review programs . . . to 100%. We accomplished this by including the cost of BarBri in the law school tuition. No one has to come up with $4,200+ as a post-graduation "surprise". We extended the bar prep period from 11 weeks to the entire Spring Semester, facilitated by our own Asst. Dean for Academic Support. This provides time for students to complete the entire review program AND participate in multiple full-day (Saturday) practice exams, some graded by BarBri and some graded by local lawyers who have been through the state bar calibration (grading) training. Just so that you don't think MCL is only about bar preparation, MCL also has a policy that students must repeat bar-tested subjects if they get sub-standard grades (usually 65/66 or below). Note that there is no additional tuition charge for the repeated courses and achieving a higher grade replaces the lower grade for the purpose of cumulative law school GPA.

All in all - there are simply no short-cuts . . . for the law school or the law students. It requires a LOT of supplemental work to be successful on the (irrationally difficult) California Bar Exam. However, our results show that with this extra work (repeated classes, tutoring, and comprehensive bar prep), MCL students have successfully overcome low LSAT predictors, learning disabilities, ESL, and work challenges (as an evening program, virtually all of our students work during the day) . . . and can be successful in law school and on the bar exam.

I think CBE schools should require some minimum LSAT score for consumer protection purposes. I think to many people are drawn by being attorney, but if you can't get at least a 150 on the LSAT that is probably an indicator you are not a great standardized test-taker and the bar is about 100x times harder and more pressure than the LSAT.

I also wondered about the relationship between the LSAT and bar exam success. MCL conducted a statistical analysis on the past 6 years of students and I was very surprised how poor the LSAT was as a predictor of law school OR bar exam success. However, remember that our non-traditional student population includes adult, working, ESL students, and I believe a disproportionate number of undiagnosed adult learning disabilities. None of these potential students do particularly well on the LSAT. However, the data unequivocally proved that law school cumulative GPA is the direct predictor of bar exam success, regardless of these other factors. So I would (and have publicly testified before state bar committees), that a minimum LSAT cannot be justified in the CBE setting. Our reports were an influential part of the data considered by the Committee of Bar Examiners before they rejected a proposal to set minimum LSAT admission standards for CBE law schools.

As for Cher if you were admitted to an ABA school and have been there a few years you have already given so much money it is probably better to stay to have an ABA degree. You will probably only save 30,000 in tuition or so and there will be some doors closed without an ABA degree. If you were a 0L and it was going to be $200,000 in savings it might be different, but you have gone so far down the path you might as well finish it off.

This is good advice for consideration . . . however, if there are factors beyond the financial, such as better academic support, preference for small classes, better job connections through the network of CBE adjunct faculty . . . it might prove beneficial to transfer. IMPORTANT NOTE, there is a limit to the number of transfer units that a school can/will accept. It is irrelevant whether it is from a CBE to ABA or a ABA to CBE. For example, MCL requires 86 units for graduation and we will only accept 43 transfer units . . . so check on the rules where you are considering so you don't inadvertently end up losing ground on your completed units.

50
Reviews, Visits, and Rankings / Re: Are CBA schools a joke?
« on: May 27, 2013, 06:33:36 PM »
Wow. So sorry to get back to this party late. I completely missed that this thread was staying active or I would have chimed back in earlier. Particularly since it is one of my favorite topics. Just to confirm, I am correctly identified as Dean Mitchel Winick of Monterey College of Law. I think the comments about CBE schools are right on point. Most of the CBE law schools serve  a unique market that does not really overlap with the traditional ABA law schools. The real trouble with Bobol's one-dimensional assessment is not that CBE school's fail to provide employment data. (By the way, I actually believe that CBEs should start collecting and reporting employment data, and MCL has initiated the process to do so this summer).

 The issue is that to reflect the mission of our schools and our graduates, we need to report somewhat different data to reflect whether we are fairly meeting our obligations to our graduates. I actually just had this conversation with the ED of Law School Transparency to solicit his advice on what data should be collected and reported for CBE schools. As he and I discussed, the "9 month after graduation" statistic doesn't work well for a school like MCL.  It is important to remember that as an evening law school program, all of our students are already working during law school and throughout the bar prep period. In many cases they have professional jobs that they have no intention of leaving (i.e. realtors, financial planners, accountants) regardless of whether they pass the bar exam after earning their JD.

However, I do think that it would be valuable to collect and report on what our graduates do with their degrees and whether they pass the bar and get a law-related job if that was their primary objective. However, as interesting as the data should be . . . it is important to realize that we are talking about very small groups (20 to 25 graduates per year). Dividing the results into meaningful statistics will be challenging with such small numbers. That is one of e reasons that CBE schools have never been required to collect and report employment data as part of our accreditation standards. Unlike ABA law schools that have a singular mission of law-related employment, CBE law schools have a much broader educational role in our specific communities.

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