Concord Law School Reviews
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"Concord Law School Review"
There is a saying in product development that “nothing kills a good idea better than poor execution.” I have found that deception does not help either. In my opinion Concord is failing on both counts. Another trite phrase that comes to mind is “the devil is in the details.” I feel it is important for the reader to understand I am a strong believer in the potential of online education. My experience with Concord has been a profound disappointment to say the least. The learning process as many of us older students may have become consciously aware is multi-faceted. I have attended and achieved undergraduate and graduate degrees at schools that are ranked in the top 10 nationally. I have also taken classes at community colleges and other less recognized schools. I cannot say that on average the teaching skills of the faculty at the various colleges and universities were dramatically different between them. Unfortunately I can count on one hand the number of teachers in my life that were truly gifted educators. What really differentiated the schools from a learning perspective for me was the level of students. It was a combination of their intelligence and commitment to learn. I learned the most from the TA’s and fellow classmates doing the homework. Please remember the TA’s fall into the student category for all were either graduate students or upperclassmen. As with any group, even in the upper tier, you have your collection of a*holes, but usually you could avoid them. I did not experience much outright cheating. What has helped me the most in learning (and work for that matter) is being able to ask questions of someone else or work through problems with another even if they do not immediately know the answer. There is also the power of human contact that helps one through the day to day. Working at home in isolation can be very alienating and very counter productive. Even with a strong family support system it is a high obstacle to overcome. I feel it is the greatest danger of our computer/internet society. What I see is a drive to turn the computer and the internet into a bad substitute for human contact. For members of my generation it is humorous to remember that similar complaints were raised about television. I think that it still applies, just that computers can provide a form interaction that can delude people momentarily. It reminds me of the off color joke about Chinese food. You eat it but still feel hungry. In my view Concord attempts to automate itself out of the need for one-on-one contact with the students while presenting that it is providing a great deal more attention to the student than a “typical” law school. (They fail to define what this typical law school is.) Then they have the audacity to charge a premium for the promise of this hype. In addition their “automation” is very buggy and crude when compared to available technologies. They promise a great deal of contact with knowledgeable professors, via email, and live classes and promoting interaction between the students. What did I receive in the 2 months of combined introductory material and actual classes before I decided to apply to a highly recommended local law school? 1. You have only one professor to contact for your first year classes in Torts, Contracts, Criminal and Legal Writing. 2. The written grading policy was poorly written, contained one significant error and several minor ones and the various members of the faculty I contacted had contradictory understandings of the policy. 3. After several lengthy email interchanges I was unable to get a written confirmation of what the grading policy actually was or that any effort would be made to end the confusion amongst the faculty. 4. The recorded lectures were in Real Player format and more than one student reported skipping during playback. In addition, trying to go back in a given lecture was time consuming and often resulted in crashing the player. 5. You were begrudgingly allowed to record the lectures, but it was not encouraged. Repeated emphasis was made about not violating Kaplan’s copyright. In addition, recording these lectures is very difficult to do for those without technical sophistication, and I found only the audio could be easily recorded with some degree of fidelity. (it may also be worth noting that the audio was frequently clipped, somewhat inexcusable with today’s readily available technology when recording speech). 6. Tech support had a user is the problem attitude. 7. When I started to ask questions regarding the reading material, my assigned professor demonstrated he was ignorant of the law and then proceeded to belittle me for asking a question about the case I was referencing that addressed and was more on point for a critical part of law that would be addressed latter in the term. 8. I transferred to another section. This professor knew the material better, but when I asked an actual legal question he took 2 days to respond, (previous responses for simple things like his syllabus were less than 24 hours). He also made it quite clear not to bug him with trivial questions as well as his desire not to be bugged. 9. The recorded lectures did not match the pace and subject matter of the reading and I found several inconsistencies if not outright errors when compared against reading material. 10. When I raised questions about these inconsistencies I was again meet with problematic responses to say the least. 11. I made several attempts to seek assistance to find study partners. These were met with a mealy-mouthed response that people are unreliable and that the various members of the faculty had such a problematic history of success in this area. Yet they constantly promoted this as very helpful to the success of the students. The message was you are on your own. 12. In their own literature they recommend using supplements and asking the professors for recommendations. When the professors were asked they would not volunteer anything. 13. There is only one live lecture per week that is intended to cover all three substantive law classes. It is audio only and the students can only respond via a chat interface that the professor moderates. One professor had his volume controls so poorly adjusted that I had to turn all my volume settings to the bare minimum. This did not fix the extreme distortion of the audio but hurt my ears less. This professor did not come across as a person who would take any criticism well and he decides the grades on the essays so I did not bring up the issue. 14. The syllabus asks the students to set aside 2.5 hours for these lectures yet none I have attended so far lasted much past 1 hour. 15. I had to engage in a four hour email argument with the president of the student association to gain access to the student run groups on yahoo just a few days before classes start. The irony of the exchange is that the stated purpose of the student association is to assist entering students. I sent a copy of the exchange to the administration to clarify the issue that this president was so focused on a being a conflict with Concords policies. They did not respond as to whether it was a conflict. They did say they were sorry I had so much trouble. It is well understood that besides the drive to learn by a given student and their family support system, one on one interactive teaching is about the best you can do to attain the best results academically. You only need to look at the dramatic difference in standardized tests scores for home schooled children vs. public schools to see the advantages. Why is it that graduate school programs are still a form of apprenticeship at top universities if this were not the case? Concord espouses an individual focus by allowing you to learn at your own pace and using the methods that work for you with the support of the Concord team. What I feel is their system has devolved into is an attempt at poorly automating the individuation while misleading its customers into thinking they are getting attention. We are not even addressing the issues of developing the skills of oral argument and presentation. There is no way that Concord can be anything other than a total failure in this regard given their technology and attitude. Overall, Concord is not that successful. The attrition rate that I was able to determine is 70% by the time you get to the 4th year for the JD program. I have seen an article that claimed otherwise but the current 4th year I talked to was bemoaning how her classmates dropped off like files. Many I have spoken with think that Concord is now just trying to make money. I find this a difficult argument to support. Without going into the details of the calculation I estimate they are taking in $12-10million a year in revenue. They have a significant overhead of support staff and attorney faculty. I cannot imagine that this is a great profit center for the Washington Post. I feel that the motivation is much more pathetic. They are just lazy. A number of the faculty have not even bothered to keep their licensees active. The two faculty that I came in contact for the first year program are practicing attorneys. However, I doubt they devote much more than the 1 hour a week they spend on the class live lecture. Numerous attorney graders are used to grade the essays so even this workload is minimized for them. If you are seriously considering correspondence, online or distance learning for a legal education I strongly suggest you look to much less expensive schools that do not pretend to offer what Concord pretends. I would also encourage trying to find someone who wants to go to school with you and you trust and will make the four year commitment. It will make a world of difference for both of your success. It does have many of the problems of a marriage and jealousy and envy can tear it apart. Taft has been around a long time. There is a relatively new school out of Santa Barbara that has achieved a remarkable pass rate on the First Year Law Students Exam (FYLSE) but they have yet to graduate a full class. Their faculty is also a little weak in pedigree. However, they do offer four live classes a week and use an audio conferencing technology that was developed in the game world where everyone can actually speak to the professor and the entire class rather using text chat sessions. The professor does moderate and you electronically raise your hand. There is also a law school out of Fresno that has a phenomenal pass rate on the FYLSE and has been around for a while. They have a religious affiliation. They also have a mandatory in person get together before classes start that helps the students get to know each other which I imagine greatly helps break the ice for establishing study partnerships that I feel are very important for a student to succeed at a correspondence education that is going to take 4 years to complete. Go to http://www.calbar.ca.gov/state/calbar/calbar_generic.jsp?cid=10115&id=5128 to see all the options available in California recognized by the California Bar. Concord has been a profound disappointment for me. I have used Kaplan before with great success for test prep. I really want to see a program like this succeed for legal education and education in general. There is a profound need for the availability of this educational source. I think that the majority of the objections that the ABA has for such programs can be addressed with today’s technology via the internet. Unfortunately I feel that Concord, being the most recognized provider, is putting this effort years behind and is taking advantage of desperate people. (If you are seduced by Concords ability to qualify for Federal student loans be careful. They way they set up the billing you can be liable for the entire tuition if it takes you too long to figure out it is not working for you. Even if you determine this early, you can still be liable to pay back a substantial sum.)