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Old 02-19-2017, 05:16 PM
Saint Cad Saint Cad is offline
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Low cost law school alternatives

I've decided on a third career that involves becoming an attorney. But in my state (Colorado) there doesn't seem to be a low cost way to getting a JD. Not only talking about the cost of law school, but the fact that since it is during the day I would have to quit my current job (teaching) to take classes. Are there any low cost or nighttime ways to get a law degree or am I stuck because of my home state?
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Old 02-19-2017, 05:45 PM
Anny Middon Anny Middon is offline
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According to this US News and World Report article the University of Denver has a part-time (night/weekend) law program. The program is rated at #6 in the country.
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Old 02-19-2017, 05:46 PM
Shagnasty Shagnasty is offline
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There are only two ABA accredited law schools in Colorado that I know of and no online options for law school. If you can't make those work, you may be stuck.

University of Denver Sturm College of Law - Denver
University of Colorado Law School - Boulder

Is there a specific reason you want to go to law school? I don't want to question your personal choice but many recent grads are reporting it is a waste of time and money. Many younger lawyers don't make very much money if they can find jobs at all. Some of them end up doing things like working for corporate legal departments doing petty work rather than doing something like defense work for the underserved.

If you are willing to move, the Boston area has law schools with flexible schedules but it isn't a cheap place to live. I am not going to tell you what to do because it is your life but I suggest that you Google the phrase "Don't go to law school" before you make any bold moves. Even successful attorneys have some pretty harsh things to say about the matter.

Last edited by Shagnasty; 02-19-2017 at 05:47 PM.
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Old 02-19-2017, 05:48 PM
Ace309 Ace309 is offline
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Many law schools offer evening programs designed for working professionals. I don't know enough about Colorado to make specific recommendations but this is a super normal thing.

Alternatively, a California unaccredited school might be an option for distance ed, although it would require you to take the notorious Baby Bar to continue after the first year. You might need to make a trip to California to do this, but as I recall you defended a dissertation in the U.K. so I don't think that would be difficult.

The big concern would be whether Colorado has reciprocity with a California, which I don't know.
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Old 02-19-2017, 06:09 PM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Don't limit yourself to ABA-accredited schools. Absent some need to be easily able to port your law degree to other states, there may be state-accredited, or even unaccredited programs that would suit your needs.

Having said that, Univ. of Denver's Sturm College of Law has an Evening Division. Evening law school requires 4 years, not 3, to finish.
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Old 02-19-2017, 06:48 PM
dofe dofe is offline
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To take the bar exam in Colorado, you need to have graduated from an ABA-accredited law school. The only way to take the bar in CO with a non-ABA-accredited school is to have practiced law for at least 3 of the last 5 years, which means Saint Cad will have to first become licensed in another state that allows graduates from non-ABA approved schools to take the bar, AND then practice there for at least three years before he can return to Colorado to take the bar exam in the state.

Saint Cad, is your ultimate goal to practice law in Colorado? What type of law do you intend to practice? Do any CO law schools offer an evening program? If so, I would encourage you look into those programs instead of going through a "low cost" alternative at a non-ABA accredited school (which are not any cheaper in any case). Unless you have some very good connections to the legal community, having a non-accredited school on your resume will make it very difficult for you to get your foot into the door. The law school you graduated from won't matter much later on in your career (unless you're thinking of academia, in which case it matters a lot), but getting that first law clerk or internship position, which will determine the type of job you may or may not get later, depends heavily on your academic performance and, to some extent, the reputation of the law school you're attending. Don't go cheap on this.

If you want to do law school on the cheap, the best way is to score well on the LSAT and get scholarships to an accredited law school with an evening program.

Last edited by dofe; 02-19-2017 at 06:49 PM.
  #7  
Old 02-19-2017, 07:31 PM
PastTense PastTense is offline
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There is a belief that a substantial amount of legal work will be replaced by AI (artificial intelligence)
http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/17/lawye...elligence.html
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Old 02-19-2017, 08:24 PM
dofe dofe is offline
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Originally Posted by PastTense View Post
There is a belief that a substantial amount of legal work will be replaced by AI (artificial intelligence)
http://www.cnbc.com/2017/02/17/lawye...elligence.html
Note that the article is talking about discovery and document review work, which is just a small subset of legal work (and not even considered work that requires legal judgment, at least according to the 2nd Circuit court of appeals). Document review work is currently usually done by contract attorneys on the cheap -- typically by attorneys fresh out of law school -- exactly because it is essentially keyword search by humans, and not really comparable to oral advocacy or other legal skills that a good lawyers need to have.

I'm not saying the legal field is immune from automation -- but the type of AI required to replace the full scale of work involved in legal counsel and litigation won't be happening soon.

Last edited by dofe; 02-19-2017 at 08:27 PM.
  #9  
Old 02-19-2017, 08:29 PM
Quercus Quercus is offline
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Don't.

Seriously, unless you get into Yale, Harvard, or maybe, maybe Stanford, law school is a horrible, horrible, horrible choice. There are something like 20 times as many graduates each year as actual law jobs, and a lot of those law 'jobs' are incredibly low-paying horrible gigs.

Please do some research before even thinking about taking the LSAT (unless you like spending money to take tests for fun). Start with Paul Campos (hey, he's local to you!) if you need a particular source.

I mean, if a couple hundred thousand dollars is nothing to you, and spending three years of your life full-time on a hobby that won't lead to a job is OK with you, then, well, go for it.
  #10  
Old 02-19-2017, 09:10 PM
kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quercus View Post
There are something like 20 times as many graduates each year as actual law jobs, and a lot of those law 'jobs' are incredibly low-paying horrible gigs.
Three guys from my group of college friends eventually went on to law school, and got their JDs. Two practiced law for a couple of years, and got out of law entirely. The third is now a college professor, though he only wound up actually practicing law for less than 10 years.
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Old 02-19-2017, 09:16 PM
Richard Parker Richard Parker is offline
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Heh. The "don't go to law school" advice has really jumped the shark when people are saying maybe don't go to Stanford. I promise you, every SLS grad is finding perfectly acceptable work in 2017. You'd probably be safe at, egads, Columbia, NYU, or maybe maybe Chicago.

(Not that this was your question.)

The finanicial picture will be determined in large part by the kind of legal work you want to do and your LSAT scores.
  #12  
Old 02-19-2017, 09:20 PM
Kamaski Kamaski is offline
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Just forget law school and become a mailman.
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Old 02-19-2017, 09:26 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kenobi 65 View Post
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quercus View Post
There are something like 20 times as many graduates each year as actual law jobs, and a lot of those law 'jobs' are incredibly low-paying horrible gigs.
Three guys from my group of college friends eventually went on to law school, and got their JDs. Two practiced law for a couple of years, and got out of law entirely. The third is now a college professor, though he only wound up actually practicing law for less than 10 years.
About 25 years ago, I was considering going to law school. The literature from the Law School Admissions Council said that law school could be of benefit, even if you don't end up as an attorney, such as by working at a private company. (Yes, you could go to business school and accomplish the same thing, but their argument was that there many fewer law schools than business schools, so you might have a leg up on the job applicant with the MBA.)

But, yes, I've heard the same statistics about the lack of openings for new law school graduates. So I agree with the advice that the OP should think very carefully about spending the time and money on law school.
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Old 02-19-2017, 10:44 PM
kenobi 65 kenobi 65 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
About 25 years ago, I was considering going to law school. The literature from the Law School Admissions Council said that law school could be of benefit, even if you don't end up as an attorney, such as by working at a private company.
My friend who's now a professor did have his own practice, but the vast majority of his time and practice was spent acting as counsel for a real estate association, so he was, effectively, working for a private company, rather than seeking out clients regularly.
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Old 02-19-2017, 10:55 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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Quercus writes:

> There are something like 20 times as many graduates each year as actual law jobs, and
> a lot of those law 'jobs' are incredibly low-paying horrible gigs.

Come on now, don't exaggerate. The truth is bad enough. 20 times as many graduates as openings for new lawyers would mean that only 5% of the graduates get jobs as lawyers. In fact, it's apparently a little more than 60% of the graduates who get jobs as lawyers. That's pretty terrible already and doesn't need to be exaggerated.
  #16  
Old 02-20-2017, 05:00 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by Saint Cad View Post
Are there any low cost or nighttime ways to get a law degree or am I stuck because of my home state?
Well, there's always Taft Law School, an online/distance education school that has produced such legal luminaries as Orly Taitz, Esq. It looks like you can get a J.D. there in four years at a cost of $7920 per year. However, the bar exam pass rate for Taft graduates (at least in California) is currently 0%. In other states, probably including Colorado, the degree doesn't even confer eligibility to write the bar exam.
  #17  
Old 02-20-2017, 11:00 AM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Saint Cad View Post
I've decided on a third career that involves becoming an attorney. But in my state (Colorado) there doesn't seem to be a low cost way to getting a JD. Not only talking about the cost of law school, but the fact that since it is during the day I would have to quit my current job (teaching) to take classes. Are there any low cost or nighttime ways to get a law degree or am I stuck because of my home state?
Going back to your question (and ignoring the advice that has no place in answering a GQ post ):

There are no "low cost" ways of becoming an attorney, that I am aware of. Law school requires at a minimum three years of full-time education, or four years of part-time night school. I got my degree in the mid-80s going through a traditional day program (McGeorge School of Law, Univ. of the Pacific). But I have some experience with the night school version. My last quarter of law school I had to go at nights, as I was tasked with taking care of my firstborn son during the day while my wife worked. I cannot even imagine what it would have been like to try and complete night school while working during the day. Law school was easily the most work-intensive educational effort I have attempted (and I've been to college for undergraduate degrees twice).

There are no real "shortcut" ways to become an attorney. Some states (California was one when I was there in the 80s and 90s) allow you do "read" the law in an attempt to qualify to take and pass the bar exam. But this is actually a much longer process, and for the most part, a futile effort. There are those who assert that the three-plus years spent doing post-graduate work to get your JD are a necessary way to ensure competency of lawyers. There are others who assert that it's nothing more than a way to try and reduce the number of people who want to become an attorney, put in place by the fraternity of attorneys to weed out the "riff-raff". I, personally, think the truth is a blend of those two ideas. But if you want to be able to sign your name with "Esq." appended (an affectation which, despite my email address and member name here, I never adopted), you will have to do some serious time, and spend some even more serious bucks.

When deciding which program to enroll in, I strongly recommend you use the following criteria:

1) Bar passage rate of graduates on first attempt in the state in which you wish to practice;

2) Likelihood of success in the program;

3) Cost of the program.
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Old 02-20-2017, 03:21 PM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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The ABA (which is the accreditor of record for every state bar except California's) prohibits law schools from counting more than 15 hours of "distance education" towards JD/LLB graduation requirements (see page 5 of PDF file).

So as dofe explains, you'll have to move one way or the other. You'll either have to move to attend law school, or move to California after completing law school and practice there. Colorado and California don't have a reciprocity rule (California doesn't have full reciprocity with any state) so you'll have to take the Colorado bar exam. Or you can go to Denver.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Anny Middon View Post
According to this US News and World Report article the University of Denver has a part-time (night/weekend) law program. The program is rated at #6 in the country.
Denver/Sturm is the 72nd-ranked law school overall according to USNWR. While the student body in part-time programs is typically quite different from the full-time student body, it's the latter that decides the reputation of a school and the employability of its graduates.

Tuition at Denver law is $1,547 per credit hour, which by my calculation equals $139,230.00 for a JD - not including fees, books, deposits and so on, not to mention the inevitable tuition hikes that will occur over four years. Keeping a scholarship means maintaining a 3.0 GPA. Not impossible, but quite difficult assuming they grade on a standard law school C curve.

By way of comparison I got my legal education at the sixth cheapest law school in the country (measured by in-state tuition) and I borrowed about $50K, which covered all my tuition and fees, my bar prep course, and about a third of my casebook costs (an Amazon Rewards credit card covered the rest). Not incidentally, my school has a poor reputation and doesn't even make it into the "fourth tier" since it doesn't allow US News to publish its ranking. I went there solely because I had a post-graduation job lined up already. It was a fantastic investment for me. It wasn't for most of my colleagues.

Law school is a good investment if you already have a place to work after the bar exam - whether that's a family firm, a current employer, or something else. It's also a good investment if you receive a substantial scholarship and the school's scholarship retention requirements (Denver's aren't horribly onerous; I've seen schools which require a 3.5 GPA to maintain a scholarship, which will be impossible by definition for as many as half of the scholarship recipients given the grading curve). And as Richard Parker notes, it's a good investment if you get into a top school - scholarship or no.

The bottom-ranked Stanford graduates are crying woe because they didn't get starting salaries in the $120K-plus range. Many of my classmates - including top-tier graduates with federal clerkships and other attractive qualifications - are unable to find $50K jobs.

ETA: If you are genuinely interested in this, take the LSAT and see what sort of offers you get. You can always put off enrolling for a year or two if necessary.

Last edited by Really Not All That Bright; 02-20-2017 at 03:23 PM.
  #19  
Old 02-20-2017, 04:58 PM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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Originally Posted by DSYoungEsq View Post
There are no "low cost" ways of becoming an attorney, that I am aware of.
I know of at least one: Become an attorney somewhere other than the US. Where I live, for example, universities (including law schools) do not charge for tuition or books, so you can get a fully accredited law degree for the cost of living plus ancillary fees in the amount of about €250 per semester. (Of course, this won't help the OP unless he's interested in practising law in Germany.)
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Old 02-20-2017, 05:16 PM
Really Not All That Bright Really Not All That Bright is offline
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Well, leaving aside the cost of moving to Germany, it's not unhelpful. Once you are qualified to practice in another country, you can be admitted to practice in most US states by taking a one-year supplemental law degree (usually an LLM) and taking the state's bar exam.

I doubt German universities offer free tuition to non-Schengen immigrants though.
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Old 02-20-2017, 05:26 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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Actually, from what I've read (in articles such as this one), Germany offers free university education even to Americans. You do have to pay for housing, student fees and a health insurance fee, but the cost each year can be only $6-7,000. (And while many courses are taught in English, some proficiency in German is needed for day-to-day life.)
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Old 02-20-2017, 06:00 PM
No Me Ayudes Compadre No Me Ayudes Compadre is offline
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If you're willing to put in a few years of practice after foreign licensure (three in the case of Colorado), you can also be licensed as a foreign legal consultant, advising on that country's laws.

I went to law school and am licensed in a non-U.S. country, but there's no LL.M. track to bar admission in my state, and I don't have the years of practice to be licensed as a foreign legal consultant either. So while I can't practice foreign law per se, I was pretty luck to get a non-lawyer job at a Big Law Firm where I assist attorneys who are licensed in the same jurisdiction, doing quasi-law work and making around 20% below what first-year associates make. I paid around 14,000 over the course of three years, much less than what the firm's associates probably paid.

Note also that for many non-law jobs, having gone to law school is regarded as a negative asset, and some jobs even state that they don't want JDs.

Check out reasons not to go to law school here.
  #23  
Old 02-21-2017, 06:38 AM
psychonaut psychonaut is offline
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I doubt German universities offer free tuition to non-Schengen immigrants though.
I can confirm what Dewey Finn says—non-EU citizens aren't treated any differently than EU ones when it comes to tuition fees here. Yes, you still need to pay for your own health insurance, accommodation, food, and other living expenses, but you have to do that in America too.

The situation is even better for doctoral students, who don't even need to pay enrolment fees if they don't want to. (The only formal requirement for a Ph.D. at most German universities is to write and defend a dissertation. You don't need to formally register as a student and you don't need to attend classes or write exams. In theory, you could just walk into a random university, thesis in hand, and ask to defend it there. In practice, most doctoral candidates, at least in the sciences, are employed as full-time research staff by the university at an annual salary of €44K to €64K.)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
(And while many courses are taught in English, some proficiency in German is needed for day-to-day life.)
It really depends on the program as to how much of it is offered in English. Some undergraduate programs are entirely in English, some are entirely in German, and some are a mix of the two. (I'm guessing that law will be mostly in German, though maybe there are some degree programs focusing on international law that are taught primarily or exclusively in English or maybe French.) As I mentioned above, classes aren't generally required for higher degrees like doctorates, so German knowledge isn't an issue for those.

As to whether German proficiency is required for day-to-day life, I'm sure it's not. At least a couple of my colleagues have been doctoral candidates who spoke no German. Somehow they managed to get by.
  #24  
Old 02-21-2017, 09:18 AM
DSYoungEsq DSYoungEsq is offline
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Here are Colorado's rules (in part) for becoming an attorney licensed to practice when obtaining a degree in a foreign country. Note especially the part about having to have gotten your degree in a country that is primarily English-speaking, and which relies upon English common law.

Colorado Supreme Court: Foreign Law School Graduates
  #25  
Old 02-22-2017, 03:34 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is offline
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I've been a lawyer since 1992, and have been mentoring young lawyers for quite awhile through a program run by the Supreme Court of Ohio. Several of my mentees have been either unemployed or underemployed for years after graduating. There just aren't the jobs out there for the thousands of bright-eyed young lawyers who graduate and start looking for work twice a year. I have told several young people that unless you are passionately drawn to the law and/or are pretty sure of having a job waiting for you when you graduate, you really should look into another career.
  #26  
Old 02-23-2017, 08:14 PM
Throatwarbler Mangrove Throatwarbler Mangrove is offline
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I posted in a thread about this a while back, I am in my 1st year at WUSTL, which is a theoretically decent school* that also is very liberal with scholarships - over half of the class gets some kind of assistance. My scholarship covers most of my tuition, I pay about $6k/semester. Work on getting a high LSAT score, which unlike most other advantages in life (rich parents, good looking, etc) is a thing that you can achieve if you put in some elbow grease. I think you should be able to do it as well, especially if you are black or Latino.

By any objective measure it's still a terrible idea and I am almost certain that this was a huge mistake and waste of time, but at least it's not costing me *that* much out of pocket, so I've got that going for me I guess.

*To clarify, the faculty is wonderful, it has a beautiful campus and vibrant community and generally an enjoyable place to be. It keeps my mind off my imminent unemployment and destitution for a while.

TL;DR: You can do it on the cheap, lots of people do. Don't actually do it though.

Last edited by Throatwarbler Mangrove; 02-23-2017 at 08:15 PM.
  #27  
Old 02-24-2017, 07:12 AM
Elemenopy Elemenopy is offline
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Do you actually want to be an attorney? Or just do something with law? Since you already have a degree, you can get a paralegal certificate in short order. That would let you spend a small amount of money and time to get your "feet wet" in law. I hear the pay can be pretty decent, it's easier to find work overall, and if you are awesome at being a paralegal, perhaps the firm you work for might chip in for law school. Just food for thought.
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