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August 04, 2015

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Just Another Practicing Attorney

"Turns out that that nearly 9 out of 10 students who enroll in one of California's 22 unaccredited law schools drop out - and only about 20% of those who do finish pass the bar."

Did I misunderstand this sentence or mess up the math somehow? Can it really be true that only about 2% of the students who enroll in these schools end up finishing and passing the bar?

JillyFromPhilly

Hypo:

Would you rather:

a) Attend Northwestern California University School of Law and flunk out after one year, having paid $2850.

b) Attend Northwestern California University School of Law, graduate having paid under $12k for your education, and fail the CA bar.

c) Attend Thomas Jefferson School of Law and flunk out after one year, having paid or borrowed $45k.

d) Attend Thomas Jefferson School of Law, graduate, fail the CA bar (51% of 2013 grads failed), having paid or borrowed $150k. - the average indebtedness of TJSL Grads in 2014 was $172,445.

Bonus points if you can identify which of these schools qualifies as an "opportunity school," vs. financial suicide.

blaster

Note that as a quality control measure, the CA State Bar requires students at these schools to sit for and pass a first year examination (known as the "baby bar"). As you can imagine, many students don't pass this test, and drop out of law school. I believe the rationale for the Baby Bar is that the California Bar doesn't want schools pumping out students who realistically have no shot at passing the CA Bar Exam. It would be interesting to see how the sub 140 quartile from Thomas Jefferson or other low ranked schools would fare on the baby bar or how the sub 140 students as a group fare on the CA bar exam. Given that many students from unaccredited law schools fail to pass the CA bar even after passing the baby bar, schools like TJSL can probably make some type of claim that it should be treated differently than an unaccredited school and that it should continue to receive virtually unlimited amounts of student loans from the federal government.

anon

Jilly's implication is spot-on. The scammiest of scam schools is clearly the bottom tier of ABA-accredited programs.

The JD has been commoditized. A JD is as a JD does. If that’s giving you two decades of unbearable debt, and no FT/LT prospects, that’s much worse than a sunk cost of less than $3K - or $12K - with little empirical difference in employment options.

At least the abysmal options (e.g. court-appointed GALs, public defenders, doc review, etc.) left to those wise enough to make the prudent choice could conceivably justify a debt load of $12K.

…If only journalists could understand such simple numbers...

Jojo

I guess it's good that the unified front of law schools is starting to break up. There should be shaming of the schools that offer little more than debt.

When are the Penn Laws of the country going to turn on the Drexels and the Weidners?

twbb

Considering the extremely low cost, I think even those who flunk out or leave one of these schools after a year may come out ahead; they would have spent a year (presumably) engaging in a rigorous study of fairly complex materials and honing their writing skills, which would theoretically put them a step ahead of otherwise similarly-situated job applicants when applying to say, clerical jobs.

Anon

Blame can and should be cast on almost all law schools, which seem to have no real interest in training actual lawyers and instead serve as a mere vehicle to subsidize an expanse of largely irrelevant research.

Just saying...

Jojo wrote: When are the Penn Laws of the country going to turn on the Drexels and the Weidners?

It will never happen any more than clean baseball players ever called out those who did PEDs. Sort of like the "Blue Wall of Silence" among cops.

BTW, you seem to assume that everyone who goes to Penn sees a good ROI. Doubt that is the case.

If the higher tiered schools gave a damn about the profession, the state of legal education or law students they would begin by getting more involved in the ABA Section on Legal Ed and tighten standards and actually take away the accreditation of some of the bottom dwellers. As has been pointed out here before, a review of the Section's committees and re-accreditation teams shows that it is, in fact, the mid and lower-tiered schools that control the Section.

Observer

But, remember, there are those JD-Advantage jobs, even for graduates of unaccredited law schools who never pass the bar!

Take Tony Villar. He went to Peoples College of Law, an unaccredited law school in LA, graduated, flunked the bar exam four times, changed his name to Antonio Villaraigosa, and was elected Mayor of Los Angeles.

Success!

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