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.