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ABA versus Non-ABA; marathon LSAT-taker

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My profile is I graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology with a 2.87GPA in 2006. Married in 2007. Then graduated from Cal State Bakersfield in 2009 with an MSW (Masters of Social Work) and 3.87GPA. I've worked as a Child Protective Services Social Worker and Medical Social Worker for the past 5-6 years.

I have been taking the LSAT since 2006. My scores have been 140, 141, 145 and 146 (steadily improving each time).

I am now 29 years old and never accepted into any ABA schools. I was recently accepted into San Joaquin College of Law (SJCL), which is a non-ABA approved school but state accredited. I have been struggling with the decision of attending SJCL and leaving the workforce.

My fear is attending a non-ABA approved school will limit my options post-law school. My other fear is if I don't go I may never get into any ABA approved school and forego my opportunity to attend law school altogether.

As far as career plan, I'd like to get into public interest law, juvenile dependency or health law. I plan on staying in California.

Any and all pieces of thoughts, advice and wisdom would be greatly appreciated.


Maintain FL 350:
This issue has been discussed pretty extensively in other threads, check put some of the older threads.

In my opinion, state-accredited law schools can be a good choice for the right student. Generally, if you have the opportunity to attend an ABA school that's probably a better idea. The key is to really take the time to consider what you want to do after law school, and to think about whether or not a non-ABA degree can help you achieve that goal.

The cost of attending SJCL is (I think) about $50-60,000. That's a huge investment of money and time. Whether you're considering a state school or an ABA school, you need to think about whether the cost of attending will be outweighed by the benefit. In other words, after spending $50-60K will you be able to get a job that will allow you to make thise loan payments?

The job market is very, very tight right now, and I'm sure it's tighter for Calbar grads vs. ABA. Nonetheless, I seem to remember that SJCL has a good reputation in the central valley, and many of the local attorneys are grads. If you plan on staying in the immediate area, SJCL probably has a decent alumni network that can help you get some experience with internships, etc. Outside of the central valley, you'll have to compete against grads from bigger name schools.

As far as working in juvenile dependency, a degree from a state school probably won't hold you back, especially considering your experience as a social worker. The biggest problem you'll face in that field is that there are very few jobs available. The dependency positions that are state/county funded have had their budgets slashed, and the government dependency jobs (county counsel, DCFS) are almost all on a hiring freeze. When a position does open up, they get flooded with applicants.

One last point, and please don't take this as criticism: the LSAT is easy compared to the bar exam. The LSAT is one morning long, and covers a few topics. The CA bar exam is three days long, covers something like 16 topics, and is notoriously difficult. If you had a tough time with the LSAT you might want to think about how you'll handle the bar exam before you drop 60k on law school.

Good Luck with everything!

Hi Roald,

Thank you very much for replying so quickly. I take absolutely no offense to your advice regarding the BAR. I agree. It is another concern I have considered. I have a lot to think about and I have been asking for input from everyone. I figure words of wisdom may help.

If you don't mind, can you share some of your background/experience with me?

You have always been in the bottom 1/3 of LSAT takers.  Your worst score put you in the 13th percentile.  140 is like 37/100 on the test.   People should be able to get 50% by process of elimination and coin-flip luck.

So rather than bash you, I'll tell you what I've learned.   You can go to a Cal-credited school, pass the bar and get a job if you have a little luck and some serious networking game. 

You should really start meeting family law attorneys.  These people often work at smaller firms, so the job potential isn't great, but you can learn alot about what they are looking for.  Your background in social work will help you to navigate a lot of legal issues in juvenile cases, so you'll need to lean heavily on that. 

You are fighting against a stereotype that might be true.  You look dumb on paper.  7-8 out of 10 people did better than you on the LSAT.  So you have to make up for that with connections, heart, and a sincere desire to practice a certain type of law.  Lawyers focusing on family, criminal, and public interest law really love dedication and interest. 

Honestly, if you can't figure out a way to meet with ten lawyers in areas you are interested in in the next month, you don't have the tools you need. (unless you just don't have any time).

Hi jack24,

Thank you for the candid honesty. I won't make excuses for my poor scores. I agree. It will be an uphill battle. I have spoken with some attorneys in juvenile dependency and still continue to work on my networking.

Thanks again...


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