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What are my chances?

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Hi everyone, I'm considering law school and want to get your opinion on my chances of making a go of this.

My reach would be: UCLA
Targets: LMU, USD, UH, Pepperdine
Would still consider: Santa Clara, Chapman, Southwestern, McGeorge or even BYU if I had to.

As you can see, I'm in Southern California and would prefer a school close to L.A. if possible but willing to travel anywhere in California or to BYU if needed.

Current GPA is 2.8, only because I had 8 W's from junior college over 15 years ago that still haunt me. Or I would have a 3.5+. I will be graduating from CSULA. Also, I only attained a GED 20 years ago, not an HS diploma. I have not taken the LSAT yet but I have taken a preliminary one and scored a 155. I plan to spend a couple grand in LSAT prep. Willing to spend an entire year studying if I need to, whatever it takes to jump 7-10 points.

So let's say I end up with a 2.8/163

Am I screwed on all of these schools? Lastly, I will be 45 when I enter Law School. I own a home but my wife makes enough money to support me while I go to LS full-time and I'm hoping for some scholarship money if possible, but I can also weather $100K of debt upon graduating LS considering my wife can help and we have no other debts. What kind of scholarship money, if any can I expect considering the schools I want?

I will most likely hang my own shingle in criminal defense, personal injury, family law. Or at least that's what I would like to do.  I'd of course take a decent firm position, but I already know the odds of that are stacked against me. I'd be willing to bust my hump the first few years on my own with making less than 50K/year while I establish a client list and build a business.

Sock it to me! Do I have a shot at this?

I think before you start thinking about law schools or anything of that nature you need a real LSAT score. Practice is just practice and until the real score comes in you don't know your options. It is certainly exciting to speculate on where you might get in I know I did that plenty as a 0L, but other than for purposes of distraction and to keep excitement there is really no point to speculating what schools you can attend without a real LSAT score.

As to your schools something to consider if your 45 is looking at some of the lower ranked schools that can offer you scholarships. It is not right, but if your 45 you will not be a licensed lawyer until you are 49-50 and it is unlikely a big firm is going to hire you at that age. You can currently succeed as an attorney in a solo or small firm setting and you can do that from schools like Southwestern, Chapman, La Verne, etc and possibly get scholarship money. Opposed to racking up $200,000 in loans at Pepperdine, Santa Clara, etc.

You may also want to consider the California Bar Accredited Schools, which are more geared to someone in your situation and can allow you to work, keep costs down, etc. In my personal opinion the three solid CBA schools are Monterey College of Law, Cal Northern, and Santa Barbara College of law. There are a few others, but I know a number of practicing attorneys from those three schools.

With a 2.8 GPA and a real LSAT score above 150 you will have some law school options. However, with your age you do need to realize there will be some doors closed and less time to make up your educational investment. If everything goes great and you graduate pass the bar first time around you will be 49-50 and have at most 20 working years left to recoup your $100,000+ investment.

Most recent law grads are between 25-30 and have 40-45 working years ahead so the cost is not as sensitive since there is so much more time.

Good luck on your law school journey it can be a very rewarding career.

CA Law Dean:
IF you are a California applicant for the 2014-2015 cycle and: 1) are not selecting your law school based on UNNWR rankings; 2) are concerned about the real cost of law school; and 3) learn better in a smaller class environment (35 vs. 100 students) . . . you should seriously consider one of the accredited regional California law schools such as Monterey College of Law. These schools are accredited by the State Bar of California, not the ABA. Many of them have very respectable bar pass rates (competitive with the unranked ABA law schools), are a fraction of the cost of the traditional ABA schools, and offer part-time programs so that you can actually begin working in law related jobs to gain relevant experience before graduating. Most have strong ties to the local bench-bar that result in jobs after graduation. Of course this is not the path if your goal is to work in a large urban center in a multinational law conglomerate. But if the idea of being a small firm lawyer, DA, Public Defender, Legal Services lawyer, or solo practitioner is what you are after . . .  consider one of the California accredited law schools in an area that you might like to live/practice and submit an application. Then go visit to see if it fits your goals. Ask hard questions about bar pass rates, costs, job placement, clinical,programs, etc. Most of the non-urban areas of California need lawyers (despite the articles in the national news) and many of them are great places to live and raise a family if you have not already decided to be a big city lawyer.

The biggest limitation is that upon graduation from one of the California accredited law schools you must take (and pass) the California bar exam first. You cannot go directly to another state and sit for their bar exam until you are licensed in California (and some states will require minimum years of practice as well). That is why the option is primarily for those who already know that they want to live and practice in California. Bottom line, if you really want to be a lawyer, make it happen.

If you have questions about any of the California accredited law schools feel free to contact me directly: mwinick@montereylaw.edu or go to the MCL website at www.montereylaw.edu.

Maintain FL 350:
Before I go any further, let me say that without a real LSAT score everything is speculative. It's difficult to guess what your eventual LSAT score will be, and most people grossly overestimate their abilities.

That said...

With a 2.8/163 you have very little chance at UCLA.

LMU, Pepperdine, USD, and UH (Hawaii?) are also longshots. Your speculative 163 would be average for those schools, but your 2.8 is significantly below average.

Santa Clara would also be a longshot. Southwestern, Chapman, and McGeorge are possibilities. You'd have a decent shot at all three. BYU is tough to get into, you'd need around a 3.5/165.

As a non-traditional student you should be thinking more about your post law school goals rather than which specific school you'll attend, and let that determine your choice of school. If you're going to be 45 and just starting out in law, you don't want a $150,000 debt hanging over your head 20 years before retirement. I would suggest studying like crazy for the LSAT and using your score to secure a scholarship offer, rather than seeking mere admission (without a  scholarship) to a higher ranked school.

If your goal is to work for a small firm or solo practice, you do not need a degree from a high ranked school. As another poster mentioned, you may be the kind of student who should look into the California accredited law schools. You'll save $70,000 - 100,000. That savings may be worth more than any slight reputational advantage gained by attending a lower ranked ABA school.

One thing to understand is that the importance of your pedigree is directly proportionate to it's prestige. In other words, a Harvard degree may be worth $150,000 because it's Harvard and will open doors. When it comes to schools like Chapman, McGeorge, and Southwestern, most employers view them as interchangeable. They all exist on the same level, more or less. I would take the cheapest one.

Lastly, spend a little time checking out life at small firms and solo practices before you invest the time and money. Make sure it's for you. I went to law school when I was a little older too, and I can tell you from experience that you should only do this if you are absolutely 100% committed. It is a grind, and after law school you will still have to tackle the bar exam.

Good Luck with your decision!

Thanks for all the help guys. Where can I find a list of California accredited schools as you guys have mentioned? I looked around and can't seem to find a comprehensive breakdown of each school that is not ABA in California. I'd like to research all my options. Thanks again!


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