An article in the Los Angeles Times reported that nearly 9 out of 10 law school students do not graduate from unaccredited law schools in California.
The article featured a former student of Northwestern California University School of Law (NWCU), my alma mater, discussing his experience with this online law school, “…almost from the start, the Marine Corps veteran struggled. He said he frequently asked for help, but got little. Less than two years later, he gave up.”
After reading more about this student, we find out that he had poor law school grades and dropped out after failing the Baby Bar twice:
“Medina said he took school seriously. He tried to squeeze in study time whenever he could, often listening to lectures on the van pool to and from work as a Southern California Edison security officer, or between shift changes. He rarely slept more than four or five hours a day.”
Here is why I support NWCU and other unaccredited online law schools. This is exactly what is supposed to happen if a law student cannot achieve decent grades and cannot improve enough to pass the Baby Bar. They are supposed to drop out, or at least, put law school on hold until they can achieve the required standards.
Furthermore, Medina explains that when he asked for help from the professors, “he was told to post questions online and wait for responses, or pay a few hundred dollars more for additional classes.” Once again, I have no problem with this because honestly, you get what you pay for! If you are paying only $3000 in tuition for one full year of law school, are you going to expect the same type of instruction and extra help that you may get paying $45,000 at UCLA?
I know exactly what the “extra few hundred for additional classes” is. For this one-time extra fee, NWCU will provide you with further tutoring specifically for law school and bar exam essay writing, one of the most important components of getting good grades and passing the Baby Bar. I think that Medina should have sprung for this marginal extra cost if he was struggling.
I am sure that Medina worked incredibly hard at his studies, but I believe the reason Medina dropped out and the reason so many other students drop out of this type of law school, is because this is an incredibly difficult thing to do for four years of your life! Read my post on the unique challenges this type of commitment brings: The Painful Truth About Online Learning.
Going to law school while you also have a full-time job and probably a family with a spouse and kids, is really, really hard. And that’s why the drop-out rate is so high and the bar passage rates are so low. The majority of students who attend a school like this are older, they have been out of the school system for a long time, they have full time careers (many are Doctors, Airline Pilots, Computer Programmers), and the bulk of them know what they are getting into. And yes, the select few that make it all the way to the end of the four years with their JD degree and a State Bar License are just a fraction of the ones that began with high hopes of achieving their law school dreams.
I know, because I am one of the few who did it and I saw others who started with me drop out along the way. I attended NWCU for four years, passed the Baby Bar, got my JD Degree, and passed the California Bar Exam and I know other students who did the exact same thing. Yes, we are a small bunch, intimately connected within our online law school world as we share the experiences only we can understand. Most of us never even meet in person but only through video chats, text chats or email. We come from all States and Countries. I met some incredible people over the years, from the students to the faculty, and I would highly recommend NWCU to any student who wants to give it a try.
Distance learning, online school, correspondence or whatever you call it, can be challenging as the student struggles to maintain a balance between school, work and family. At NWCU, the faculty are incredibly supportive. They get to know each and every student personally as long as you participate in what they have to offer. Attend the text chats, participate actively in the video chats, post and answer questions on their forum, submit your practice essays to the professor for feedback when asked to do so. But one thing you have to understand is that the school is not going to hound you to do this. If you miss out on these things, that’s up to you. The school recognizes that everyone has different schedules and will not be able to attend every live session. My observation over the four years was that many students do not participate in the live sessions at all. It’s always the same ones who do, and they are the ones that go on to succeed.
These law schools are the only option for many that, for whatever reason, had to either put their law school plans on hold early in life, or decided they wanted a career change later in life. And if you’re not cut out for it, you will find out soon enough after your first year because you cannot proceed much further without passing the Baby Bar. If you can’t do that, you will have no chance at all to succeed and these unaccredited schools will not allow you to continue. That is how they weed out the students, and that is why the drop-out rates are so high. It will be totally up to you.