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Messages - CA Law Dean

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61
Visits, Admit Days, and Open Houses / Re: Are CBA schools a joke?
« on: April 08, 2013, 09:09:09 AM »
Thanks for the "plug" JL. CBE (Committee of Bar Examiner), also known as CALS (California Accredited Law Schools) are small, regional law schools accredited by the State Bar of California, not the ABA. Many of them have 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 evening programs so that you can actually begin working in law-related jobs to gain relevant experience before graduating. Most have strong ties to their local bench-bar that provide valuable networking for jobs after graduation.

In reference to the question . . . they would indeed be a "bad joke" if your goal is to work in a large urban center in a multinational law conglomerate or if you intended to move out of California within three years after graduation. But if the idea of practicing in California, being a small firm lawyer, DA, Public Defender, Legal Services lawyer, or solo practitioner is what you are after . . . and you like the idea of graduating with reasonable or no student loan debt, a CBE school is absolutely not a joke. Just like any other law school, before you get serious about a decision, ask hard questions about bar pass rates, costs, job placement, clinical,programs, etc. One of the most compelling arguments for the regional law schools is that 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.

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.

62
Minority and Non-Traditional Law Students / Re: Never too late
« on: April 07, 2013, 09:40:23 PM »
LL has it right and I think Duncan is doing a good job of keeping it all in perspective.

63
JL, I agree with many of your viewpoints, but sometimes you are stuck in your own limited paradigm. If you see the world solely through the model of a traditional student in their 20s going from high school, to college, to law school . . . you miss the entire point of the non-traditional student. Just three years ago, our number one graduate, moot court finalist, first time bar passer, and now successful local lawyer was a special student who entered without even an AA degree. She qualified through the baby bar and was an exceptional student from day one. Her education was in computer science and she had numerous certificates that qualified her for her job field in programing . . . just not the type of liberal arts education that somehow is presumed to better "qualify" a student in the study of law. She may be an unusual case . . . but we have returning veterans, small business entrepreneurs, and 50+ year old business professionals who did not have the luxury of a full undergraduate education that prove repeatedly that the piece of paper is not as important as an assessment of their interest, dedication, and willingness to do the extra work to make up any possible academic deficiencies.

64
Online Law Schools / Re: The World laughs at US Law School System
« on: April 06, 2013, 12:51:59 PM »
I don't know where your Masters program was located. If it was part of a general humanities department, I can understand your concern. Our Master of Legal Studies (36 unit) degree requires the same admission standards as the JD, except that the LSAT is not required. The students take the same law school classes and exams, are graded the same as JD students, and in fact, the law faculty only knows they are MLS students if the student chooses to inform them. In a rural county such as ours, a two-year limited license could be very valuable for low-fee, form-based legal assistance in areas such as family law, immigration law, and employment law. One of the local concerns for our Hispanic community are the unscrupulous Notary Publics that prey on individuals who think that they have the same qualifications as "Notarios" from their home country. They charge $1000s for very poor services. Skilled, trained, and licensed limited scope legal professionals could eliminate much of this abuse. Of course, this might be unique to rural, agricultural communities like we have here in California.

65
Law School Admissions / Re: REJECTED, ETC. TODAY
« on: April 06, 2013, 12:40:20 PM »
It is interesting to look back over previous years posts on "Rejections". There is no question that the 2013-2014 cycle is turning out to be quite unique. OK, I admit to being a "data stalker" on lawschoolnumbers.com. Hey . . . we all have our issues. So far this cycle, if you have any portability at all, there is no "bottom" cut off on admissions for 2013. If you have your heart set on attending an ABA law school . . . and you have the resources to pay for it . . . there is a school this year somewhere for you.

I have never seen so many sub-2.5 UGPA and sub-150 LSAT scores direct-admitted to law schools before. That said . . . is this a good thing? I know you think I am about to whine about low academic standards, etc . . . but that is not my concern. What I hate to see are law schools skimming (scamming) a year of tuition (up to $50K) from law students who have no realistic chance for academic success . . . wait for the down beat . . . WITHOUT APPROPRIATE ACADEMIC SUPPORT.

It isn't that I think high risk (from UGPA/LSAT formulas) students cannot be successful in law school. However, I am CERTAIN that they cannot be successful without the school's commitment to identify at-risk students early-on and provide hands-on academic support. I do not fault law schools who are facing reduced applications for responding to market forces and opening their doors to a broader range of students. (Our school has statistics that show how poor of a predictor that the LSAT can be on ultimate law school and bar exam success.) However, with that change should also come an equal commitment to address the academic support needs of these students.

If you are an applicant who was rejected this cycle because you got caught up in the "how high in the rankings can I go syndrome" . . . there is still time for Fall 2013 to redial your strategy (particularly if you are a California applicant, or someone who envisions practicing in California) and look at one of the California accredited law schools. These schools are smaller, have hands-on, one-on-one academic support, cost 1/2 to 1/3 of tuition, and have very respectable completion and bar pass rates for good students. These schools are NOT for everyone. If you have your heart set on BigLaw and BigCity . . . not so much. But if you see yourself practicing in California as a small firm lawyer, DA, Public Defender, legal services, or non-profit lawyer . . . check out one of the 17 California accredited law schools before you check out of your dream to be a lawyer.

(for additional info on one of the CBE schools, see Monterey College of Law under "M" in the discussion boards)

66
Law School Admissions / Post 9/11 GI Benefits and Law School
« on: April 06, 2013, 11:52:23 AM »
I wish more eligible Veterans and their families were aware how valuable the Post 9/11 GI benefits can be for Vets, spouses, and dependents. Just as an example, for applicants (particularly those interested in practicing in California), the Post 9/11 benefits can pay up to 100% of their tuition at one of the California accredited law schools. $17,500 per year if you qualify for the full benefit.

$17,500 may not go very far towards a $50K (per year) typical ABA law school degree, but most of the CBE (State Bar of California "Committee of Bar Examiner" accredited law schools - also known as CALS "California Accredited Law Schools") have annual tuition at, or below, this amount. These schools are approved for Post 9/11 benefits and many, such as Monterey College of Law (located near NPS and DLI), are also Yellow Ribbon schools that pick up the difference if your benefits don't cover the entire annual tuition.

. . . and this is for SPOUSES AND DEPENDENTS as well. Many Vets are being bombarded by unaccredited on-line degree offers, but an accredited CBE law school will be a much better legal education for most, if not all Vets and their families . . . and law schools such as Monterey  are located in Vet-friendly communities with VA resources, etc.

(for more info specifically on Monterey College of Law . . . see discussion post under "M")

67
Online Law Schools / Re: The World laughs at US Law School System
« on: April 05, 2013, 07:48:05 PM »
What's a few hundred years between common law friends (mates) . . . of course overlooking a few spats along the way, OK and a Declaration of Independence. If you read Brian Tamanaha's book "Failing Law Schools", he talks about the early 1800's debate in US legal education about whether the "trade" model or "philosophy" model of legal education would prevail. We know how that worked out and the Socratic method and three-year law degree has spent the next 200 years as the holy grail of legal education. Of course the McCrate Report, the Carnegie Foundation and many others (over the most recent two decades) have clearly articulated why a more clinical, practical . . . and dare we say "non-elitist" model of legal education would be more effective. I am pleased to say that in a (very) small way, that is what we are doing at Monterey College of Law since we operate apart from the ABA approval process. We require more that 200 hours of practical skills training, 150 hours of pro-bono workshop experience, and all of our students (starting in 2012) are required to be certified as mediators through our own Mandell Gisnet Center for Conflict Management. Of the 86 units we require for graduation, 59 are proscribed by the state bar . . . 9 are legal writing, research, and analysis . . . 6 are required clinical and moot court . . . and the remaining are electives, internships, and optional clinical workshops.

So, long answer to a short question . . . I don't see much likelihood of the undergraduate/two year contract, but I am supportive of the two-year limited license option that is currently being considered in Washington state (and theoretically in California . . . but I won't hold my breath). I also think there are many options to bring at least the equivalent of a year of practicum and clinical training into the "traditional" US law degree curriculum.

68
Online Law Schools / Re: The World laughs at US Law School System
« on: April 05, 2013, 02:05:35 PM »
As a dean of a CBE law school (Monterey College of Law), I can confirm that what makes California accredited law school programs different is that we are scaled in size and cost to more closely meet the needs of the local community. Our law degree costs about $65K . . . not $150K. As a part-time evening program, our students are encouraged to start working in law-related jobs during law school, not only reducing the need for student loans, but in most cases providing the opportunity to get actual experience in different practice areas (and law firms) to identify a preferred area of practice after graduation. In some ways, our format is much closer to the medical school practicum model than the typical ABA program. I think that you will also find that the bar pass rates for good students at CBE schools is competitive with the unranked ABA law schools.

69
Idea for California applicants who are terminally wait listed or rejected. O.K. The 2013-2014 cycle is almost over and Plan A isn't working out. Gut check time . . . What is your most important objective? If the answer is becoming a lawyer . . . and not just becoming a "________" law school graduate . . . then it is NOT too late to consider one of the 17 California accredited law schools (such as Monterey College of Law) for Fall 2013. These regional schools are accredited by the State Bar of California, not the ABA. 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. 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.

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.

70
Kim, whereas LivingLegend certainly raises good points to consider . . . I would add a different view. First, most part-time programs have 3 instead of 5 substantive courses plus a legal writing course. Each school picks the topics, but they are usually selected from the standard first-year topics, Contracts, Torts, Criminal Law, Real Property, Civil Procedure. Days and times will be provided to you, but if you look at last year's schedule, I bet they don't change much. Second, our school (Monterey College of Law) is entirely a part-time, evening law school, so I do not share LivingLegend's pessimism about your prospects, even though his caution is well advised.

What I see is that you are already reaching out for advice and thinking strategically about time management, life balance, etc. That alone puts you well ahead of the game from my standpoint. Most of our students work full-time and attend law school at night. It is not easy. In fact, it is exceptionally hard. However, if your passion and enthusiasm is to be a lawyer . . . and preferably a great lawyer, there is no reason you cannot achieve that in a part-time program. Keep in mind that just as you are trying to chart your individual course now at the beginning of law school, it will be the same at the end. You will need to be ready to prove yourself at every step to be equally (or better) prepared and talented as the full-time students. Is this fair? Obviously not. But it is the path you are choosing to take, so make no apologies, and give yourself no slack. Our part-time program graduates are Judges, DAs, Public Defenders, and successful private practitioners in every practice area . . . Was it as easy as if they walked in with a Stanford degree? NO. Was it still possible to be a success? YES.

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