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August 18, 2013


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But is the law school crisis a tuition crisis or is it a jobs crisis?

I used to believe the former. But I've heard enough gossip about declining state school enrollment to wonder whether tuition is all that relevant when jobs are scarce.

If applicants can't be persuaded that they'll get jobs, one dollar of tuition may seem like too much.


Thanks for this. We've seen that the low tuition model can work even in the ABA accredited arena. Western and southern state schools, or CUNY in New York.

CUNY is interesting because seems to serve a similar function in the New York legal market as MCL. New York is oversaturated with high-priced private law schools. CUNY makes no secret about being a public interest law school that produces graduates who go to work at Legal Aid or non-profits, and is priced accordingly.

You see this reflected in the school's employment numbers compared to the other bottom tier NYC schools. The aggregate employment figure is about the same, but CUNY does not place even a single student in biglaw firms, whereas schools like NYLS/Touro/Pace/Hofstra send a low single digit percentage of students into those jobs, but not enough to outweigh the enormous difference in COA. Furthermore, CUNY students place into PSLF qualifying jobs at a very high rate, so their repayment prospects as a whole are better than the grads who go into similar paying jobs that qualify for PAYE repayment.

Re: High tuition, it is important to remember that non-discounted in-state costs at many public schools will still run in the six figures when factoring in origination fees, accrued interest, and COL. I suspect MCL draws disproportionately more students who remain employed while in school and do not have to borrow for COL. Perhaps we need to rethink the K-JD model, or the idea that law students need to be "professional students." A relaxation of the absurd Standard 304(f), which caps working hours at 20 for full-time students, might be a start.

The drop in enrollment may also occur disproportionately among OOS students, who have learned that it is better to go to school in a region where you already have ties than attend a slightly higher USNWR ranked school in a region where you are a newcomer.

Mitch Winick

ML -- I don't necessarily think that it is a question of national jobs statistics that will provide guidance. Outside of the handful of elite schools, the vast majority of law schools serve distinct market areas. Clearly some are more impacted than others by the economy, but according to other posts/reports on this site, the real decline is in BigLaw. Therefore, my question is that why are we regulated to a norm that presumes an economic jobs model that is no longer (and perhaps never was) a reality for most graduates? Encourage schools to reflect the markets they serve.

I think BoredJD is exactly on the right track regarding rules that limit student work experience, mandate tenure, require outmoded fixed library costs, and limit distance education as areas that need reconsideration.

I think that your initial instincts were correct.

Anonymous JOnes

I have no doubt but that "small" schools would be a great way to educate future lawyers. Really, almost an apprentice firm situation.

I could imagine 10 students sharing 3 law faculty for a period of 3 years. One faculty member being a full time teacher of the Landellian model, teaching lectures in substantive fields of law. The other two would be a litigator/legal writing faculty member who would teach students how to write and advocate, and how to prepare a personal injury/criminal defense/divorce/contract dispute case. The other could be a real estate/estate planning/debtor or creditors rights practioner who could teach students how to draft wills, contracts, do do diligence on house closings etc., file proof of claims, as well as legal ethics and the business aspects of law. There would be no dearth of faculty to perform either service as most small time practioners would jump at the chance to oversee 5 students for $50,000 per year while running their own practice half-time.

This model would almost certainly be way, way, way better than the current form of legal education. It's a hybrid lecture/reading the law school. It would require faculty to be knowledgeable in the practice of law, and it would be monumentally more expensive to run. Students would graduate with actual skills to perform actual work.


I know you're the dean of the Monterey College of Law and all and need to tout it, but really? With a first-time taker 50% CA bar passage rate in July 2012, Monterey is even scoring below "heavy hitters" that should be shuttered like Thomas Jefferson with its 52% bar passage rate or La Verne College of Law with its 53%. That's a bargain few can afford. I suppose it might be argued that to the extent one hopes never to practice law as a licensed attorney and looks only for the education, it might be fine. But note, however, that these individuals TOOK the bar, indicating their desire to practice.

Mitch Winick

Tuan -- there is an inherent problem in the reliability of data sets of one. Although the comparison of MCL as a state-accredited, non-ABA school against traditional ABA schools is informative, if you fairly consider results other than one single exam, you might be surprised to know that MCL equalled or beat California ABA first-time bar pass rates:

Feb 2013 - MCLs pass rate was higher than 5 ABA schools
July 2012 - MCLs pass rate was not higher than any ABA schools
Feb 2012 - MCLs pass rate was higher than 11 ABA schools
July 2011 - MCLs pass rate was higher than 14 ABA schools!

Of course, our cohorts of 15-20 are so small in comparison to the ABA schools that the reliability of these types of comparisons is questionable.

Furthermore, the accreditation standard for the California accredited, non-ABA law schools is a cumulative, five-year pass rate, not the first-time pass rate. This is intended to take into account the nature of our non-traditional, working student population that is rarely able to take-off two months for exclusive bar review preparation. MCL's cumulative pass rates as prepared for our accreditation report are as follows: 2009 - 2013 . . . 67%.

When I arrived in 2005 to begin my tenure as dean, our cumulative pass rate was 39%. As you can see, we have been making steady progress towards our goal of reaching and sustaining a 70% cumulative pass rate. In the context of the low California Bar Exam statewide pass rates, this would be a respectable result and place us at the top of the state-accredited, non-ABA law schools.

Matt Bodie

When you say the MCL pass rate was better than X ABA schools, I'm wondering how many students from each of these ABA schools took the California bar. Are you counting, say, a non-California ABA school where two students took the bar and neither passed? Did MCL's passage rate surpass any of the California ABA schools?

Mitch Winick

Matt, thanks for the chance to clarify, but if you read the statement it is limited to "California ABA" law schools.


Even if you don't pass the bar, you're still not graduating with mid-six figure debt like the students at many expensive California accredited schools. MCL seems like a much better deal than say Pacific, TJSL, La Verne, or even some schools where the passage rate is in the 60s but the debt is high and the employment prospects low.

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