Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Cooley Law Part 2 of ??

This post is in part an answer posed to me by Evan on this blog.

To say I share some of former Cooley student Evan’s past concerns about Cooley is an understatement. I believe on balance Cooley is a good school that provides opportunities to those who might otherwise have never obtained a chance to sit at an expensive ABA accredited law school (let alone actually graduate from one). I like Cooley’s non-elitist approach to things i.e. “a big front door” that gives just about everyone a shot – or two shots in my case. I think that’s commendable.

I love learning about the law. It is an intellectually rigorous experience… yet in the end what it comes down to is how well I can IRAC, parse multiple choice questions and play “the game” called law school. Somewhere between the joy of learning and the way Cooley does things arrives a hellish paradox that makes me want to kill everyone around me and myself as well. I have a hard time imagining Abe Lincoln, as he taught himself the law, feeling the way I do now as I go through a process that turns normal human beings into lawyers.

In 1998 I had a chance to be among the first students admitted into Kaplan’s new online law school Concord University. I decided to forgo that avenue believing that sitting for the California Bar and being limited to practice in about 19 states (provided I pass their respective bars) would be too limiting. I also would be limited to federal practice in my home state of Arizona, although I could have been House Counsel for my employer via their California office. Ultimately I decided to skip the $4,000 per year tuition (that’s what it cost back then for Concord) and opt for hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, a chance to rarely see my family (wife and 3 sons), forgo meaningful work, all so that I could eventually practice law in small town Arizona. No doubt all of this seems to explain why I am in the Special Ed Department at Cooley.

If I had gone the “alternative education” path I probably would have in turned wondered if I should have gone the “traditional” campus route. The latter affords greater opportunities in exchange for massive amounts of student loan debt and shitty personal relationships combined with intensive monastic celibate living. Hell, what’s not to like ?

Going to Concord (or any of the other alternative non-ABA California distance learning law schools) would have let me be with my family, see my sons grow up, maintain a love of learning law (or at least avoid developing a slow burning hatred of the subject), plus work while at the same time completing a law degree with little or no debt. In fact, assuming I would have passed the bar two years ago (possible considering that Concord has a 50% pass rate - 20 points above Cooley's), I’d be practicing law today with zero debt.

I haven’t made up my mind about transferring out of Cooley to another school. I may do that, or I may finish up and just suffer the flights from Phoenix to Detroit every week for the next 3 years. Another thing I might do, crazy as it sounds, is to transfer to into a distance learning school like Concord. An old Jewish proverb says “To stop a loss is a gain…” and I’m starting to wonder if stopping an additional $60,000+ in student loans is a good move ...

Tough decisions. For now, I just keep going…


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