Law School Discussion

Why I picked an unaccredited law school

Why I picked an unaccredited law school
« on: September 03, 2015, 11:30:12 AM »
I decided to write about this topic because I wasn't able to find much other feedback about my particularly special situation with law school. Hopefully someone out there is in a similar situation and can take away something positive from this post. As this is my first post ever here, so let me give you a quick background of myself to help explain how I reached my decision(s):

I didn't decide to go to law school until about 5 years ago, and I just turned 32 this year. I was a decent student in high school, graduated with a 3.0 and never got into trouble. I went to a community college planning on completing a computer science degree when I met a girl, had a baby with her, then married her and moved an hour away from home (young and dumb). I temporarily stopped school to focus on a decent paying full-time job and to help raise the family. Eventually, I had a second child, my wife lost her job, and we were forced to file chapter 13 bankruptcy. After 9 years of marriage, we divorced and I moved back to my father's home for a few months. I picked college back up and I am currently in the last year of finishing my Bachelor's Degree in English and Sociology. As part of the divorce agreement, I have to pay child support and have to supply the children with health insurance, so for the foreseeable future I have to have a job that offers benefits. I soon met a girl I went to high school with and we have been married for a little over two years now. Being in a good financial situation, our house is paid off and the only bills we have besides utilities are two car payments. I currently hold an excellent job for a local company in the billing department with excellent pay and benefits for our area. We have our own in-house legal team comprised of two attorneys and a paralegal. My dream is to one day retire from our in-house legal department.

So my dilemma with picking a law school was very tough. Since I need a job with benefits for my children, I knew that my smartest choice was to find a part-time law school program. If I were to try a full-time law program, I would have had to quit my job, lose my benefits, and be in breach of my divorce contract. I would have had to possibly wait until the kids were 18 before going to law school in that case but I would be graduating in my 40s. In addition, my current employer is paying for 100% of my undergrad tuition and 50% of my book costs. I live in TN so I initially thought about UTK, Belmont, Duncan School of Law, and Nashville School of Law. I did not consider Vanderbilt because I'm not an ivy-league genius and I don't feel as if I could compete. Besides, I would have to foot the $240,000 bill myself even if I did get accepted. I also did not consider Memphis because it is too far a drive (I would not consider moving either). My cumulative GPA right now is a 3.49. This put me at the median of UTK's stats, and well above Belmont, Duncan, and NSL's median as well. I hesitantly let the idea of UTK go since they do not have a part-time program, and neither does Belmont. I looked closely at Duncan for months but then I noticed that their part-time program was now going to be only during the daytime hours (8am-3pmish). I work M-F 8-5pm so this was disheartening to discover since this was my last chance at an ABA school. NSL became my only choice. It's a two hour drive one-way for me, which is fine.

I paid $1,000 for an online LSAT prep course and studied for about 12 hours a week. Before I started, I scored a 143 on a practice test. Towards the end of my 3 month study period, I was testing in the low to mid 150s. I took the February LSAT and was extremely disappointed that I received a 144. I consider myself to be an intelligent person that thinks logically and excels at standardized tests, so this was very upsetting to see how low I scored. I felt a little better once I realized that this test was meant to test your ability to think in a certain way and not how "smart" you are or aren't. I still play logic games for fun and study the meanings of words like "if" and "only if". I was working my full-time job as well as going to school full-time while I studied for the LSAT. I feel that if I were to truly spend my absolute best time studying, I could achieve my original goal score of 160, or even higher, if I ever decided to retake the LSAT again. Well, my LSAT score is right at the median score for NSL, and my GPA is about 0.5 points higher than its median. I figure my chances are pretty good given that I submitted what I felt was an excellent personal statement along with 3 excellent letters of recommendation (one of them being from one of our in-house attorneys who graduated from NSL as well) and some extra curricular background activities.

I only mailed off my application two weeks ago and only today has NSL received my CAS report. I hope to hear back very soon for a decision of admittance for the 2016 August semester. For those who may not know, NSL is only state-accredited (can only practice in TN). It's my understanding that the only thing keeping NSL from receiving ABA accreditation is the lack of a full-time faculty. It is a part-time only night school program that totals about $25,000 after four years.  I never plan on leaving TN, so I have no pressing need to have an ABA accredited education. Since my employer is willing to pay for my entire NSL tuition and book costs, this comes down to being a no-brainer decision. I really have no desire to work in biglaw.

I realize that this entire situation seems to have played out fine and the decision was easily made. This was not the case for a long time. I have read many forums and opinions from others whose entire online life seemed to be to discount the credibility of law schools ranked below the top 50 and those who consider applying to such schools. I'm here to say that there indeed is a time and a place for certain unaccredited or unranked law schools. One of the biggest things to consider between law schools is the amount of debt you will have when you graduate. Luckily for me, it isn't only the benefit of having my employer pay for my tuition, but the schedule is the only way that I attend while keeping my job. I'm obviously a non-traditional student, so a non-traditional school is perfect for me. Perhaps most of you here are not the ones I'm speaking of, but I feel as if many people out there are receiving bad opinions simply because their situation is different. Ask yourselves: if you had to pick between paying full price for a T14 school, paying for half price of a T100 school, or going for a free ride to an unranked school, would this influence your choice of school in any way?

I hope this post reaches those who need the encouragement and assurance for those who are on the fence about a decision like this. Don't hold all opinions as the end-all decision maker for yourselves. Look into all avenues and don't worry about negativity if your situation is anything but traditional. I will keep you guys updated on my situation as time goes on. Thanks for reading, if you've made it this far!  :)

Re: Why I picked an unaccredited law school
« Reply #1 on: September 03, 2015, 11:56:41 AM »
This forum is not as ranked obsessed. As many on this board note U.S. News is nothing more than a magazine and they can certainly issue their opinion, but if your devout Mormon and want to live in Utah post graduation then go to BYU. Even though Berkeley is "higher ranked" a Mormon in Berkeley is not a good combo.

Or a transgender person living in San Francisco might have the option of attending Golden Gate or USF in San Francisco and maybe they got into BYU, which is higher ranked. The Transgender will have a lot tougher time adjusting to life in Provo Utah then continuing to live in San Francisco.

Basically, there are countless scenarios to consider when choosing a law school. Here is a great article on the subject.

In response to your situation one thing to be a bit wary about is the 144 LSAT. That does not mean you are not intelligent, but you may struggle with standardized testing and law school and the bar exam are standardized tests.

Furthermore, I am not sure what NSL's status with the Tennessee Bar is or what the Tennessee Bar Association position on law school is.  Anyone considering a non-aba school needs to check the licensing requirements, because the ABA unlike U.S. News is a real organization with actual processes and so forth that is recognized by every State Bar in the United States.  One of the worst things that could happen is to get through law school and be ready to take the bar exam only to find out your education doesn't quality you to sit for the the bar exam. I know this happened in the documentary movie "lawyer walks into a bar" a good movie to see for anyone in or considering law school.

The woman was eventually allowed to take the bar, but she had to fight for that right. Other distance law-students have done the same and usually end up winning, but that is a lot of time and money spent just to take an exam, with no guarantee. So hopefully, you have checked with the Tennessee State Bar and anyone considering a non-aba Law School should do the same.

Good luck in your pursuit of a legal education.

Re: Why I picked an unaccredited law school
« Reply #2 on: September 03, 2015, 12:26:06 PM »
Thank you for the reply.

I made an assumption that most people knew the situation in TN. TN is one of the few states that allows graduates of both ABA accredited and/or TN Supreme Court approved law schools to sit for the TN Bar exam. Up until almost a year ago, Duncan School of Law in Knoxville was unaccredited with the ABA but was TN state accredited. Since then, they have been granted provisional ABA status, leaving NSL the only non-ABA school in TN. Graduates of NSL can sit for the Bar and NSL's website states "NSL students have been very successful in recent years in passing the Tennessee Bar Examination. 61% of the 2012 graduates taking the bar exam have passed. 81% of the graduates from 2002-2012 taking the bar exam have passed."

Re: Why I picked an unaccredited law school
« Reply #3 on: September 03, 2015, 01:17:15 PM »
That is great I had no idea about Tennessee allowing that. I am a California Attorney and know California has non-ABA, but California Bar Accredited Schools and allows non-accredited school graduates to sit for the bar. It sounds like Tennessee has the same setup, which is my lesson for the day.

There have been a few discussions about the exact topic of online-schools etc, being allowed to take Bars in other states. It is an interesting topic, but I think we are heading towards a system were if you can pass a state bar you can get a license, but we will see. I agree with that, but plenty of other reasonable people see it differently.

Re: Why I picked an unaccredited law school
« Reply #4 on: September 04, 2015, 12:18:51 PM »
An on campus state accredited school is NOT the same as an unaccredited law school.
The difference is mind boggling if you look into it. Trust me, they don't have 160 lsat scores. They don't even finish undergrad or get a 130 lsat score. Its SCARY.

Wishing you the best.

Re: Why I picked an unaccredited law school
« Reply #5 on: September 04, 2015, 12:41:30 PM »
I assume somebody out there has passed the bar and had a solid legal career with a 2.7 and 130 LSAT. I would not encourage that person to attend law school, but if they really want it and try and succeed rub it in my face. Its not the smartest decision, but nobody what anyone does anywhere everyone has a reason why it can't be done. For the most part the people saying X can't happen because are right, but when people overcome and that does happen its great

Attending law school is a risk. If you are attending a T14 school it is a bit less of a risk, then an ABA is a little more risk,  a state-bar approved is more risky and unaccredited dangerously risky, but there are people that have passed and gone on to succeed from each form of school.

I wish OP the best it will be a tough road, but one that might be overcome. It also might not be and only time will tell.

Re: Why I picked an unaccredited law school
« Reply #6 on: September 04, 2015, 03:05:46 PM »
Ah I forgot that there are some completely unaccredited law schools out there. We don't have any like that around here, but I seem to recall reading that California is saturated beyond recognition with such schools. That situation I can understand. NSL is highly thought of throughout our state. I honestly can't even think of any close law schools that are not even state accredited around here except for maybe a few in south Florida somewhere.

Re: Why I picked an unaccredited law school
« Reply #7 on: September 04, 2015, 07:29:56 PM »
As long as you don't plan to ever leave your state you should be fine. Most other states will want at least 5 years experience before they even consider letting you sit their bar exam.

Re: Why I picked an unaccredited law school
« Reply #8 on: November 08, 2015, 09:03:19 AM »
My question is, if anyone knows anyone that graduated from this school and then was able to sit for the bar in a different state?

Re: Why I picked an unaccredited law school
« Reply #9 on: November 08, 2015, 04:48:49 PM »
My question is, if anyone knows anyone that graduated from this school and then was able to sit for the bar in a different state?
You are asking the wrong question, and to the wrong people, and of the wrong party

WHAT STATE do you want to go to ? Ask their bar what THEIR rules are.
Odds are 5 years of practice to do so.

If you go to CA they might be the most liberal (just a guess)