The major points I emphasized were that, leaving aside conspicuous consumers of higher education, nobody should go to law school with any intention other than to practice law, and that this intention needs to be based on some sort of genuine knowledge regarding what practicing law entails; that 0Ls need to understand what non-dischargeable debt is; that they need to do serious research regarding the actual employment situation of recent law grads; and that they need to do all this before actually applying to any schools and ideally before taking the LSAT, so that they can get some sense of under what conditions it might make sense for them to go to school X, Y, or Z before they know how likely it is that they'll be able to get into one or more of those schools.
I also gave my views on how much weight students should give to scholarship money versus prestige (a lot), how much attention they should pay to claims schools make regarding the extent to which they actually prepare its students to practice law (none), and under what circumstances it makes sense for a student to pay full tuition to go to a middling or low-ranked school (very few).
Afterwards the reporter sent me this request:
For any recent graduates or current students who might be interested in speaking to me, I’d really love the perspective from folks on why they chose law school (Colorado or elsewhere), how their expectations have or haven’t been met in the process, what their career aspirations are (or were), and any advice they might be willing to share about the law school process. Again, my target audience is more prospective but some current law students. I’d love to be as specific as possible in talking with a student about his or her experience, but only to the extent that he or she feels comfortable.If you would like to speak to the reporter, send me an email via this site and I'll put you in contact with him. Obviously USNWR has at present a great deal of power in regard to how prospective law students will view the decision whether or not to go to law school, and I think it's a positive sign that the publication intends to do an in-depth story, accompanying its rankings (that placement will guarantee that almost every prospective law student will see it), which figures to be something other than an advertisement for law schools.
(2) Via Paul Caron comes the interesting news that USC has decided to suspend indefinitely the launch of its tax LLM program, which was originally slated to start in the fall of 2010, "because of declining job prospects for tax LL.M. graduates in the Los Angeles area. USC Dean Robert Rasmussen reports that the school will continue to monitor the employment situation and will begin the program when it is confident that the career prospects of its tax LL.M. graduates would match those of its J.D. graduates."
I don't know anything about the institutional politics that drove this decision, but I do know that, especially for high-ranked schools such as USC, LLM programs have proven to be extremely tempting moneymakers. (Even a small LLM program will generate several hundred thousand dollars of extra tuition revenue per year, at very little marginal cost to the school).
The decision certainly suggests that the faculty members who designed it developed serious reservations about the program over the course of the last two years, perhaps because the applicant pool was weaker than they anticipated, and/or simply because they decided, as per the dean's statement, that USC shouldn't offer this additional degree, given the state of the employment market. Given that tax LLMs from top schools are often cited as smart investments, relative to LLMs in general, or even when compared to the typical JD degree, this is an interesting development, and may be evidence (again, I know nothing about the specifics of this particular decision) that some law faculty are pushing back against the administrative hunger for ever-more tuition revenue, irrespective of the state of the job market.