Monday, June 18, 2012
Failing Law Schools
My critical book about legal education, Failing Law Schools, is out. About a dozen advance reviews of the book have been published, each with different take, but all in agreement that the book should be read by legal educators. (A few examples: Fish, Kerr, and Henderson.). This recent comment captures the thrust of the book:
I haven't read the book yet. But seeing a snippet in here somehow attracts me to buy and read more of your topic. Furthermore, it will really gives legal enthusiast more affinity for the topics which you mostly based on reality.
Beyond law school students as consumers, there is the consuming public that from time to time is in need of competent legal services. When law schools fail, the public pays a big price. Maybe there are too many law schools, too many law students, too many lawyers, but without competent lawyers available to provide the required legal services, our society suffers. So the problems laid out by Brian in his book impact all Americans, not just those in legal education/profession. While America is a government of laws and not of men (and women), competent lawyers are required to make sure laws work. So it is important for our law schools to succeed and provide the foundation for competent attorneys to serve the public. The current situation did not occur overnight and will take a lot of time to remedy. Hopefully Brian's message will resonate to the general public and its interest in a sound legal profession. If legal education/profession fails to act, might it invite interventions such as was the case with the medical profession? So heal thyself.
I just finished your book and it was an eye-opener. As you say, the numbers are compelling. Vast changes are coming to the legal market and by necessity to the law school market. Putting one's head in the sand is not an effective response.
I must also note that your book reminded me, as a new law professor, of nothing so much as Grisham's "The Firm." Is it necessary to explain why?
For an article on the potential commodification of the practice of law, see Jordan Weissmann's The Atlantic "iLawyers: What Happens When Computers Replace Attorneys?" with the subtitle: "After decades of killing low-end jobs in retail, software is finally doing the people's bidding by creating a world with fewer lawyers." (A link is provided at The Tax Lawyer Blog.)
A review of Robert Schiller's new book in Sunday's NYTimes Book Review states that Israel and Brazil have more lawyers per capita than America. Perhaps comparatives on legal education in those nations might be interesting.
A lot of oversimplification in the article. One of the biggest reasons for tuition increases at law schools at public universities is that the amount of state funding. or the lack of it. State law school I went to in the late 1980's state covered 75% of law schools costs, tuition, about 25%. Now the law school gets no funding from the state. This translates into a 300% increase in tuition, even if the school had kept its operating costs fixed for the last 25 years.
The article makes no comparison of tuition increases in law schools versus other advanced degree programs. Is it higher or lower than for other programs.
Also the article does not compare employment rates now versus in the past. Back when I graduated a significant portion of graduates did not go into law, about 20% went into other professions, most of which utilized the legal training but were not "lawyers".
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