I went to an Oak Brook College of Law Alumni Retreat at the beautiful Lake Tahoe this summer. You could say it was a reunion of sorts. One third of my graduating class was present. Hard to believe that we started 20 years ago. The three from my class don’t look like they aged a day. Okay, so maybe I do.
Despite a rather punishing return trip that had me back to Kentucky two calendar days later than I planned, it was a good experience. And pondering it made me realize that I’ve never shared my student experience or bragged on my law school on this blog. And I really should.
Those who have asked where I went to law school have probably heard me say that I went to “a small Christian law school in California.” But that doesn’t really do it justice; so let me explain.
Yep. It’s small. It’s been in existence for 25 years and it has something like 300 Alumni. That’s not per year; that’s total. I don’t know the exact averages, but I’ve heard in law schools there is usually a 50-70% attrition and my school has probably experienced that. So that was not a misprint above where I said a third of my graduating class was there and there were three of us. I think we started out with eighteen and ended with nine (and a few finished with a later class).
I’m excited to say that OBCL is growing now so maybe one day soon it will be 300 a year; but that definitely wasn’t my experience.
Here’s the thing: You don’t have to be big to be a good school. After I finished and was studying for the bar, I took a nationwide bar review course with graduates from law schools all over the country. In the various subjects, my memory (and give me some grace here, it’s been 15 years) is that my scores ranged in the top 25% to the top 2% of the test takers (depending on the subject). And I was not the top of my OBCL class and I’m not super smart—I just studied hard. Anyone can do that.
The California bar is one of the hardest in the nation with something like a 25-35% pass rate (depending on the year) and my school had one of the best pass rates.
Beyond that though, I’m always impressed by the caliber of the graduates and the number of ways those 300 are impacting the world.
Many have started their own law firms and are doing quite well. Some have become District Attorneys, one is a top election lawyer for the Republican party. One holds a top position for the Department of Labor. We are very proud of Christiana who has appeared for Fox News and the Today Show to represent Alliance Defending Freedom. Many more work for other think tanks, legal defense associations, and political action committees. Some of the graduates are pastors, home school moms, teachers, and more.
So…I would say, though we be small, we are mighty.
Oak Brook unashamedly proclaims Christ and maintains a biblical worldview.
The mission of the school has remained unchanged since the beginning 1995. We have a Statement of Faith. Our graduations feel a bit like a church service. We pray before and after our alumni meetings. We believe that law is the standard that tells us what is right and what is wrong. That’s correct, we can draw a line and say certain things are wrong. We’re Christian.
If you don’t believe in Jesus or the Bible; we understand. There are lots of other law schools in the world and we suggest you look into them. We are Christian. I hope that never changes.
It’s in California.
So this is where it gets complicated. And this is the part I usually find myself leaving out. Historically, I was afraid to say I went to a long distance learning law school lest people think I had done nothing more than get a cheap mail-order diploma to hang on my wall. But I passed a tough bar exam, remember, so at least hear me out on this.
Oak Brook attracts students from all over the US (and Canada, eh!) but the student population is largely concentrated in the few jurisdictions that will allow OBCL graduates to practice law. Let’s start with California.
OBCL is licensed in California and all graduates can take the California Bar. [Hey, guess what? We found something that a state full of crazies actually got right.]
There are a handful of other states and provinces that will allow grads to practice (ten currently, plus federal jurisdictions); especially if they pass in CA first (and, in some cases, practice in CA first). But not all states will even allow you to take their bar because the liberal, power-loving ABA has a tight grip on most state bars and it will not accredit Christian, long distance law schools at this time. It’s not fair; but hopefully as online learning continues to grow and expand, the liberals will eventually be forced to be more…well…open minded, diverse, and accommodating to the lower class.
It’s Far Less Expensive
Here’s one of my favorite things: the unconventional route of Oak Brook allowed me to work my way through school and graduate broke, driving an old Plymouth Voyager, but completely debt free. Dave Ramsey would have been so proud of me. In fact, after the bar exam, I spent 10 days in Rome with classmates and alumni and returned home still debt free though I had been working for $7.25/hr.
It was important to me then; but I realize just how valuable that was now. I have friends and co-workers who, 15 years out, are still paying student loans. Some are ten years out of law school still living with their parents. Yikes!
Maybe, maybe, my earning power would have been more if I had gone the traditional route. But I think, when I last calculated, I get something like a 700% return on my post high school investment per year. That’s not exactly terrible. Some grads do better than that; I’m sure a few have done worse, but then general rule seems to be that graduates of OBCL who apply themselves can make a good living doing whatever they choose. Not all practice law; and not having a mountain of debt gives them that freedom to do whatever they feel called to do.
It’s the People
But here’s my favorite thing about Oak Brook. Remember that is said I got home from my trip two days later than planned? It went like this…I got up at 5:00 am on a Sunday morning so a friend could drive me to Reno for a 7:30 flight. Alas, my flight had been cancelled. So I spent the next several hours of my life trying to arrange an alternate itinerary and eventually resigning myself to the fact that I would not be able to get out until the next morning.
The retreat was ending, but a group of 8 or so was staying over at a rental house nearby so they invited to bunk with them. It was in in the opposite direction of the airport, which had me a little concerned because in my attempt to be a good steward, I had not rented a car and was instead relying on friends to get to and from the retreat center.
This meant my very unfortunate friend who had offered airport transportation had to get up at 4:00 am so we could make the drive to Reno/Tahoe Monday morning. I could hardly drag myself out of bed so I could only imagine the happy thoughts he was thinking at 4:00 am after a weekend retreat.
But hey, we only see each other like once every five years so it’s great to have some time to compare notes with some other lawyers, hear how their practice is going and encourage each other to love Jesus, do right, and change the world. We had two extra hours to do that; which is about the right amount of time to figure out how to change the world.
Of course, it was not until he dropped me off and I got to the front of the security line that I realized I forgot my purse. Which meant, of course, that I had no ID and no hope of making my flight.
Reluctantly, I called my friend who confirmed that the purse was not in his car. It was at the rental house…two hours away. Too bad we had already figured out how to change the world. There was nothing left to do except try to apply my very tired brain to figure out how to get my ID and get myself to Kentucky.
The best I could come up with was to ask my very tired friend to come back and get me and take me to my purse. Then I would pay my fair share of the Stupid Tax in the form of an Uber or a one-way rental to get myself back to the airport.
If I was a Harvard grad, that’s probably what I would have done.
If I was coming back from a weekend with classmates from Loyola, Yale, or Stanford; frankly, I probably wouldn’t have had a friend to pick me up at the airport to begin with.
But Oak Brook is different. And maybe that’s why still another OBCL alumni gave up several hours of his own sleep to grab my purse and meet us halfway so that I could make the next flight.
But as I attempted my long cross country venture for the third time, I was feeling extremely blessed and especially glad that I choose Oak Brook. I didn’t know when I started that the people I met would still be my friends 20 years later. That I would want to see them enough to risk getting stuck in Reno and they would risk getting stuck with me. Perhaps most impressive, that they would never tell a soul about my mistake.
I have no regrets about where I went to law school.
And when we change the world…well, that will just be a little bonus.