Law School Discussion

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I was dismissed from Western State after 3 semesters, should I try to stay in the legal field, for example getting a paralegal certificate, and then try to go back to law school?

Yes.
No.
Depends, I'll explain below.

Author Topic: Question from a dismissed law student of Western State College of Law at Argosy  (Read 4915 times)

LegalFielder

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I was dismissed from Western State after 3 semesters, should I try to stay in the legal field, for example getting a paralegal certificate, and then try to go back to law school?

RobWreck

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Addressing this post as an honest request for help and not a humorless hoax, you haven't provided enough information for any reasoned advice...

1) Why were you dismissed? If it was an academic dismissal for poor grades, have you identified the source of the trouble and come up with a solution? If it was a disciplinary dismissal that would impact potential bar admission, that's an even more significant concern.

2) Why do you want to go back to law school? Is there a more affordable alternative that meets your goals? How committed are you to a career in the legal field?



St. John's University School of Law '11
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jack24

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Addressing this post as an honest request for help and not a humorless hoax, you haven't provided enough information for any reasoned advice...

1) Why were you dismissed? If it was an academic dismissal for poor grades, have you identified the source of the trouble and come up with a solution? If it was a disciplinary dismissal that would impact potential bar admission, that's an even more significant concern.

2) Why do you want to go back to law school? Is there a more affordable alternative that meets your goals? How committed are you to a career in the legal field?

Good questions.
I'd also add  3) What type of legal work do you believe you'd like to do (What type of employer, what practice area, and what kind of day to day work)

LegalFielder

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I was academically dismissed from Western State for not having enough "foundation points."  Western State has a notoriously high attrition rate.  Not only must students achieve above a 2.0 (which is how it is at most law schools), but students must also attain at least four foundation points after the first year, otherwise the student is put on probation for one semester then subsequently dismissed if the student does not attain four foundation points at the end of the probation semester.  A foundation point is earned by receiving at least a 2.5 in specific courses (such as Torts, Crim Law/Pro, Contracts, Civ Pro, etc.), which are bar-tested.  Western State's bar passage rate is extremely high considering is a for-profit unranked school because about 50% of each class is academically dismissed.

I had above a 2.0 but unfortunately did not receive all four foundation points.  I petitioned to continue my studies but it was denied by the faculty and no reason was given.  I felt like I was ready for all of my exams, except maybe one midterm which I did not study enough for, but I was not able to fulfill the foundation points requirement.

Getting dismissed has been a huge setback, monetarily and mentally, and it seems as if no one at Western State even wants to speak with me now but I'm still very interested in staying in the legal field.  I was actually thinking about waiting the ABA mandated 2-year period regarding academically dismissed students, getting into a paralegal program, try to find a job in the legal field, and retake the LSAT next year during maybe the Summer or Fall of 2013.

As far as the type of legal work, I want to be involved in civil litigation.  I wouldn't mind the hours or the stress involved in litigation.

RobWreck

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Ok, so that explains why you're not @ Western anymore... because of their absurdly high dismissal rate. The follow-up question is 'What have you changed that will cause you to have a different result?' If you haven't identified why you weren't in the top half, then what makes you think that you'll have more success the second time around?

A brief search of the school's website led me to this disheartening statement...

Grades will be assigned on a C curve.
Prof. Dellinger's Contracts I class - Syllabus p.4
http://content.wsulaw.edu/assets/Academics/Syllabi-Booklists/2011/contracts-IIIB-syllabus.pdf

Perhaps I'm mistaken here, but a C curve indicates that a 2.0 is the midpoint of the grading curve, no? So roughly half of Prof. Dellinger's students will be facing academic problems, and less than half will receive the required 2.5 to earn a 'foundation point'? You may want to reconsider whether you really want to get back into a program so heavily stacked against you...
St. John's University School of Law '11
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LegalFielder

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You're right about Prof. Dellinger's class, which why most 1Ls are so stressed during their first year at Western State.  Most students in every class, not just Prof. Dellinger's, do not receive a foundation point which is why the attrition rate is so high.  Western State actually has "double attrition," meaning that students get dismissed after their first year for not having >2.0 and then even more students are dismissed after their third semester, midway through law school, for not receiving the required amount of "foundation points."  The latter being the category that I fall in.  I believe that the ABA only reports attrition rates of students after the first year, but I'm not 100% sure about that one.

Oh, I absolutely do not want to get back into Western State's law program, even though I believe I would do much better.  Western State does not care about their students.  All they care about is keeping their ABA accreditation because they're unranked.  Instead of changing teaching methods so students are better prepared for the bar, they punish their own students by dismissing so many of them.  I wish I knew what I know now about Western State before I enrolled.  Attrition rates never really crossed my mind before I started at Western State.  I would never recommend to a prospective law student that he/she go to Western State.

As far as what I have changed that will cause me to have a different result, I'll explain my success in a paralegal program and, if I can find a paralegal job, how working in the legal field has motivated me to do much better the second time around.  My lack of focus at Western State, also having to take care my elder parents, played a role and I'll attempt to show to an admissions committee that between the time of my dismissal and the time of my admissions application that I am much more focused and am more motivated to do well in any law program.  I plan on retaking the LSAT and obviously studying much harder and smarter to increase my score as much as I can.  I'll still only apply to law schools in California but definitely not Western State, nor Whittier because I know people there who told me that their attrition is also high.  I was recently dismissed so I still have a little less than two years to "rehab" myself so that I can get into a better law program.

Any other ideas on what I should do? Constructive criticism is always appreciated.


Maintain FL 350

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Since obtaining ABA accreditation WSU has dramatically raised it's bar pass rates, but clearly relies on brutal attrition to accomplish this. I believe that WSU ranks in the top 5 nationwide for attrition. I have no doubt that the substantive education at WSU is solid, and is equivalent to any other ABA school, but that grading policy is awful.

The ABA now demands higher pass rates in order to obtain/retain accreditation, but disapproves of high attrition. It'll be interesting to see what happens when WSU gets it's ABA review in (I think) a year or two. Didn't Whittier and GGU get placed on probation for admitting a big class of unqualified students and then attriting a huge percentage? The ABA views this type of practice very negatively.
 

jack24

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As far as the type of legal work, I want to be involved in civil litigation.  I wouldn't mind the hours or the stress involved in litigation.

I'm a litigator and I can tell you that not all litigation is created equal.  It's impossible to know how successful you can be in the future, but statistically you face an uphill battle for lawyer jobs at firms with 5+ attorneys.  I'm not saying it's impossible for you to get back into law school and have a great career at a successful firm, but it is more likely you'll have to work in a smaller office or open your own shop, at least at first.

If you want to be a litigator at a firm with 5-25 attorneys, for example, you should focus on networking with attorneys at those firms.  They will give you the best information and advice, if they are being honest, and they can put in a good word for you when you graduate.  I would do this before you decide on your paralegal question.  A great paralegal at a medium+ firm has a very different job description than an attorney at a medium+ firm.  Those jobs require different personalities and skill sets. (Some skills overlap, naturally).  If the partners like your personality, they may consider hiring you in spite of some difficulties you've had, but your skill as a paralegal won't put you above attorney candidates with significant skills and a better academic record.
However, a great paralegal who subsequently becomes an attorney may have a lot of the skills and experience necessary to thrive at a very small firm or open his own firm.

I really think the best thing you can do at this point is find a role model and see if you can take them to lunch.  Hopefully this person will be the lawyer you want to be in ten years.  You can get advice on your situation and get an idea for who the decision makers are and what they will be looking for from you.



jonlevy

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See if you can enroll at a non ABA California accedited law school, you sure the hell don't want to be a paralegal if you can be a lawyer instead.  Who wants to take orders the rest of their life from some lawyer who but for the fact they went to an easier law school is sitting in the big office with a window while you sit in a cubicle.  Any lawyer job is better than being a paralegal which is essentially a glorified clerk who fills out papers, looks things up, and does things the lawyer is too busy or important do to.  A so called indpendent parlegal is a form filler outter who sometimes tries to practice law without a license

You were good enough to get into law school.  Identify the character traits and/or vices that caused your downfall and address them.

Cher1300

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You're right about Prof. Dellinger's class, which why most 1Ls are so stressed during their first year at Western State.  Most students in every class, not just Prof. Dellinger's, do not receive a foundation point which is why the attrition rate is so high.  Western State actually has "double attrition," meaning that students get dismissed after their first year for not having >2.0 and then even more students are dismissed after their third semester, midway through law school, for not receiving the required amount of "foundation points."  The latter being the category that I fall in.  I believe that the ABA only reports attrition rates of students after the first year, but I'm not 100% sure about that one.

Oh, I absolutely do not want to get back into Western State's law program, even though I believe I would do much better.  Western State does not care about their students.  All they care about is keeping their ABA accreditation because they're unranked.  Instead of changing teaching methods so students are better prepared for the bar, they punish their own students by dismissing so many of them.  I wish I knew what I know now about Western State before I enrolled.  Attrition rates never really crossed my mind before I started at Western State.  I would never recommend to a prospective law student that he/she go to Western State.

As far as what I have changed that will cause me to have a different result, I'll explain my success in a paralegal program and, if I can find a paralegal job, how working in the legal field has motivated me to do much better the second time around.  My lack of focus at Western State, also having to take care my elder parents, played a role and I'll attempt to show to an admissions committee that between the time of my dismissal and the time of my admissions application that I am much more focused and am more motivated to do well in any law program.  I plan on retaking the LSAT and obviously studying much harder and smarter to increase my score as much as I can.  I'll still only apply to law schools in California but definitely not Western State, nor Whittier because I know people there who told me that their attrition is also high.  I was recently dismissed so I still have a little less than two years to "rehab" myself so that I can get into a better law program.

Any other ideas on what I should do? Constructive criticism is always appreciated.


This is certainly an issue that many of us at WSU worry about.  It's not only that you need these 4 foundation points (for part-timers it's 4 in two years), but you need a total of eight before you can receive your juris doctorate.  If this becomes an issue for me, I'm going to transfer out to a CBE school if I cannot transfer to another ABA.  From what I understand from a former WSU student who transferred to West LA law school, she said there are many students there who were dismissed for not getting their foundation points that were able to transfer their class credits where they earned a 2.0 or better.  Just something for you to consider if you plan on practicing only in California.  Most CBE's should realize that being dismissed for not having a certain amount of 2.5's is different than being academically dismissed for failure to keep your cum. gpa above a 2.0.

BTW, in my first semester with Delinger, half the class failed the midterm.  However, most were able to comeback and pass the class.  The problem with WSU is that no one knows about the foundation point system until they start school.   Since this is a system that has gone on for at least a couple of years and the ABA just came to evaluate the classes this past semester, I"m not sure it's even an issue for them.