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CA Law Dean:
As Dean of one of the 17 California accredited law schools, our entering class last year ranged in age from 24 to 64. I just finished an analysis of bar pass results for the past 7 years and there is absolutely no difference on bar pass success based on age. Of course, the best option for an older student is combining your law degree with previous business or professional experience so that you are not starting from scratch. Non traditional (older) students frequently need help ramping back up to the classroom experience, so I recommend non-traditional students seriously consider a part-time program and if you are in California . . . look seriously at one of the smaller, state accredited schools that can provide better academic support. As Dean of Monterey College of Law I would be glad to share our experiences with non-traditional students. Don't let anyone tell you differently . . . law school at 40+ is very different from law school at 20-something.

jack24:
Bar passage rates, huh?

What about average incomes five years after graduation?  Any difference there?
I don't see employment statistics on your website.  What percentage of your grads are employed in full-time long-term legal positions that require a law degree?

Why should someone consider a part time program?  If a calbar accredited law school is worth the investment, why not finish and be a lawyer as fast as you can?

CA Law Dean:
Jack, I know that you have been reading all the press about crippling student loans, no jobs, and no practical training . . . I have too. The difference is that these issues are absolutely true in most of the large urban centers where the urban legend continues that there are $150K+ first-year associate jobs in elite law firms. What is not being written about is that  in many of the non-urban regions of the country there are jobs to be had . . . small law firms, DAs, Public Defenders, legal services . . . the list is long and the legal service needs are great. However, your point about salary level is indeed correct. The average small-town lawyer makes a good, but not exceptional living with salaries starting at $50,000-60,000 and growing to $150,000 to $200,000 as a senior lawyer. What that means is that student debt becomes the driving force in employment choices, not professional choice. What makes programs like ours different is that we are scaled to directly meet the needs of the community. Our law degree costs about $65K . . . not $150K. As a part-time program, our students are encouraged to start working in law-related jobs all through law school, not only reducing the need for student loans, but in most cases providing the opportunity to try out different practice areas to identify a preferred area of practice. In this scenario, there isn't the rush to finish as quickly as possible, and by doing so, graduate with no meaningful practice experience. In some ways, our format is much closer to the medical school practicum model than the typical ABA program.

Although I do not have an employment statistic available for you . . . I can say that we are unaware of any recent graduate being unemployed . . . since we are commonly the source of matchmaking between local law firms and our graduates. Employment statistics are a little more challenging for part-time programs since a number of our graduates go to law school fully intending to remain in their original profession. Most commonly this includes realtors, small business owners, financial planners, non-profit administrators, etc.

I guess the point is that is that there are viable alternatives to the one-size-fits-all model of "elite" legal education. It is not intended to be a replacement for those who desire an ivory tower, big firm future . . . but after 40 years it has been demonstrated to be an extremely effective model for our community, particularly for non-traditional law students.

jack24:
Well I am an attorney in a medium city with one of those 50-60k jobs.  I went to an ABA school that charged 400 per credit.   There are hundreds of applications for almost every job.  I'm planning to live paycheck to paycheck for a few more years, and then I believe I'll see the upside.

I have nothing against your model.   I think it's just fine for people to go to your school if they decide it is for the best.  I just believe that non-traditional law students have fewer working years and less opportunities than their younger peers, so taking on a large amount of debt to go to a non-ABA school is even more risky that it would be for a 22 year-old.   Unfortunately, most schools don't have the data on what their graduates earn several years after law school.  Bar Passage Rates and Employment Rates are nice and all, but they are far less helpful in the financial analysis.

CA Law Dean:
Jack, I fully agree on all your points, particularly the idea that non-traditional older students need to carefully consider how many years of practice they expect after graduation. Our experience is that if they can "pair" their legal training with pre-existing work experience (i.e. realtor doing real estate law, social worker doing family law, police officer doing criminal law) they do not get treated as a typical "first-year" associate. They are much more likely to be successful opening their own practice and being accepted by clients as proficient.

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