Deciding Whether to Attend an Unaccredited Law School
Attending an unaccredited law school is a drastic step that should only be used as a last resort for a person who is determined to become a lawyer no matter what. The reality is that non-ABA law graduates have extremely-limited career options.
Currently graduates of non-ABA schools can only sit for the bar exam and practice (if successful) in California. In order to sit for the bar in California from a non-ABA school you have to first pass its First-Year Law Students’ Examination. Additionally, these students are required to study law for 4 years instead of 3. All other requirements for becoming a lawyer are the same as other California applicants.
List of States who Allow non-ABA Lawyers to Practice
Eventually, with a non-ABA law degree you may be able to practice in another state besides California. Many states will never allow this, but the following states allow non-ABA lawyers to take their bar exam under the following circumstances :
Passed Another State’s Bar Exam:
• West Virginia
Practiced Law for Prescribed Time (and passed CA bar):
• Alabama (5 years)
• Alaska (5 years)
• Arizona (5 years)
• Colorado (5 years)
• Connecticut (10 years)
• Florida (10 years)
• Hawaii (5 years)
• Kentucky (3 years)
• Maine (3 years)
• Missouri (3 years)
• Nevada (10 years)
• New Mexico (4 years)
• New York (5 years)
• Oregon (3 years)
• Pennsylvania (5 years outside of CA)
• Washington (3 years)
Some jurisdictions will allow a person from a non-ABA law school who has practiced law in good standing in another jurisdiction for a certain amount of time to be admitted to the bar on motion. This procedure requires a member-lawyer of that particular State’s bar to sponsor you:
• Connecticut (5 years)
• Dist. Of Columbia (no time requirement)
• Indiana (5 years)
• Iowa (5 years)
• Maine (3 years)
• Massachusetts (5 years)
• New Hampshire (5 years)
• Oregon (5 years)
• Vermont (5 years)
• Washington (varies)
• West Virginia (5 years)
• Wisconsin (3 years)
Attending a non-ABA law school is a risk that will substantially limit your options for practicing law. In addition to the increased licensing requirements, non-ABA graduates have a much harder time finding a job than traditional graduates.
Questions to Consider Before Attending a Non-ABA School
You should also do some very honest self reflection. Here are some questions to consider:
• If you couldn’t study and do well enough on the LSAT to get into even the most lenient of the ABA law schools, what makes you think that you will be able to pass the California (one of the nation’s most difficult) bar exam?
• Given the fact that a huge percentage of ABA law grads are having trouble finding jobs, what makes you confident that you can get a job with this degree?
• Are you committed to staying in California for the next 5 years?
• Are you willing to limit your geographic options for the rest of your career?