Chapter 1: Can You Really Become a Lawyer – Non ABA Approved Law Schools
Can You Really Become a Lawyer Going to Non ABA Approved Law Schools?
Just about a decade ago years ago ABA law schools experienced a 17% rise in applications. And, more than 133,000 prospective law students have taken the grueling Law School Admissions Test, better known as the LSAT. So why consider a non ABA approved law school? Well, of those 133,000 applicants, a little over 80,000 will make applications to attend an ABA law school. Of the 80,000 applicants to ABA law schools only about 25% will ever be admitted and less than 50% of those students will ever graduate and be admitted to practice law. Although the weeding-out process is intense, the number of applicants continues to increase from year to year and there is no indication that this widespread interest in becoming a lawyer will ever decline.
So why does “everyone” want to be a lawyer? Lawyers are a respected and much needed group of professionals. You may have heard that there is a glut of lawyers and that the laws schools have churned out too many law graduates, all competing with you in an ever-narrowing job market—don’t believe it! While it may be true that the United States has an overwhelming number of lawyers in comparison to other countries, it is equally true that we live in an extraordinarily litigious society. It is estimated that one in three Americans will be involved in a lawsuit during his or her lifetime and there is no indication that this trend will decrease any time soon. Remember also that this one in three potential client ratio represents only a small area of practice for lawyers. Additional areas of legal practice include the following:
This list is not by any means exhaustive and while some lawyers opt to specialize in a particular area of law others take a more generalist approach to the practice of law.
Perhaps an even more convincing reason for becoming a lawyer is that a lawyer is not limited to the practice of law. Quite frankly having a law degree opens the door to career opportunities in a wide variety of fields. Lawyers are in demand in management, banking, finance, sales, import-export, communications and, of course, teaching. There is no limit to the cross-career prospects for lawyers.
“Perhaps an even more convincing reason for becoming a
lawyer is that a lawyer is not limited to the practice of
law. Quite frankly having a law degree opens the door to
career opportunities in a wide variety of fields.”
Non ABA Approved Law Schools
As Abraham Lincoln stated, achieving your dream of becoming a lawyer is often more a product of your state of mind and your level of tenacity than it is any other factor. If you can obtain your legal education in the traditional manner, that is, taking the LSATs and getting admitted to an ABA law school, I encourage you to do so. You will obtain an outstanding education to be sure. But that does not mean that an equally outstanding legal education cannot be obtained by other means. Some non ABA law schools and their graduates boast a higher pass rate on the Bar Exam than graduates of traditional law schools. Many non-ABA U.S. and foreign law schools are world renowned for their law programs. The University of London, for example, has a highly respected external law-degree program that requires external students to be tested on the exact same standard as internal students. The examinations are offered in every major city in the world. Because the testing standard is the same for internal and external students, all graduates of such programs can rightly be proud of their outstanding legal education.
Traditional Law Schools
There are a number of reasons why so many prospective law students are turning their backs to traditional American legal education. For some, the problems of going to an ABA law school are just not worth it, especially considering that an excellent legal education can be achieved by other means. The fact is that going to an ABA law school is not for everyone. Going the traditional route is just not practical or desirable for a variety of reasons, for instance:
ABA Law Schools are very expensive (the average cost is about $30,000.00 per year) Note: Tuition for full-time students rose 8.6% in 2004.
Inflexible class schedules
The general requirement of a bachelor’s degree
The general requirement of a high college Grade Point Average (GPA)
The general requirement of high LSAT scores
Location (Most law schools are only located in major cities)
“…achieving your dream of becoming a lawyer is often
more a product of your state of mind and your level of
tenacity than it is any other factor.”
Advantages of non ABA Approved Law Schools and Alternative Legal Education
The above reasons form a formidable and impenetrable barrier for some prospective lawyers—and a dream killer for many others. But you don’t have to give up your dream. Many of the problems associated with going to a traditional law school are easily overcome by the many benefits of nontraditional legal education. Those benefits are numerous and can often mean the difference between attaining your goal or always wondering what might have been. Let’s take a look at some of the many benefits of nontraditional legal education:
· Low Cost (Often less than $5,000 per year)
· Flexible Class schedules (online, correspondence, nights and weekends)
· Bachelor’s degree normally not required for admission
· GPA is often irrelevant
· Normally no LSATs are required
· Location (there are many online and correspondence programs available)
· An excellent legal education may be obtained
As you can see, the so-called alternative route can often offer many more benefits than the traditional route. Many individuals often choose the nontraditional path, not because they cannot go to an ABA law school, but rather because, on balance, it is much more attractive.
| Please indulge me for a moment, while I use myself as an example of what can be accomplished through alternative legal education. You see, I’ve actually utilizednearly every strategy discussed in this book, and I think I make a good case study.I always wanted to be a lawyer, but my dream had to be put on hold because I married at the tender age of 19 and, over the next 20 years, found myself raising my three wonderful boys. I don’t regret for a moment that I had family obligations, that was a choice I made—a wonderful choice. During those years I held several positions with the New York City municipal government, including that of police lieutenant. It was during my tenure in law enforcement that my dream of becoming a lawyer was revived, but I had a major barrier standing in my way, I did not have any college credits.I knew I would have to get a college degree first before even thinking about law school, but I did not want to wait four years for a Bachelor’s degree. (I later learned that there were methods available that didn’t require an undergraduate degree). I was fortunate to learn about a system called “testing out.” Testing out is basically studying college courses at homeWhile I was studying for my Juris Doctor degree, I learned about the University of London External Programme, a fully accredited law school offering law degrees by distance learning. I thought it might be nice, though not necessary, to work toward an accredited law degree, so I cross-registered there to supplement my studies at my distance-learning law school. The combined cost of enrollment in both universities was less than $4,000.00 per year.After I earned my J.D in May of 2000 I enrolled in an LL.M program in International Taxation at St Thomas University School of Law, an ABA approved law school. I did this for two reasons, 1) my own self-validation concerns about my unaccredited law degree and, 2) I confess to being one of those geeks who loves crunching numbers, but that’s another story.
What did all of this do for me? Quite simply it fulfilled my lifelong dream of being a lawyer. I passed the Bar examination and have published legal articles on international taxation and Immigration Law that were well received in the professional community. I established my own rewarding law practice and was hired as an adjunct professor of Law. But all of this pales in comparison to the enjoyment and fulfillment I receive working as a legal-education consultant helping others like you to fulfill their dreams of becoming a lawyer. Not too bad considering this was all just a dream a few years ago.
That’s enough about me. I must tell you that while I love and believe in alternative legal education, I admit that I am biased, and quite frankly you might even question my using myself as an example of what can be achieved through the strategies discussed in this book. After all, maybe I was just lucky, right? Well, I do consider myself lucky, but just so you will know that I am not alone, I have peppered this book with case studies of other “lucky” people so that you will know that you too can be lucky—if you’re willing to work hard.
Can you really become a lawyer without going to non ABA approved law schools?