Law Schools

For-profit law school with $39K total tuition bill set to close

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Tuition is about $39,000—total—at California Southern Law School, and if you’re interested, now is the time. Owners of the non-accredited Riverside institution say that after fall 2016, they won’t be taking new students.

Elwood Rich, a Riverside County Superior Court judge who opened the school in 1971, died last year. His sons Greg and Brian Rich, who serve as assistant to the dean and registrar, are ready to retire.

The school offers a part-time, four-year evening program and was never interested in ABA accreditation or becoming a State Bar of California-approved school. That’s one reason they’ve been able to keep tuition low, says Brian Rich. Its law professors are all adjuncts, and students use the Riverside County law library for research. The school is housed in what used to be the White Sands Supper Club, the Press Enterprise reports.

Elwood Rich previously taught tort classes at Riverside University Law School. After authorities shut down it down for student-loan violations, he tried to find spots for the students at other law schools, with no luck. So he opened his own law school.

“We’ve really filled a niche in the community, and provided a very affordable education for residents of this area,” says Brian Rich.

California Southern’s class of 2016 had 11 graduates, and he expects about 30 people for the incoming fall class. Anyone who meets State Bar of California requirements for attending law school can get into the school. Some students don’t have undergraduate degrees, Brian Rich says, which is permitted by the bar.

He counts law enforcement officers, nurses and teachers among California Southern’s 400 graduates. Many start sole practices, but there are also alums working as prosecutors and public defenders in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Some have gone on to become judges.

“We’ve always operated with the philosophy of opportunity. We’ve never required students to take the LSAT, and we don’t peruse applications to determine who may or may not be admitted,” Brian Rich says. “After working here 23 years, I’m convinced that people are either wired to study law or they’re not.”

Those who don’t have what it takes are often weeded out by the State Bar of California’s First-Year Law Students’ Examination, which students at non-accredited schools take.

“The beauty of this law school is that you know exactly what you have to teach people for them to pass the bar exam,” says Brian Rich, who was a fifth-grade teacher before he joined his dad and brother at the law school.

“We’ve never gotten caught up in all the trappings and bureaucracy that you see in educational institutions,” he adds. “There’s no committee for curriculum development here, we don’t have to develop new academic programs. We teach what you need to pass the bar.”

Admissions peaked in the 1990s. Brian Rich says that today, their competition for the most part are online law schools. However, according to him, the school is still profitable, and if the right person came along, he and his brother might consider selling it.

“The type of person you’d need is someone who after 20 years of banging around the courthouse is tired of it, and wants to do something else,” says Brian Rich. “This is kind of a niche market. It’s not like a restaurant, where there are a large number of people who’d have the ability to run it.”

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