Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

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MCL Law Dean
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Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby MCL Law Dean » Tue Apr 09, 2013 12:22 am

There is lots of concern this year about paying $150K in tuition and not being able to get the type of job that will allow graduates to pay off their student loan debt. For applicants in California (and anyone else who intends to live and practice in California at least 3-5 years after law school graduation), there may be a reasonable alternative.

Consider one of the 17 California accredited law schools (such as Monterey College of Law) for Fall 2013. These regional 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 . . . select one of the California accredited law schools in an area that you might like to live/practice and get an application in . . . right away. 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 post questions here or contact me directly: Dean Mitchel Winick, mwinick@montereylaw.edu or go to the MCL website at http://www.montereylaw.edu.

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Cobretti
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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby Cobretti » Tue Apr 09, 2013 1:04 am

tag

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dowu
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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby dowu » Tue Apr 09, 2013 1:10 am

What is the average amount of student debt for graduates of your lawl school?

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MCL Law Dean
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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby MCL Law Dean » Tue Apr 09, 2013 1:21 am

Average student loan debt is about $30K. Entire J.D tuition is about $65K.

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sinfiery
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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby sinfiery » Tue Apr 09, 2013 1:38 am

Does your school publish employment data similar to what is required of ABA accredited law schools?

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TripTrip
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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby TripTrip » Tue Apr 09, 2013 1:46 am

What is the purpose of not being ABA accredited? Is it significantly expensive?

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dowu
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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby dowu » Tue Apr 09, 2013 1:48 am

MCL Law Dean wrote:Average student loan debt is about $30K. Entire J.D tuition is about $65K.

Not bad. What is the average salary of your schools graduates (most recent class)?

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MCL Law Dean
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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby MCL Law Dean » Tue Apr 09, 2013 1:58 am

We don't have to track employment data, but because we are small and serve a regional area (Monterey, Salinas, and Santa Cruz) we know where most of our graduates are working. At the current time, I am unaware of any graduate who is currently unemployed and in fact know of a couple of small firm openings that are currently unfilled.

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MCL Law Dean
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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby MCL Law Dean » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:02 am

Average salary is tough to measure since a number of our graduates remain employed in their previous profession (realtors, financial planners, non-profit professionals). However the starting salary for young lawyers in our area is about $50-$60K. Of course this salary range wouldn't work if a graduate was trying to service $150K+ in student loan debt.

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TripTrip
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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby TripTrip » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:08 am

TripTrip wrote:What is the purpose of not being ABA accredited? Is it significantly expensive?

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MCL Law Dean
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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby MCL Law Dean » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:20 am

Without going into huge detail, California accredited law schools such as MCL were founded to serve regions where no ABA law school is available. Most have between 120-200 students.They generally serve regional areas such as Monterey, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Fresno, East Bay, etc. Most are evening part-time programs that allow students to work while they are in law school. In our case, after 40 years, our graduates are local judges, DAs, Public Defenders, and private practitioners in every practice area. About 1/3 of the local bar association are MCL graduates . . . which is one of the reasons that it isn't difficult to get a local job after graduation. It has been estimated that it would take about $30 million in infrastructure, library, faculty, and administrative staffing to qualify for ABA accreditation . . . we wouldn't do it even if the money was available . . . we focus on teaching and training, not building monuments and museums.

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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby sfhaze » Tue Apr 09, 2013 2:27 am

Was just looking at your website and randomly noticed this faculty profile:

ELIZABETH XYR, Legal Analysis and Bar Prep
B.A. Notre Dame de Namur
M.A. U.C, Stanislaus
J.D. Monterey College of Law

There's no UC Stanislaus, but a CSU Stanislaus.

Interesting mix of faculty though.

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cahwc12
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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby cahwc12 » Tue Apr 09, 2013 8:18 am

MCL Law Dean wrote:We don't have to track employment data, but because we are small and serve a regional area (Monterey, Salinas, and Santa Cruz) we know where most of our graduates are working. At the current time, I am unaware of any graduate who is currently unemployed and in fact know of a couple of small firm openings that are currently unfilled.


If you want to get any clout in the "fuck the ABA law schools and their exorbitant tuition rates" area, you need to publish employment data so that others can take you seriously. Saying "well, we don't have to publish employment data, but I don't know anyone who is unemployed" doesn't really help prospective students much.

I think it's great that you've come here to introduce your law school, and the fact that you aren't charging $300k to attend is also good. But how difficult would it be to get in contact with your most recent graduating class and give them a phone poll? It would certainly go a very long way in terms of recruiting. Plus, if the employment rates are as rosy as you claim, then I don't see why people wouldn't put your college high up on the list over many T1 schools, assuming they want to work in the area. If even half of your graduates get jobs as lawyers, you're already doing better than most accredited law schools anyway.

As it stands, it's difficult to take you seriously if you can only provide half the required information to make an informed decision.

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TripTrip
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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby TripTrip » Tue Apr 09, 2013 10:46 am

cahwc12 wrote:
MCL Law Dean wrote:We don't have to track employment data, but because we are small and serve a regional area (Monterey, Salinas, and Santa Cruz) we know where most of our graduates are working. At the current time, I am unaware of any graduate who is currently unemployed and in fact know of a couple of small firm openings that are currently unfilled.


If you want to get any clout in the "fuck the ABA law schools and their exorbitant tuition rates" area, you need to publish employment data so that others can take you seriously. Saying "well, we don't have to publish employment data, but I don't know anyone who is unemployed" doesn't really help prospective students much.

I think it's great that you've come here to introduce your law school, and the fact that you aren't charging $300k to attend is also good. But how difficult would it be to get in contact with your most recent graduating class and give them a phone poll? It would certainly go a very long way in terms of recruiting. Plus, if the employment rates are as rosy as you claim, then I don't see why people wouldn't put your college high up on the list over many T1 schools, assuming they want to work in the area. If even half of your graduates get jobs as lawyers, you're already doing better than most accredited law schools anyway.

As it stands, it's difficult to take you seriously if you can only provide half the required information to make an informed decision.

+1 to that. I can understand trying to keep costs down, but you are still adhering to the ABA's single biggest flaw for perspective students by not having any real data to back up your employment claims. Every dean I have talked to is "not aware of any unemployed graduates" even when only half of their grads actually have jobs. Somehow they only got to know the employed half.

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MCL Law Dean
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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby MCL Law Dean » Tue Apr 09, 2013 11:28 am

First, I fully agree that if we want to share the "transparency" band-wagon, we need to actually track and report employment data, and we started developing the process (questionnaire) for doing so last month. It really shouldn't take us too long to complete and we should have new information out before this cycle ends for our school (end of July). That said . . . you (and all recent ABA grads) have full right to call out the ABA law schools that have not just been hiding employment data, a few have been caught actually misrepresenting it . . . and I guess those deans just didn't notice a few dozen "research fellows" suddenly appearing at the law school on nine-month contracts that curiously parallel the USNWR employment statistics. Bad acting on the part of some law schools is harming all schools and you won't find me defending them.

On the applicant side - it would be equally naive to get as wrapped up in self-reported employment data - as it is to be led by the "marketing" nose by UNNWR school ranking data. On a local note, since that was your original point . . . in a small region like ours, I think that it is far more effective to connect a curious/concerned applicant to the president of the local bar association (which we do), because we partner with the bar on clinics, workshops, CLE programs AND job placement so that an applicant could get an independent opinion on the school's local reputation, employment opportunities, bar pass rates, etc. We can (and do) the same with the DA, Public Defender, County Counsel, and Superior Court. Actually doing the groundwork is much better than reading data charts. Not too surprisingly . . . it appears that the most recent court decisions are coming to the same conclusion.

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MCL Law Dean
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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby MCL Law Dean » Tue Apr 09, 2013 11:34 am

sfhaze wrote:There's no UC Stanislaus, but a CSU Stanislaus.


I appreciate the free editing . . . we will fix that this morning.

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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby NoodleyOne » Tue Apr 09, 2013 12:03 pm

My impressions are that your school fills a needed niche, being a low-priced alternative for those without the desire to go the Biglaw/clerkship/PI route. At the same time, the lack of data is a giant alarm bell in my estimation. I'm curious: do you find that, in the small market you feed, is there a presence of people from the larger state schools? Are your students competing with people from the other UCs, and in your local niche, how do they fare?

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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby MCL Law Dean » Tue Apr 09, 2013 12:39 pm

NoodleyOne wrote:My impressions are that your school fills a needed niche, being a low-priced alternative for those without the desire to go the Biglaw/clerkship/PI route. At the same time, the lack of data is a giant alarm bell in my estimation. I'm curious: do you find that, in the small market you feed, is there a presence of people from the larger state schools? Are your students competing with people from the other UCs, and in your local niche, how do they fare?


Your impression is exactly on point regarding the role that our school (and other CA accredited) law schools fill . . . as is your sense of the "competition" . . . or lack thereof. We have very little in-migration of traditional law school graduates into our region (along the central coast of CA). That said, we do get quite a few seasoned (5-10 years experience) lawyers who move to the area because of the quality lifestyle, but they actually are more likely to become employers of our graduates, rather than competitors.

I suspect that our market is similar to many non-urban communities where retirements, deaths, and job transfers provide a regular rotation of new opportunities for young lawyers. That is why if students can manage (reduce) their student loan debt so that they could "afford" to start out in $50-60K first-year associate jobs, there are jobs available. We realize that our law school is a big (actually the only) fish in a very, very small pond. I have heard from employers that they actually prefer our graduates because of the "local" tie and greater likelihood that they will stay in the area, rather than get a few years of training and head back to the big city.

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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby VegasLaw702 » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:39 pm

California recently adopted new guidelines that apply to CBE schools, such as yours, stating that CBE schools must carry a 40% bar passage rate or above in order to keep their CBE accreditation. ABA schools are exempt. What is the bar passage rate for your school, and do you anticipate that some CBE schools will lose their accreditation as a result of this new adopted measure?

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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby MCL Law Dean » Wed Apr 10, 2013 12:30 am

I was a proponent of the new State Bar accreditation rules because they set a reasonable minimum standard for cumulative bar pass rates over a five year period. Although the minimum pass rate is 40%, our current five year cumulative bar pass rate is 66%. We began voluntarily reporting our bar pass rates more than five years ago and initiated new policies that included the cost of the BarBri review program as part of the regular tuition. This change raised the student participation rate for formal bar review courses from about 35% to 100%. The result has been consistent improvement that is on track to meet and sustain our goal of a 70% cumulative pass rate.

Graduating Classes of: Candidates /Passed / Pass Rates
2004 to 2008 / 90 47 / 52%
2005 to 2009 / 92 53 / 58%
2006 to 2010 / 90 57 / 63%
2007 to 2011 / 85 56 / 66%

I do believe that if they do not change their policies and programs, there are a few of the CBE schools that will be at risk of not meeting the new standard.
Last edited by MCL Law Dean on Wed Apr 10, 2013 12:47 am, edited 2 times in total.

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MCL Law Dean
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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby MCL Law Dean » Wed Apr 10, 2013 12:41 am

Let me add two key points I forgot to mention . . . we believe that law schools can raise bar exam performance without artificially raising admission standards or increasing first-year attrition . . . all too common strategies for a "quick fix" for raising pass rates. It requires identifying academically at-risk students as early as possible during the first-year of law school and providing academic support programs tailored to the individual needs of the student.

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TripTrip
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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby TripTrip » Wed Apr 10, 2013 12:59 am

MCL Law Dean wrote:our current five year cumulative bar pass rate is 66%.

Is that first-time pass, or overall pass rate for graduates?

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Yukos
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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby Yukos » Wed Apr 10, 2013 1:19 am

Making $50k as a lawyer in Santa Cruz would actually be a pretty sweet life (Salinas, maybe not so much).

Thanks so much for answering questions. I'm sure this is a topic almost none of us have any familiarity with.

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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby spleenworship » Wed Apr 10, 2013 1:53 am

I came in here expecting to set fire to this thread, but this is actually pretty cool. Thank you for sharing with us, Dean Winick.

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Re: Non-ABA Law School Dean takes questions

Postby sfhaze » Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:16 am

MCL Law Dean wrote:Let me add two key points I forgot to mention . . . we believe that law schools can raise bar exam performance without artificially raising admission standards or increasing first-year attrition . . . all too common strategies for a "quick fix" for raising pass rates. It requires identifying academically at-risk students as early as possible during the first-year of law school and providing academic support programs tailored to the individual needs of the student.

You mean to imply a law school should actually teach its students rather than cull them ad nauseam? This is an entirely foreign concept. No wonder you're unaccredited.
Last edited by sfhaze on Wed Apr 10, 2013 2:31 am, edited 1 time in total.




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