There is a maxim I live by: good is good; bad is bad. As insipid as this sounds, it works. There is a naive mentality that believes that if a concert pianist practices on a lousy piano, he or she will be all that much better when playing a good piano. Wrong. It doesn’t work that way, and I shouldn’t have to explain this any further.
Same thing with law schools. If you have a really sharp legal mind, you can’t expect to go to a crappy college and be their star student. A crappy college usually holds the good people back (bad is bad).
Unfortunately, this does not hold in the legal world mentality with its LSAT exams and class rankings. The legal world tends to think of education as a humongous footrace. Once someone says “go," the fastest law student will always prevail. Unfortunately, this mentality causes more problems than it solves, as does any blunt, impatient philosophy that aspires toward meritocracy.
In all the blogging I’ve seen about how worthless TTT schools are, mostly in terms of how difficult it is to get a job upon graduation, the situation could be hashed out even further. I’ve also read on these blogs that the only law schools that will get you a good position are the T14 law schools (that is, Yale, Harvard, Stanford, Columbia, Cornell, Duke, U of Chicago, U of P, NYU, Virginia, Berkeley, U of M, Georgetown, and Northwestern--not necessarily in that order). This can’t be altogether true since some of the professors at my TTT were from these very schools (at least I assume they are not making big bucks teaching torts to 1Ls).
If you come from a family of lawyers, and they are going to get you a job upon passing the bar, attending a TTT will work fine for you--it might even be fun. If you are going cold turkey into law, as I did, even getting into Harvard won’t assure you that you are going to get placed into a lucrative position. Then again, I can’t imagine Harvard making some of the blatant errors that my own TTT has made--the good schools nurture themselves to the point where they analyze sophisticated problems in a sophisticated way (good is good).
Even if the college rankings done by US News & World Reports were accurate, there is still a big difference between getting into a school they rank in the teens and one ranked in the nineties. Going further down the line, among TTTs, you’ll even find that some are accredited by the ABA, while others are not. Some are only night schools. Some are only “correspondence” schools (that is, all of the course work is done over the Internet).
Before you start screaming “diploma mill” or something worse, these correspondence schools are recognized by at least some state bars as valid alternatives to preparing for the bar, even if they are not accredited by the ABA. State bars vary in their rules as to what schools they will recognize, but depending on what state you want to practice law in, you should visit its state bar Website and determine if a correspondence school might work for you.
You can get a correspondence school for less than $300 a month. Why on earth would you then take a chance with a TTT and keep racking up those $50K per annum bills?
Then there is the “read-only” method of preparation for the bar. This is truly the old-fashioned way of essentially working one-on-one with a judge or lawyer, who will in turn vouch for your progress in preparing for the bar. The rules in my state are that a judge prepares you in three years, while a lawyer will prepare you in four. The correspondence schools I’ve dealt with are essentially just extensions of this method anyway, since they have a judge on call who vouches for the progress of the matriculated students.
The problem then becomes finding a judge or lawyer who will do this for you. One judge I talked to was against the “read-only” method because she felt that the community you get in a school was important. Law school, she said, was more than preparing for the bar, it had to be something that instilled a legal philosophy.
Personally, I’ve had my one year of TTT and that was plenty. At the moment, the only thing I care about is finishing this thing in the cheapest possible way. If I can’t find a judge who will supervise by “read-only” preparation, I’ll take the correspondence school.
These are not only alternatives to becoming a practicing lawyer, but alternatives to framing the TTT problem and law schools in general. I still believe the root of the problem lies in the mentality of lawyers and businessmen who have allowed competition to intoxicate them way beyond what their bloated egos can comprehend. Life is not a football game, fellahs.
Until this is addressed, get to the bar through an alternative method. It’s cheaper.