Yesterday's post looked at how a combination of increasing salaries and decreasing student to faculty ratios has been a major driver in the exploding cost of legal education. What other factors have created a cost structure that will ensure that the current national class of 1Ls is going to graduate with an average of around $125,000 in law school debt alone (among the 85% to 90% of law students who will have such debt)?
A factor which both drives costs up directly and has all sorts of indirect effects that in turn bloat law school operating budgets is the mania for building new facilities.
Law school building campaigns are often classic examples of conspicuous consumption at the social-institutional, rather than the individual, level: School A builds a fancy new building, and as a result School B discovers that it "needs" a new building too, in order to keep up with the academic Jones's. (You can see this same process taking place all over the university, as schools build posh dorms, rec centers, etc., to compete for students, who generally don't realize that they and/or their families are purchasing such amenities at far too high a price).
Now it's true that building campaigns are generally funded via some combination of private money, the university's general fund, and, at public schools, tax dollars. But as Nando points out, when such efforts fall short, part of the direct cost can end up being transferred to law students. Another complicating factor is that to some extent money is, as law students learn to say, fungible: a dollar spent on the physical plant is to a degree a dollar that isn't going to be spent on something else, such as for example holding down tuition increases (Nando also points out that it seems quite odd to be pumping ever-greater sums into bricks and mortar, given changes in information technology that should be making it much cheaper to deliver education outside of contexts that require hundreds of people to all gather together in a $50 million structure at the same time).
A more insidious complication should be obvious to anyone who has ever bought a house that was somewhat bigger and fancier than the purchaser's previous residence. What happens in such circumstances is that people feel impelled by something almost akin to a kind of social gravitational force to fill their new houses up with stuff they wouldn't have bought if they didn't have all that new space to fill. The same thing happens in academia: An institution sinks enormous capital, both literally and metaphorically, into getting a sparkly new building with lots more space than was available in what in retrospect becomes its intolerably inadequate prior digs, and as if by magic all sorts of new "centers" and "groups" and, most of all, administrative personnel, appear almost overnight.
Although there are no figures on the extent to which overall staff levels have increased at ABA law schools, the following related stat is quite telling: While the total number of faculty positions grew by 40% between 1998 and 2008 at accredited law schools, the number of "deans, librarians, and other full-time administrators who teach" grew by a healthy 214.2% over this decade. (Speaking of libraries, pop down to yours and compare the AALS directory from, say, 1980, to the current one. Every other listing in the latter will be for a position that didn't even exist 30 years ago, which explains why it's three times larger than the former).
Now of course it's not as if all this stuff doesn't have some value. For example, all other things being equal it's no doubt desirable to have six career services persons housed in a suite of nice new offices, doing what they can to help students and graduates get jobs. The problem, of course, is that all other things are never equal. When I started teaching 21 years ago, my law school's career services department consisted of one part-time employee who had a desk in the admissions office. Coming as I did from the resplendent environs of the elite law school where I had so recently been a student, this seemed on one level rather absurd. On quite another level, resident tuition was literally one-tenth of what it is today.
The point is that, as always, the question needs to be not does this expenditure improve the quality of what we're doing (whatever that may be), but rather, does it do so at a reasonable cost? Because of the dysfunctional way in which legal education is priced and paid for, this question is rarely asked as often or as insistently as it ought to be, by those who are in the best position to affect the answer.
Tuesday, January 24, 2012
More posts about buildings and food
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Thanks for expounding on this important topic. Schools care about their "prestige."ReplyDelete
Seeing that many college and university administrators now have business degrees and backgrounds, it is odd that they would continue to add so many capital improvement projects. Especially when they KNOW that more courses are increasingly offered online, i.e. "distance learning." (I am looking at this strictly from the school's view, in this example. Clearly, they don't give a damn about their students' anemic job prospects, once they leave the campus.)
Bigger is not always better. However, the school admins are aware that by becoming so large, they will increase their political power. When university "presidents" or "chancellors" and board of regent members testify in front of state legislators, they are listened to - as if they were gods. The questions are lobbed softballs. Typically, they are friends with the state senators - and are simply giving face time.
Public universities, across the nation, often cite the following: "We have higher enrollments than ever before. We need more space, physical buildings, infrastructure. We also will require X $million$ more in funds, for additional research for Y project and program Z. We hope that this committee will support our proposed budget increases. Thank you."
This is followed by a nod and a friendly wink. Some further polite salutations. An occasional "How is your wife doing, President ____. I heard she was in a skiing accident, and broke her ankle last month." Then the public school chiefs go on down the line. No stringent opposition, to the budget increase. No difficult questions to answer/evade.
We also know that schools which become so large lead to huge alumni bases, which further increases the universities' political power, social capital and financial wealth. (The same applies to supposedly "private" institutions of "higher learning.") If you look up public school IRS Form 990 data, you will see that many of those schools donate money to political campaigns.
This post can be summed up in 2 words - Money Pit.ReplyDelete
Case in point: Fordham Law School.ReplyDelete
They have a beautiful building in arguably the nicest neighborhood in the world (Lincoln Center!) and yet it wasn't enough for them, so they spent an absolute fortune building a slighly nicer building. Why? I have absolutely no idea.
If any Fordham professors or administrators can explain why a slightly better building is worth the oppressive tuition increases that will have to pay for that new building - then I'd like to hear it.
Lurker here, just wanted to come out of hiding to compliment you on your Talking Heads reference. Carry on.ReplyDelete
An Oingo Boing "Dead Man's Party" reference would fit well too.ReplyDelete
Because Biglaw hiring managers like to interview candidates (or pretend to) in nice buildings.
Third Tier New York Law $chool has its law building located in the TriBeCa neighborhood. How in the hell can the school justify that cost, when NYL$ grads must compete with NYU, Columbia, Cornell, and other top ten law schools in the region?! (By the way, look at the atrocious tuition rate.)ReplyDelete
Tuition and Fees: For the 2011-2012 school year, a full-time student at NYLS will be charged $47,800 in tuition and fees. Part-time students at this festering commode will only pay $36,900 in tuition plus fees, for the same academic year.
Do firms or employers care how nice your law school building was, or how many volumes are contained in your alma mater's luxurious law library?!?! Do these physical structures better prepare one to practice law?
I agree with your analysis, LawProf as to some factors that have increased tuition at law schools. However, I also think the simplest factor is the one that tends to get overlooked the most: the profit factor.ReplyDelete
Here's a compelling example: Nando's Third Tier Reality reported that Thomas Cooley Law School's revenue for 2008 was $98,091,697. Let me emphasize that - 98 MILLION. It also reported that the school had assets of $231,587,804. Let me emphasize that as well: assets of 200 MILLION.
Need we question any more why law school tuition has risen?
I think these last two blog posts apply equally to higher education, in general. I think that graduate-level programs are the "tip" of the bubble because they are not constrained by any limit on student loan borrowing.ReplyDelete
Our law professor / President will be giving a speech on college affordability on Friday. I wouldn't count on him addressing graduate-level education, but you never know.ReplyDelete
Do law students really believe the aesthetic value of their law school facilities will give them an edge in getting a job? A Ferrari will help you get laid. A new building will not help you land a position at SullCrom. You can get a Ferrari for about the cost of a law school "education" at the childcare center for wealthy brats a/k/a NYLS. Spend the money on the Ferrari kids. At least you will get laid.ReplyDelete
Thank you so much for all your work. It is both inspiring, and therapeutic, the work which you are doing to bring awareness to problems that plague our profession. My comment today is not directly related to your above post. However, it relates to a prior thread regarding entry level government legal positions. I attended an American Inn of Courts annual dinner last night (an attorney networking organization). The guest speaker was CA Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye. She was a very impressive speaker. At the end of her speech, she took questions from the audience. After a few "fluff" questions, some practitioners asked her about CA's state budget crisis. The mood in the conference room took a very palpable turn. Ms. Cantil-Sakauye stated that CA's judicial branch has had their budget cut by as much, if not more, than 40% over the last 4 years. Ms. Cantil-Sakauye also stated that the judicial branch's upcoming budget is in a "trigger" position. She explained this as meaning that in the upcoming November ballot initiatives, if certain tax initiatives do not pass then the judicial branch will lose an additional 125 million each of the next 2 years. She discussed the possibility of then having to decide on both current and former employee pension reduction, current employee salary cuts, more work furloughs, decreasing the court operating times, and even layoffs. This is in addition to the almost 5 year hiring freezes most local governmental agencies are on for new attorneys. (For my specific area, SD, the local DA has only hired 10 full time benefited DA's in a 7 year period. The office operated at max. capacity in 2005 with approximately 500 attorneys. Although they have been able to not have any layoffs yet, through natural matriculation/retirement/hiring freezes, the office now employees approximately 250 attorneys. New programs such as Graduate Law Clerks, or DDA Pro-Tems - fully certified attorney positions which pay $15 an hr with no benefits or are voluntary, have been created to handle the work overflow.) My point is that what was once viewed as a "back-up" or "alternative" career paths for new attorneys (government positions such as the DA's, PD's, or City Attny's), places where new attorneys could gain invaluable real world experience, no longer exist, and when they do are even more competitive than Big Law jobs - especially in desirable markets. The other bit of information that I took away from this lecture, is that there is NO solution being thought of, or in place. It was very disturbing to see the "leaders" of our profession seem so out of touch/unconcerned with the ramifications new attorneys are placed in as a result of these predicaments. I apologize if this comes off as ranting, I just needed to vent my observations that even senior practicing attorneys seem unwilling to address or even admit the potential horrific situation that new attorneys are facing nowadays. Also, the lack of new government options is as important a concern to me as law school transparency, tuition reform, and Big Law hiring practices. Thank again for all your work, and for allowing me to express my thoughts.
You should rant about a political system that allows this to happen. Rant, participate in the political process and vote. It does not have to be this way. Americans have acquiesced in the defunding of the public sphere. Someone on another thread suggested it was utopian to think that citizens could do anythIng about this. Then what are we here for? What is the point if people will not exercise their right to help shape the future. People want us to think there is nothing to be done. They are,in fact, counting on it.ReplyDelete
Excellent post, 11:27. I also want to thank Law Prof for what he does. He doesn't get near enough credit for sticking his neck out and addressing a problem that so many are so content to ignore. Thank-you, Law Prof, for all your sacrifices. (And I know they are many.) You do noble work.ReplyDelete
11:27, I think the reason so many more established attorneys and individuals in the profession don't address the problems you mention in your post is simply because by and large, it doesn't personally affect them, so it's easy to ignore. New attorneys not getting jobs? It's their own fault. Shouldn't be expecting such high salaries. After all, what's a few eager, greedy attorneys who bite the dust? Probably better for the profession anyway.
What is disturbing about this thread of thinking is that it DOES so much more than affect a few recent graduates: it affects the profession overall and it affects the general population's access to justice. The death of the ability of anyone who is a hard worker to be able to afford a legal education (which is now measured by being able to get a sufficient paying job after graduation in order to pay back student loans, since loans are now required to be able to pay for law school) is the death of the profession. As tuition for law schools climbs ever so high, it affects who can attend, making it basically a rich man's game. Not so bad, right, cause it only affects a few? But by making it so that only those who are well-off can afford law school, we are limiting society's overall access to the legal system.
If one has an enormous debt to pay back for law school tuition, one can't afford to take lower paying clients and those lower paying clients therefore don't have access to justice. Furthermore, cutting budgets in public interest law everywhere obviously results in less lawyers doing public interest work at a time when, in order to achieve a decrease in inequality, we need more. And a lack of lawyers doing public interest work means a lack of representation for lower incomed populations.
A democracy doesn't just rest upon equal access to the ballot box. It also requires equal access to the courts, regardless of one's pocketbooks. The individuals who continue to ignore this (ie: who continue to see this merely as a problem affecting new graduates) are contributing to the problem. This is a problem that is going to the heart of American remaining a democracy. Continuing to ignore it or believe that it is someone else's problem is threatening the very democracy that American stands for.
Thanks SD Attorney. The story you're conveying is both enlightening and very disturbing. The ongoing defunding of some of the most crucial branches of the public legal sector is one of the most grim aspects of the overall crisis.ReplyDelete
When the South African apartheid system came under attack, the university divestiture movement illustrated that investing in an oppressive system was unjust. Isn’t it disingenuous that the same deans and legal academicians who more than likely supported divestiture, feel little qualm about further investment in a scam that ruins the lives of those under their tutelage.ReplyDelete
The reason why established attorneys are not incensed about the current situation is because it actually helps them. More lawyers drives down salaries. In 1991, I knew a buddy who finally passed the patent bar after 3 tries. He had an engineering degree from a top 10 school (Michigan) and a law degree from a T25. He was hired by a boutique firm and his starting salary was $27K. Not much has changed. Just peruse through the craigslist wanted ads or the shitlaw jobs website. These salaries are atrocious and are only being driven down further by the massive influx of new grads into the already saturated bar. As far as established lawyers are concerned, the current problem is not theirs. The delusional law grad believes he will be the next Matt Damon in "Rainmaker" and win a multi-million dollar lawsuit against a Biglaw firm. It will not happen. So these kids aren't a threat to established attorneys.
I like what this site is trying to do but the cries are falling on deaf ears.
Most elite schools with high biglaw placements have their OCIs at hotels. CLS and NYU are in the Times Square Doubletree. Harvard is at the Charles Square Hotel, Maybe it is different for top schools outside urban areas (Michigan has theirs at a Holiday Inn), but my OCI took place in the suites at a hotel (which is really freaking weird.)ReplyDelete
I would add that the Career Services department at my school may consist of a staff of 10 people, but their jobs could be done by two people or by professors who hire an event planner for OCI. Despite having a strong alumni network in all areas of law, their advice for people who don't get jobs through OCI is "this is how to search for attorneys on Martindale. This is Google. Now go pound sand." They hate to admit that the jobs just aren't there for students, and none of their expertise will help because they have no expertise- their jobs are bullshit filler.
It's not only Career Services. Student services, admissions, alumni, housing, financial aid, registrar, everything just seems bloated. I'm not quite sure what my OCS counselor does outside of the few months around OCI time, or what the registrar's office outside of finals and course selection time.
One more question for lawprof: is there a way to see how money is spent on direct student services? Things such as funding for student clubs, speaker events, luncheons, banquets, and bar nights? It's a tiny drop in the bucket, but somehow I have to believe there was once a time when my school didn't have 150 student organizations each getting at least $1,000 per year from the school to host bar nights (I run one of these organizations and if we were forced to ask alumni for money we just wouldn't exist). I'm not knocking the free booze and it's tiny compared to faculty salaries, building costs and bloated administrative departments, but it's still something.
Another Warning On The Law School Student Debt Crisis @ http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/legal_skills/ReplyDelete
Bored3L: indeed, I literally have no idea what my school's registrar does outside of those two duties (which take up about three weeks of the year). They don't even deal with transcripts!--the central university registrar does that. (And they have the class to charge $8 for them. Because, you know, law and grad students surely haven't paid enough to cover the expense of a guy spending two minutes verifying my identity and printing off a piece of paper. (I assume they pay him $200 an hour and the transcript paper costs $20 a sheet. This seems accurate, right?)ReplyDelete
I guess the moral is, I should have gone to registar's school. Of course, were there such a thing, they'd probably graduate 50,000 registrars a year too.
Mikoyan: I deal with University for housing, fin aid and transcript services. Luckily I don't have to pay for transcripts. My last week on campus I was thinking of heading down and just printing 200 transcripts on nice official university paper to keep me set for the rest of my life, but knowing my professors one of them probably won't post 3L grades until well after graduation.ReplyDelete
If you'd like to take a virtual tour of your alma mater's new facilities:
12:54: I walked around (although not inside) them this fall. The money all that cost would throw off enough income to fund 100 full tuition scholarships every year. But it sure is pretty.ReplyDelete
Bored3L: You can FOIA budget info from public schools. I suppose private schools would have to be sued in order to force comparable info out of them.
A follow up on SD Attny's comments at 11:27 on the budget crisis's destruction of public sector legal jobs. An article in the November 12, 2022 Economist, http://www.economist.com/node/2153801, sets it starkly. "California's unfunded pension liabilities are staggering...they have been estimated at between $240 billion and $500 billion. Plugging that hole will increasigly crowd out things that Democrats care about, such as schools, parks and courts. But governor Brown's [austerity] plan might save at best $11 billion over 30 years." With these figures, when the tyranny of numbers cuts in, the problem will be resolved in a manner not to anyone's liking. William OckhamReplyDelete
Make that the November 12, 2011 Economist. W.O.ReplyDelete
If I recall correctly, didn't the Times article "Is Law School a Losing Game?" profiling the TJLS grad mention the college had recently completed a new facility that contained, amongst other bells and whitles, a 50's style diner?ReplyDelete
Politicians generally don't understand math, and where they do it is limited to their (re)election.
Poor fiscal decisions at the federal, state, and local level, particularly related to pensions and entitlements, are compounding during the current period of financial stress.
This will not end well. See, e.g, Greece.
On a contrary note, my law school spent $30 million (3/5 in bonds and 2/5 in alum/corporate donations) and we have really the only nice-looking classrooms in the entire university, the rest are dark, and some still have chalkboards. For those reasons alone the outlay for the classrooms (and new coffee stand/study area) was worth it.ReplyDelete
Only $30M? It must be a small building.
It was a remodel of an existing building (constructed in the 60's)
You jest, of course. Unfortunately many people will think you are serious. You are not serious, right? OMG, you are! FAIL!!!
I must respectfully disagree with your assertion that established lawyers are unconcerned about the over-supply of lawyers. The small practitioners are very concerned. There are only so many cases and clients to go around. This is particularly true of the personal injury bar. Does our interest in the issue smack of self-interest? Absolutely (although I would prefer the term "enlightened self-interest"). We, in the plaintiff''s/personal injury/small firm bar (what many of you derisively call "shitlaw"), at least here in TN, have been discussing this problem amongst ourselves for years. Do we want the increased competition? You would count me a fool if I said we did. But we also care about the profession; and turning a large swath of our best and brightest young people into an indentured servant class is morally reprehensible and just plain bad for our country. Not all boomers our idiots--although I can understand why you may think so.
Forgive me 11:27, that last post was respectfully addressed to 11:51.ReplyDelete
For years I have heard men in business make jokes about how you can't trust a lawyer, once you bring the lawyers in you never get them back out, lawyers don't make anything, lawyers live off the work of the productive members of society...ReplyDelete
And now it seems the lawyers cannot even be entrusted with the education of the next generation of lawyers. Left to their own devices, they will eat their young. What a mess this has turned out to be.
One other thought. When I started UT in 1984, my tuition was, in 2012 dollars about $3100 dollars in-state. UT is now about $13,500 and I understand it is one of the cheaper public law schools (certainly cheaper than the now discredited Duncan). In 1984, the law school occupied a truly ugly building--half of it pseudo 1930's gothic/Tudor with a circa 1970s/post-Stalinist/ nightmare welded onto it. It was a little grimy, a bit cramped, but a perfectly serviceable building--and for $3100 per year--what would you expect? It certainly wasn't standing near the precipice of condemnation. But--in the early 90s a new dean decided that UT needed to house its lawschool in a palace costing about 75 million dollars. That might sound comparatively cheap to what other law schools have recently spent, but remember that Tennessee is a poor state--we rank 44th in household income and that's a lot to spend to assuage the egos of a dean, several professors, and a few well-placed alumni. Around the same time, tuition rocketed. Hard not to believe there is a connection.ReplyDelete
My major issue with all this construction is what happens ten-twenty years down the road when the bubble explodes and the campuses become wastelands? Do they rent out the empty space, or demolish it?ReplyDelete
WTF DID OBAMA JUST SAY ABOUT STUDENT LOAN INTEREST RATES DOUBLING IN JULY?!ReplyDelete
I have been wondering how the gubmint was gonna handle that one. Welcome to 6% plus world. Can't refinance, can't bk, can't get capitalized interest waved.
The big U, the big screw.
My wife wonders why I don't want to take on more debt and buy a house. Our brainiac asshead politicians wonder why the economy won't improve.
It's the student loans and their 6% plus interest assholes.
The funny thing about the movie Rainmaker is that it's actually a fair portrayal of the legal field. You should go back and watch it.ReplyDelete
The lawyer is literally living out of his car, gets hired into "shit law" on a commission salary by a guy named "Bruiser" because it's the only job that he can find out of law school, has no idea how to actually practice law, and even when he does when the multi-million dollar settlement, the opposing side files bankruptcy and he doesn't get paid.
The movie even talks about what a glut of attorneys the Memphis area had - and that movie was 15 years ago. Ironically, the only fictional element in all this was that he built a real personal relationship with the client's family in the case and that there was some prevailing sense of justice...because that never happens.
From State of Union speech:ReplyDelete
"So let me put colleges and universities on notice: If you can't stop tuition from going up, the funding you get from taxpayers will go down."
What do you all make of that?
The "funding" is Pell. It will go away.
The other "funding" (student loans) will just increase.
Obama says a lot of things.
I disagree. One of the benefits of "shit law" is that you do often build personal relationships with your clients--particularly those most greviously injured. If you are at all human the realization that your performance on their case may be all that stands between that vulnerable person and his or her family creates a bond between you and that family. Additionally, every now and then, maybe not often enough, you get these people a taste of justice.
"I have been wondering how the gubmint was gonna handle that one. Welcome to 6% plus world. Can't refinance, can't bk, can't get capitalized interest waved."ReplyDelete
What the hell are you people talking about? Right now the IR on grad plus is about 7%.
"What do you all make of that?"ReplyDelete
More Obama promises that he won't keep, see e.g. every promise he ever made. Obama is full of shit.
"What the hell are you people talking about? Right now the IR on grad plus is about 7%."ReplyDelete
The undergraduate IR rate on some federal student loans is 3.4% depending on when they were taken out. On 07/01/12, that rate doubles to 6.8%. I don't THINK it applies to graduate loans but I am not sure. The President referenced the jump in his speech tonight.
Some college graduates are gonna get a surprise in an already shitty economy where many of them cannot find jobs. Fucking shitty.
This IR jump is the trigger than could burst the bubble. It puts the discussion about student loans in the national spotlight with a Congress that makes a huge shit storm out of any discussion because they cannot get along.ReplyDelete
"The undergraduate IR rate on some federal student loans is 3.4% depending on when they were taken out. On 07/01/12, that rate doubles to 6.8%."ReplyDelete
Pffft. I've been paying 6.8% on my GRAD Plus and Stafford loans for years. Well, that's the interest rate on the loans any way (I'm on a little thing called eye bee are and don't pay shit. FUCK YOU TAXPAYERS!).
Back to our regularly scheduled program:ReplyDelete
Go to: http://dirwww.colorado.edu/news/r/a4165190c4cebd71123091b992ae0fcb.html
Wherein, the CU media relations department explained that in 2003 the ABA found CU Law School out of compliance with accreditation standards. The law school's proposal to build a new law school adequately addressed the ABA's deficiencies findings.
The post goes on to say that "Students will be the largest contributors, paying $26.9 million of the total building costs through a law school tuition differential of $1,000 a year, which began in 1999, and a $400 a year assessment of all 29,000 CU-Boulder students."
LP: Did you think the old building was inadequate? How would you characterize the new building? Spot on. Overkill? In any way still inadequate?
The old building was fine for all *educational* purposes. Needless to say the ABA compliance standards are a joke.ReplyDelete
I remember studying in the old CU law school and feeling sorry for the students who had to study in such "deficient" facilities. I then went to a second tier law school with similar facilities and felt sorry for myself. I then transferred to a tier 1 law school with immaculate facilities and soon realized that the age of the building mattered little and that I missed my days at my tier 2 law school whose professors I enjoyed but where I left in pursuit of a higher ranked but ultimately, in my mind, much worse school.ReplyDelete