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Author Topic: Never too late  (Read 2771 times)

CA Law Dean

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Never too late
« on: April 03, 2013, 12:58:33 PM »
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.
Monterey College of Law
www.montereylaw.edu

jack24

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Re: Never too late
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2013, 01:16:06 PM »
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

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Re: Never too late
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2013, 04:57:06 PM »
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.
Monterey College of Law
www.montereylaw.edu

jack24

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Re: Never too late
« Reply #3 on: April 03, 2013, 05:25:33 PM »
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

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Re: Never too late
« Reply #4 on: April 03, 2013, 07:18:19 PM »
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.
Monterey College of Law
www.montereylaw.edu

Duncanjp

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Re: Never too late
« Reply #5 on: April 06, 2013, 07:37:05 PM »
Thank you for the comments, Dean.

I'm a non-traditional student finishing my third year at a CBE school (Lincoln in Sacramento). The quality of the education equals or surpasses anything I received from East Carolina University or UC Davis in undergrad. I can't speak for all CBE schools, but I don't honestly know how even the highest ranked ABA school could improve on the presentation of the material that my school delivers. My professors are sitting judges, local prosecutors and defense attorneys, all of whom know their subjects well and clearly enjoy teaching. It's a great bang for my buck. I know that the degree won't have the prestige of Stanford or Berkeley, but the quality of the education is fantastic nonetheless. Inasmuch as I'm firmly entrenched in a career underwriting position for a national insurance company, I can't imagine abandoning my position after I pass the bar to become an associate attorney in some unfamiliar field of practice. It would be a step backwards and would probably cut my salary in half. No thanks. My attorney-mentor at work advised me at the outset that the goal is simply to get the license. Perhaps if I were 20 years younger without the experience and contacts, I would have set my sights on a loftier program. I can't kid anybody: I would love an ABA degree. But raiding my retirement savings just to get one at this point in the game is a difficult sell. I have a great chance of seeing an ROI from my investment at Lincoln. Just becoming an attorney will vault me out of the realm of lay underwriters, many of whom have been working in the field for twice as long as I have. But the satisfaction and prestige of an ABA degree isn't enough to justify paying three times as much in tuition to get it. And the odds of receiving any meaningful ROI from an ABA degree seem a greater risk than a less prestigious degree for a third the cost.

I've been an advocate for CBE schools on this forum for a couple of years. They aren't for everybody, but they're a good choice for the right candidates. I'm one of them.

lawyurd

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Re: Never too late
« Reply #6 on: April 06, 2013, 09:11:59 PM »
I wish I had the option to go to a CBE school.  I recently moved from California to Florida and law school options are not as plentiful here.  The closest school is apparently not very good and the good ones don't really cater to nontraditional old guys like me.  I have a federal government job and I believe that a JD would give me an advantage since we deal with contracts all the time.   Not sure if I can justify $150k or more in school debt.  This is why I am torn between a low rated, high tuition ABA school or a more reasonably priced online law school.   

Rocketdog2017

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Re: Never too late
« Reply #7 on: April 07, 2013, 11:28:35 AM »
I have a federal government job and I believe that a JD would give me an advantage since we deal with contracts all the time.   Not sure if I can justify $150k or more in school debt.  This is why I am torn between a low rated, high tuition ABA school or a more reasonably priced online law school.

Read your post: I think if debt is your main focus, and you don't want to make the practice of law your primary profession, the choice in school would be more clear: choose the lower cost IF that lower cost school will offer you a decent quality legal education. (sorry for the run-on sentence)...LOL

In another light: why buy a formula one race car to commute to work everyday? (unless you live in Germany)
American Heritage University School of Law 1L

Duncanjp

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Re: Never too late
« Reply #8 on: April 07, 2013, 05:15:23 PM »
In another light: why buy a formula one race car to commute to work everyday?

Good analogy.

That said, three of my company's attorneys who went to CBE schools have all candidly confessed in one form or another that their non-ABA J.D.s in fact limited their careers. I know that I will never run my company's legal department. But I wouldn't expect to, even under the best of circumstances. The people who head the various legal departments all went to T-14 law schools. My expectations are realistic: to become in-house counsel and keep the company of career attorneys who went to great schools. I'll do whatever they tell me to do. Works for me. In fact, it's going to rule. And none of the people I work with on a daily basis have any concept of the elitism of the law school hierarchy. To them, an attorney is an attorney.

livinglegend

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Re: Never too late
« Reply #9 on: April 07, 2013, 07:54:54 PM »
I attended an ABA school, but agree with Duncan's point for the most part an attorney is an attorney. There are some places that have elitism and anyone attending a CBA school should be realistic in their expectations as they are unlikely to clerk for the Supreme Court right out of law school, but there are plenty of people in need of legal representation and most clients simply want an attorney to resolve their problem with a law license from any school you can accomplish a goal for your client.

I don't think anyone even CA Law Dean would encourage someone who wants to work for Cravath or O'Melveny & Meyers to attend Monterrey College of Law as those doors will be closed, but someone that wants to do Family Law, Criminal Defense, even small civil Litigation in the Bay Area particularly Monterrey itself it is likely a good option for the right person.