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  1. opie58

    opie58 New Member

    Intro

    Beginning my long desired journey towards obtaining a JD & admission to practice, so I thought doing this journal would help keep me focused as well as document my process towards goal accomplishment.

    Goals:
    1. Obtain a JD degree
    2. Pass the State Bar
    3. Admittance into Federal Court(s)

    Situation:
    I’m a 50+ year old male, a 20-yr retired military cop (Army/MP, USAF/SP-LE, & USAF/OSI Agent), and 12-yr civilian county cop in the Seattle area with plans to retire at 20-yrs. Currently working a great gig in the SO (Sheriff’s Office) – public safety officer (aircraft fire/cop/EMT) at KCIA (King County Int’l Airport) – AKA: Boeing Field Int’l (BFI) – with a good amount of time on my hand to study. I make great money – over $100K/yr, so plan to pay for law school while I go. Therefore, moving or full time traditional school is out of the question. Alternative – correspondence or DL law school.

    Analysis

    Traditional law schools require the LSAT plus significant GPA. I took the LSAT in 12-2004 and received a 142 (low). My overall GPA is just under 3.0 (2.97) – not good either. While I could find a traditional law school, I would most likely need to resign from my job and move – not even on the table.

    Therefore, I need some sort of correspondence or DL type law school, not requiring a LSAT or great GPA, that qualifies to sit for a state bar exam and qualifies for admittance into the Federal court system upon passing the bar.

    My home state of Washington has no non-traditional law schools. Washington does allow a person to be tutored by a licensed attorney over a prescribed four (4) year program to qualify for asking the state bar exam, but it would not provide a JD degree. This would lead to admittance into the Federal court system. However, the State requires the person to be employed as a law clerk with a law firm within the state. See APR Rule 6 of the Washington State Court Rules: Admission to Practice Rules (Washington State Courts - Court Rules).

    Alas, California. California has several non-traditional law schools, offered via correspondence or DL, with no residency requirements, nor requires LSAT or qualifying GPA. See Unaccredited Law Schools in California on The State Bar of California web site (Law Schools). The schools are recognized and authorized to award the JD degree and sit for the state bar exam. Once passing the bar exam and licensed by the State, a person would be qualified for admittance into the Federal court system as a practicing attorney. After five years as a practicing attorney, this would allow me to sit for the Washington State bar exam, if I choose, and obtain licensure to practice in the State court system. See APR Rule 18 (Washington State Courts - Court Rules).

    There are seven (7) registered unaccredited correspondence schools and seven (7) registered unaccredited distance learning schools. There are also 12 registered unaccredited fixed facility schools, but I did not consider them since a move would be required.

    I looked at the State’s general bar exam statistics; I’ll talk about their February 2011 stats, but they list them back to February 1997. See California Bar Exam Stats (Statistics). For first-time takers, overall, 54.8% passed; for CA ABA approved schools, first timers, 63.4% passed; for out-of-state ABA approved schools, first timers, 57.6% passed; and for CA unaccredited schools, first timers, 28.0% passed. Why the difference? I suspect MOTIVATION as a primary reason within two areas: 1) ABA school students have a higher financial interest in passing to get a good job to pay off student debt (motivation) and 2) three-plus years full time created a higher motivational factor to prep and pass. However, I consider 28% (unaccredited rate) not too bad.

    I looked at curriculum and essentially did not see much difference, so once again motivation, after four years of school, would be the most logical conclusion. Therefore, if motivation is key, I found several bar review programs available to help with motivation, such as Practical Step Press (Law School Exam and Bar Review Manuals from Practical Step Press - Practical Step Press) and bsmaphd (http://www.bsmsphd.com/).

    School Selection

    First, I looked at the general bar exam (GBX) pass rate for first-timers for the unaccredited correspondence (C) and distance learning (DL) schools. I combined the last six (6) exams for an overall percentage; the top five schools were: Oak Brook (C): 36%, Concord (DL): 26%, NWCU (C): 20%, Taft (C): 18%, and Abraham Lincoln (DL): 11%.

    Second, I looked at the First Year Law Student exam (FYLSX) pass rate for first timers. In California, persons who attend an unaccredited school must take and pass the FYLSX after the first year of classes to advance further in classes and qualify for the GBX. Looking at the five (5) schools mentioned above, their first-timer pass rate average for the last six (6) exams were: Oak Brook: 54%, Taft: 31%, NWCU: 30%, Concord: 25%, and Abraham Lincoln: 19%.

    Third, I looked at annual tuition for each of the five (5) schools above. Tuition (less to most) was: NWCU: $3650, Oak Brook: $4000, Abraham Lincoln: $7500, Taft: $7920, and Concord: $9984.

    Looking at the October 2010 FYLSX stats (Statistics), the first-timer pass for correspondence schools were 34.1% and DL schools were 23.8%.

    While Oak Brook was the best choice overall, the deciding factor for me was the curriculum. So, I chose NWCULaw.

    Application

    Completing the application can be done either online or by paper; I did it online. Once I was approved – about a week later – they sent me an email notification with an attachment for all the enrolling instructions and documents.

    Enrollment

    Plan to enroll to start in April 2012. Work had me scheduled to be in EMT-Basic training this January thru March which is classroom and practical intensive. So, to avoid any conflict, I’m putting off enroll till April.

    I’ll update as I go through the process and classes. See ya all soon.
     
  2. mcjon77

    mcjon77 Member

    Excellent write up!

    Good luck on your journey.
     
  3. honesroc

    honesroc Member

    Good luck Kirk!
     
  4. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator Staff Member

    IIRC, Oak Brook has consistently had the best bar pass rate of the DL law schools since they graduated their first class, but their conservative Christian approach to education can turn off a lot of people, as it apparently did to you.

    Good luck, I wish every prospective DL student researched their options as thoroughly as you did!
     
  5. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    For traditional B&M law schools, the February bar stats are considered largely meaningless; the July bar stats are the ones that count. Most law students graduate from school in May, then take the Bar exam in July. You don't take the bar in February unless you fell off the normal academic schedule for some reason (poor grades, family issues, etc). So the Feb bar is much smaller than the July bar, and it tends to have non-typical students with unusually low pass rates.

    If you compare the Feb 2010 and July 2010 stats, you will see that almost 4 times as many people took the exam in July, and that the pass rates for ABA grads were significantly higher in July.

    Also selectivity. The ABA schools get far more applicants than they can take, so they only accept candidates with high LSATs and high GPA. It turns out that bar pass rates are positively correlated with LSAT and GPA.

    But keep in mind that most unaccredited law school students never even make it to the general bar exam. They drop out, flunk out, or fail the First-Year Law Student's Exam (which the students at accredited schools don't normally have to take). The true success rate is much lower than the General Bar Exam pass rates.

    Several hundred unaccredited students will take the First-Year Law Student's Exam in any given year. But only several dozen will pass the General Bar Exam in any given year. You can easily verify these numbers from the CalBar stats. There is a huge discrepancy between the number of unaccredited students that start the process (by taking the FYLSE) and those that successfully end the process (by passing the GBE). This is not to say that it is impossible, just that the odds are not as good as they may appear.
     
  6. opie58

    opie58 New Member

    @ CalDog:

    On your first point, Feb vs Jul stats, I concede; ABA school, CA and out-of-state, were higher on the Jul 2010 exam (75% & 68% respectively), while the unaccredited rate was lower (20%) – first-timers only.

    On your second point – selectivity, “bar pass rates are positively correlated with LSAT and GPA” – it would appear so; however, I believe further research needs to be considered. I’m not aware if anyone has really looked into your presupposition – if so, could you provide the source? My point is 20/28% of the people from unaccredited schools who took the same bar exam as those who attended ABA schools passed the test. Most I would believe did not take the LSAT, and it is unclear if GPA was a factor. The LSAT/GPA vs Bar Exam Pass Rates correlation would be an interesting analysis.

    On your third point, I suspect there are those who “drop out” and “flunk out” of the ABA schools as well and never “make it to the general bar exam,” too. Am I wrong? So, I fail to see your point there. If you want to add that factor into your assessment on unaccredited schools, fairness dictates you need to add that same standard to ALL schools making ABA schools pass rate lower as well, otherwise you’re talking apples and oranges with skewed data or assumptions.

    Overall, I do agree that attending a full-time B&M ABA schools may offer more advantages. But, there appears to be a continuing refusal to acknowledge a segment of people who can be as successful, but unable to attend such schools due to a wide range of real life issues. Some states have recognized this and offer alternatives. While those alternatives “produce” lower outcomes than the traditional schools, there are students who continue, test after test, to pass the general bar exam. Does that make them any less a lawyer than any other student from a traditional school? I say, “No.” While you may be correct in your assumption that “selectivity” may have some bearing on passing the general bar, it fails when you consider those who “drop out” and flunk out.” So, I still contend personal motivation – to learn the law and how to apply it within a set of prescribed standards, as the bar exam – is the real factor in how one succeeds in the lawyer world.
     
  7. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    One study, for California law schools specifically, is here. Note the graph. Unaccredited law schools are not included on the graph, of course, since they don't require the LSAT and no numbers are available.

    Attrition certainly exists at the ABA schools, but it occurs at much lower rates than at the unaccredited schools. Furthermore, many law students are on the lookout to transfer to higher rated schools. So if slots do open by attrition at a given school, they are often filled by transfers from lower-ranked schools. So the net attrition tends to be low.

    One way to demonstrate the difference in attrition rates is to consider the following question: what is the largest law school in California? The answer is: unaccredited Concord Law School, with about 1,500 students. For comparison, the largest ABA law schools are UC Hastings and Loyola, with about 1,300 students each.

    Now go back and look at the General Bar Exam stats for 2010 (Feb plus July combined, first-timers plus repeaters combined). Here are the total numbers of successful bar candidates from each of these three schools in 2010:

    Loyola: 365
    Hastings: 346
    Concord: 47

    So Concord enrolls more law students than even the largest ABA schools -- yet it's clear that the ABA schools produce far more attorneys. How do we account for this discrepancy? The only feasible explanation is that Concord has much higher attrition. And Concord is regarded as one of the better unaccredited schools.

    *****

    The ABA schools enroll thousands of new students every year, and produce thousands of new lawyers every year.
    The unaccredited schools enroll hundreds of new students every year, and produce dozens of new lawyers every year.
    This doesn't necessarily mean that attending an unaccredited law school is a bad decision, but it's a factor that should be considered in that decision.
     
  8. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    And to add one more point -- this comparison is unfair to the ABA schools. Since their grads have ABA degrees, they are eligible to take the bar exam in any state, but these numbers are just for California. In practice, I'm sure that most of their grads do opt for the California exam, but some undoubtedly take and pass the bar in other states. So the true numbers for new Hastings or Loyola attorneys, including all states, are likely in the 400+ range per year.

    So how come Concord -- with even larger enrollment -- is only in the 40+ range ?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 5, 2011
  9. opie58

    opie58 New Member

    Thanks for the link to the article on the LSAT/GPA-Bar correlation. Good read.

    While your numbers may be true, that is NOT my issue. My issue is – if a person can pass any state bar exam to qualify as a lawyer, why should it matter how they were able to obtain their knowledge (B&M, online, mentorship) to do so?

    As I said before, I concede attending a B&M school has more advantages. However, others who obtain their knowledge base through alternative means have passed the state bar. So, why would they be considered less qualified; especially if California is considered the toughest bar to pass? Ranking of Bar Exam Overall Pass Rates.
     
  10. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    My answer is -- because the legal profession is acutely conscious of academic prestige. This may be unfortunate, but it's still true.

    A degree from a top-ranked ABA law school trumps a degree from a lower-ranked ABA school, which in turns trumps a degree from an unaccredited school. Even if all three degree holders pass the same bar exam, it doesn't put them on an equal footing.

    When the legal job market is strong, this may not matter; there may be enough legal jobs to go around for everyone (although the graduates from the top schools will get most of the best jobs). But when the legal job market is weak (and it is currently very weak), then graduates of the lower ranked schools may have trouble finding work.

    Here's another good read. It considers the jobs that were held by 2009 graduates of ABA law schools -- specifically the jobs they had 9 months after graduation, and whether those jobs actually required a JD degree.

    At high-ranked schools, the overwhelming majority of grads did have "real" legal jobs. But you can see that academic ranking matters: employment in such jobs falls as ranking falls. At most low-ranked schools, a large fraction of 2009 graduates -- more than 50%, in some cases -- did not find jobs that required a JD degree. And of course, this study only addressed ABA law schools. Unaccredited California law schools would be even lower on the ranking scale.

    ****

    Believe it or not, I am not trying to talk you out of attending NWCU -- just pointing out the true odds of success. An unaccredited California law school has one huge advantage over an ABA school -- it's (relatively) cheap. So even if you studied for a year and failed the FYLSE (which I suspect is quite common), your losses would be (relatively) low.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 7, 2011
  11. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator Staff Member

    Your points are well-taken. However, I would submit that many people attend law school (ABA and even top-ranked) wih no intention of actually practicing law. Some people just want the education in writing, reasoning and debate; there are 2 examples here in Massachusetts, where former Governor Mitt Romney (J.D. Harvard) and Red Sox General Manager Theo Epstein (J.D. University of San Diego) never took a bar exam, and have done quite well in spite of it.
     
  12. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    This was more true in the past than it is today. The problem is that law school has become way too expensive to be treated as just an extension of a liberal arts education. As stated in a recent ABA study:

    Of course, that's in addition to any undergraduate debt. And of course, under current law, there is no way to discharge student loan debt in bankruptcy. Lifetime indebtedness is a real possibility.

    At one time, law school was actually affordable, and so law school grads had flexibility. But it's not like that today: the average law grad today starts out in a serious financial hole, facing serious monthly loan payments, and desperately needs some serious ROI from that expensive JD. Only the independently wealthy (e.g. Mitt Romney) have the luxury of treating law school as general "education in writing, reasoning and debate".

    ****

    Incidentally, someone who does want to attend law school for "general education" only might find the California unaccredited schools to be a perfect fit. They are relatively inexpensive, and their primary drawback -- the inability to qualify for the bar in most states -- wouldn't matter to someone who didn't plan to take the bar exam anyway.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 7, 2011
  13. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    The points that I tried to make in the previous post are stated better here:

    Author is a law professor at highly-ranked Washington University in St. Louis.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 7, 2011
  14. opie58

    opie58 New Member

    Yes, I’m sure, those who graduate from ABA approved schools will be at the top of the list for firms or other competitive jobs. Therefore, as I have concluded in my analysis, if one seeks the alternative route for JD & bar passage, one most likely will need to pursue a solo practice, if practicing law is your desire, or other pursuits outside of law where the skills of research, analysis, and writing would be beneficial.

    In my case, solo is my direction, along with the risks & limitations associated with such an endeavor. And from what I’ve seen in various courts, hearings, and depositions, where one attends school or how one obtains their license is irrelevant; how well one represents their client and performs the necessary tasks is all that matters. Competency, as well as misconduct, has nothing to do with school or legal education; unfortunately, it only has to do with perceived (subjective) future outcome in initial job seeking and acceptance – sad, I say, since judging one by their character is not a general employment consideration in the legal profession that purports being blind in the application of law. I would think someone who overcomes greater adversity such as the alternative approach to pass all the other requirements of the professions shows far more tenacity than the more structured herd mentality, but I’m bit of an underdog.

    So, for those seeking the untraditional approach in their legal pursuits, I concur with CalDog, consider ALL the challenges and limitations associated with such endeavors. Right or wrong, the reality exists, for now, that those schools recognized by the ABA are the only schools worth pursuing your legal education. Fortunately, some states, like California, do not agree and allow alternatives for those who may be just as inclined to succeed in the profession, if given the chance, but are unable if the traditional approach was the only one. If I learnt anything from 30+ years of police work, there are always options, alternatives, some which are not easy, but worthwhile in pursuing for a greater good. Look, research, plan; your pursuits are yours to achieve.
     
  15. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator Staff Member

    I agree about the independently wealthy, but I would hardly call an ABA law school "general education". In addition to the coursework, there is moot court, mock trials, internships, etc., which aren't easy to come by at the undergrduate level.

    I agree, and some day I may attend NWCU, simply because the law interests me, but I have absolutely, positively no desire to be a practicing attorney.
     
  16. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    Yes, an ABA law school normally represents "professional education" -- not "general education". And yes, things like moot court, mock trials, and internships with practicing attorneys are obviously intended to help train future legal professionals.

    But if you attend an ABA law school with no intention of ever becoming a legal professional, then it doesn't represent "professional education" for you specifically. You are treating it as "general education" instead. You may participate in moot court, mock trials, and internships, and you may even learn something from the experience -- but it won't have the same direct professional relevance for you as it will for the future lawyers in your class.

    As noted above, a small minority of law graduates (less than 5%) will never take a bar exam, which implies that they have no interest in professional legal practice. In some cases, these are people (probably wealthy people) who never intended to practice law. However, this category may include also people who enrolled in law school with the initial intention of becoming lawyers, but who then gradually realized, as they gained more exposure to the law, that they (like you) had "absolutely, positively no desire to be a practicing attorney." Unfortunately for such people, an ABA legal education is a very expensive form of self-discovery.

    A growing number of schools are offering a "master's in legal studies" to people who want to learn more about law without actually becoming practitioners (for example, the MLS program at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State). These programs are often designed to be interdisciplinary, so that the program can be tailored to a student's particular professional focus.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 8, 2011
  17. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator Staff Member

    I disagree.....professional education is just that, it's up to the student's perception as to how they weigh its significance. Someone who passes the practical aspects of law school (moot court, mock trials) is as qualified as anyone else who passes those same aspects, it's up to the motivation of the student to decide how important that is to them.
     
  18. morgandv

    morgandv New Member

    Opie58,

    You are in my neck of the woods, I live in Fairwood and Im starting NWCULaw in Jan (finishing up my PhD now). Maybe we could start a study group in our area. Im usually at the Starbucks in Tukwilla, near the Barnes and Nobles studying, and I'm really looking forward to starting Law school.

    Let me know

    ~M
     
  19. opie58

    opie58 New Member

    CalDog makes some great points that a person seeking the alternative route towards law school & bar exams needs to consider. However, the alternative approach is not necessarily as detrimental as people assume it is. I recently had an email exchange with a gentleman in Idaho who graduated from Taft Law School in 2001, sought & obtained a waiver from the Idaho Bar to take their exam, passed in 2002, & has been practicing since. While there are challenges, it is possible to achieve with perseverance. Doing one’s homework is very important in making the right decisions. As a side note, I sought out only one person in close proximity to me who had similar challenges I suspect I will face in Washington State. So with him & the lady in Mass. in 2008 (Mitchell v. Board of Examiners 452 Mass 582), I’m convinced the alternative style will work for me for what I plan to do with it.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 10, 2011
  20. opie58

    opie58 New Member

    @ morgandv -- I would be interested, but I'm not looking to start until May 2012. Work has me in an EMT class starting in Jan till March which according to my co-workers is a bit intensive. Let me know. Also, I'm also vacillating betwen NWCULaw & Taft Law; Taft is DETC accredited & NWCU is not, & my advance degree needs to be from an accredited school to receive an education pay incentive.
     

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