BEN What was your major? MRS. ROBINSON Why are you asking me all this? BEN Because I'm interested, Mrs. Robinson. Now what was your major subject at college? MRS. ROBINSON Art. BEN Art? She nods. BEN But I thought you - I guess you kind of lost interest in it over the years then. MRS. ROBINSON Kind of.
Contrary to the impression a casual reader of this blog might get, I'm a big fan of liberal arts education. I believe in learning for its own sake, that knowledge is preferable to ignorance, that a genuinely educated citizenry is crucial to maintaining democracy as something more than a word, and all that sort of thing. On a related point, I believe if university academics are going to study and write about law, they should do it in a genuinely academic way, as opposed to cranking out glorified briefs and bench memos that are supposedly "helpful" to lawyers and judges, i.e., traditional doctrinal law review articles. So I have nothing against "Law and . . ." Indeed to the extent that law school is structured as a form of graduate education there should be nothing but "law and."
But law school should not be structured as a form of graduate education, because structuring that way makes it cost far too much. It's a mistake to think that law school used to be cheap but is now expensive. Law school was always expensive, even a generation ago when Harvard cost barely more than $10,000 per year in 2011 dollars, and resident tuition at state law schools was almost nominal (CU's tuition 30 years ago was $975, i.e., about $200 per month in real current money).
Law school has always been expensive because the opportunity cost of going to law school has always been high. Taking yourself out of the labor market for three years at the beginning of your working life is a very costly investment in your future. So a generation ago, when private school tuition was in real terms a fourth of what it is today and public law school tuition was practically free, law school still cost a lot in real economic terms. Today, of course, the cost of law school has gone from significant to basically insane. On top of the opportunity cost you're supposed to
At no time in the past would the present cost of law school have made sense for anything approaching a majority of law students, and looking forward it makes even less sense. It's one of those things, like three-bedroom houses in Las Vegas selling for $600,000 in 2006, that happened because it was in the interest of powerful political and economic interests for it to happen, not because it made the slightest degree of sense as matter of rational social action.
Law school in America has developed or devolved into a kind of faux-graduate school experience, in which with limited exceptions less pretense than ever is made of engaging in vocational training. But here's the punch line: Do you know what graduate school generally costs? Nothing. Now this isn't true at all in genuine economic terms, as graduate students still incur big opportunity costs and avoid paying tuition by providing plenty of slave labor to keep the wheels of the great American university system turning. Of course at the end of all that there's a good chance graduate school will end up not being worth it, since the large majority of graduate students don't end up getting anything like the jobs they went to graduate school in order to get. In other words they're just like law students, minus the six-figure high interest non-dischargeable debt.
Law school as graduate school is very much a luxury that the vast majority of people who are forced to purchase it can neither afford, nor would they want to buy even if they could actually afford it. This was true when it was practically free, but it's far more true today, when the total cost of attendance at many schools is approaching a quarter million dollars.
This, I think it's fair to say, represents something of a market failure.
You are correct in inferring that law school is graduate school. In essence, it is an advanced humanities program. It should not be considered professional school. Dental, medical and veterinary programs actually teach their students how to practice - with several lab hours working on patients. Instead, law school relies on failed lawyers/academics who teach students "how to think like a lawyer."ReplyDelete
You tell 'em, Campos! Your last couple of entries have been just outstanding!ReplyDelete
Law school is like an all-purpose humanities grad school for professors who only have to understand more about these topics than third-year law review editors or other law professors. It's amazing what some law professors can get away with BSing about because they know they will never be called on it by experts in those fields. I myself have seen what happens when a "law and" article is submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal and it is not pretty.ReplyDelete
In other news:
The last two Q and As are pretty good. The information flow is starting to trickle up to established practitioners.
Income based repayment of law debt is bad for taxpayers. It makes marginally more sense from a taxpayer perspective for med debt.ReplyDelete
But a law professor is in the White House.
So long as there is cheap debt, there will always be a new crop of naive students willing to borrow to sign up, because the cost is remote when you enter. It's the same reason that film schools continue to exist.
"But law school should not be structured as a form of graduate education, because structuring that way makes it cost far too much."ReplyDelete
I still can't figure out what's wrong with the LLB model.
I graduated from a Tier One law school nearly 30 years ago and practiced about 15 years. I found litigation uncongenial for a number of reasons that I won't go into now, and I left practice and went into teaching at the university level (not law). It's difficult at this remove to decide exactly what it was that I learned in law school apart from doctrines; it's in practice that you learn by far the greater part of the job. It's very clear, however, that the Socratic method of instruction is a poor approach in the large classroom and a slow way to teach. It's difficult not to think that law is taught this way expressly to drag law school out.ReplyDelete
Beyond this, I don't think that the practice of law is particularly difficult from an intellectual standpoint. It may be that what law professors do is rigorously intellectual, but they don't do what lawyers do. Gathering facts, discovering witnesses, preparing clients for depositions, drafting and arguing motions, trying cases, and trying to second-guess your opponents who are trying to trip or threaten you. Learning to do all these things successfully requires experience more than anything else. Once you've seen a trick, you can use it.
So, it seems to me that the best thing to do would be to make law school an undergraduate degree: two years of general humanities and two of law, but the latter taught much more efficiently than with the case method. A year of clerking to follow and the whole program would turn out students better prepared than they are now and not saddled with tremendous debt. With little or no debt perhaps lawyers could charge as little as $100 an hour and still make a good living. It might not help the poor, but it would certainly help the middle class, which is most of us.
However, the institution of law school, as presently constituted, stands in the way.
All that LawProf wrote is the same thing for undergrad. Period.ReplyDelete
But there are a finite number of clerkship opportunities out there. Should we, similar to med school residence, admit only as many law students as there are available clerkships for them? What if have no interest in litigation, like the vast majority of practitioners?
Additionally, Tthe socratic method would fine if it bore any meaningful connection to how your academic performance is evaluated (issue-spotting). The Socratic method trains you for a completely different application of knowledge than your average law school exam.
I was thinking of apprenticeship in some form under a licensed attorney. However, it's quite true that my suggestion does not address the tremendous glut of attorneys except to this extent: if the glut consisted of those holding undergraduate law degrees for which the students hadn't gone into (much) debt, these law degree holders might be more reconciled to doing other work. And the resulting decline in the prestige of a law degree (now an undergraduate degree), might not prevent those who hold them from getting other jobs for which they are now, generally wrongly, considered over-qualified. Not a perfect solution, perhaps, but a step in the right direction, I think.
In law school you are going to have to work ten times harder than you ever had to in undergrad to get a far worse grade.ReplyDelete
This post discounts the fact that student life is generally a much higher quality of life than working life, regardless of where you work. For that reason alone, I think a lot of people wouldn't mind going to law school if not for the crippling debt.ReplyDelete
The debt has nothing to do with why lawyers don't charge $100 per hour.ReplyDelete
7:53: I'm not sure that is true. Students leave law school with amazingly high rates of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. The rates can go from 4% at the beginning of 1L to 40% by the end of 3L. They may BELIEVE that student life is better than working life, but that's obviously not the case.ReplyDelete
8:20: I think the debt and lack of jobs that pay enough to cover that debt are the main causes of depression. If the only cost of law school really was missing 3 years of salary, I think law students would be a lot happier.ReplyDelete
Years ago roughly one-third to one-half of a lawyer's billable hours went to overhead. Perhaps that's different now, and, if so, I'd be happy know it. But if that spread is about right, $100 an hour ought to provide an income that would satisfy an attorney who had not paid the opportunity costs of going to school for three years beyond undergraduate or who wasn't saddled with huge debt. That's my point.
I realize that the practice of law is expensive, but, practically and psychologically, attorneys might be able and willing to settle for (and be able to live on) lower incomes if they didn't have so much invested in getting into the law. As it is, it appears to be simply pointless for many attorneys to work for anything less than a rate which they cannot get.
We need to move to a two-tier model.
8:28: The debt and lack of jobs are rolled into the experience of being a law school student in America- you can't really separate the two.ReplyDelete
And I wonder whether that is true for schools with relatively secure job placement. I go to a school where most everyone can get a form of High Status Legal Employment and there is still a lot of depression, anxiety, and substance abuse even among my friends with 160K V10 jobs. I've been checking out the studies on this but haven't found one that has looked at what the rates are for elite schools.
Law Professor, I disagree with you on your thoughts pertaining to a Liberal Art Education. I was in education for 15 years prior to law school. The term "liberal Arts" education is inherently vague. Pretty much anything can fit under this title. While I do not disagree that picking up skills in other fields is useful. I have a very varied resume, with multiple different skills (acting, professional athletics, psychology, computer science, teaching). The difficulty which I have is that a Law Degree can have Liberal Art Aspects, but that should not be its primary focus. A law degree needs to first provide it students with the skills to pass the bar and be able to practice. That is why it is called a law degree, and not a liberal arts degree. Many Colleges and University's offer true liberal arts degrees. If that was what I sought, I would have signed up for that degree instead of law. I did not expect the law degree to prepare me for every aspect of practice. However, it is a question of degree and the pendulum has flowed too much to the theory side, and only part of the theory side. But this falls on deaf years, because the customer, the student, has the least amount of power in the entire transaction. The culture of law schools at a time of charging all-time tuitions, are advocating abrogating their basics even more as your Berkley Letter points out in a previous post from last week. I would encourage liberal arts classes, but only if the core functions have been satisfied first. Too many law schools have too high of a Bar Failure rate. The rate should not be greater than 5% given the amount of time, and money the students have spent. If a school hits that passage rate, they are fulfilling their core purpose, there curriculum is sound, and if there is room for Liberal Arts classes, then that should by all means be encouraged. However, if the school not hitting that mark, they need to be refocusing on their curriculum to figure out where the failure is. The bar exam, while rigorous, is not inherently unfair, but it does test skills that are not necessarily taught in law school or have anything to do with knowledge of the law.ReplyDelete
If Law Professors want to teach in a Liberal Arts Curriculum, that is there right. But they have to accept lower salaries like many other University Professors, and transfer into other departments. There salaries are at a premium compared to what my State School Professors made in my Psychology Masters program.
Episodes of depression/anxiety/pill-popping (around finals) do not equal mental illness.ReplyDelete
@ 8:43 amReplyDelete
Were any of these liberal arts courses taught in English?
There should be a diversity of schools. The graduate model that Law Prof decries will always be desired by a significant number of people who want to go to the schools that will continue to provide that. HYSCC will not do away with those aspects of their programs, and they should not have to. That does not mean that schools like Colorado and Ohio State and others have to do the same.ReplyDelete
"... the vast majority of people who are forced to purchase [a legal education] ..."ReplyDelete
No one is being forced to purchase a legal education, Lawprof.
If you consistently had 40 billable hours of work per week (approx. 55 office hours) then sure you could make it happen. The point is most people don't have that kind of consistent work flow and therefore they have to cover their costs through higher rates.
@9:22 - I think LP is saying if you want to become a lawyer, you have to go to law school, and if you go to law school, you are forced to go to one that operates more like a graduate school than a professional school. Thus the force is not so much being forced to purchase a legal education, but being forced to attend a program that does not result in practice based skills.ReplyDelete
0Ls have no idea what the practice of law is all about, and the law schools don't teach them what to expect. They are blindly naive and have some general idea that lawyers go to court and write motions or contracts, but apart from that, they are fully ignorant of what law is.ReplyDelete
I was there too once, despite having family members who were attorneys, I knew little about what it meant to work as a lawyer.
I recall interviewing at a V-5 Firm in New York. I tried to make small talk with a litigation partner regarding what he liked about being a lawyer at [V-5 Firm]. He told me "it was just a job" and then got quiet. I tried to engage him to learn more about the firm and to try to salvage my interview. I asked the perfectly wrong question of a biglaw litigator: "Can you tell me about the trials you have had in the last year or two and what role your associates played in them." He looked at me like I was from Mars. It was like I asked him how many Olympics he played in in the last year or two.
He then told me that his last trial was about 5 or 6 years ago. It wouldn't surprise me if it was his only trial, and if he served as 3rd or 4th chair.
I thought I knew something about practicing law, and I was a law review student T-14 with clerkship opportunities.
The day-to-day life of a practicing lawyer was plain foreign to me, and I suspect that the law faculty were not that much more in tune with it than I was.
Let tell you about an experience I had today. I go to CVS and I happen to work at UVA in Charlottesville, Va. So I see this cute little coed and decide to strike up a converstation with her. So I ask her are you a student, she says yes. I ask her are you from Virginia, she tells me no (Chicago). What are you studying she tells me anthropolgy and she is a 3rd year student. So I say what are your plans for when you graduate, do you want to teach, be a scientist? So she tells me no actually I want to be a mid-wife. So here she is spending almost $50,000 year in undergraduate cost because she wants to be a mid-wife. I don't know the specifics of being a mid-wife but I'm fairly sure a 4 year degree in Anthropolgy is not required. Not only is the Law School model, broken but so is the whole college education system. It is all a scam of the highest proportion.ReplyDelete
You cannot take what she is saying now as proof of what she will be doing all her life. If she chooses to go back to school later, she will have her basic degree. If she decided to forego college, and be a midwife, there would be no way out of that other than going to college.ReplyDelete
vbp - i don't agree with the comment that you have to work ten times harder at law school than in undergrad. What you do have to do is focus with an intensity unlike that required in undergrad days, where regurgitating information back to a professor to hear what he or she likes to hear works well. Not so in law school.ReplyDelete
And the K-to law school people generally suffer. Oh, some may do well academically, but all they know is grinding their way to grades. I spent three years in the working world before law school, and prior to that four years as a highly competitive D1 athlete get hammered by some of the best in the world (and having to keep up grades up, too). I thought law school was a relative joke compared to undergrad, and spent no more than 20 hours a week - including class time - on law school. I went to a T10, too, Order of the Coif, Law Review, etc. I found that most of my peers conflated lots of reading with really learning, and were fed by their insecurities and had little ability to "stop" once they mastered a subject. I recall my fellow law reviewers, most of whom thought highly of themselves, recoil in horror when I analogized law school to a trade school. I wasn't far from the truth. And trust me, intellectually I was middle of the road for my law school. It was all about simply getting things done, and done quickly.
This is why no one should go into debt, by the way (or at least material debt). No trade school is worth it.
@ Bored 3 LReplyDelete
That article/interview with that Atlanta lawyer was great. The best question was when he was asked if he would recommend his grand children going to Law School, and the simple answer was no. What is going on currently within Law school is a great correction that is going on across most sectors of the economy. The debt driven business model is collapsing, and if we do not significantly alter not only the way Law is taught in this country, both from an academic & economic perspective, but the way our economy is driven/functions, it will take us all down
Super interesting article. My favorite dickheaded part:
"Once you've [graduated from Harvard Law] it doesn't matter how much you've borrowed. You're in the one percent."
Have a look at my student loan terms with Sallie Mae in 2005.ReplyDelete
It was nine years after law school.
CNN getting in on the student loan disaster.ReplyDelete
It turned out the college’s “offered financial aid” included $42,000 in loans to be taken out by the family, including a “suggested” $36,178 in parental borrowing or private loans.
“A loan to me is not financial aid,” Romano said. “It is money I have to pay.”
In law school you are going to have to work ten times harder than you ever had to in undergrad to get a far worse grade.ReplyDelete
Not even close to true for those of us that had a demanding undergrad experience. I put in more work (both in terms of difficulty in mastering the material and in raw hours spent studying) in a single upper-level undergrad Immunology classroom+lab course than I did in the entirety of 2L.
You can sleep through third year. I actually took a class using as a textbook, the professors book on the Butts/Bryant game fixing scandle of 1960. What vanity! Easy 4.0 though.ReplyDelete
@7:54 you are right....I majored in chemistry undergraduate and went to medical school before going to law school. I studied more in high school than I did in law school. I thought law school was a complete joke. There was so little of substance to learn.ReplyDelete
Medical school and law school?ReplyDelete
The median salary for a certified nurse midwife in the U.S. is between $75,000 and $100,000 a year. A CNM holds an advanced practice nursing degree and must meet the requirement of holding at least a master's degree in nursing.
You may not be surprised to learn that graduate CNM programs, such as the one at the Yale School of Nursing, have highly competitive admissions. Why? Because CNMs are in high demand.
The young woman you met, assuming she is on the path to becoming a CNM, appears to be worthy of exactly the opposite reaction she inspired in you.
Apparently, she has done her homework to find a career for which there is increasing need in the U.S. economy. This demand will only grow with both recent and forthcoming changes to publicly funded health insurance reimbursement that specifically elevate CNM services to the level of that attained by some physicians providing comparable services.
Bottom line -- she has clearly thought about this or maybe thought this through with someone who has her best interests at heart. Oh, if only all the would be attorneys had either done the same kind of research or had the same kind of guidance from someone with their best interests at heart.
7:54 PM Maybe you did , but did you pass the Bar???ReplyDelete
The next "mistaken belief" should be that the problem only began with the 08 financial collapse. When I graduated from law school 20 years ago, it was common knowledge that (non-elite) schools produced far more JD's than the legal job market could absorb. Things are worse today, but the problem has been with us a long time.ReplyDelete
11:11 Maybe you missed something, but she is not studying nursing or even a subject related to it. Seems to me she is wasting her parents money or borrowing out the ass to attend a 4 year sleep-away camp.ReplyDelete
Here's the info on midwifery education programs:
No undergraduate nursing degree required.
Former Law Dean expects law schools to close:
Perhaps it is fair to ask why we require prospective lawyers to attend law school in the first placeReplyDelete
The typical justification is to protect the public from incompetent council. But if law school does not teach lawyering, this goal is not being met.
On the other.hand, if requiring young adults to spend three years of their lives and hundreds of thousands of dollars is to serve as a barrier to entry, then producing twice as many lawyer than the economy can support defeats this goal.
Indeed it seems the only interest being served are those of the law schools themselves. They are producing a product of questionable value and charging a very high price for it.
How could a school ranked 30 (SLS) do so much better than the second ranked school (Cooley) in terms of post graduate success?ReplyDelete
Why doesn't everyone else see that Cooley is 28 ranks better????
I graduated from Cooley in the 90s and passed the bar exam the first try and was the only one in my family who even went to college, let alone law school. The legal market is dried up and has been dried up for some time and unless your parents or siblings are partners at a law office, then it is a risky proposition. The only jobs I have worked were ones that did not require a JD. I worked at a restaurant for some years, then a gas station for 2 years, and afterwards I sold cars at a dealership for a year until the credit-crunch hit and was laid-off. A friend showed me the Youtube news video "NY Times Reporter: Business of Law Schools Is Crazy." and in my personal experience this seems like a real crisis. Even a lawyer who graduated from Northern Illinois Law School, and opened up her own law office, was arrested for selling sex as a prostitute for $50 from her office. And I saw news videos of law graduates from various law schools who passed the bar and ended up working menial jobs like Starbucks or a Pizzeria. I also recently saw on Youtube Pete Campos interviewed by NBC where he said 45% of recent graduates did not find work requiring a legal degree and he also emphatically stated many students in law school today will NEVER become lawyers.ReplyDelete
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