|Breaking the Code
This is a good time to discuss Attending Unaccredited Law Schools in the US and the confusing accreditation terminology that is often applied to non-ABA approved law schools. There are essentially three classifications used to label non-ABA schools. Let’s take them in descending order according to their perceived level of credibility
State Approved/Accredited Law Schools
As discussed in Chapter II, the American Bar Association acts in an advisory capacity with respect to establishing the individual state requirements for admission to practice law. Obviously, one primary piece of “advice” is that only graduates of ABA-approved law schools should be permitted to practice law. Fortunately, this advice is merely advisory and not in any way mandatory. The states have the absolute right to establish their own rules of practice and many states, in fact, vigorously exercise this authority by providing for non-ABA law school graduates to be admitted to practice law in their jurisdiction.
All of the states listed in this chapter have established what are known as state-approved law schools. These schools are given a status almost equal to that of an ABA-approved school with respect to granting law graduates the right to sit for the bar examination in that particular state. Often, other states will also permit graduates of state approved law schools to sit for the bar exam in their state notwithstanding that their law degree was not earned from an ABA law school. In this regard, state-approved law schools are nearly on an equal footing with ABA law schools, and many state-approved law schools are recognized as offering outstanding legal education, for example, Massachusetts School of Law at Andover or Humphreys College of Law in Stockton California. These are but a few of the many excellent state-approved/accredited law schools.
Unaccredited Law Schools in the US
The next tier of non-ABA law schools is the unaccredited law schools. Although this term is used somewhat generically, even by this author, for clarification, the term is used here to describe those law schools that are not state approved, but are nonetheless granted the recognition and privilege of permitting their graduates to sit for the bar exam in that state. The primary difference between state ¬approved law schools and unaccredited law schools is that graduates of the former are often permitted to sit for the bar exam in a number of states, whereas graduates of the latter may normally only take the bar exam in the particular state in which the school is located.
For purposes of this chapter, the unaccredited law schools whose graduates may sit for the bar examination are located in the state of California only.
Bar Registered Correspondence and Distance-Learning Law Schools
Bar registered correspondence law schools are schools that are also unique to the state of California and are discussed in greater detail in the previous chapter. They are discussed here to help your understanding and to avoid the confusion caused by the misuse and misunderstanding of these terms. California is, of course, the only state that permits correspondence law study leading to a Juris Doctor degree. More importantly, it is the only state that will permit such graduates to sit for the general bar exam, assuming, of course that they have previously passed the baby bar examination. (See Chapter 5). For whatever peculiar reason, these correspondence schools are not granted the title of “unaccredited” but rather relegated to the lesser classification of “registered.” Not to worry, for our purposes, graduates of all three tiers may sit for the bar examination in at least the state in which the school operates. Moreover, once you are admitted in one state you may apply for admission to practice or sit for the bar exam in a variety of other states. (See Chapter 8 )
What To Expect From Classroom Attendance
Now then, aside from the fact that you are attending a law school that is not ABA approved, your experience will be strikingly similar to traditional law schools. You will be expected to study diligently, prepare for and attend classes regularly and to pass final examinations. As with ABA law schools, you will be in a highly competitive environment and all but the most serious players are washed out by the end of the first year. For example, Lincoln Law School in Sacramento California, welcomes its fledgling class of first year students with this warning, “take a look to the person to the right and left of you… you will not likely be seeing them next semester.
Join A Study Group
Regardless of how you choose to study law you are well advised to join a study group of law students. If you cannot find an existing group, start one yourself. When I was preparing for my juris doctorate degree from Saratoga University School of Law and the University of London, I quickly learned that it is nearly impossible to go it alone. When I was studying for my LL.M from an ABA law school, St. Thomas University, I thought I had evolved academically to a point where I no longer needed to work with a study group. I soon learned the folly of this attitude when halfway into the first semester I was getting desperate for help in understanding new and complex concepts in tax law. Fortunately I formed a study group with a group of some sharp and dedicated students and practitioners—I could not have made it without the support of my study group.
Whether you are studying in a classroom, by correspondence or online, most schools will connect you with other students and professors who want to network and form a study group. I cannot emphasize enough the value of being able to engage in intellectual discourse with your peers and professors. The study of law can be, as you will see, overwhelming at times. The support you get from such a group can make the difference between failure and success in law school. Take my advice on this one.
CASE STUDY: Attending Unaccredited Law Schools in the US
Another case is that of Warren W., an American who went to law school while in the military in the Philippines. Note that I do not list any Philippines law schools in this book because the Philippines is not a purely common-law country. Law in the Philippines is primarily what is known as civil law, but with just a hint of common law (a remnant of U.S. colonial law, I suppose). Still, there are many states that will permit such law graduates and practitioners to sit for their bar examination, subject to some conditions.
After leaving the military, Warren remained in the Philippines and practiced law for eight years. He eventually came back the United States, but was unaware that he was eligible to practice law here. He eventually became a Certified Public Accountant and enjoyed his work, but had never really quite accepted the fact that he was not a lawyer, at least in the U.S. Warren’s love of the law eventually led him back to law school where I met him while studying for an LL.M in taxation. Warren knows tax law better than anyone I have ever met, but without a license to practice law, his talents would always remain somewhat limited despite the fact that he was a CPA.
Well, I happen to like and respect Warren a great deal so I couldn’t just let him go on without letting him know what he’s been missing all these years. I shared with Warren the very strategies you are now learning in this book and he was shocked that no one ever told him this before. But he really shouldn’t have been surprised at all because these secrets are well guarded and only a very few know all the alternatives—including the staff at many state bar offices. Now, at the tender age of 50, he is preparing for the bar exam. You’re never too old to realize your dream, In fact, Warren is actually a lot younger than other people I have counseled, the oldest was 70 years—young!
Click here for a list of unaccredited law schools in the US