Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What law schools accomplish: Keeping the faith

More than twenty-five years ago a furious little academic kerfuffle broke out when Paul Carrington, who at the time was dean of the Duke law school, suggested in the pages of the Journal of Legal Education that certain law professors had "a substantial ethical problem as teachers of professional law students." That ethical dilemma arose, in Carrington's view, because these professors were "nihilists," who supposedly disbelieved in even the possibility of principled legal decision making, because they thought "law is a mere deception by which the powerful weaken the resistance of the powerless."
People who hold such beliefs, Carrington argued, cannot inculcate the faith that law is something above and beyond mere politics by other means --  a faith which, according to Carrington, law students need to acquire in order to be competent and ethical attorneys. "When the university accepted a duty to train professionals," Carrington asserted, "it also accepted a duty to constrain teaching that knowingly dispirits students or disables them from doing the work for which they are trained."  If we accept that premise, he said, then it follows that "the legal nihilist who must profess that principle does not matter has an ethical duty to depart the law school, perhaps to seek a place elsewhere in the academy."

Carrington's essay made clear that he believed those law faculty who had lost faith in the law were thereby disqualified from teaching in law schools. Another way of phrasing Carrington's point, perhaps, is that while there was room for atheists in departments of religion, they should be excluded from seminaries.   The social function of law schools, on this view, is to produce priests of the law, who need to have a certain sort of faith in the law in order to do the job they're being trained to do.  People who don't have this faith, therefore, lack a crucial qualification for maintaining teaching positions in law schools (although not in other university departments, where people can study law without the professional burden of having to produce cadres of true believers).

This essay naturally evoked howls of outrage that Carrington was attacking academic freedom, because he was in effect claiming there was no place for critical legal studies in the legal academy.  (Apparently the proximate cause of Carrington's essay was his outrage over Roberto Unger's provocative remark in the pages of the Harvard Law Review that, when the Crits had gotten to Harvard Law School, they had found the faculty full of "priests who had lost their faith and kept their jobs.")

Carrington's suggestion -- that there might be a fundamental contradiction, as it were, between the professionalization function of the law school and academic freedom -- was extremely unpleasant to contemplate, so soon after it was agreed never to speak of it again. CLS was defanged and domesticated (it was discovered to be a less polite version of legal realism and of course we are all realists now), the potential ethical quandary Carrington raised was tactfully forgotten, and everyone lived happily ever afterwards.

Which is too bad, because the issues Carrington raised were valid ones.  It is in fact quite plausible that there's a deep contradiction between the law school's self-appointed professionalization mission and broader academic values.  If some types of academic inquiry undermine the training of lawyers, then law schools have to choose between academic values and the demands of professionalization.  Now what I would suggest is that law schools as they are currently constituted do in fact undermine law students' faith in the law, although not in the way Carrington feared.

Carrington was afraid that certain lines of critical inquiry would lead to what he labeled "nihilism" -- that is, to the belief that law was nothing but a mystified version of power politics, and that this belief would corrode or destroy the ability of those exposed to it to engage in ethical practice.  This fear turned out to be seriously overblown.  An hour spent in the typical law school classroom or reading the pages of almost any law review should calm anxieties that we have dangerous amounts of potentially subversive critical thought inside law schools today (at least on one side of the podium anyway).

What we have instead are dangerous amounts of boredom and cynicism, topped off with unhealthy doses of depression and despair.  Here's a question: How many law graduates, especially recent law graduates, have a more positive view of law and the legal system than they did before they entered law school?  I think it's fair to say that almost literally no one ever has this experience.  If, as Carrington suggests, it's the law school's primary job to nurture rather than corrode faith in law and the legal system, then the law school is failing spectacularly.

Why does the law school fail? That is the question this blog has tried to explore.  Consider what law students actually learn in law school.  They learn that, at the level of appellate court decision making, legal doctrine is so manipulable that the law is formally indeterminate -- which is to say the extant legal rules can't decide the typical appellate case without the decision makers resorting to circular argument, axiomatic reasoning based on propositions that aren't actually axiomatic, the selective invocation of contradictory canons of interpretation, and so forth.

They learn that what passes for "policy analysis" in judicial opinions is almost always little more than amateurish speculation that wouldn't withstand ten seconds of serious criticism from actual experts regarding the policies in question.

They learn that it's quite possible for law professors to spend years discussing appellate court opinions without mentioning or perhaps even noticing either the indeterminacy of doctrinal reasoming or the emptiness of most judicial policy analysis.

They learn that their grades are usually based on a single "issue spotting" examination that bears only a very loose relationship to anything they may have learned in class.

They learn that how hard they study bears only a very loose relationship to what grades they receive on those mysterious tests.

They learn that lightly disguised toadying to higher authority is rewarded, and that criticism of such authority is strongly discouraged, unless it happens to be a higher authority that the evaluator dislikes.

They learn that most of their teachers know little or nothing about the practice of law.

They learn that as a consequence they are learning almost nothing about the practice of law.

They learn that most lawyers who have jobs as lawyers hate their jobs.

They learn that despite being told almost everyone would get a job, there are no jobs.

They learn that in the United States of America it is possible to borrow enormous amounts of money without having any reasonable prospect of ever paying it back.

They learn that almost any other form of debt will be forgiven before the debt they've incurred will be forgiven, and that in America today it's possible to wake up one fine morning at the age of 25 and find yourself an indentured servant for the next 25 years. 

These are hard lessons, and one thing these lessons aren't going to produce is a more robust and feverent faith in the legal system than those who learn them had before they underwent such enlightenment as the contemporary law school now provides.  All of which is to say that the legitimation function of law school -- the task of producing lawyers who believe in the legal system -- isn't functioning too well right now.

Ultimately, despite Carrington's fears, it's just not true that lawyers need to have a deep and abiding faith in what they're doing in order to do it.  Judging from the comments I've gotten, the only people these days in our legal system who seem to have a lot of faith in that system are law professors. And I get the distinct sense a lot of them are faking it as well -- that Unger's nearly three-decade-old wisecrack about priests who have lost their faith but kept their jobs may well now be more true now than ever before.


  1. "All of which is to say that the legitimation function of law school -- the task of producing lawyers who believe in the system -- isn't functioning too well right now."

    Isn't it tough to produce lawyers who believe in a system so corrupt it produces all that you have been describing in these pages? Also, it is not law school that teaches law students and lawyers to be disillusioned and cynical - it is the entire system.

    "If, as Carrington suggests, it's the law school's primary job to nurture rather than corrode faith in law and the legal system, then the law school is failing spectacularly."

    Hard to nurture faith in this system.

    1. Actually , by facts,law school whether dominated by ABA or credential by State, as California law school teaching, law prof. are qualified enough, and functioning well. BUT ,the bigger problems--are controlling / monopoly / mazed by ABA/STATE court ruling , which LEGAL JD GRADS CAN NOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE. WHAT'S THAT? ....IT said law prof. is incompetent? law school is scammed? By that rules reflecting it face , also purposely weaken the resistance of powerless people , as JD GRADS . By that rules disables them from doing the work for which they are trained. By that rules inhibited them enter society giving a hand to people who needs help. By that rules flooded license attorney scam on people even legal system.

      By that rule goes around comes around shows crisis .They don't see it,idling there watches degree grads rise and fall, blames too many being graduated.


  2. "Judging from the comments I've gotten, the only people these days in our legal system who seem to have a lot of faith in that system are law professors."

    I would add law school administrators as well. The only reason these two groups have faith in the system is because they are getting paid.

  3. I think the professor is drawing a distinction between faith in a system of laws and faith in a system of the profession (of which law school is the almost exclusive point of entry).

  4. Have you all noticed that the law professors are trying a new tactic with this blog: ignore.

      It falls into some Law Prof said---the power weaken the resistance of the powerless people.

      Some Law Prof. blogged topic of---JD not preferred , is a strong voicing, also scrutinized the reason by what cause. Some one posted well issue indicated the causes by ABA/ STATE COURT RULES (control JD GRADS UNABLE GIVE LEGAL ADVICE.... ),WHICH comprised all environmental services ,effects the course of law school, LAW Prof.and society.

  5. Well said all around.

    "People who hold such beliefs, Carrington argued, cannot inculcate the faith that law is something above and beyond mere politics by other means -- a faith which, according to Carrington, law students need to acquire in order to be competent and ethical attorneys"

    The most dishonest, immoral and harmful thing that I have ever encountered in my life was my tier 2 law school. I'm still shocked by their brazen ability to run a scam, year in, year out. They are shameless and pathetic thieves (and I call them pathetic based on the victims they chose - kids). My law professors were also terrible people on a personal level. They had these obnoxious, nerdy, cynical, lazy and putrid personalities. They were people that you would never want to associate yourself with, except when forced to.

    Teach me faith and ethics? No. Law school devastated my sense of faith and ethics. Law school was the only odious thing I had ever encountered that conducted their execrable business with impunity. To this day, they are the only instance I can think of where evil paid. Granted, there have been changes since I graduated. Scamblogs sprouted that were devoted to identifying and curing this injustice. However, until I see those scum, those theiving and opportunistic scum arrested there won't be peace in my heart.

  6. Thank you for writing this blog. This entry, in particular, goes to the heart of the matter.

    Those students who have faith in the system typically come from well-educated and well-to-do families. (Some lower class students also believe in the system; perhaps, because they need something to believe in. After all, they are taking on a lot of debt, in pursuit of this endeavor.)

    Such fervent believers tend to excel in law school. As we are aware, law school attracts tons of idealists. Typically, these students are QUICKLY disabused of their notions of law as a "equitable, fair and just" system. This usually occurs within the first few weeks of law school. Some of those students make a Machiavellian move, and quickly adopt the mores and values of the upper class. And a fair amount of these opportunists excel in law school, i.e. they figured out the game at an early stage, and they are rewarded.

    Law students are immersed in parsed appelate opinions. In the "doctrinal" courses such as torts, contracts, criminal law and civil procedure, these students soon realize that the underdog typically gets creamed in appelate cases. (What they should realize is that appelate courts are stacked with conservative, old men.) In addition, who the hell can afford to file an appeal in federal or state court?! Wealthy people and corporations who lose at the trial or admin law level choose to take this up with an appeals court, because: (a) it can be a great cost-saving measure; (b) they have skilled appelate lawyers available; (c) they are familiar with appeals court process, as well as many of the judges; (d) the filing of an appeal might bring the (initial) victorious party to the bargaining table; and (e) they can win a war of attrition with the typical low to moderate income individual, group or organization, i.e. "If we drag this case out, they will work with us. How much longer can Ms. Williams wait for a settlement check?"

    I have noted that law school is designed to indoctrinate students with upper class "values" - which helps them to believe in the legal $y$tem. I am thrilled to see a law professor with the courage to point this out. Many of those who truly are critical thinkers - and constantly question the value of law school - usually do not perform very well on law exams. How can you excel, when you don't really believe in what you are doing or learning?!?!

    In the final analysis, the legal system is a human construct, which seeks to legitimate the status quo. (Apparently, rulers and the ruling class figured out that basing their decisions on the "divine right of kings" or other religious justifications would not forever suppress critical thought and adverse action from the working classes.) It is OFTEN a tool of oppression. But it is masked as a fair and just mechanism. In fact, the main objective of "legal education" is to keep the faith among the congregation of law students.

  7. "My law professors were also terrible people on a personal level. They had these obnoxious, nerdy, cynical, lazy and putrid personalities."

    Nerdiness makes one a terrible person?

  8. Anonymous 7:59 AM, the other law profs generally fixated on blog entry number 2 (, insisted that they really do work hard (as though that were the point of this entire blog), and treated the entire blog as refuted.

  9. Here's a question: How many law graduates, especially recent law graduates, have a more positive view of law and the legal system than they did before they entered law school? I think it's fair to say that almost literally no one ever has this experience.

    I had this experience. After law school, I had a more positive view of the law than I had when I entered. However, I didn't have a more positive view of the law school itself.

  10. Nando,

    We live in a capitalist country (i.e. one where capital is the most important). What sort of legal system would you expect to see in such a country? One that doesn't respect property rights? If you respect property rights, then those with a lot of capital will necessarily dominate the culture. You need to move to Cuba or I don't know (is there any other country that doesn't respect property rights?) if you want an alternate form of society because you will never find it here.

    That being said, students had a property right in the $200,000 of tuition they paid to attend a toilet law school, and if they made that decision on the basis of fraud then they deserve restitution.

  11. Law students who accept and internalize the values of the upper class then justify or rationalize court decisions, based on the perspective of the elite. They are also taught to speak the "correct" language, adopt the "right" customs, and communicate as members of the upper class.

    Such students may vocalize such bloviating nonsense as the following: "There MUST be a cost-benefit analysis. If companies were required to produce the safest product possible, that would never hurt anyone, innovation would be quashed. Workers would not produce as much. This would affect their earnings. By using Hand's liability formula, companies and engineers can now produce items efficiently - without constantly worrying that the *slightest* error from an employee will jeopardize their ability to make products. We all benefit, as consumers, workers and citizens under such a wise formula."

  12. Nando,

    You're taking this from a discussion of "that law school ripped me off" into a discussion of communism vs. capitalism. The problem with your viewpoint is that people want JOBS (that's the entire point of the scamblog movement) and anti-capitalists such as yourself don't create jobs. Have you hired anyone in your life? No. So yes, when it comes to choosing between a company that creates jobs and products and someone who does nothing but criticize that company we must go with the former.

    The scamblog movement is not against capitalism, it's against the fraudulent theft of capital (namely tuition) by way of misleading career placement statistics and ineffective teaching.

  13. Professor Campos,

    This is an especially profound and vital post - thank you!

    One comment of yours particularly resonated with me: "CLS was defanged and domesticated (it was discovered to be a less polite version of legal realism and of course we are all realists now)"

    To me, the absolute silence of the "crits" about the law school "scam" movement is all the proof I need to know that CLS is a domesticated and spent force. Given the "crits'" revolutionary rhetoric (and tenure), if there were ever an issue for them to take to the ramparts, this would be it. Instead, we have silence. Despite their sturm and drang about the hegemony of big law and corruption of the judiciary, most of the crits have spent their careers railing about "safe" topics like critical race theory, etc. The truth is that the CLS movement and its followers are among the greatest beneficiaries of the status quo in the legal academy.

    I am a SUNY-Buffalo graduate and until recently, the faculty had a great number of septuagenarean dinosaurs from CLS' heyday (although Buffalo still has too many of them, thankfully their ranks have thinned). These out-of-touch academics were totally divorced from the reality of the enterprise they participated in. They were even more out-of-touch with the careers that most of their students would embark on and the limited options they had. The "crits" scheduled esoteric "law and" seminars, had ridiculous 3 course annual teaching loads, outsourced doctrinal teaching to adjuncts, and were adamant in their belief that law school wasn't a "trade school." Meanwhile, the fortunes of the school (US-News wise) plummeted between 1987 and 2010. Despite this drop, the clueless crits couldn't see that their students' career options dropped off accordingly. If I recall correctly, something like 52% of Buffalo's 2004 class took jobs at western NY law firms with between 2 and 5 attorneys. The disconnect between this low paid and, in may cases, dead end reality, with the esoteric academic focus of the crits is stark. I mean, the majority of recent grads are trying to scratch out an existence in small-time insurance defense, personal injury and document review, while the faculty are having lavish and largely irrelevant conferences through the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy.

    Jim Milles,

    Good to see you here. Hope all's well in the Queen City!

  14. I'm sorry that your reading comprehension skills are sub-par. It is evident that you are the same person who earlier suggested that I move to Cuba. My posts relate to "legal education," not the pros and cons of capitalism versus communism. Pointing out some of the flaws of the U.S. legal system does not make one a proponent of communism. (Apparently, we agree that law = politics.) By the way, thanks for speaking for the scamblog movement. However, your assessment of our central purpose is correct.

    I was providing one example of how students are indoctrinated with upper class values. (When you are not learning an actual, skill, such as fixing teeth or performing surgery, I suppose you are relegated to learning or adopting "a mindset.") Hell, the fact that law and legal "profession" is largely based on "prestige" speaks to this reality.

    Yes, there must be rules in place and some way of measuring/assigning liability. However, WHY should cost concerns trump or outweigh the safety of people? The Hand Formula illustrates that the legal $y$tem is heavily stacked in favor of the wealthy and powerful. Using your logic, we should have a more equitable system. After all, the wealthy and connected are such a small percentage of the general population, correct?!

  15. Well said Voodoo.

  16. "My posts relate to "legal education," not the pros and cons of capitalism versus communism."

    Nando, your website's logo is a picture of a guy blowing another guy's head off with the word "Capitalism" under it. Who are you kidding?

  17. "However, WHY should cost concerns trump or outweigh the safety of people?"

    They do not, and in fact go the other way to the point where it's devastating the US economy. Need I remind you of multi billion dollar judgments awarded over design flaws that are, for all practical purposes, impossible to avoid?

  18. LawProf,

    I wish that I had been able to correspond with you before I started law school in the fall of 2009. That year was the worst of my entire life.

    As history has shown us (both recent events, as well as one's going back to the 18th century), systems of order/government where only a few are rewarded, and the rest are punished or become indentured servants, can not exist forever. Eventually, a group of people rise up, and start to shake things up. These scam blogs are the beginning of that, as are the law students at the University of Virginia wearing T-shirts proclaiming their disgust with the current law school system.

    Thank you LawProf for doing this!

  19. So of your four functions, the one that law school does really well is social sorting. That makes sense, intuitively; if the "attend law school" barrier to entry were eliminated (say, anybody who passed a mild background check and an extremely basic bar exam could get a law license to practice law anywhere in the US), the only people who would still pay $150,000 to go to law school would be people accepted to an elite (top-10, top-14, whatever) school, because they would want prospective employers (and maybe their peers) to know that they were the kind of people who would be accepted to an elite school.

  20. Hear, hear Mr. Milles

  21. @9:45 am

    I couldn't find a similar icon that read "Casino Capitalism."

    In this nation, we have a system of socialism for corporations - and the ultrawealthy - whereby institutions are labled "too big to fail." They often feed at the public trough. They are immune from failure, which is not in line with capitalism.

    However, if you are a typical wage earner, you are able to experience the taste of failure. If you lose your job, don't stress. That is a feature of capitalism. This is a risk you willingly take on, when you decide to be a worker. (In contrast, if you are a CEO who oversees a big loss in his company's value, you can receive a golden parachute. It pays to know the right people. This is politics and law in action.) In comparison to larger companies, how many small businesses receive bailout money, tax holidays, tax refunds, etc.?!

    Law schools are gatekeepers to the "profession." The professors are there to instill faith among the nonbelievers and the doubters. For the faithful students, the instructors and institutions want to increase their level of belief in the system.

    Since we are going around in circles, regarding capitalism, casino capitalism, and communism, you can argue with yourself. Have fun.

  22. Let's just agree on law schools.

  23. Great post, Voodoo.

  24. Law school is and was the the training ground for appropriate cocktail conversation, which fork to use with the second course of fish and proper conduct at a musical soiree at the Astors and Commadore's homes, seriously. They owned the industry, they needed lawyers and managers who could differenciate themselves from the average clerk. It worked when there were few law schools. Not so much with a Yeshiva, Brooklyn, Touro, Cooley and Hofstra.

  25. I was about to say 10:30, because we didn't get any of that social training at my tier 2. If anything the professors were social misfits.

  26. Cynicism is good. I wish I'd had a little more of it before I applied to law school.

  27. Morse Code for J,
    I'll have to give law school credit for building that instinct in me. I became a much more suspicious and less trusting person after law school, which perhaps will prevent me from being ripped off in the future.

  28. LawProf,

    You keep identifying problems with the current method of legal education, but rarely (if ever) offer any proposed solutions. What are you doing in your classes to address these issues? You admitted in an earlier post that you did little to no prep work this summer for the courses you'd be teaching this fall. Why not? You clearly believe the current method of legal education is flawed, so why not try to rework your classes to address (at least partially) some of these flaws?

    Don't get me wrong, I realize there is some benefit in simply identifying the issues alone. But supplying some proposed solutions would make this effort more interesting, and potentially more valuable.

  29. The professors have stopped linking to this blog because Lawprof is no longer anonymous. That was the only part of this blog that could make a "strong" case aginst. They have zero desire to engage in any of the discussion related to the value of law professor scholarship, student debt, or employment.

    But I'm sure they are reading every post, and probably the comments too. Shame on every single one of you cowards.

  30. 11:32 wrote: "You keep identifying problems with the current method of legal education, but rarely (if ever) offer any proposed solutions. What are you doing in your classes to address these issues?"

    If you think the problems described by LawProf are in any way within his ability to address, then you are clueless (or more likely, a professor trying to diminish LawProf because you don't like people pointing out how you scam your students). LawProf is doing what he can, which is to speak out about them. What have you done?

  31. The professors have stopped linking to this blog because they don't like being exposed for what they are.

  32. @11:32 - totally agree. This is just another form of intellectual masturbation which, while satisfying, leads to nothing. We were discussing all this when I was in law school a decade ago....will still be discussing this in a decade. Nobody ever changes anything and the ones that should be storming the gates just sit here and take it. Sad.

  33. "Nobody ever changes anything and the ones that should be storming the gates just sit here and take it."

    What can you do but complain? The law professor special interest dominates the ABA.

  34. 11:38

    Sure some of the problems are beyond LawProf's ability to address, but that doesn't mean he can't provide suggestions about what should be done to correct these issues. This blog has, to date, been largely devoid of proposals on how to reform the problems in legal education that are being identified.

    It just seems to me that if LawProf believes that one of the fundamental problems with legal education today is a lack of practical skills training, that he should be trying to incorporate more of this type of training into his own classes. Sure that would only be a drop in the bucket, but at least it is something he has control over. Is he doing that? If not, why not? Perhaps he is, but given his own self-professed lack of preparation for this year's courses, it would appear that he is doing little to try to modify his own courses to address some of the concerns he is identifying in his blog posts. If I'm wrong, then perhaps he could help others by explaining what he himself has done in this regard. In any event, I think it's a fair question to ask.

  35. 11:49,

    That is not (or at best is a minor) problem with law schools. You could have law school taught in court, with students second chairing trials and cross examining from day one (practical enough for you?) and there would still not be enough jobs for the number of graduates pumped out by law schools. You would still have tens of thousands of kids graduating each year with a mountain of debt and no legal job. The demand for legal services is not a function of a lawyer's training, as there are experienced lathamed biglawyers who can't find jobs. One professor has no power to change this, except by vocalizing the problem in the hopes that other professors join him.

    Now let me as you a question - why aren't other professors such as yourself joining LawProf?

  36. 11:49: It is a fair question. I've changed a number of things about my classes, including not giving in-class exams any more, moving to lecture/discussion rather than cold-calling people, dumping the more egregious Socratic nonsense that requires people to "state the facts of the case" etc. I'm experimenting with some other things as well.

    I also have some things to say about how law school could be changed, both short-term and long-term, which I'll be addressing soon (BTW for reasons I've described in a couple of previous posts I don't think "skills training" is the way to go).

  37. Besides, I don't even know if LawProf would be allowed to change the way he teaches a class. In my law school all professors were monitored by video camera to ensure they behaved as the administration expected.

  38. 12:00

    I'm not a law professor, so I can't answer your question. But you again ignore the more fundamental question, which is why LawProf offers no proposed solutions to the problems he is identifying.

  39. Lawprof, do you have any opinion on the CaseFile Method? I really liked it because each class was a different, discrete issue.

  40. "I'm not a law professor, so I can't answer your question. But you again ignore the more fundamental question, which is why LawProf offers no proposed solutions to the problems he is identifying."

    What solutions do you offer 12:03?

  41. If I could change law teaching, I would cover way more cases and each more quickly. Currently professors spend 30 minutes per case, when you don't need more than 5-10 minutes to understand it once you drop out all that time wasting and inefficient socratic back and forth.

  42. @11:32 p.m.:

    You assume that there are solutions to be found, and that they can be scaled down to the individual prof. I'm not sure I agree on either count, but we'll agree to disagree.

    Let's ask more basic questions: How do we even know what needs to be fixed?

    How do law professors, who usually practice no more than a few years if they want to become tenured faculty, know what law school has failed to impart to graduates?

    If law graduates are never surveyed or polled by law schools about their recommendations for process improvement, how do law professors know whether their instruction was useful?

    If law schools make little effort to find out how many of their graduates are even in paying legal jobs, how can they know which law graduates' thoughts are useful, and in what contexts?

    When law schools begin finding out what their graduates are doing and making that information publicly available, only then may the quality of legal education improve. (It would also have the desirable side effect of giving prospective law students an understanding that 95% employment may mean that barely half of that 95% are in jobs which they couldn't have obtained, sans JD.) This is not within the grasp of the individual professors.

  43. 12:03, We heard that you dislike LawProf's solution of verbalizing the problem, but we're still waiting for your solutions.

  44. "When law schools begin finding out what their graduates are doing and making that information publicly available, only then may the quality of legal education improve."

    How this point you have to be willfully ignorant, i.e. a liar, not to know whats going on.

  45. @12:18 p.m.:

    I think you misunderstand me. We know that law graduates' employment record has underperformed the stated percentages for some time now, and maybe by an amount so large as to make the percentage fraudulent. But we don't know exactly how much. We haven't collected the information.

    Likewise, I haven't heard any of my friends from '09 and '10 talk about a survey they received from my middling Pennsylvania law school, regarding the quality of education they received and how it relates to their practice. Law school has no idea how well it prepares students to do any job for which a law license is useful. Maybe that's willful ignorance, but the fact is that they aren't gathering data.

    I take a back seat to no one in unemployment or seething resentment of law schools generally, but I stand by the idea that we don't even know what we need to do to fix them, and it's been mostly for a lack of trying to find out.

  46. Fair enough LawProf, I look forward to the more solution-driven posts.

    As for what I would do, I think that increased transparency in job placement outcomes is a must. But I also suspect it would do little to curb the number of students applying to law school.

    In terms of decreasing costs, I would look at increasing teaching loads, at a minimum back to a 2-2 at most law schools, and perhaps up to a 3-3 load. I lack the knowledge of how much this would do to truly curb tuition, though, as I suspect that the supply-demand curve from the student perspective does much more to drive tuition increases than does the decrease in teaching loads.

    The student loan issue obviously has to be addressed, as it is primarily fueling the tuition increases. But how you address it isn't abundantly clear to me. I do believe that student loans are necessary to maintain lower class access to higher education. This has big implications on what is the best way to handle bankruptcy dischargeability. If you make private student loans immediately dischargeable, the lower and middle classes will largely lose access to private loans. That isn't ideal from an overall policy perspective. I also don't think that federally-backed loans should be immediately dischargeable. So ultimately I suspect the proper answer is in making private loans dischargeable after a certain period of years (with a longer waiting period for federal loans), but deciding where that line should be drawn is outside of my expertise.

    - 11:49 / 12:03

  47. Thank you for your proposed solutions 12:34. All sound good.

  48. I don't expect people to have read every word of every post Lawprof has written, but I have, and I know that he's said before that solutions is something he's going to get to.

    I don't think this blog can continue forever, I imagine Lawprof doesn't envision that either. This blog is telling a story and the solutions come at the finale.

  49. One of the issues with making legal education more of a trade school (in that it actually is capable of teaching a trade) is that many of the professors have little or no practical experience. I've looked up many a CV where a prof went from being a law school student to two years at some big firm and right back to law school again as a professor. And, I really doubt many waited more than 24 months before returning to the halls of academia.

    These are, with few exception, people who went to top schools, graduated high in their class, and are hired to replicate the same system ad infinitum.

    I don't mean this comment as a knock on LawProf. I am very impressed with his work on this blog thus far. But, asking him to demonstrate how he's completely changed his instruction this fall is a bit much. He graduated from Michigan in 1989 and was a prof by '90. All he knows is the law school game. He is, I believe, teaching two courses this fall: Legislation and Theory of Punishment. And I have no reason to believe he cannot do an excellent job in both.

    What is it you would have the man do that he isn't already doing?

  50. As for what I would do, I think that increased transparency in job placement outcomes is a must. But I also suspect it would do little to curb the number of students applying to law school.

    I'm not quite so pessimistic. If USNWR listed next to Second Tier Law School X that the number of its graduates employed full-time practicing law 12 months after graduation was 20%, I think that would have a big impact on the number of applications to Law School X. Repeat that for all second-tier schools and a lot of first-tier schools, and you could have a major decrease in applications.

  51. The solution is for many prospective law students to stop going to law school when it isn't in their interest to do so (e.g. when they aren't getting it free, or when they aren't enrolling in T-14 schools), and for the students at non-elite schools to drop out after the first year if they aren't in the top-5%. Lawprof can't control what prospective law students or current law students do.

  52. Someone made a suggestion on another blog that I thought was a good idea. It wouldn't change things, but it would help people out. Develop a lecture or a program for CLE credit and offer it for free or at cost. CLE's are really expensive and if a few professors did this it would really help out a lot of grads.

  53. A recent article in ChicagoLawyer Magazine about the jobs/law school mess.

    Its pretty clear that the ABA and the deans interviewed are really clueless, intentionally or not. They even suggest that people come to law school and consider jobs outside the law like journalism.

    Your blog is fantastic, I hope that outside this blog, as someone on the inside of the law school/graduate education system, that you can at least send correspondence to members of Congress and the DOE that there must be change that helps current and future students as well as struggling graduates whom people seem to write off as mere casualties of the system and who should be left to their fates.

  54. They even suggest that people come to law school and consider jobs outside the law like journalism.


  55. Journalism. Now there's a growth industry.

  56. ====================================

    Harold Krent, dean and professor at Chicago-Kent College of Law, said large law firms hire 50 percent fewer graduates than four years ago. That makes a huge difference for students who hope to a get a "$165,000 payday," he said.

    But, Krent said, hyped attention on the loss of jobs in large law firms glosses over the fact that many students go to law school not for that $165,000 payday, but for the chance to make a difference.

    "I think that there's been a significant distortion in terms of the drying up of the legal market in the media," he said. "It's actually true at large firms in the last couple of years. But there has not been a commensurate drop off in smaller firm and government practice.

    "Many people do wonderfully creative and interesting things with a law degree other than practice law, including being a journalist or being an investor or being a counselor."


    What an astonishingly shameless human being.

  57. What the f*ck does he mean by "being an investor?"

  58. And, what the f*ck does he mean by "being a counselor?"

    Is Dean Krent out of his mind? What the hell?

  59. Seriously, I'm flabbergasted.

    Can someone explain the psychology behind the mind of a person who just made $300,000+ off of student loan money paid by someone who now does not have a job, and who has very little chance of getting one, and whose life is now destroyed by that student loan money -- can someone explain how the former looks at the latter and says "you can be a journalist, investor or counselor?"

    Something is wrong with your brain if that's how respond. That's not apathy. That is something else.

  60. 11:32 and 11:44:

    The commentors asking Lawprof to suggest ways for a failed institution to not be failed shows a strong lack of comprehension. The "problem" is that the entire institution serves as nothing more than a really, really expensive sorting mechanism. The only way to solve that "problem" is to: 1) identify the fact that the institution is nothing more than a sorting mechanism, and then 2) pare it down to the core (an LSAT plus a background check? Maybe $5,000 instead of $150,000?) and get out of the way.

    Also, Lawprof isn't just addressing problems with legal education, he's attempting to explain what the functions of legal education are and what they aren't.

  61. Lawprof, I would like to suggest a topic for your next post:

    If tenure were to be abolished and professors were evaluated (graded) on a merit based system, how do you think it would affect the profession? I think a good starting point for analysis would be Professor Ralph Brill's comment posted here:

    Also, if a veteran, tenured law professor was forced to leave, what options would he or she have? Do you think he or she would have a good shot at practicing or obtaining other employment?

  62. Or how about a hybrid tenure system where you get tenure, but that only gives you a small ($30,000 or so) salary and the freedom to write. The rest of your salary is performance based.

  63. @5:24 - STFU horses ass. Sorting? Really? Too bad it costs the sorted about 150 grand and 25 years of indentured servitude. Don;t you have an Ayn Rand vigil to attend? Mouth breather.

  64. 9:34:

    Have you been reading this blog? Sorting is the dominant function of legal education right now. Whether it should be isn't relevant; that's what it does right now more (and better) than anything else. I agree it could be done much cheaper, and I agree that the sorted-against are being suckered into a terrible financial decision. What do we disagree about?

  65. There are lots of jobs where a law degree doesn't hurt and could help.

    Half the population here in DC has a law degree and they don't all work for firms, but most are doing great.

    Where I work, at the US Patent Office, a law degree definitely doesn't hurt, although it is not required for most jobs here.

    Similarly, I would bet that most jobs in government and bureaucracy (federal, state and local) value law degrees (or at a minimum don't dislike them) even though they are not required, and sometimes they are.

    In addition to most jobs across bureaucracy, I can see the following jobs as being ones where law wouldn't hurt and could definitely help.

    (1) Politician, or working as an aid to a legislator at any level of government (that's all about law)
    (2) Judges and clerkships
    (3) Lobbyist ($$$)
    (4) Nonprofit and international NGOs
    (5) International governmental organizations like UN

  66. Richard Epstein wrote that law can best be understood as a guild consisting of english free lances from the hundred years war. The morality is that of freebooters/merceneries. Like the originals it takes a big plundering to pay off the starter loans. The most cynical become outright pirates/plaintiff lawyers, the best connected do it becoming coutiiers/big law partners, the rest are cannon fodder. That was my law school/post law school experience. The SS had a higher level of morality than the Bar has now.

  67. @8:16- As a fellow government bureaucrat (in a law job), I have to say you are amazingly as tone deaf as that Chicago-Kent dean. First of all, unless taxpayers are prepared to expand the size of all levels of government by 50% over the next ten years, there is simply no way for government to absorb all the unemployed law graduates out there (plus all the ones to come). Second, for the majority of the jobs in 4 of the 5 categories you listed, a JD is not required and you'd be competing at best against MA degree candidates, at worst freshly graduated BA's. Exactly what then is the value proposition of spending 3 years of time and money on law school?

  68. I am 100% supported this---some certain LAW PROF. had much BIGGER VIEWS THAN NORMALLY PEOPLE BECAUSE THEY WERE THERE LONG ENOUGH TO SEE WHAT'S THE LAW SCAM, their views are---- they thought "law is a mere deception by which the powerful weaken the resistance of the powerless."


    RATIONALS----THE DECEPTION,POWERFUL SECTORS ARE--ABA/ STATE COURT PANELS MADE A RULES ON JD GRADS WHO DOES NOT HAVE LICENSE , CAN NOT GIVE LEGAL ADVICE. WHICH violated FIRST AMENDMENT IN US CONSTITUTION. They know the law scammed on law, to inhibited/ prohibited law grads unable to continues law practice . Can not present client to the court which I agreed by analogically with other careers ,i.e. electrician,....etc.

    BY THEIR( ABA/STATE COURT) SCAMMED LAW ON LAW GRADS is defraud law school and grads, as LAW PROF. SAID---deception by which the powerful weaken the resistance of the powerless." CAN YOU SEE IT RETURNED---BY licensed attorneys scammed others .

    WE NEED TO REVISE, PROTEST this ruling,...FOLKS.

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