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Academically Disqualified 10+ years ago, now wondering how to get back in...

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ChasingPaper:
I've been lurking and searching for some answers to my particular issue, and thought I would post my question here as I doubt I'm the only one asking....

I went to a 2nd tier school in 1998 and was academically disqualified after completion of my first year (I was .02% away from a probation consideration).  It was very difficult to recover from that blow, and I pretty much ran from my problems and mounting student loan debt at the time.  I went into default on all of my loans and was working at non-law related crap jobs for a few years.  Then I got myself together around 2001 and got serious about trying to clear up my mistakes, including paying back all debt, getting a real job, and getting my loans back on track.

In 2006 I went back and got my MBA from an accredited Business School and also received a professional certification from another well known business school.  My MBA academic career was slightly above average (3.3 GPA) and my undergrad was great too (3.6 GPA).  I got my MBA in 2008.

Here's my challenge - I want to go back to law school but I cannot (and will not) dig my student loan hole bigger than it is right now.  I've read where one can re-apply to any ABA law school after 2 years absence from your disqualifying school experience....is this true?  When I contacted the CA State Bar (I'm in CA), they indicated that they have a specific form for disqualified students to start over their studies.  There is one evening, non-ABA accredited but CA State Bar (and very affordable) accredited law school near my house that I'm wanting to attend.  But they've told me (twice, actually) that they do not accept students that were academically disqualified.  How can that be if the ABA allows students to start over (assuming that they allow this)?  Does anyone have suggestions on fighting this?

This is most frustrating to me because no matter where I find myself professionally, my mind always comes back to finally achieving my law degree.  I have been toying with the idea seriously since 2008 but not sure it was worth the potential hurdles and expense.  I am emotionally on the fence because I saw how incompatible law school is with life relationships the first time around, and I'm not sure I can ask my husband to be super patient with me for four years.  On the other hand, the degree would actually be of assistance for my current line of work, which sometimes deals with legal and regulatory compliance.

Thanks in advance for your suggestions.
 

Maintain FL 350:
Although the ABA allows reapplication after 2 years, no school is required to accept applicants who have been academically disqualified. In your case the local CBE school is operating under the Calbar rules, but it's probably a similar framework.

I'm actually surprised that an academic disqualification from 14 years ago would have much impact at all. I'd suggest contacting multiple ABA and CBE schools and seeing what they say. Have you taken the LSAT yet? A very good LSAT score and an expertly written addendum might go a long way towards overcoming your old disqualification, especially if you focus on schools for which your LSAT would be considered high.

As far as the debt goes, I get it. I chose a scholarship over ranking in order to avoid debt and it was the best decision I ever made. Your GPA is set in stone (and it's good), so your LSAT is the best chance at obtaining a scholarship. I don't know if someone with an academic disqualification can get a scholarship, but if you have a very high LSAT  it will sure as hell help you argue for one.

A word on CBE schools: I think they can be a great option for the right kind of student, but you really need to assess whether you're that kind of person. Think about your post grad goals, and whether or not a CBE degree will help you get there.

ChasingPaper:
Thanks, Roald, for the quick reply.  I haven't retaken the LSAT, and I know that is my next step.  I was never a stellar test taker although I've taken quite a few (SAT, GMAT, LSAT, and GRE).  My scores usually come in the 80th percentile range although I don't think my LSAT score was very good (I took it last in 1996 and don't remember the score).  I'm not interested in a high-pressure, high-tuition, big-name law school because I already experienced that and did not do well.  I had some undiagnosed medical issues, immaturity problems, and a distaste for where I moved that caused me to tank my second semester the first time around, and that was a very expensive mistake.

To prevent making the same mistake twice, I'd prefer a smaller, less expensive, and local alternative that I can attend while still holding my current job.  The tuition at my target CBE school is $5000/academic year (part time) while another 3rd tier school is $27,000/academic year (for part time).  Because student loans are not an option (due to my past defaults and wanting to pay my existing ones off before I retire) my only option are schools of this caliber.  Besides, if I am able to get into this school but then not able to pass the baby bar, my sunk costs would have been considerably less.  I am not being pessimistic here, just realistic.

I suppose my next step is the LSAT and then I can assess my position and/or advantage points from there.  I may also meet with the Dean or admission counselor to have a face-to-face discussion over my packed resume instead of a one-lined question of "do you accept applications from disqualified students from a past law school experience?"  It's somehow easier to say 'no' when you are not looking the person in the eye.

Any other comments or anecdotal information would be great......from anyone.... 

Maintain FL 350:

--- Quote from: ChasingPaper on October 15, 2012, 11:52:37 PM ---To prevent making the same mistake twice, I'd prefer a smaller, less expensive, and local alternative that I can attend while still holding my current job.  The tuition at my target CBE school is $5000/academic year (part time) while another 3rd tier school is $27,000/academic year (for part time).  Because student loans are not an option (due to my past defaults and wanting to pay my existing ones off before I retire) my only option are schools of this caliber.  Besides, if I am able to get into this school but then not able to pass the baby bar, my sunk costs would have been considerably less.  I am not being pessimistic here, just realistic.

--- End quote ---

It's actually nice to see someone with an intelligent, realistic plan. That's a rarity around here. The issues that you're considering are the exact ones that you should be considering: finances, goals, and debt. You're off to a good start.

I would defintely talk to the Dean in person and explain the situation. I don't know what Calbar's rules are, but a 14 year old disqualification shouldn't hold you back. When you asked them previously they may have assumed that you were just recently disqualified. $5000 per year is insanely cheap, I didn't know that any of the CBE schools were that inexpensive. The few that I looked at were more like $15,000 per year.

I know lots of attorneys who went to CBE schools. They work in small firms, solo, and government offices, and have successful careers. If you're aware of the potential limitations, an inexpensive CBE degree can be a better investment than a non-elite ABA degree. Personally, I'd rather have a $20,000 CBE degree than a $150,000 debt from someplace like Whittier or Chapman. Once you get a few years of experience under your belt your degree will be of secondary importance anyway, but that debt would still be with you. The big firms, some mid-sized firms, and federal jobs are out, but they aren't the only games in town. The lack of debt will allow you to be very flexible with your employment options, something that is incredibly valuable in this market.

My understanding is that the CBE schools don't offer a lot in terms of internships and career services, so you need to start making connections immediately. (This is something ABA students should do, too, but often don't).   

avarist:
If you are not willing to get any deeper in student loan debt, then get at least a 160 on the lsat and go to Cooley, otherwise I don't doubt you can get back in, but the debt will continue to build.

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