Saturday, April 24, 2010

Good Idea or Another Ploy to Get College Students to Attend a TTT?

I hadn't realized until recently that Massachusetts was home to so many non-accredited law schools. I blogged last month about the opening of The University of Massachusetts School of Law at Dartmouth. Now I've come across an article about a new program with the American College of History and Legal Studies and the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover:

So you're a community college student working full time and looking for a path to law school.

A college designed for you is close to opening, pending approval by Gov. John Lynch of a bill that cleared the House on Wednesday. The American College of History and Legal Studies would enroll students for their final two years of college and award bachelor's degrees in one field: history and legal studies. Classes would meet in Salem three nights a week, and the $10,000 tuition - modest for any baccalaureate institution - would be cut in half for students awarded a scholarship.

The college guarantees students with high grades admission to the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover, and it allows high achievers to shave a year from their studies by combining their final year of college with their first year of law school. It wasn't a difficult arrangement to make. The dean of the independent law school, Lawrence Velvel, is the founder and dean of the new college.

Velvel began work on ACHLS after seeing bright students shut out of the legal profession because of a modest economic background or youthful inattention to their studies.

"A lot of people think that they cannot go to law school, that there is no way they will be admitted," Velvel said. "It gives a chance to people who otherwise academically wouldn't have the chance."

Actually sounds like a pretty good plan at first glance, doesn't it? Lower tuition rates and the ability to finish law school in two years instead of three. What the article doesn't mention is that the Massachusetts School of Law at Andover is a non-ABA accredited school. Essentially anyone can get into this school if they want to attend. Since it is non-accredited, LSAT is not required as part of the school's admissions criteria.

I'm not accusing Velvel of not having good intentions for this low cost college and I'm no fan of the LSAT, the ABA, or its accreditation standards. But I can't support the idea of anyone wasting money on a non-accredited law school when the legal industry is imploding and jobs continue to be outsourced. Despite that most academics were high achieving students who attended elite universities, for some reason they believe they are doing low achieving students a favor by allowing them to attend low ranked schools when perhaps they'd be better suited at learning a trade instead. Learning history is important, but most people aren't meant to get a JD or a Ph.D in history. High achievers from lower income families will get the financial aid and scholarships to attend state schools for around the same amount ACHLS charges for tuition. For those who did not excel in school, getting a certificate from a fourth tier school in a subject like history will not help them find a job in the real world.

Attending a third-tier ABA accredited law school is bad enough but if your grades and LSAT scores are so low that you have to attend a non-accredited school, it's probably best for you to abandon the idea of becoming a lawyer. The best place to educate yourself and learn about history and the law is the library. You have thousands of books at your disposal for free. You'll learn more in a year reading a book a week at your local library than a year in any law school classroom. Don't waste even $10,000 towards a degree that won't help you find a job. All I can say to anyone about to attend a non-accredited law school is to run the other way while you still can.

UPDATE: I was curious as to how much Velvel makes for running an unaccredited law school. According to a Boston Business Journal article from 2006, Velvel made $268,985. Nice work if you can get it.


  1. If you can't get admitted to a third tier commode or even a fourth tier piece of trash, you should completely get on with your life. Disabuse yourself of any notion that you will land some decent-paying legal job, RIGHT NOW! Who the hell wants to hire some dumbass who couldn't even get into an ABA-accredited diploma mill?

    The U.S. Department of Education SHOULD NOT provide one dime of assistance to anyone who attends these non-accredited diploma mills. It is shameful, disgraceful and criminal (in concept).

  2. The post is updated. I looked up Velvel's salary and he made $268,985 in 2006. So that probably means he's making around $300,000 now. Whatever good intentions he may have are likely clouded by the opportunity to milk even more students early on and get their money while they are in college. It's sickening how much these deans make for running toilets.

  3. The US shouldn't provide assistance for 2Ts either. If you can't make a top 50, that should be it. The exceptions of course are the super cheap state run schools, like the CUNY programs that leave students without much if any debt. I got into a few low end T1s but didn't want to pay sticker price, as it seemed like a bad deal, and took scholarships at T2s that did not help out at all. I figured I'd transfer out to a true top school, but that's a stupid gamble that doesn't pan out for most people trying it. I thought I could manage it because I was pre-med and that depressed my GPA, I shoulda just gone to med school.

    Anything past T14 would still be a bad gamble, but at least with some scarcity you'd have a real shot.

  4. "Despite that most academics were high achieving students who attended elite universities, for some reason they believe they are doing low achieving students a favor by allowing them to attend low ranked schools ...."

    You seem to believe that these "high achieving" types can easily find jobs. Most of them were less than stellar lawyers - if they practiced at all. These "high achievers" need jobs and so they flock to law school faculties out of a lack of other opportunities.

    Being successful in school does not equate to being successful in life.

  5. anon @ 9:02am: I absolutely realize that many academics are socially inadequate, not successful in life, and would probably do poorly in anything outside of academia. But at least that have that to turn to and they make good money doing it. You can't do much else with a PhD or a JD other than to go into academia if you don't want to practice law. The people with the best chance to make a lot of money in academia are high achievers from top ranked schools. My point is that this new history and legal studies college will not do anyone favors because a history degree from a TTTT won't get you a job in the real world or in academia.

  6. Massachusetts generally requires that you have a degree from an ABA accredited-school to sit for the bar exam, but graduates of law schools licensed by the state of Massachusetts can sit whether the school is ABA-accredited or not. This explains why there are a few non-ABA accredited law schools in the state. I believe the one discussed in this article and the one UMass is buying are the only two currently.

  7. Wow....anyone look into the where the students are now that went to this non-ABA acceditied law school. I'm sure, if you did, you would find many are very successful lawyers. Its a shame that anyone can post a rant.



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