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Is the ABA to Blame for the High Cost of Legal Education?

 

By Accepted.com, the premier admissions consultancy and essay editing company, that has helped applicants around the world gain admissions to over 450+ top schools since 1994. Visit Accepted.com for guidance with your law school application today. 

Segal is at it again. In his latest piece for The New York Times, he shifts the focus to the ABA and its detrimental impact on legal education. Segal notes that in order for a law school to even obtain provisional accreditation, it must meet a large number of standards, which inevitably raises tuition. Most states require a degree from an ABA-approved school in order to practice law, which leaves prospective lawyers with little choice when accruing debt in order to eventually find a job. And then to pay off those debts, they must earn an adequate salary, charging more than many in need of legal aid can afford. Segal points out the paradox: “The United States churns out roughly 45,000 lawyers a year, but survey after survey finds enormous unmet need for legal services, particularly in low- and middle-income communities.”

As opposed to other countries, in the U.S. there is generally only one option for legal services—hiring a lawyer trained by an ABA-approved law school. And many believe that ABA’s standards are “one-size-fits-all and overly rigid, which drives up the cost of both a diploma and of legal services.” For a school to be considered for provisional accreditation, it must be in operation for at least a year, which makes this whole process not only “expensive,” but “risky,” as well.

Segal brings up the case of Duncan School of Law, part of Lincoln Memorial University in Tennessee, which had been awaiting provisional accreditation. The school finds fault with the ABA’s methods, charging them for their raised expenses and tuition. However, as Above the Law points out, about half of Duncan’s budget goes to paying its faculty, which cannot be overlooked: “Segal does a lot to try to indirectly blame the high cost of professorial salaries on various rules, written and unwritten, about attaining ABA accreditation, but there’s no way to completely gloss over faculty greed and deans (who are themselves part of legal academia) being all too happy to keep paying into the system that keeps salaries high for all.” We cannot keep pointing fingers at different culprits in the case of exorbitant legal education, until faculty salaries are taken into account as well.

But, with all this blame directed at the ABA, it has “noted that it would be an antitrust violation to cap or limit the number of law schools.” So, one would expect the thumbs-up for Duncan. However, two days after the NYT article, the school was informed that the ABA had denied them provisional accreditation. Reasons for this move were not disclosed, but The National Law Journal reports that “the council had identified problems with the academic credentials of the school’s incoming students and the school’s ability to provide academic support to those students.” That’s not how Above the Law sees it: “The timing of this, three days after the New York Times published its article, creates the unmistakable impression that the ABA denied accreditation in retaliation for the school bitching to the Times.” Yet, apparently the ABA made their decision weeks before Duncan was notified.

Regardless of what transpired with Duncan, the NYT still brings up an important issue, one which is addressed by USC Law professor Gillian Hadfield. Instead of one avenue for training lawyers, Hadfield envisions “a range of options that would entail an array of educational degrees and a broad spectrum of prices and formats for legal services.” This way, those who want to work in the legal field but avoid hefty tuitions can do so, and everyone would be able to afford legal services at some level. Yet, Above the Law notes that this solution would “require a nationwide reinterpretation of legal services.” Plus, schools like Duncan Law would still want to train “full-service, do-it-all lawyers,” which is “very lucrative.” As it sums up, “the ABA doesn’t force prices to be high, so much as it refuses to require costs be controlled.”

This blog post originally appeared on Accepted Admissions Consulting blog.

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Taking a Look Inside the Minds of Law School Applicants

Here’s some insight into what today’s law school applicants are thinking about.  Veritas Prep, a leading law school admissions consulting provider, released the results of its annual “Inside the Minds of Law School Applicants” research report, and not surprisingly, it seems the plight of new lawyers in the challenging legal job market is weighing more heavily on prospective and current applicants.

Among the findings, the study from Veritas Prep noted a 13 percent decrease in law school applicants who would still apply even if a significant number of law school graduates were unable to find jobs in their desired fields. Only 68 percent of respondents indicated they would still apply in such circumstances, compared to 81 percent in 2010. Also of interest, only 26 percent of respondents believe they will always be able to find a job if they have a JD, a nine percent decrease from last year’s results.

The survey, conducted in June and July of 2011, was distributed to those currently applying or considering applying to law school including Veritas Prep’s law school admissions consulting clients and subscribers of preLaw Magazine and Law School Podcaster. Nearly 150 current and prospective law school applicants participated in the survey, representing a combination of both college graduates and current undergraduates. A breakout of select findings is below:

Professional Aspirations and Concerns

•  Finding a job that allowed them to pay off their student loan debt (73%) supplanted last year’s top issue, which was finding an appealing long-term career path (68% of respondents as opposed to 79% of respondents in 2010).

Law School Financing

•  Although the number of respondents (21%) relying on grants and scholarships remained unchanged, the number expecting to finance their education through student loans grew substantially, from 38 percent in 2010 to 49 percent in 2011. Perhaps somewhat related to this increase was the fact that in 2011 only nine percent of respondents indicated parental support would help them finance the degree, as opposed to the 14 percent expecting parental support last year.

Law School Research and Selection

•  Location continues to be the most important factor in selecting a law school (71% this year, 69% in 2010). Although prestige and ranking continue to be important considerations (64% in 2011, 63% in 2010), this year career placement rate displaced prestige and ranking as the number two consideration, with 67 percent of respondents considering it a high priority (versus last year’s 62%). Additionally, the affordability of a legal education has assumed a higher priority for respondents: 60 percent (versus last year’s 54%) cited it as a consideration in the law school selection process.

Veritas Prep’s law school admissions consulting services ensure that Veritas Prep clients are successfully poised for admission to their select law schools.  Learn more about Veritas Prep and how they help applicants gain admission to the world’s most competitive schools.

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What’s Your Major? New Podcast Looks at Best Studies for Undergrads Interested in Law School

Your pre-med friends have no doubt been taking science classes since freshman year as they work their way towards the MCAT and applying to medical school. If you’ve got law school on your mind, you probably already know that there’s no particular course of studies recommended and there’s no single path to  prepare you for a legal education.

Still, a big question law school applicants ask is, what can you study as an undergrad to position yourself well for the admissions process and for law school itself.  We’ve devoted a whole show to this topic, What’s Your Major – The Courses That Help You Get In and Succeed in Law School.

To start, Associate Dean for Admissions at the University of Chicago Law School, Ann Perry, says there isn’t one major in particular that will help you prepare for the LSAT. Perry sees and accepts a variety of majors. “I’ve admitted into the law school here music majors, math majors, political science majors, engineering majors, biology majors, accounting majors, philosophy majors. So, there’s a lot of majors represented in the law schools across the country.”

Of course, each major comes with its own strengths,  Sarah Zearfoss, Senior Assistant Dean for Admissions, University of Michigan Law School says. “If you’re talking just about grades, it is… basically, it is very rare at Michigan Law School, at least, to see students with science, math or engineering majors who end up at the bottom of the class. Those students always seem to do pretty well. But grades are not the entire story. I also think that people with those majors may have a bit more work to do to get up to speed in terms of learning the historical context behind the evolution of law. So from that perspective, history and poli sci majors have a huge advantage. And English majors are very, very well-trained in close reading of huge amounts of text, which is another important skill in law school, and so forth. I do think that most majors will give you some specialized training or knowledge that will give you an edge in some law school subjects.” Dean Zearfoss also shares some insight about faculty preferences for students with different backgrounds and areas of study.

In our podcast, host Diana Jordan also interviews the following guests:

 

Listen to the full show!

 

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The Complete LSAT Retake Manifesto

LSAT Cat 

Was this your reaction when you saw your LSAT score? Yes? Keep reading.

Each time LSAC releases LSAT scores, there are thousands of test-takers who are less than satisfied with their results. Luckily for those folks, you are allowed to take the LSAT up to three times in any two year period. Unluckily for them, the decision as to whether a retake is “worth it” is hardly a straightforward one. Enter the Manhattan LSAT Retake Manifesto.In the coming paragraphs, we hope to address all of the concerns that a potential LSAT retaker may have – or really should have – before deciding what their next course of action is.

 

Initial Considerations

Let’s start with a dose of reality. Most people see very little improvement in their LSAT score after retaking (an average of roughly two points for folks who scored between 150 and 167 the first time), and some even see a decrease in their score. Take a look at the below chart for some analysis of the success of 2010-2011 ‘retakers’ with various initial scores:

LSAT Retake Chart

*Data courtesy of LSAC.org’s 2010-2011 “repeater” statistics (pdf).

The most important take away from this data is the marginal nature of the score increases that repeat LSAT takers tend to achieve. Just because something is unlikely, however, does not make it impossible, especially when there are some repeaters scoring worse, telling us that some people do significantly better than the 2 or so point average increase. Furthermore, there are very legitimate circumstances that may have applied to your first attempt at the LSAT that prevented you from realizing your full potential.

When considering a retake, it is important to make an honest assessment of your efforts the first time around. Here are the important questions you must ask yourself in order to avoid becoming the next sad repeater statistic:

Did I study like hell the first time I took the exam?

There are a large number of test takers who underestimate the beast that is the LSAT. The LSAT is a very difficult exam, and in taking it you should assume you are competing with the upper quartile of college students nationwide. If you approached your LSAT prep with the same fervor as your SAT prep, you’re in trouble. That would be the equivalent of jogging a two miles a day to train for a marathon. Simply put, you should ask yourself whether you underestimated this test. If your answer is yes, you are a prime candidate for a retake. If your answer is no, read on.

Did I have a “bad day” when I took the exam?

When we say “bad day” here, we’re referring to everything from the completely and totally disastrous, to the mildly distracting. First, the completely disastrous: if Murphy’s Law inconveniently applied itself to your test day experience, you should have a good sense of this and how it negatively affected your score. Were you late for your exam? Did you get sick half way through it? Did a motorcycle gang decide to ride up and down the street your test center was located on during the Logic Games section? Was there a guy nervously tapping his foot on your chair throughout the test? Did the proctor flirt with you during the break and totally mess with your concentration? Were you abducted by Aliens during the break? If your answer is yes, hopefully you had the foresight to “cancel” (even extra terrestrials should have internet access), and are rightly plotting your course toward the next exam date.

Unlike the completely disastrous scenarios, slight distractions are more likely to rear their ugly heads again in future test implementations. If you found yourself slightly distracted on test day, you need to decide whether or not you believe you can overcome similar scenarios in the future. Was it really your neighbor tapping his or her pencil on their desk that destroyed your focus, or are you predisposed to test anxiety? Identifying whether truly external and unpredictable factors negatively affected your test experience is a crucial component to your retake decision. It can be unnerving to take such a high stakes test in a tense room full of prospective lawyers, but unfortunately that is part of the game day experience.

I prepped really hard, but did I prep long enough?

The LSAT is one of the harder or the hardest standardized exam that many people ever face. The skills it assesses are not only learned in 3 months of prep—they’re gained through a decade of rigorous high school and college courses. That’s not to say that someone who spent college staring at the bottom of a beer mug can’t do well on the LSAT, but it does mean that it may take some people longer than the usual 3-4 months to get to their best score. Tips and tricks can get you only a few points, really hitting your top means cleaning up and speeding up your thinking—and that’s not done in a weekend workshop!

I prepped really hard, but did I prep smart?

If you’ve read this far, I’m going to assume that you put in the effort in prepping for your LSAT. The question to ask yourself now is: was that effort the best use of my time? In other words, did my LSAT prep suck?

Let’s face it, there are many, many options out there for preparing for the beast that is the LSAT. It could be that you signed up for the first course that caught your eye (or perhaps the cheapest available option), and it simply didn’t cut it for you. At Manhattan LSAT, we firmly believe that the second most important factor in one’s LSAT prep, after their own hard work, is the quality of the instruction and the materials that they use to study.

Perhaps this time around you’ll want to add a structure to your self-study regiment. We have seen countless examples of structure alone being a “make or break” factor in one’s LSAT prep. Working through the quality material in the order that a 99th percentile professional LSAT tutor/curriculum developer has put together can make all the difference in the world. Or maybe you need to take a class (or a different class, if you took one that didn’t work for you).

Whatever your situation may be, do not think that you can continue to study for your next LSAT the same way that you studied for your initial test and receive greater results – provided you did put indeed put in the effort that first time. Doing so is the definition of insanity!

 

The Next Things to Consider

 

Admissions Policies of Your Target Law School

So you’ve taken the LSAT, did not cancel, and are not 100% satisfied with your score. You have reflected on what happened on test day, as well as on your LSAT prep. You’re convinced you have a higher score in you. Does that mean you should register today for the next exam administration? Not quite. You need to think about the schools that you’re trying to get in to, and what their policies on multiple LSAT scores are.

Earlier this year we did some research on what top law schools admission policies pertaining to multiple LSAT scores are. Four of the top ten (from US News and World Report’s 2010 rankings) said they would consider only the highest LSAT score on an applicant’s score report. Two schools said they would take an average, and four considered their review of applications to be a “holistic” approach (whatever that means – it’s a safe assumption is that they would consider more than just your top score).

Knowing the policies of the schools you are applying to is a crucial consideration in your retake decision. If your top two schools are only considering your highest LSAT score, you might be more inclined to have another go at the exam. If you’re looking at schools that consider an average, you’ll want to seriously evaluate whether or not external factors ruined your first test – or whether there are tangible fixes that you can make to your prep this time around, as coming in with a lower score could damage your chances of admission.

Your Timeline

If you are applying for admission to law school for the fall of a given year, you will need to have taken the LSAT satisfactorily by December of the prior calendar year at the latest. The February LSAT is too late to use on an application to law school if you intend to start later that same year.

Do you have enough time to take the LSAT again? A thorough LSAT prep takes 3-5 months. If you are realizing in the middle of October that you did not optimize your LSAT prep the first time around (or perhaps completely underestimated it), will the six weeks remaining until the December test give you enough time to really dive in?

All things considered, what should I do?!

 

You’ve done a frank assessment of what went wrong for you during your unsatisfactory LSAT(s). You’ve evaluated your prior LSAT prep, the policies of the schools you will be applying to, and your admissions timeline, but you’re still not sure what to do.

Retake if…

If tangible, identifiable factors contributed to your initial, unsatisfactory score(s), you are in a solid position for a retake, provided that there is still time. Valid examples of these factors are:

  • Freak happenings on test day (ie. late to the exam, sickness, proctor from hell)
  • Lack of preparation
  • Poor preparation
  • 

Do not retake if…

  • If you’re going to be at the same place on repeat test day. Some signs this will occur: You do not have adequate time to make the necessary adjustments and retake the exam before applications are due
  • You re-study and you’re still doing about as well as you did before the first LSAT you took
  • You have no idea what went wrong leading up to/during your unsatisfactory exam

As we saw in the re-take score table above, most students score only marginally better when retaking the LSAT. As hard as it may be to come to grips with, there does come a point in time when one needs to leave well enough alone, and move on to the next phase of getting in to law school (applications) – or reevaluate one’s plans completely.

Often we see students frustrated by stagnant scores after months and months of quality LSAT prep. The leading cause of this is typically fundamental issues with their reading and/or language skills. There is no doubt that the LSAT rewards people who can read dense material quickly. Conversely, the test can be brutal for very bright students who are not strong readers and/or are not native English speakers. For these students, the root of their problems may not be something that can be addressed in a few months time.

Here’s a little flowchart we put together once upon a time to illustrate some of the points we’ve made. This should be taken with a grain of salt, but not too much.

This post is provided by Manhattan LSAT, a leading LSAT-exclusive test preparation provider.  Check out Law School Podcaster’s full show on this topic: Cancelling or Retaking the LSAT: What to Do When Test Day Doesn’t Go As Planned.
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