ITLSS is hosting its two millionth site visit today, which provides an occasion for looking back on what has happened over the fourteen months of this blog's existence.
Some signs of real progress:
(1) Overall awareness regarding the existence of the law school scam has increased enormously. In the mainstream media, the claim that the cost of law school no longer bears any reasonable relationship to the value added by a law degree has gone from a man bites dog to a dog bites man story in the space of less than two years.
(2) As a consequence, total law school applicants are down sharply -- 23% since 2010 -- and while final totals for the class of 2015 are not yet available, preliminary figures suggest that this fall's entering class will feature around 15% fewer matriculants than the class of 2013.
(3) The ABA Section of Legal Education has been pressured successfully into requiring schools to publish far more employment data than was available even a year ago. For example, elite law schools are no longer able to hide the fact that they are hiring large numbers of their own graduates into short-term "jobs" that in many cases are classified as long-term for ABA reporting purposes (it's difficult to recall that twelve months ago there was almost no public acknowledgement of this fact).
(4) Prospective law students are gaining a better understanding of the emptiness of the once all-powerful USNWR rankings, and beginning to focus their attention on the only two factors that matter when choosing a law school: costs and outcomes. (My new book Don't Go To Law School (Unless) provides, among other things, a concise guide on how to go about doing this.)
Going forward, it will be crucial for advocates of law school reform to connect their message with broader calls for reform in higher education generally. Legal academia's combination of out of control costs, increasingly poor employment outcomes, and life-wrecking graduate debt totals (applicants in this current cycle are likely to graduate, conservatively, with an average of more than $200,000 in educational debt) can serve as a kind of canary in the coal mine in regard to the growing crisis in American higher education, which has generated more than one trillion dollars in outstanding student loan debt, while leaving a lost generation of young and increasingly not so young people with nowhere to go in our post-industrial economy.
The law school scam, in other words, is just the tip of the iceberg. That is obviously very bad news, but it also contains a kernel of hope. For if it were only or primarily law graduates who were being scammed out of their futures, it would be difficult to impossible to achieve any systemic change. But this is the opposite of the truth. We can even hope that the tens of thousands of law graduates who every year discover their degrees are worse than worthless may in time become a potential vanguard of the precariat -- a source of leadership for their so expensively educated and so badly under-employed generation.