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August 01, 2013

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Susan appleby

So this seems to be demanding fundamental changes. I like the idea the bars can slow applicants who haven't attended a three year program. More emphasis on practical skills is essential.

Too bad it took revealing the dishonest behavior of law schools coupled with declining enrollment to focus attention on the need for drastic change.

The latest data on LSAT takers and the drop in the highest takers is going to help force schools to change. I'm sure there will be an article on this data in the next few days. It has been reported that LSAT medians are dropping by a few points at schoos and it has been rumored that Harvard has dropped by one point.

Anonymous

Did I read this right? Did the ABA just state that the system of accreditation of law schools needs fewer Standards? I get that some of the standards make little sense (physical library holdings), but there are too many law schools, graduating too many students, who enter a mature profession with too many practitioners.

Market need should be a factor of accreditation. Antitrust you say? Poppycock. One of the educational regulations demands the consideration of market need, plus there is a consequence to saturation that the law faculty do not appreciate. You see a lot more unethical and unprofessional conduct with a glut of lawyers. They fight and steal and lie for increasingly shrinking work. "Definitive" pronouncements on the value of a law degree aside, those who live in the practicing legal world experience things that academia would find quite troubling and ugly.

The ABA should restrict schools or students to meet market need or to the quantity of students who can obtain competent training after law school.

I don't mean to pick on academics, as I was quite fond of law school. But academics, ask yourselves this: would I retain and pay any of my recent (last 5 years) graduates to handle my DUI/house closing/divorce/custody fight/motor vehicle accident/contract dispute/regulatory appeal/land use dispute? I would submit, respectfully, that you would not do so. You'd want someone who knew something about law, real practical law. The only way to obtain such knowledge is practical experience. And if the schools can't provide it, they certainly shouldn't doom recent graduates to fail before they even had a chance. Don't let output dramatically exceed demand or all lawyers suffer.

Ham Sullivan

Dan,

Thank you for posting this article on the Faculty Lounge. It comes as no surprise that the law school defenders have not commented on the ABA Task Force’s report highlighting the broken legal education system. One of the law school defenders go-to arguments, that the law school reform movement should not be taken seriously because it is made up of a few failed law school graduates and hack law profs, fails in light of this report by esteemed members of the legal profession.

An interesting aspect of the reform debate that I have not seen addressed by the law school defenders, and that the task force’s paper touches upon, is the importance of the actual value CURRENTLY being provided to consumers of legal education. There is a serious disconnect between the actual market value being obtained by students at many law schools and the amounts being paid. This disconnect represents a market failure through which law schools have benefitted at the expense of students/graduates.

I would equate the law school defenders “all is well” argument, with a group of chefs from underperforming restaurants responding to complaints of food poisoning and inedible food by dismissing their consumers. Restaurants run by such chefs would promptly fail as players in any competitive industry rely upon satisfying their customers in order to generate repeat and new business. The law school reform movement is filled with actual former consumers of legal education who are telling providers that the system is broken. That what they learned in law school is not helping them make a living and that the debt is crippling. I know of no other industry where consumer feedback is dismissed so easily or treated with such disdain.

Naturally, many law graduates are infuriated by law professors’ defense of a system that completely failed them and view defenders in much the same way a food poisoning victim would view a defensive chef. Given the accomplishments of the lawyers and judges among the ABA Task Force that are sounding the alarms in this report, I hope that law professors and deans wake up to the destruction you are causing.

John Thompson

A working paper? My God. And here I was thinking that the ABA would do absolutely nothing.

anon

Law school hiring practices have caused this crisis.
It is impossible to ask current faculty to determine how their priorities have affected hiring decisions, because, as demonstrated on this blog and others, most of these good people are completely unable to fairly and objectively analyze their own conduct.
Law faculty members in particular (as demonstrated here on this blog) appear to be a thin-skinned, insecure lot, who are quick to anger and incredibly belligerent when threatened. And, they are easily threatened and almost pathologically defensive.
In my view, this is because many of these folks were hired into a very sheltered world from a very sheltered world, with no real world life experiences to prepare them for any challenge to their inflated egos. Compounding this, many law schools (absurdly) have put inexperienced, immature junior faculty members with no management expertise and no background in hiring decisions into positions of real authority on faculty appointment committees.
All this has contributed to a focus in hiring on factors that have less to do with law, lawyering and law school and more to do with politics and prejudiced and naïve viewpoints.
Thus, the ABA can "report" but the bottom line is this: hiring practices must change or no good will come of this crisis in law school education and the problems will continue to grow worse.

anon

anon 2:29 -- I thought the problem was too many graduates and too few jobs. Have law school hiring practices caused too many graduates? Could you guys get your story straight on what's wrong with law schools.

Reform will come from the market. If people stop going to law school, there will be fewer schools. There may be a lot fewer schools in the next few years.

Also, if students vote with their feet and go to schools with faculty who teach a lot and don't publish, schools will look a lot more like that. The market will dictate what happens, as it does in most areas of life in post-Reagan America.

Anon

Sure, we can let the market decide--as soon as we eliminate that minor bit of government regulation that constitutes the federal student loan.

anon

anon | August 04, 2013 at 03:39 PM
Viewing the crisis in law school education as solely associated with oversupply is, well, not quite accurate in my view.
The heart of the matter is the absence of any effective response by law schools to changing times (a climate that, objectively, began changing before 2008, by the way). I don't think anyone, including those taking the lead in defending the status quo, would argue that the US public is over-served by attorneys.
If you think that hiring practices have had nothing to do with the way law schools have been administered, then I suspect you will find much agreement. Most members of law faculties that have mainly administered their law schools will, of course, suppose that they have had no role in any of the problems that now confront the legal academy. (That is the reason I said above that “most of these good people are completely unable to fairly and objectively analyze their own conduct. “)
The reference to "you guys" is just the sort of nasty insulting snide aside that I referenced in my post above. I am not part of any "you guys." This feeble attempt to label and argue guilt by association is beneath you, I would suppose.

Sorry.

MacK

To all three anons, I would say that the reality is a very complex feedback loop with a lot of self deception along the way. Law schools have behaved in a way that is economically rational in light of an accreditation system that (though it could under applicable federal accrediting regs do so) has ignored employment as a a factor in accreditation decisions. Moreover, in the utter absence of any underwriting standards for student loans, any substantial state funding (with pesky government officials looking at spending, faculty workloads and tuition), for law-schools to keep raising tuition to nosebleed levels made sense. Similarly, for universities and colleges to treat law schools as a reliable cash-cow made sense, so they took their 20-40% of tuition "vig." For tenured law professors to cut their teaching hours to a half-afternoon a week, and to send their time writing bilge their wives and mothers would not read also made sense.

Of course for BigLaw to imply that the firm was "oh so profitable", that associates we worth as 1st year neophytes $160k, or $300+ an hour made sense as long as clients would pay silly bills. And it made sense for law school to pretend that all their graduates got these sort of jobs, and for those that did not it seemed to make sense to pretend that they were overpaid young lawyers.

And then the tide started to go out, and lots of law schools and lawfirms and the ABA turned out to be swimming naked, many with an nasty rash. But the thing is,most side some churls, toadies and hangers on, most people in the current mess are not guilty - they were behaving in a manner that seemed (and absurdly) still seems rational to many. Ignoring clowns like Diamond and Leiter, what should law professors do? Sit and wail in sackcloth and ashes? I mean, Leiter and his toadies could do a lot by shutting up - but be real, no one wants to hire most law profs outside a law school.

A lot of time can be wasted looking for the guilty in the mess that is legal education - I'm just not sure it takes anyone that far.

(Typed on an iPad, really terrible for writing posts - the autocorrect is somewhat random too.)

anon

MacK:
Points taken.
Yet, the fact is that the law school "reform" movement is at least under consideration. So, there is a point to pointing out that law school hiring practices have contributed greatly to the problems that abound in the legal academy. Faculties with more "real world" savvy would have responded more astutely to all the warnings along the way, and would be responding now much differently.
Hide-bound and defensive, nothing much can be expected from the current law faculties. Most will prefer to defend the status quo and demonize anyone who doesn't. That is a function of above all, as I said above, the hiring practices of law schools, especially in the recent years. How can anyone expect these folks to respond effectively to a real crisis?
These practices have (absurdly) put inexperienced, immature junior faculty members with no management expertise and no background in hiring decisions into positions of real authority on faculty appointment committees. This practice should change: immediately.
These practices have (absurdly) contributed to a focus in hiring on factors that have less to do with law, lawyering and law school and more to do with politics and prejudiced and naïve viewpoints. This practice should change: immediately.
These practices have (absurdly) contributed to a focus in hiring persons with seemingly overblown schooling in fields unrelated to law and lawyering and of little practical significance, and the preference of persons with such training over those with real world experience. This practice should change: immediately.
On a personal note, MacK, you seem to enjoy your ongoing combat with certain of the law faculty who are more than eager to engage in mud-slinging and skunk spraying on this and other blogs. There is no need to name names, and no need to poke a hornet’s nest with every post.
Everyone who follows these blogs knows the nasty nature that certain persons on these blogs display. This is again simply a lack of expertise: an experienced master of the law and lawyering will usually adopt a more civil and mature approach and prefer not to engage in juvenile antics that only demonstrate a complete lack of experience in and courtroom effectiveness.
Mack: why be one of inept persons engaging in these “dialogues” who so obviously don’t know how to argue a point without engaging in juvenile antics? You don’t need to go there! As entertaining as your battles are, please, stop provoking them. Let your points speak for you!

anon

... who so obviously doesn't know ...
Sorry ...

Anon

By that standard, Brian Leiter and Stephen Diamond aren't "experienced master[s] of law and lawyering." That may be accurate, though.

matt

All of you obviously do not understand basic economics. The legal profession is simply going through a cyclical downturn. As the Mikhail/Simlovic paper proved, a law degree is a solid investment even for a below average law student (i.e. students at the 25th percentile). I pity anyone considering law school who listens to you. When the economy turns up there will be a severe shortage of lawyers and those who started law school today won't know what to do with all their jobs offers. Remember what it was like at schools like Santa Clara in 2005, 2006 and 2007? Big law firms were getting into bidding wars for Santa Clara grads. That's what it will be like in a few years when people who apply now will graduate.

Stan

Matt gets the award for best troll. A+ work.

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