Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Review of the literature

Andrew Morriss has a review of Brian Tamanaha's Failing Law Schools (h/t Taxprof), which, while generally favorable, criticizes the book for, among other things, not doing more to place the law school bubble in the context of the higher education bubble.  Morriss himself provides the most salient reply to this criticism when he notes that "reviewers must take care not to criticize authors for failing to write the book the reviewer would have written."

It's true that the crisis of the American law school is a part of a much larger, much more diverse, and ultimately more important crisis within American higher education, and that this larger crisis is itself merely one manifestation of a yet larger crisis within the American economic and social system. And that larger crisis is a part of the yet bigger trans-national crisis of what is sometimes still called "late capitalism," but which most people now to tend to think of as "the way things are."

We must however all cultivate our own gardens, and the immensely complex issues raised by these broader topics could not be touched on except in a very superficial way in a book dedicated to discussing what's wrong with law schools.  And what's wrong with law schools is sufficiently differentiated from what's wrong with higher education/the American social system/international late capitalism/the universe that it's certainly worth writing about independently.  (None of which is to deny the urgent need for more critiques by academics in particular of higher education in America in general, or for that matter of work that focuses on putting the law school crisis in a broader social context).

In any case, the law school crisis is different from related broader problems in higher education in a number of ways.  Here's a quick, non-comprehensive list:

(1)  The educational debt incurred by law graduates is immensely higher than that typically incurred by people who go through the American higher educational system.  A recent estimate claims that only 3% of Americans who carry educational debt have loan balances of $100,000 or more.  By contrast, I estimate that the current national 3L class will graduate with an average of around $150,000 in total educational debt, and that people currently applying to law school will have on average more than $200,000 in such debt when they graduate.

(2)  Law schools have a dismal record of making misleading and sometimes outright false claims regarding the supposed long-term economic value of the degrees they're marketing.

(3) Law school is, generally speaking, a pedagogical mess.  Law schools purport to train students to be lawyers, while at the same time expanding and enriching the liberal education they've already received.  They tend to be bad at both, for highly predictable reasons, i.e., because law faculty are for the most part neither real lawyers nor real academics.

(4) Legal scholarship is on average remarkably bad.  The social value of an immense proportion of it is limited to providing occasions for law students to learn blue book rules of citation.  This is another product of the factors mentioned in (3), supra.  (Morriss tiptoes toward suggesting something like in his review, although in the most delicate manner possible, which is ironic given his criticism of Tamanaha for pulling his punches).

Law schools, in short, have their own special set of problems, although again contextualizing these problems within a broader social critique is important work, which largely remains to be done.


  1. Thank goodness this book is getting press.

    Maybe real reform will happen in our lifetime.

    Also, first ! :)

  2. It's best to look at law school in comparison to other techincal/professional/trade schools that purport to have excellent records at getting students jobs.

    In this respect, law school is much more like the graphic design/cosmetology/culinary ripoff schools than it is to medical, nursing or maybe even business schools. In fact, the graphic design/cosmetology/culinary ripoff schools have one up on the law schools: the former students California Culinary School in SF got something back in a class action settlement. The former law students, and current dignified attorneys-at-law, have gotten nothing.

    1. I agree. I would also add, that if you get a culinary or truck repair degree, you can do something productive, like bake a cake or tune an engine. Not so with a law degree.

      It's the diamond of the educational scam: artificially expensive and intrinsically worthless to all but a few, but oh so prestigious.

    2. I'd lump business school in with That Thar Bumblefuck Acadummy of Law and Daisy's College of Manicure Technology.

  3. From Wikipedia, a brief history of this pseudo-discipline:

    Until the late 19th century, law schools were uncommon in the United States. Most people entered the legal profession through reading law, a form of independent study or apprenticeship, often under the supervision of an experienced attorney. This practice usually consisted of reading classic legal texts, such as Edward Coke's Institutes of the Lawes of England and William Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England.[7]

    In colonial America, as in Britain at the time, law schools did not exist. Within a few years following the American Revolution, some universities such as the College of William and Mary and the University of Pennsylvania established a "Chair in Law".[8] Columbia College appointed its first Professor of Law, James Kent, in 1793. Those who held these positions were the sole purveyors of legal education (per se) for their institutions—though law was, of course, discussed in other academic areas as a matter of course—and gave lectures designed to supplement, rather than replace, an apprenticeship.[9]

    The first institution established for the sole purpose of teaching law was the Litchfield Law School, set up by Judge Tapping Reeve in 1784 to organize the large number of would-be apprentices or lecture attendees that he attracted.[10] Despite the success of that institution, and of similar programs set up thereafter at Harvard University, Yale University (1843) and Columbia University (1858), law school attendance would remain a rare exception in the profession.

    Apprenticeship would be the norm until the 1890s, when the American Bar Association (which had been formed in 1878) began pressing states to limit admission to the bar to those who had satisfactorily completed several years of post-graduate instruction.[11] In 1906, the Association of American Law Schools adopted a requirement that law school consist of a three year course of study.

    1. Thus ensuring those economically poor undesirables like blacks, Jews, Italians, Irish and other immigrants and different colored skin people zero participation in justice due to lack of funds.

    2. Those undesirables were also kept out by the apprenticeship system, since no lawyer (white, male, of a certain class) would take them on as apprentices.

  4. Here is another distinction between a four-year degree and a JD:

    By now, many Americans realize that a BA in History, Political "Science" or German Literature qualifies the typical grad to stock shelves, punch movie tickets or sell time shares. Thirty years ago, it was a different story.

    Employers are generally not impressed with humanities and soft science majors. Those that are typically don't pay well, i.e. teachers, social workers, etc. (Plus, even the STEM fields are glutted - even if policymakers and politicians act as if producing more of these grads will serve as a magic formula, for "renewing" the economy.)

    U.S. "legal education" is far more insidious because it purports to be a professional school. Implicit in this arrangement is that the student will incur substantial debt for a solid chance to enter a career upon graduation. (Think of medical, dental and veterinary schools.)

    For FAR TOO MANY recent law grads, this is not the case. Even many of those who do end up in Biglaw do not stay in the "profession" for more than five years. That is a terrible investment!

  5. I wonder if there was an aristocratic school scam in Paris in 1788. The writing was on the wall for all who could read, but I'm sure that everyone wanted to cling to the prestige of the old order. Monsieur, I can't imagine young Pierre doing something productive!

    Mon dieu, I mean we are above the serfs, and I insist that he be trained in the dying art of prestige no matter the cost. After all, what will the neighbors think?

    1. מנא ,מנא, תקל, ופרסיOctober 17, 2012 at 8:53 AM

      ^^^ above is JDP, goin' all biblical on us.
      ("...writing was on the wall...")

  6. I think that Law Prof should write a post about the broader implications of academia functioning as a required gateway in our society, making students a captive audience to squeeze for money, and about the impending student debt bubble that will burst soon, just as the mortgage bubble has.

    I think a post about these issues -- and the root problems of "late capitalism" -- would help to express why the law school scam continues despite the obviousness of the scam.

  7. On the subject of (4), I'd say that the bulk of legal scholarshi[t] is worthless scribbling. Most of it goes unread, and much of it is downright unreadable. I edit one of the leading law reviews, and I must say that even we publish loads of mediocre, unimportant material.

    I'd also add:

    (5) Most law students are as dumb as a sack of hammers. These people have no business being in law school and never should have been admitted. Recently I asked a couple of friends how many of the people in our year they'd be willing to have as lawyers for their own mother. None of us offered a figure higher than ten.

    1. That term "as dumb as a sack of hammers" to when I was a clerk doing white collar and I asked one of our detectives - former chief of a big city homicide squad how he handled the transition:

      "Well smarter crooks - you know most criminals are as dumb as a sack of hammers"

      "and the average cop?"

      "add a hammer"

      Applies to more than a few of the law students professors too.

    2. And we are to assume that you (and your friends) are some of the few smart ones, right...

      Yeahhhhh, that's a gooooood booooy. Whaaat a speeciiiall snowwflaaaake youuuuuuu aaaaaaaaaaare!

    3. You don't have to assume anything. It happens to be true that we're among the smart few, but I don't care one bit whether you assume that or not.

    4. Yeah, you were among the "smart few." Awesome.

      Follow up question: Have any of you ever met an attorney that your parents (or a parent) hired? I have. Was I impressed with their intellect? Who cares? Did I ask about their law school grades? Absolutely not. The only issue is whether they provided competent representation.

      Would I want my mother to hire one of my classmates... Jeez.

    5. The point is precisely that we would expect most of our classmates not to provide competent representation.

    6. And my point is that you are basing the ability of your peers to provide competent representation in a yet undetermined are of the law for unknown & utterly fictitious clients at some time in the future based upon... wait for it... 1) the fact that you are on law review and they are not, 2) their grades in law school compared to yours, and 3) their conduct in the lecture hall.

      None of that matters. It is well within the realm of real possibility that many of these peers you have condemned as inadequate may do a fine job in the legal world. And it is equally possibly that you, sir or madam, you may fail.

  8. Has anyone noticed that on USAJobs, there a number of jobs requiring or desiring an LLM or work towards an LLM? An LLM is just another worthless credential. An LLM probably doesn't provide anything to successfully perform these jobs. So what's going on? Is there collusion between government and the educational industrial complex to con gullible young people to shell out tens of thousands of dollars (of debt servitude) to get a worthless LLM in the delusion that they will obtain Federal government employment?

    I may not have the proper perspective on this but I think it is worth exploring.

    1. depends on what the LLM specialty is (e.g. tax LLM, equestrian law LLM, etc). also, the govt usually pays for the LLM for its current employees.

  9. 99% of teachers in LLM programs don't have LLMs. Are there any other fields like this?

  10. The current law school model is essentially a HYS model (the model is partly perpetuated by the fact that HYS alumni dominate law faculty). What's so distressing is that the faculties from these elite schools are entirely absent from the discussion of crisis and reform.

    It's an embarrassment to the academy.

    1. This isn't true. Off the top of my head Deborah Rhode of Stanford has published on the subject and participated in public debates regarding it, while Akhil Amar and Ian Ayers of Yale wrote a piece for Slate last fall advocating for reforms in the way legal education is financed.

      That's not a lot of people but there are very few faculty at any school speaking out on this topic. HYS might actually be doing better than average by comparison.

    2. Prof. Rhode and Prof. Campos gave a lecture on the subject at Stanford.

      Although HYS could show some leadership, HYS isn't the source of the problem. Let the professors of the non-élite institutions speak out.

  11. Paying Students to Quit Law School—A Commentary by Akhil Reed Amar ’84 and Ian Ayres ’86

  12. I am starting to see more and more of this web site's message that law school is a VERY bad investment. That's great, but I rarely read an even more fundamental point about the low job satisfaction of most lawyers.

    I've been a lawyer for 29 years and nearly all the lawyers I know hate the job and can't wait to make enough to retire.

    I know it's subjective, but I strongly believe most 1Ls have no clue what the life of a typical lawyer in private practice is REALLY like, day in and day out, year after year, decade after decade.

    It's hard to see how any normal, healthy person would enjoy the typical adversarial fare of a private practice attorney in today's world. This fact should be hammered as much as the failed economics of law school.

    People are spending years of their lives and $150,000+ for a really poor SHOT at a really crappy job. WTH??

    1. I totally agree with this. I've been practicing for 11 years, and the lawyers I know mostly fall into two categories: 1. adversarial idiots who are not good at law but seem to enjoy the fighting aspect of it; and 2. intelligent people who are miserably bored with their jobs. (I could also add a third category of people who are on anti-depressants/anti-anxiety meds and so don't mind their jobs as much as the others.) There are a few jobs that are something of exceptions, primarly those that don't involve either litigation or corporate law. But there are hardly any of those jobs out there. I've been lucky enough to be employed ever since I graduated, but if I had it to do over again, knowing what I now know about legal practice, there is no way in hell I would do it.

      Unfortunately a lot of the commenters at this and other sites are law students who can't see beyond "I want a 160k job, that will be so fun, OMG 160k glamour job!" and then "I didn't get the 160k job so this was a scam." It's also a scam because the work everyone is trying so hard to get usually SUCKS, at any level of pay, and for any amount of hours per week.

    2. Anon 1:42

      Totally agreed about the types of people in law practice. Morons who love to fight are the bulk of the lawyers I have seen.

      The smart ones usually get out or, if very lucky, get a legal job in a tight niche or out of the actual private practice of law such as clerking, other government work, ALJ, teaching, etc.

      As you say, alcohol and drug use are VERY common in the real world and I rarely see that mentioned.

      I'm guessing that most of the lawyers in practice just don't have time to frequent web sites such as this and add the down 'n dirty view point of a practicing lawyer. It truly sucks and you just can't convince a 1L that this is true. So sad...

      Every year, there are thousands more useless lawyers dumped into the world and people now regard us as something a little lower than a used car salesman. The standards are so low now that there's very little prestige left and, often, it's better to NOT admit what you do for a living.

      You said it: "Knowing what I know now, there is no way in hell I would do it." Honestly, I don't know what in the hell my young self was thinking. I feel like such a fool for wasting my talents and life energy on this worthless profession. I did NOT know what I was getting into.

    3. I also agree.It took me 25 years to get out. I wish this blog was around back then.

    4. Anon 8:44

      Agreed about wishing for better advice way back when I was considering law school.

      However, this blog seems to focus on the job/pay prospects vs. the cost to get a law degree. Back when we went to law school, it was not that expensive and not that hard to get a job that paid well. I had several viable job offers upon graduation.

      The problem is that most law jobs suck. Very few people get jobs in private practice they enjoy and most HATE their work after a few years.

      This is what I did NOT understand and this is what needs to be pointed out today AT LEAST as much as the economics of law school.

      The author of this excellent web site is probably not qualified to address that issue so he wisely sticks with what he knows and what he can prove.

      There are probably web sites deploring lawyer job satisfaction but I'm not aware of them and they don't seem to get the attention this one gets. The two issues (economics and satisfaction) go hand in hand and are CRUCIAL to anyone considering going to law school.

      Perhaps this site could find and link with another site that explores job satisfaction among lawyers and offers some advice in that area.

  13. Nando - I don't disagree with your comments as to the declining value of a bachelors degree in the liberal arts. But the rigor behind the degree has declined, too, and by a lot. When I graduated from undergraduate school in history in 1982 (admittedly a really competitive and so-called prestigious academic school), I may not have had many practical or marketplace skills, but that degree in history was invaluable from an interpersonal perspective. I was educated but not indoctrinated, could write quickly and reasonably well (I wrote a senior thesis in economic history), was not just a critical thinker but a skeptical one, too, and had a considerable degree of confidence from doing well in that rigorous history program. I ended up starting a career trading commodities and futures, and was promoted much faster than my business school peers. The speed at which the market operated and in which information had to processed and put into the "right" compartment was nothing new to me; neither was discerning the fundamental economic model of the business. And quantitative skills? Yes, I passed BC Calculus, but what the job really required was rapid basic computational skills as well as some algebra (figuring out yield figures on livestock, for example). I had enough math from high school. The job, as difficult as it was, was less challenging than writing a senior thesis with professors and nine other peers aka intellectual wolves poking at my work, all of whom went to better law schools than me (I was fulfilling the jock quotient in the program). And law school (I went after three years in business) at a T10 law school? It was a minor nuisance compared to the rigors of the undergraduate degree (I was a scholarship athlete in college, so I did have more time in law school). I never spent more than 20 hours a week in law school (including class time), and was at the top of the class, Law Review editor, and so on. It all went back to my undergraduate degree - that history department beat me up (in a nice way), and I learned to sustain ego damage, learned what true high quality work was, and learned to avoid a herd mentality and think for myself. How many times does this experience occur with liberal arts majors today? Maybe at a handful of schools, at most. Way too many liberal arts courses of study are last refuges for those who wish to live the animal house lifestyle or who don't focus, and the liquidation in rigor of the programs makes it possible. I might add I had no educational debt from all of this - so something that may look risky today was not at all the case then.

    1. Today's bachelor's degree is yesteryear's high-school diploma.

    2. Hey do you need some help tooting that horn of yours? Nah... I think you're doing just fine you stud/jock/law review editor/etc. etc.

    3. That is a word for word Peter Lynch (ex manager of Magelling Fund) Biopic. At least try hiding what you plagiarize. lol

  14. The other significant difference is law school is supposed to be training people with a fiduciary duty to their clients yet the schools themselves are held to a standard below a used car salesman

  15. One of the lists I belong to is forwarding information about the Yale PhD in law program, saying that it is very actively looking for applicants. I guess even Yale now has to advertise.

    1. That's the new Golden Ticket!

      It allows you to enter the Hallowed Halls of Academia where you can while away your days engaging in the luxurious practice of professing law at a salary becoming a lawyer.

    2. I would think doing this would be a no-brainer for most law-review types.

    3. Yale or fail.

  16. LawProf - I agree with points 1,2, and 4. I think the third point is a red herring - that a lot of bad law schools are using to avoid addressing points 1 and 2.

    I graduated from a top 10 school five years ago - back when jobs were plentiful. Even though many of my classmates have been hit hard by the recession - none of them ran into any problems because of how they were taught.

    In my time at law school there were a few profs who were useless - but most of my professors were good to great teachers. And when I started working at a law firm - it turned out that learning how to use the document management system to find examples of good motions, briefs, etc...coupled with some hard work and questions was enough to make me indispensable on a number of big cases. Most of my classmates had the same experience. They had good writing and research skills - and worked hard to become valuable to the partners and senior associates on each case.

    All of the recent grumbling about law student's not being prepared to practice is garbage. My current firm still hires 1L's - and yes they get trained (and clients pay for their time). In fact, most big firms still train their junior associates - and the expectation is - that over time - these associates will learn how to be thoughtful and thorough attorneys. If that was not the case - firms would just be hiring laterals.

    That being said - there are some practical changes that can be made. Would I have benefited from a clinic? Sure. I think clinics are great. But offering more clinics, or drafting classes, or training students on the business of law does not change the fundamental reality that there are too many law graduates chasing too few jobs - at a ridiculously high price. And no amount of pedagogical innovation is going to change that structural reality.

    Until the ABA takes a page from the AMA - and shuts down 100 law schools and makes new law schools almost impossible to open - the oversupply of law graduates will continue and the exploitation of students and the US taxpayer will continue.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. SurprisinglyHappy3LOctober 17, 2012 at 12:57 PM

      I missed your post while I was drafting mine, but we made a good accidental contrast.

      Just wanted to chime in up here to say that I completely agree that no amount of world-class pedagogy can make a two graduate to one job ratio work. That is THE problem.

      Additionally, I have also had some great professors in school, a couple of whom were even fairly good teachers (the two are very much not the same). That said, there are serious problems:

      -People learn by having something explained to them, trying it themselves, and then receiving feedback on their work. At law school, you are talked at for 60 hours, asked to perform a task that requires you to "think like a lawyer" but in no way resembles anything a lawyer would ever do (I am going to advise you on your high stakes legal problem immediately, as fast as I can, and without conducting any research!), and then issued a letter that tells them nothing except that they did "better" than x% of the class and "worse" than Y% of the class. The students I have known who've taken advantage of some profs' offers to "go over" an exam have been shown a printout of their response with some number of checkmarks scattered throughout and been told that students who did better said more things that merited checkmarks.
      -To put another angle on my previous point, I'd ask readers to think back on some of their typical law school lecture courses and make a list of the benefits they got from the class that they could not have gotten from a videotape of the lectures. Would you be willing to forego them for $1,000?
      -Law schools are clearly not going to cut JD programs to 2 years without a fight. Fine. But if they are going to extract another $75,000 and year of opportunity cost from students for the privilege of sitting through "Sports Law" and "Great Cases in Torts!," then they need to stop reacting to suggestions that during 3 years of legal education students should perhaps at least spend a little time drafting a transactional legal document or two or try their hand at something that lawyers actually do as though they've been asked to strip down and clean out some prison toilets.

      I am being hyperbolic, because it is fun. But I do feel fairly frustrated after 2.25 years of law school. I'm at a good school, have a good job lined up, and - believe it or not - I actually like the study and the practice of law. I loved the work I was doing this summer, and I'd say I easily learned as much in 10 weeks as I did in my 2L year. I wish I were still there and I am lucky enough that my employer would like me there as well.

      Instead, I am back at school learning my 87th multi-factor balancing test and listening to my classmates rattle off the usual litany of economic (it's efficient!) and social welfare (poor people!) policies for and against some rule of law. I'm learning new areas of law that are intellectually engaging, but that will begin to fade from my mind after the exam so that if and when I am ever called to apply it, I would have been just as well served studying it for two weeks as for a whole semester. Meanwhile, emails from my school dribble in to my inbox letting me know that Gunter V. Skrbljrt from the University of Copenhagen will be giving a lecture on the influence of Christianity on early Scandinavian property law. Oh, goodie.

      Do I have a bad attitude? Absolutely. I totally own that things would be better if I could put on a happier face, but quite frankly I am pissed that I am still here. I certainly have much to learn, and I will learn some things this year. Will those things make me better at my job? Perhaps marginally. Will they make me better at my job THAN WORKING AT MY JOB FOR A YEAR WOULD? No.

      Will they make me $250,000 (cost plus foregone salary) better at my than working at my job for a year would? I just bloody dare someone to try to explain to me how it does...

    3. Prior poster here. I hear you. I think requiring regular feedback and eliminating all issue spotter exams would make all law schools better. Add in more clinics for transactional/regulatory work and real externship programs - and lots of 3Ls would be getting more out of their final year.

      I don't think, however, that giving students better training options and more relevant feedback requires a re-working of the entire system. I know that my school offered a number of these options back in 2004-2007 - and they have added lots more. So people can and do spend a lot of their third year gaining practical skills (appearing in court or drafting transactional docs for non-profit clients etc...).

      Of course, if tuition was where it should be based on inflation, my guess is that lots of students would be fine with staying for their third year - regardless of the options. Just as an example - in 1990 Harvard charged $13,400 in tuition- in 2012 dollars tuition should be approx $24,000. Actual tuition for 2012 at Harvard Law is $49,950. As you rightly pointed out-taking random electives is much less attractive when you are borrowing $75K for the privilege.

      That being said - I also want to put in a plug for taking substantive courses in your area of interest during your third year. Obviously my perspective is based on the opportunities I had. But I was lucky to have classes after 1L - that had more than one exam - or if there was an exam - it was a take-home essay that was well constructed. And I found that taking Tax, Admin, and Fed Courts my third year was helpful. I also ended up taking three courses in my eventual practice area (antitrust) - which really did give me a leg up when I arrived.

  17. SurprisinglyHappy3LOctober 17, 2012 at 12:04 PM

    Prof. Campos,

    As usual, I think you're right on all points, but Point (3) gives me an opportunity to push you on something I missed the first time around.

    After reading your exchange with the indignant Indianan (, I actually took a look at the school's prospectus because law school classes are actually that boring.

    I am curious why you dismissed out of hand the claim that the school was proposing a new model for legal education. From reading the prospectus beginning on about page 29, they APPEAR to actually be offering some solutions to some of the many astonishing ills with legal education.

    -They observe that the two major problems are cost and a totally irrelevant curriculum (as well as a totally disconnected faculty).
    -They propose to teach people to "think like a lawyer" in courses that cover topics lawyers are actually going to have to think about in practice.
    -They are going to actually provide evaluation and feedback during the semester rather than just providing a single letter for a comprehensive exam.
    -Simulation exercise will be incorporated into the curriculum in all three years.

    What I am curious about is the following:

    (1) Is this just a pig in lipstick? Do you read this as just marketing language and that the school will just use the same old broken model?

    (2) Suppose they actually managed to lay out the best legal curriculum you'd ever seen that solved all of the problems of the current approach. Would you be in favor of creating a new school to use this model and compete with existing schools or is it still not worth it? Is prestige so important that curriculum and teaching are just totally irrelevant?

    Obviously we don't need more law schools cranking out more unemployable lawyers. At the same time, the T13 schools still point to their clinic in International Entertainment Law and express disbelief that the legal market doesn't appreciate what extensive practical training they offer. New schools are bad in general, but don't they also offer the best possibility to actually start having people learn some stuff in law school?

    Curious to hear your thoughts,

    1. I had a similar thought regarding a new school edging out existing schools when I read that post. Thing is it's unlikely their employment outcomes will be that much better than existing schools which makes it seem like it's unlikely to produce meaningful change.

    2. Yes, it's a pig in lipstick. The so-called innovations are trivial variations on a universal theme.

      Possibly the students that they will attract just won't be able to learn to think like a lawyer, irrespective of curriculum and putative innovations. Sorry, but that's what happens when one plumbs the LSATs 150s and lower for students.

      Even if they did come up with a superlative curriculum, they wouldn't get anywhere for years, if ever. Good jobs just aren't going to go to the graduates of an upstart law school, especially one run by a vocational college.

      The importance of prestige makes it exceedingly difficult for a new law school to work out.

    3. SarahP's PublicistOctober 17, 2012 at 6:40 PM

      "Yes, it's a pig in lipstick. "

      Hey hey now, is that some sorta veiled metaphor directed at Governor Palin?

      If so, we refudiate that point.

  18. I have been following this blog for about six months and I support any and all efforts to address the issues in legal education. What bothers me about this blog is the total lack of integrity shown by Lawprof and DJM. I don’t understand how they can stand in front of a classroom of law students and teach when they know most of the students will face a lifetime of debt and little chance of meaningful employment in the legal profession. If they had any sense of ethics, or even a slight bit of integrity, they would quit and advocate for change from outside these corrupt institutions. Both of them continue to facilitate the scam on the backs of the students, funded by the government. It does not take courage to speak out when one is protected by tenure – it takes courage to stand up and quit because you can’t in good conscience continue to perpetuate this scam.

    And no, I am not a "professor." I am, like most, working long hours for modest pay.

    1. Disgruntelated Former Employees Seeking SpotlightOctober 17, 2012 at 1:39 PM

      "... how they can stand in front of a classroom of law students and teach when they know ... if they had ....integrity, they would quit and advocate for change from outside ...."

      Of course you're right.

      Oh, waitammint. See the name I selected?

      That's all the attention they'd get if they took your idiotic recommendation.

    2. Yes. Exposing corruption of your peers in your own field is always the easy way out.

    3. Honestly I don't see why their integrity or lack thereof matters at all. If their data and analyses are valid that's all that matters.

      I don't think either of them are saints and I don't think they're expecting adoration from the masses.

  19. I'm wondering which school is going to get "approval" to offer at straight 2-year program at a 2-year price. I can see that coming. The M. Arch has always been 3 years. About 10 years about the NCARB approved a two year program at Texas Tech. The got massive numbers of applications. After that, other programs tried to jump on. Not too many were approved and the ivies never tried it, of course. Now, the profession is decimated b/c of the economy.

    1. I too see this coming. It will be sold as adding value in some way, the ABA will sign off, and then we're off to the races.

      And, honestly, it could be done quite easily in two years.

    2. Doesn't Northwestern already have that arrangement?

    3. I want legislatures to go with a 1 year LS, plus 2 year apprenticeship program as an alternative to the 3 year LS program. Far better.

      Then all the solos could have a cottage business: collecting 2 years of $15,000 per annum tuition from interns.

    4. 3:05: Northwestern allows people to complete law school over two calendar years but they have to pay the same total tuition as people who do it in three.

    5. @3:29
      Right, and one-year executive MBA's cost as much as traditional 2-year MBA's. . .

  20. Other ways in which law school crisis is different from academia at large:

    1. Law school requires a three year committment during which time law students are almost always exclusively occupied with law school which only qualifies them for one type of occupation. Undergarduates, on the other hand,spend 4 years obtaining a qualification which may (or may not) be sue as the basis for a variety of occupations.

    2. Law School should be compared with other professional schools, like medical schools. Students who graduate from medical schools get to practice medicine, largely becaus ethe AMA properly lobbies to protect the medical profession and actually exercises oversight over medical schools. There is something insanely wrong when in 2011 there were 17,364 graduates from medical schools in the US (see

    and around 50,000 graduates from law schools (including unaccredited law schools).

  21. The final paragraph of the post:

    "Law schools, in short, have their own special set of problems, although again contextualizing these problems within a broader social critique is important work, which largely remains to be done."

    So are we the 'Special Snowflake' of the higher education scam?

    1. Funny, but I think LawProf's points are substantive and correct.

  22. Where are the go-getters now? They are not at "HYS" law schools. You can find them at Texas, Texas A&M, and the University of Houston getting their undergraduate and Master's degrees in petroleum engineering or marine engineering. Do you think any of these students even care where their school rates in comparison to HYS? Do you think they have any respect for anyone who sits down and makes an absurd ranking list of the "T-14" law schools and then treats the list like the Holy Grail? Companies are beating down their doors offering generous salaries with all kinds of benefits to start. And it only gets better for them from there.

    1. Wait, you forgot to mention that you could become a cop or teacher in NYC.

      To address your direct point, yes, we engineers DO care where our schools rank.

      The year I applied for my engineering program, I only applied to the top 4 programs.

      Rank matters, even to UG engineering students. If you think otherwise, you're just an idiot fooling yourself. It matters both in terms of how many employers come to OCI and WHICH employers come to OCI.

      The big employers paying the big bucks simply do not bother recruiting outside the top 10 programs, with some exceptions made for a "local favorite" that might boost the employer's community cred.

      Get real.

    2. Oh, and of course we can all go and drive a truck in North Dakota. More fools we for not seizing these abundant opportunities.

    3. Well, perhaps you should read the post before making comments. The question was "Do you think any of these students (in petroleum engineering) at Texas, Texas A&M, and the University of Houston) even care where there school ranks in comparison to HYS? They are already in high-demand programs at respected schools that all but guarantees an excellent job offer. Why should they even think about HYS. Harvard, that has started a jobs program for it's law graduates, and Yale who recruits law school applicants so hey can turn them down? Don't make me laugh.

      For the record I was able to help get a mechanical engineering graduate from the University of Akron a job offer from an oil services firm in Houston.

      I am not the person who suggests people become policemen in the northeast.

      If your engineering skills are as poor as your reading comprehension I suggest you return to law. Document review awaits.

    4. Oh cry me a river, 5:01. Like I said, "To address your direct point, yes, we engineers DO care where our schools rank."

      These rankings would not exist if students (and employers) didn't pay attention to them. Your (single!) anecdatapoint isn't going to change that.

      And if you can't understand that saying, "well, I got a job all the waaaay down in Houston, and I went to school all the waaay up in Akron" possibly supports the fact that you were blind to rankings, but supports nothing else, well, I'm sorry. I won't change your mind, clearly.

      But at least I won't attack your engineering or other skills on the basis of a very brief interaction on the intertoobs.

      As for me, I'd have to say that my engineering skills are probably pretty darned rusty. Did that for only about 5 years before jumping to patent law.

      None of that changes the fact that people do indeed pay a helluva lot of attention to engineering rankings.

      Even 20+ years later, mine is still in the top 10 on this list. No clue where Akron falls (since cruddy USNWR wants moolah before they'll reveal the rest of the list).

      But I am happy for you that you did manage to get a job. Kudos, Sweetcheeks!

    5. Dyslexia much?

    6. Yeah, I ahve lysdexia, what's it ot you, buB?

  23. Probably not PosnerOctober 17, 2012 at 6:57 PM

    The market can sometimes work: Univ. of Phoenix to close some locations:

  24. 3:23 writes, "Totally agreed about the types of people in law practice. Morons who love to fight are the bulk of the lawyers I have seen. "

    Weird - after 12 years and not a little bit of multi-jurisdictional litigation, the kind where there are numerous lawyers on both sides, I've only run into (i) one jerk who loved to fight (can't call him a moron as he was both shrewd and clever, although not necessarily too intelligent), and (ii) one jerk who just couldn't seem to help himself when it came to playing fast and loose with the truth.

    Number (ii) was the most irritating, because it took about 3 years into the litigation before he finally did something egregious enough that also left tracks that we could file for sanctions.

    Everyone else were ladies and gentlemen.

    To some of your other points, though - yeah, despite being ladies and gentlemen, I don't know too many who are very happy with their jobs. I'm only in my forties and frequently sit around like King Midas, mentally counting coins and trying to see when I might be able to retire - and the answer I get is, "about the same time social security implodes, at which point you'll have to keep working".

  25. 9:08 p.m. --

    You have had a charmed career.

    In my practice area, most cases quickly descend into a grudge match between the lawyers. Sanctions against the other lawyers are requested as a matter of course. One highly publicized case involved claims being dismissed because of discovery abuse, so this argument has also become routine.

    There is no collegiality. In most cases, the tactic of choice is to allege that the other lawyer has engaged in ethical violations. It gets tiresome.

    In my favorite episode, I served a Complaint. The defense lawyer called me up and said -- these were the first words he'd ever said to me -- "I have your Complaint, and I want you to know that after I get it dismissed I'm going to sue you for malicious prosecution and take your house and every dollar you have."

    The relationship went downhill from there.

    1. "In my practice area, most cases quickly descend into a grudge match between the lawyers. Sanctions against the other lawyers are requested as a matter of course. "

      Me again from 9:08 PM. All I can say is, "ug, sorry dude". We would only ever file for sanctions if we almost certain they'd be granted, out of fear of losing credibility before the judge. This is all federal courts, by the way. Maybe that's the difference?

      Please finish the story of your "favorite episode" by coming back and telling us that your plaintiff won (either in court or settlement)?

    2. My work is about 75% in state court, and the state discovery statutes are part of the problem.

      If I file a motion to compel discovery, I want the discovery. There's little chance of a monetary sanctions award, and effectively zero chance of an award against the opposing lawyers individually.

      Problem: If I file a discovery motion and do not request sanctions, and the other side files an opposition that requests sanctions, then I have a serious client relations problem. That's when I hear things like, "What! I may have to pay their attorneys' fees, and you didn't ask for my fees?"

      So, many lawyers include a sanctions request as a matter of course to avoid this situation.

      If I were King of the Code, I would make it a rule that no one could request sanctions until after the motion-in-chief has been adjudicated.

    3. And, yeah, it settled for a decent split-the-baby amount.

      As it happened, that particular attorney had several other cases against my office, and he became the most reviled opposing counsel we had, because he was that nasty with everybody.

  26. 45,000 people graduate from an ABA accredited law school each year. There are 21,500 job openings each year. The average law school debt of each graduate is nearing $150,000. There are less than 3,500 jobs (the biglaw $160,000 types) each year that will service this level of debt. Over half the 3,500 won't be working for biglaw in five years. What is the relevance of the comments to today's post? William Ockham

  27. Yes Mr. Ockham, that’s the problem in a nutshell. I would only add that this has been going on for years so the oversupply of attorneys is even worse than this one-year snap shop indicates. All the other stuff (the difference between NYU and Columbia, the quality of legal scholarship etc ...) is a sideshow. One last thing. Regarding all the complaining about what a crappy job it is to be a lawyer. I don’t disagree with this, but the fact of the matter is, most jobs suck. But you have to make a living one way or another.

    1. Agree on the last part, most people hate their jobs. In my experience whether you like your job or not is largely dependent on the people you work for and with.

  28. Off topic but could someone here boil this law school data down for me?

    1. Once you cut solos out of "full time JD required jobs" you end up at 82/133, about 62%, not so different from everyone else outside of top 6 or so...

      ...salaries - only 41 people in private sector reported, and median is $50K. I'd say that means the actual median for the ~ 100 grads in private sector is substantially lower than that.

      Gotta figure that a strong majority of those 60% reporting status but not reporting salary are making bupkiss.

  29. Agree that most jobs pretty much suck, and people do them because otherwise they would be homeless. Many lawyer jobs suck more than the average job, however, because they have no redeeming features. The ideal job would be interesting, high paying, and low stress. I guess a few of them exist but they are quite rare. You are doing good if you get a job that offers 2 of those qualities, or even 1 (esp. these days). A lot of lawyer jobs offer none of these qualities.

  30. @ BamBam

    You are correct, but, interestingly enough, being a law professor is one of the rare jobs that is interesting, high paying, and low stress. Probably why they are so reviled by their graduates.

  31. @ 7:49 AM--good point--I had to laugh when some law school hack argued that if professors' salaries were cut they would leave academia and start raking it in as partners in law firms.

    1. Even that misbegotten argument [that profs would leave schools for law firms] would get the fuckers out of the law schools and thus reduce the tuition $$$ needed for their salaries.

  32. Very much true. Of the law jobs I have had (all of which have been in fed. government), one was low stress but uninteresting, one was interesting but moderate stress (increasing to high stress due to office politics at the end), and the other two were uninteresting and high stress, with an extremely heavy workload. Since they were all in government, none of them was high paying, especially in relation to my debt load. Sometimes I long for the uninteresting, low stress job again, but I know that I would be bored within a month if I were to return.

    And these are the "good stable government jobs" that everyone is salivating over these days! (incidentally, I have personally witnessed one government lawyer being fired for no reason (bullying by a supervisor), and others being pushed out for reasons including being old, and (probably) being female, so the notion of government as a magical paradise where lawyers can keep their jobs forever is...inaccurate.)

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