Law School Discussion

ABA versus Non-ABA; marathon LSAT-taker

ABA versus Non-ABA; marathon LSAT-taker
« on: July 22, 2012, 07:57:49 AM »

My profile is I graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology with a 2.87GPA in 2006. Married in 2007. Then graduated from Cal State Bakersfield in 2009 with an MSW (Masters of Social Work) and 3.87GPA. I've worked as a Child Protective Services Social Worker and Medical Social Worker for the past 5-6 years.

I have been taking the LSAT since 2006. My scores have been 140, 141, 145 and 146 (steadily improving each time).

I am now 29 years old and never accepted into any ABA schools. I was recently accepted into San Joaquin College of Law (SJCL), which is a non-ABA approved school but state accredited. I have been struggling with the decision of attending SJCL and leaving the workforce.

My fear is attending a non-ABA approved school will limit my options post-law school. My other fear is if I don't go I may never get into any ABA approved school and forego my opportunity to attend law school altogether.

As far as career plan, I'd like to get into public interest law, juvenile dependency or health law. I plan on staying in California.

Any and all pieces of thoughts, advice and wisdom would be greatly appreciated.


Re: ABA versus Non-ABA; marathon LSAT-taker
« Reply #1 on: July 22, 2012, 09:32:21 AM »
This issue has been discussed pretty extensively in other threads, check put some of the older threads.

In my opinion, state-accredited law schools can be a good choice for the right student. Generally, if you have the opportunity to attend an ABA school that's probably a better idea. The key is to really take the time to consider what you want to do after law school, and to think about whether or not a non-ABA degree can help you achieve that goal.

The cost of attending SJCL is (I think) about $50-60,000. That's a huge investment of money and time. Whether you're considering a state school or an ABA school, you need to think about whether the cost of attending will be outweighed by the benefit. In other words, after spending $50-60K will you be able to get a job that will allow you to make thise loan payments?

The job market is very, very tight right now, and I'm sure it's tighter for Calbar grads vs. ABA. Nonetheless, I seem to remember that SJCL has a good reputation in the central valley, and many of the local attorneys are grads. If you plan on staying in the immediate area, SJCL probably has a decent alumni network that can help you get some experience with internships, etc. Outside of the central valley, you'll have to compete against grads from bigger name schools.

As far as working in juvenile dependency, a degree from a state school probably won't hold you back, especially considering your experience as a social worker. The biggest problem you'll face in that field is that there are very few jobs available. The dependency positions that are state/county funded have had their budgets slashed, and the government dependency jobs (county counsel, DCFS) are almost all on a hiring freeze. When a position does open up, they get flooded with applicants.

One last point, and please don't take this as criticism: the LSAT is easy compared to the bar exam. The LSAT is one morning long, and covers a few topics. The CA bar exam is three days long, covers something like 16 topics, and is notoriously difficult. If you had a tough time with the LSAT you might want to think about how you'll handle the bar exam before you drop 60k on law school.

Good Luck with everything!

Re: ABA versus Non-ABA; marathon LSAT-taker
« Reply #2 on: July 22, 2012, 03:49:52 PM »
Hi Roald,

Thank you very much for replying so quickly. I take absolutely no offense to your advice regarding the BAR. I agree. It is another concern I have considered. I have a lot to think about and I have been asking for input from everyone. I figure words of wisdom may help.

If you don't mind, can you share some of your background/experience with me?


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Re: ABA versus Non-ABA; marathon LSAT-taker
« Reply #3 on: July 23, 2012, 04:11:25 PM »
You have always been in the bottom 1/3 of LSAT takers.  Your worst score put you in the 13th percentile.  140 is like 37/100 on the test.   People should be able to get 50% by process of elimination and coin-flip luck.

So rather than bash you, I'll tell you what I've learned.   You can go to a Cal-credited school, pass the bar and get a job if you have a little luck and some serious networking game. 

You should really start meeting family law attorneys.  These people often work at smaller firms, so the job potential isn't great, but you can learn alot about what they are looking for.  Your background in social work will help you to navigate a lot of legal issues in juvenile cases, so you'll need to lean heavily on that. 

You are fighting against a stereotype that might be true.  You look dumb on paper.  7-8 out of 10 people did better than you on the LSAT.  So you have to make up for that with connections, heart, and a sincere desire to practice a certain type of law.  Lawyers focusing on family, criminal, and public interest law really love dedication and interest. 

Honestly, if you can't figure out a way to meet with ten lawyers in areas you are interested in in the next month, you don't have the tools you need. (unless you just don't have any time).

Re: ABA versus Non-ABA; marathon LSAT-taker
« Reply #4 on: July 25, 2012, 07:10:52 PM »
Hi jack24,

Thank you for the candid honesty. I won't make excuses for my poor scores. I agree. It will be an uphill battle. I have spoken with some attorneys in juvenile dependency and still continue to work on my networking.

Thanks again...

Re: ABA versus Non-ABA; marathon LSAT-taker
« Reply #5 on: July 26, 2012, 10:41:30 PM »
Hi Niques, sorry it took me so long respond.

I graduated from lawschool in CA recently and I have a little experience working at a firm and later at a government agency. I know a little about juvenile dependency, but not too much. Just so you know, I've met plenty of people who had LSATs in the 140s, went to CA accredited schools, passed the bar, and are practicing attorneys. Does that mean it will be easy, or that it's guaranteed? No, of course not. Those people may be the exceptiions to the rule. Nonetheless, they exist. I also know a guy with a JD from an ABA school who has not been able to pass the CA bar after multiple attempts. The point is, you know yourself better than anyone else does. Do a critical, realistic evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses, and go from there.

Good Luck, let us know what you decide!

Re: ABA versus Non-ABA; marathon LSAT-taker
« Reply #6 on: July 27, 2012, 05:58:46 AM »
Just my personal opinion, but:

1.  If you plan on working for yourself, than any degree that lets you practice law is good enough.  Your success or failure will depend largely on other factors.
2.  If you plan on getting a job in the worst hiring climate in 80 years, and you're planning on going to a school that is clearly, in bold letters, all caps, for all to see, inferior to the roughly 200 schools that are having exceptional difficulty placing their grads, you have a terrible, terrible plan.

If you had a kid, would you advise them to take all their eggs, put them in one basket, and try to become a professional baseball player?  How about a rapper?

Strange how people can recognize guidance like that for what it is:  exceedingly foolish advice.  Yet, those same people, when it comes to trying to build a career on a foundation that is, at best, shaky, are all "oh, follow your dreams.  it can be done.  You can do it if you want it bad enough."

Do a quick google search on what ABA grads are facing at graduation.  Then, take their troubles and magnify them by at least a factor of 10 or 20. 

sorry to be such a wet blanket.  Again, if your plan is to into practice for yourself, these schools are probably fine.  If you want a job, though, this is a singularly stupid plan.


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Re: ABA versus Non-ABA; marathon LSAT-taker
« Reply #7 on: July 31, 2012, 08:14:58 AM »
Before I say anything remember that I or anyone else posting on this board is nothing more than an anonymous internet poster that knows nothing about you, your situation, or what is best for you so take anything you read on this board or others with a grain of salt.

I suppose an ABA school is generally better, but in your scenario particularly if you want to live in the Central Valley of California where there is no ABA school within 100's of miles and where very few people want to relocate to SJCL probably will open more doors. I graduated law school a few years ago and was offered a fairly high paying job in Fresno, but I can't live there I definitely considered it, but it is just not for me and that is my personal opinion. That firm had SJCL grads working along grads from Top 20 schools in many of the smaller towns in California all you need is bar passage and a sincere desire to live in the location and I wouldn't be surprised if you passed the bar that obtaining a job in Fresno or the Central Valley would not be to difficult. I know the head D.A. in Fresno went to SJCL, and simple google Fresno firms and look at attorney bios and you will find plenty of SJCL grads working.

Now as others pointed out getting a LSAT in the 140's is indicative that you are a poor test taker and the California Bar is extremely difficult surprisingly SJCL has a decent bar passage rate actually better than some California ABA schools, which is surprising. That is simply something to consider though although law school essays, which is the majority of law school and the California Bar have no resemblance to the LSAT so you might do fine. There are simply no guarantees of whether or not you will pass the bar from any school, but a low LSAT score might indicate an inability to handle test pressure, which the bar puts 200x more on you than the LSAT when all you have is 90 bucks on the line opposed to three years of work and 50-100k in debt.

I would like to point out that the reality of legal education is essentially the same wherever you go. I imagine at SJCL you will take Torts, Civil Procedure, Contracts, Property, Criminal Law, and Legal Writing or some variation on that and you will learn the exact same things in these courses as you would at an ABA school. I would imagine the professors at ABA schools would be more engaging and experienced, but the law is the law no matter what school you go to. Cardozo doesn't travel back in time to write a different opinion in Palsgraf for Non-ABA grads it will be the same case whether you read it at SJCL or Harvard the guy is going to drop the firecrackers. 

A final point against SJCL is there are some places that simply will NOT hire non-ABA grads, but these are generally not located in the Central Valley. Many states also will not let you sit for the bar, which can be a real problem if you want to move you know whether or not moving is a real possibility or not. Furthermore, life can throw something unexpected at you and you may end up having to move to another state and not being able to take the bar would or get licensed there would not be good. Assess that possibility as you know better than anyone how likely it is you will move to another state the higher the chance of that happening the worse of an option SJCL becomes.

Neither I or anyone on this board or others can possibly know what is best for you or how it will work out. Use your common sense, but I don't think SJCL is some terrible god-forsaken place. As I stated the lack of any ABA for 100's of miles will make competition less fierce than if you went to an ABA school in San Francisco, L.A, San Diego, etc. Good luck whatever you decide.


Re: ABA versus Non-ABA; marathon LSAT-taker
« Reply #8 on: August 04, 2012, 10:22:02 AM »
A 146 is enough to get into Cooley but I would recommend the 5 year plan.

Re: ABA versus Non-ABA; marathon LSAT-taker
« Reply #9 on: August 05, 2012, 02:53:27 PM »
Another option would be to keep your job and attend the state accredited school in the evenings to save some money.  As legend mentioned, you are not in a big city where you will be competing with many ABA grads.  With a CBE degree, you won't have to sit for the baby bar, and the total cost of tuition is about half that or less than an ABA school. 
However, if you are really on the fence about attending an ABA, see if you can get your LSAT a bit higher - at least 150 or above and apply to a 4th tier ABA.  Many ABA schools also have night programs if you are worried about quitting your job. 

Just some other options for you to consider.  As already stated, none of us can make that decision for you.  Good luck with whatever you decide.