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Messages - CA Law Dean

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Online Law Schools / Re: The World laughs at US Law School System
« on: June 07, 2013, 06:04:13 PM »

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

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.

Online Law Schools / Re: California to tighten bar admission rules?
« on: May 29, 2013, 09:08:19 AM »
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.

Visits, Admit Days, and Open Houses / Re: Are CBA schools a joke?
« on: May 27, 2013, 03:33:36 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.

Spring grades are out and some students are realizing they are not at the right law school . . . it just wasn't the right fit. Some students scored higher than they expected and want to transfer to higher-ranked law schools. That discussion is in a number of other threads. However, what is rarely discussed is whether the talented student who got lost in a large competitive law school environment and received disappointing grades . . . can transfer to a smaller school that provides more academic support in a setting better suited for their learning style?

If a law student is in California (or is mobile enough to move to California), the answer may be a surprising "YES". Monterey College of Law is one of the law schools accredited by the State Bar of California that has a program designed around small classes (30 students), individual tutoring, and comprehensive academic support. The environment has proven to be a successful alternative to students who failed to thrive in traditional competitive law school programs. Most important, the law school's cumulative bar pass rate on the challenging California Bar Exam is one of the best (68% in 2011, 66% in 2012) out of the 18 California accredited law schools.

More discussion about Monterey College of Law is located under "M" on this board in the law school specific section.

Minority and Non-Traditional Law Students / Re: Never too late
« on: April 23, 2013, 09:59:22 AM »
. . . I am disappointed that my Texas license doesn't count . . . particularly since the current Texas Governor kicks around the idea of secession from time to time.

Minority and Non-Traditional Law Students / Re: Never too late
« on: April 21, 2013, 10:09:36 AM »
I think we completely agree on this . . . how could it be that lawyers who are perfectly capable, licensed, and experienced in one or more states and then come to California and only have a 20-30% pass rate on the California bar exam? Reciprocity is virtually non-existent in the US. The only real explanation is the unionism/cartel approach to American attorney licensure.

Law School Admissions / Re: Post 9/11 GI Benefits and Law School
« on: April 21, 2013, 09:58:20 AM »
I just received an important clarification from a veteran on another Board. Note that public law schools (there are 5 in California) all provide 100% tuition for qualified veterans. The cost difference only comes into play with the private California law schools (16 ABA and 18 California accredited) that are limited to the $19,200 cap on annual tuition. It is in this context in California that a veteran, spouse, or dependent might find a California accredited law school a better financial option than taking out loans for the difference between $19,200 and $50K per year at an ABA private law school. Of course significant scholarships at private ABA schools might also make up the difference as well. Just suggesting there might be a broader range of options when the California accredited law schools are considered.

Minority and Non-Traditional Law Students / Re: Never too late
« on: April 20, 2013, 04:20:44 PM »
Put another way, if you have a Harvard JD you could clerk for a Federal Judge or have the option of representing SSI claimants if that's your cup of tea; unranked and lower ranked school graduates don't have the same band width of options. The lower ranking your school, the fewer options you will have straight out of school.  However, in the scheme of things helping SSI claimants may indeed do more good for society than being the hatchet person for a corporate schill  judge or an insurance company or god forbid a bank!

JL, I think you have merely re-stated the obvious . . . and it it just as true in other graduate programs as well, business, engineering, architecture . . . top schools and top graduates get different choices. However, you provide such a one-dimensional view of life after law school. I graduated in the 70's from what is now appx. a 50th ranked school (they didn't rank the schools when I graduated) from a southwestern state, but even then I knew that SCOTUS was out of the question and my mid-class ranking wouldn't get me in to the urban high-rise BigLaw practice. None of that is new information. Wasn't then, isn't now. However . . . there are really interesting things that can be done with a law degree . . . business, finance, entrepreneurship, non-profit . . . many of which could care less about your school and class standing and much more about your initiative, creativity, drive, work-ethic, etc.

Law School Admissions / Re: Post 9/11 GI Benefits and Law School
« on: April 16, 2013, 11:21:21 AM »
We just received the update Post 9/11 GI benefit summary and students starting after August 1 could qualify for up to $19,198.31 per year. This means that even without our Yellow Ribbon status, any veteran, spouse, or dependent that receives eligibility for 100% benefit would get their entire Monterey College of Law tuition, fees, and books paid for under the program. This would be true for other California accredited law schools as well. This is an extraordinary opportunity for veterans and their families . . . particularly if they have the flexibility to relocate.

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