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Are A School's Bar Passage Rates Relevant? Cali Bar Thinks So

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By Gabriella Khorasanee, JD on August 09, 2013 12:55 PM

The Southern California Institute of Law (SCIL) is suing California Bar officials for violation of its First Amendment rights. According to The Wall Street Journal, the law school claims that the bar's requirement that SCIL let students know where to find bar exam passage rates on its website is unlawful.

The school brief states that the California bar examiners "have no right to foist their ideology onto SCIL and compel it to refer or disclose bar passage rates of its graduates." While bar officials counter that "[s]chools have no legitimate interest in hiding that information," reports the Journal.

What is SCIL trying to hide? Oh, only that, according to state data, none of the 43 SCIL 2012 graduates who took the exam passed. Or that between 2007 and 2012, over a dozen test cycles, SCIL students failed 93% of the time. SCIL seems to think the fact that eventually, a quarter of its students pass the bar makes matters better, reports the WSJ.

It may be helpful to note that while SCIL is a California accredited school, it does not have ABA Accreditation. So, that makes us wonder, is it worth going to non-ABA accredited schools? Here are five factors to consider...

1. Know the Geography

Generally, law degrees from non-ABA accredited schools are only good in the same state the school is located. So, if you know that there's no way ever that you will practice in another state, ABA accreditation may not be as big a deal to you.

2. Know Your Practice Area

If you know a particular school has an excellent program in an area of law that you are sure you want to practice, that school may be the right fit, regardless of ABA accreditation.

3. Know Thyself

ABA accredited schools have a long list of standards they have to meet regarding faculty, facilities and educational programs, among other things. Since a non-ABA accredited school will be lacking in such areas, it's going to be on you to work harder. If you know you are not diligent enough to put the extra work in, the non-ABA accredited route may not be for you.

4. Know Your Budget

Law school is expensive -- there's no getting around that. If you know the only way that you can afford to go to law school is by going to a less expensive non-ABA accredited school that may be the way to go. But you also run the risk of having a harder time finding employment later on, especially if you don't pass the bar.

5. Know Which Questions to Ask

Do your homework and look into a school's bar passage rate, and employment rate. Ask to speak to alumni and ask them about their experiences in the job market. Alumni can be a great tool in helping you determine whether a school is right for you.

Going to an ABA-accredited school will most certainly not guarantee that you will pass the bar, but it may make it more likely. When deciding whether to go to a non-ABA accredited school, do your homework and soul searching and proceed with caution.

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