Monday, March 21, 2016

Considering law school? Want to be a lawyer? Consider this: Which schools charge the most and the least

Columbia University’s law school had the highest annual tuition among 99 private law schools ranked by U.S. News & World Report.

The law school charged $62,700, according to U.S. News & World Report. The lowest-cost of the 99 private law schools, on the other hand, was Brigham Young University’s Clark Law School, which charged only $23,940. Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints got an even bigger break; they were charged only $11,970.

Article here (via ABA Journal). 

Also consider: Before law school.  To enter law school, one has to take the LSAT, a test that's given a few times a year, and get a score that's considered acceptable. You will also have to finish undergrad studies with a fairly decent GPA (although some schools accept "provisional students" who do not have an undergrad degree. Those schools put provisional students on probation until their GPAs show that they can cut the mustard in law school).

Some schools also offer partial tuition scholarships based on the score from your LSAT, and your undergrad GPA.

Graduating from law school. Next, you will have to get through the school's required courses, usually consisting of subjects like Torts, Contracts, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Taxation, Research and Writing, Advanced Writing, etc. etc. (My school required Taxation, and Secured Transactions, often these are not required at other schools). There is usually some level of performance-type classes, like Trial Skills, or Pre-Trial, too. There are other "exciting" elective courses as well, like Moot Court, Family Law, No-Fault Law (have I scared you yet?), Insurance law, and so on. Your school will have a minimum number of required classes, and after that you are free to gambol on the fruited plains to choose your electives. Beware: electives tend to influence you one way or another toward what fields of law you end up practicing.

Applying for the Bar Exam At some point while you are getting your last few semesters finished, you will need to decide where you'd like to practice, and begin applying to those state bars. Several states (Florida, New York, California, for example) have quite strict admissions requirements, and need longer times to begin the process of applying, so don't wait too long.

Applying means telling that state bar  two things: 1. "I want to take your bar exam on ___ date," and 2. "I haven't done anything to disqualify myself from practicing in your state." The second one is also referred to as Character and Fitness (C &F).

Getting through C&F is no joke: It's like the longest and most detailed job application you have ever done. You have to disclose to that state bar any criminal activity on your record, what happened in undergrad and law school for discipline (if anything). It may also include disclosing your job history, your addresses since you were 16, and any number of things. My advice is to always disclose - with explanations. I know people who are now practicing who had criminal convictions before law school, but they disclosed, and explained how things happened, and why this didn't disqualify them from practicing.

Bar Prep. Then you prepare for the exam, and hope that the C&F application is approved. Some takers will use a bar prep course, others will not. I know people who have passed on the first try without a bar prep class (though they are rare). Bar prep is offered by companies like BarBri, Themis, at a cost to each student (scholarships may exist). I used BarBri, and thought it was overpriced, and offered very little "hand-holding" as I prepared. But I did pass my first time.

The exam will consist of every subject you ever took in law school, or almost.  There's a multiple choice portion, the Multistate Bar Exam (MBE), and an essay portion (except in Wisconsin). Michigan's exam, for example, tests the MBE (which used to be 6 subjects but is now increased to 8), and the essays (which can be on 23 possible subjects, but only tests 15 subjects). Depending on your state's bar, there may also be a portion of "performance" on the exam (MPT). Most states have a 2 day exam, others have 3 days.

Then you wait to see if you have passed, once you pass you can be sworn in, and get your license! Congrats you have made it!!

1 comment:

  1. One more thing to consider: The cost of law school when you enroll will increase while you are still enrolled. If you have to borrow to pay for law school (most students do), the increase in tuition will effect how much you are repaying when you graduate.