Okay, I admit that I am really green at this but I can tell you that I do know what I am talking about. I just started Law School in January but already I feel like a pro. I feel that way because it took 22 years to get here. I had planned on going to Law School right after college, but life and plans didn’t match up. I finally made it, and this is what I can pass along. Don’t pick your school based on the location alone. Just because you can still go surfing is not a reason to go to that college. Pick your Law School based on the following criteria:
1. What is your goal; do you want to be a high power attorney in a big corporation, or do you want a small practice in a small town, or do you just want the legal knowledge and you never plan to practice at all? All of these will make a difference in where you pick to go.
2. If the goal is to be the high power attorney type…you MUST pick a top rated school and you MUST plan to be in the top of your class. You will need to pick a known college with an alumni that includes attorney grads that are partners in the firms you want to work for later. This will give you an edge later on. Plan to spend a lot of money for this education, but remember that your goal is to make mega bucks later..so it will be fine.
3. If the goal is to be a sole practitioner in a small town…you don’t need the high bucks school..you can pick any accredited law school and get your education. You are not looking for the high bucks job that requires the fancy degree from the top school, you just need a solid education and it will be best to pick from an ABA accredited school. There are advantages to having the accredited school, you will be a recognized law student and can qualify for some discounts, plus you won’t have to take a “baby bar” given to first year students at non-accredited schools. You can cut some costs by choosing a less expensive school, just make sure that the school has a good “bar” pass rate.
4. If your goal is to just know the law and you probably won’t ever practice, well you have many choices. You can pick a non-accredited school and not worry. I currently attend a part-time Law School that is non-accredited, I don’t pay a fortune and it does require that I have the self discipline to work and study without a lot of supervision. I will have to take the “baby bar” and I am not eligible for many Law student discounts, but I am also not paying a fortune for my education. My goal is to know the Law and work in a capacity where I use that knowledge, and not necessarily as a Lawyer. If I never pass the “bar” that is fine, I just need the education.
You need to know your goal so you can really find the school that will meet that goal. I had a criteria based on the goal that all I needed was the legal education. My criteria included that the school had to be part-time because I needed to be able to still work, and that the school was located nearby and finally I didn’t want to spend a fortune. I was lucky that all of my criteria could be found in the school I picked. I attend Ridgecrest School of Law in San Luis Obispo, CA. It is a part-time school that meets only on the weekends, we attend classes everyother Sat. and Sun. every week. It is intense in the course study, like all 1st year students we are learning Criminal Law, Contracts and Torts. We are encouraged to find our own extra study aids and to form our own study groups. To attend part-time will mean 4 years of study, but the cost was perfect, I pay $3600 per year. My feeling was that since I don’t plan to practice and all I want is the education, it was perfect to not spend a fortune I would never re-coup.
If I were much younger and planned to be a high powered attorney, I would never be attending this school. I would pick the college based on my career goal and what company I wanted to be hired into later. I would have spent the big bucks to insure my future.
Final point, it doesn’t matter what school you pick, you should plan ahead to use a “cram” course to pass the bar. All the attorney friends I have agree that they would not have passed the bar without those courses. The top one is BarBri and you can lock in the rate your first year. It is not cheap, in fact to take it will be like adding one full year to my Law School costs, but if you want to pass you will need this course. Oh and one more thing, just because you go to an Ivy League school will not secure your success, you will need to be diligent in your studies and prepared to have no life. Law is not an easy course of study and it requires a lot of work, so plan to make those college years your focus and don’t goof off. I should know, it is even harder to go back as an older student, but it gives you a much wiser perspective. I know now that 22 years ago I was not the student I am today, and I would have failed, but I will succeed this time.
So, set your goal and then plot your course…good luck.