Support PDF,DOC,DOCX,TXT,XLS,WPD,HTM,HTML fils up to 5MB
Non-ABA-Accredited Schools May Offer Good Alternative
by Anayat Durrani
Empire College School of Law is one of those schools accredited by the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California. Students who graduate from CBA-approved law schools can sit for the bar. Over the last five years, Empire Law School has achieved one of the highest pass rates for California accredited law schools and was ranked #2 in the state on the February 2004 exam. Approximately 22 percent of the Sonoma County Bar is comprised of Empire alumni.
"Choosing an ABA-accredited school was not really an option for me," said Jeanne M. Browne, a graduate of Empire. "Since I had no undergrad degree, I doubted that the ABA school would even be interested in me."
Browne was a legal secretary for eight years before attending Empire. She went there to give her future more flexibility. She chose Empire College mainly out of convenience, but also because it was located in her hometown of Santa Rosa, had a good reputation, and she was able to pass the necessary requirements to attend.
"After I graduated, I was able to sit for the bar, and it didn't matter to me that I could only practice in California. I had no plans to go anywhere else," said Browne. "I have used my J.D. in my career as an attorney for the last 17 years. By God's grace, I now have a law practice of my own, doing family law and collaborative family law."
She started out making court appearances and doing research for other attorneys while she kept her job teaching business law at Empire Business College. She recently retired from teaching after 18 years and now has a regular part-time employee working in her solo law practice.
"I do not think that not attending an ABA-accredited school is a barrier to a law career unless the person desires to only acquire a job at the top-of-the-line law firms that won't consider hiring from any other-type schools."
Gigi Birchfield, Managing Partner of Major, Hagen & Africa, the world's largest legal-search firm, said that where one graduates from and the quality of the law school is very important to her clients.
"From the recruiter perspective, our clients are typically looking for top-notch attorneys, and one important factor in making that assessment is where they attended law school," said Birchfield. "More often than not, we are dealing with candidates who obtained their J.D.'s from the top-ranked 20 or 30 law schools in the country, so the unaccredited law schools don't even enter into the picture."
Martha Fay Africa is Co-Founder and Managing Director of Major, Hagen & Africa. She said she has no knowledge of any lawyer from an unaccredited law school getting hired by any of her clients, which tend to be larger, more successful national and international law firms.
"Where one has gone to law school is crucial in our work, and it matters a great deal to our clients—probably less so to employers who do not use search firms," said Africa. "In my opinion, if a student has the opportunity to attend an ABA-accredited law school, then they have one less strike against them in this highly competitive legal environment."
Yet not attending an ABA-accredited school is not necessarily a barrier to big-firm success. Joseph Russoniello, senior counsel at Cooley Godward, LLP, serves as Dean of the San Francisco Law School, a CBA-accredited law school since 1937. The school's alumni include former California State Governor the late Edmund G. (Pat) Brown, former Lt. Governor Leo T. McCarthy, and former Undersecretary of the United States Department of Energy Joseph F. Salgado. Russoniello believes San Francisco Law School provides students a good alternative to ABA-approved law schools. The oldest evening law school in the Western U.S., it has a regular four-year program (tuition is $6,535 for the academic year) and an extended four-and-a-half-year program.
"We offer a high-quality, practical curriculum taught by attorneys and judges who practice in the areas in which they teach at modest tuition cost in a comfortable and congenial environment at hours and on an extended schedule that best suits students who have daytime work and family commitments at an urban location that is convenient and safe," said Russoniello.
For Adrienne Moran of Shapiro, Galvin, Shapiro, Piasta & Moran, a 1988 graduate of Empire College School of Law, her choice of Empire was more for practical reasons. After graduating from St. Mary's College and getting married and settling down in Santa Rosa, the couple couldn't afford living on one salary. So, she said her options were limited to night school and daytime work, and Empire fit her needs perfectly.
"I have used my J.D. by practicing law with the same firm in which I clerked during law school since 1988," said Moran, who passed the bar on the first try. "I practice primarily employment law, representing public and private employers. I also have had the honor of representing the Diocese of Santa Rosa and other notable clients in our community."
There are 19 ABA-approved law schools in California. The state has another 19 schools accredited by the Committee of Bar Examiners (CALS) and 15 unaccredited schools. Going to an ABA-accredited school is arguably the most promising route to pursue, as it sets no limits on geography in terms of practice and can yield a higher starting salary. Furthermore, many firms are only interested in graduates from ABA-accredited schools.
However, how one defines success depends on several factors, according to Roberta Kass of Seltzer Fontaine Beckwith, who works as a legal-search consultant and has more than 20 years of legal-recruiting experience.
"Not everyone who attends law school does so with the goal of working for a big corporate law firm," said Kass. "There are attorneys out there who did not attend ABA-accredited schools who are competently helping people and having satisfying and/or lucrative careers—in solo practice, with law firms, corporations, and government."
She said some people go to law school for the degree and have no intention of ever taking the Bar exam. Kass said a large number of people attend law school without intending to practice law and instead use the degree as a means to expand their marketability and credibility within their chosen field. "In many instances, it's the J.D. degree, rather than where the degree is from, that gets you the bump to the higher salary grade," she said.
She advises those considering ABA- or non-ABA-accredited law schools to determine their goals early on, such as whether they plan to be an associate of a large Wall Street firm or enter solo practice. She also suggests talking to alumni and finding out where they work, seeing whether a school helps place graduates in the careers they are interested in, and checking a school's bar-passage rates.
- Acing Law School Exams: Grade-A Advice
- What's Next after Finishing Law School
- First Year of Law School Survival Tips
- Does Law School Rank Determine Success?
- The Three Major Legal Fraternities and Why You May Want to Join One
- Late Bloomers: Going to Law School Later in Life
- Coping with Law School Dismissal
- Graduated From a Tier 3 Law School: There’s much you can do with your degree
- The Real World: Life after Law School
- Why You Should Think Twice About Remaining in Law (or Going to Law School)
- Should You Marry a Lawyer? A Couple's Guide to Balancing Work, Love and Amibition
- After Law School, B-School: The Rise of M.B.A.'s Among Attorneys
- Law Schools at Historically Black Colleges and Universities
- Top Law Schools Analyzed and Ranked By America’s Top Legal Recruiter Harrison Barnes
- The Five Stages of Every Legal Career
- "Guidelines on Reciprocity or "Admission on Motion" among the States as per American Bar Association"
- Pass the Bar in One State, Work in Another
- Taking the Bar in Multiple States
- 10 Ways to Bounce Back After Failing the Bar and Pass on Your Next Attempt
- Don't Panic! Ten Tips for Surviving the Bar Exam
- New York's Exam: The Biggest Baddest Bar
- If You Have Failed the Bar Exam It Is Not the End of the World
- Barriers Fall for Out-of-State Attorneys
- The 10-Step, ''No-Fail'' Guide to Distinguishing Yourself as a First-Year Associate
- The Art of Drafting a Proper Legal Memo
- 5 Tips for First Year Law Firm Associates
- Top 39 Tips for New Litigation Associates and Trial Lawyers: How to Be a Good Litigation Attorney
- 2015 1st Year Salaries and Bonuses of the Top Law Firms
Learn the 10 Factors That Matter to Big Firms More Than Where You Went to Law School
I was looking for a job, and LawCrossing was the one that helped me. The paralegal article on the site was wonderful.
LawCrossing Fact #131: Our researchers don’t post jobs indiscriminately just to meet a quota. They and the jobs they find are carefully screened.
Contract Attorney in Blue Bell, PA
Contracts Manager The candidate will be responsible for development and analysis of contractual relationships including...
Don't count on headhunters exclusively to get you a job. Agencies and search firms generally account for only 10 to 15 percent of all jobs filled. So be proactive. Do your research. Source leads. Talk to everyone.