Many of these debates, apart from their antagonistic tone, are useful. Some ideas for better efficiency and reduced expenses are genuinely prudent, and we should be glad for the debate and for any ensuing reforms that make life better for our students and the public.
But there is an entire side to the discussion that we simply aren't having: beyond reducing supply, we should be increasing demand. Despite the shrinking numbers of existing jobs in existing firms working for existing clients, there is no corresponding shrinkage among those who simply cannot afford the legal advice they need. Where is the debate about how to find funds so that lawyers can be hired to serve those clients, at salaries commensurate with their skill, education, and indebtedness?
In certain circles, law-reform types mention notions like a "civil Gideon" or suggest renewed appropriations for public defenders, but these conversations seem to me to occur almost entirely apart from the debate about what to do about law schools. Shouldn't these topics be part of figuring out how to employ more of our graduates? Perhaps we need a strategy to dramatically increase public investment in legal services. Perhaps the new support ought to come instead from foundations or philanthropists. Perhaps the bar itself, those lawyers who have found lucrative careers in our noble profession, should be cross-subsidizing service to the less-well-off to a much greater degree. I don't know.
Excluding these questions from the debate, however, amounts to simply accepting the world as it is handed to us, as if the market for lawyers were a fact of nature. To the contrary, the market is a human creation, and humans can alter it. We strive to teach our students to fight for their clients not just on whatever unfavorable battlefield they happen to find themselves, but to seek out or even build new legal terrain upon which ever more favorable results can be won. Don't we owe ourselves the same creativity?