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Signs of progress

[ 16 ] November 2, 2012 |

(1) The Washington Post Magazine has a good story on the law school crisis, full of statistics which will be familiar to many LGM readers, but remain too-little known or understood by prospective law students. Among other things the story highlights the mind-boggling absurdity that is UC-Irvine’s new law school (I would give roughly even odds on what is essentially a combination of vanity project for its dean and a cash grab by the UCI central administration continuing to exist ten years from now).

There are days when it’s easy to feel pessimistic about how much progress has actually been made toward cleaning up the mess that legal education in this country has become, but I will say this: If people tried to launch a new hyper-expensive law school with “top 20″ aspirations in the midst of the tire fire that is the southern California legal market today, they wouldn’t be able to get such a project off the ground.

(2) Speaking of law schools going out of business, I’ve heard from a reliable source that a certain Midwestern law school that sits — or at present wobbles — a considerable distance from the bottom of the ABA-accredited hierarchy has unilaterally slashed its entire faculty’s salary by a non-trivial percentage. (Hopefully not too many of them decide to become partners at Davis Polk in fits of pique).

(3) In recent days I’ve seen signs of real progress at the institutional level, as faculty and administrators grapple with the latest debt and employment numbers. At some point, in a crisis of this type, the numbers become so disturbing that complacency begins to give way to engagement, and there’s evidence, both at my school and others, that that inflection point is approaching.

(4) The movement toward genuine reform will accelerate rapidly as soon as even a handful of ABA law schools go out of business. This, I believe, is likely to happen over the course of the next few years. It won’t take many such events to bring about a sea change: given the intensely risk averse character of so many people in legal academia, the sight of a couple of hundred suddenly unemployed former law faculty will, I expect, have a most beneficial effect on institutional deliberations all across the land.

Comments (16)

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  1. c u n d gulag says:

    Oh, what will the TN Putz and Winebox Annie ever do if they can’t corrupt the minds of our youth?

  2. klondike says:

    Is it not more likely that the empire (of legal education) will strike back against the Kaplan Daily, force it to turn its gaze upon the glass walls of its own castle and reconsider the wisdom of following that line of investigation?

  3. actor212 says:

    I’ve heard from a reliable source that a certain Midwestern law school that sits — or at present wobbles — a considerable distance from the bottom of the ABA-accredited hierarchy has unilaterally slashed its entire faculty’s salary by a non-trivial percentage.

    Please say this is the university that employs a certain wine-box afficianado…

  4. Crispus Attucks says:

    I appreciate the candor of the UDC Law Dean. Her school offers reasonably affordable law degrees, and she wouldn’t feel justified offering a UDC degree for 70k a year. Too bad more of her colleagues don’t feel the same way-

  5. Francis says:

    I thought Erwin was recruited to be founding dean at UCI long after the trustees committed to building the law school. (There has to be a good backstory as to why one of the most liberal law professors in the country was picked to lead the law school in one of California’s most conservative counties.)

  6. Julian says:

    Just had to highlight this:

    Chemerinsky seems untroubled by this, arguing in an interview that Irvine is no more expensive than Stanford or the University of Southern California, really. He highlights the success of his first class of 56 students, which graduated in May. Nearly 80 percent have already found full-time jobs as lawyers. Excellence costs, he says, and, by implication, excellence pays.

    Over 20 percent unemployment is excellence?

    • Julian says:

      Sorry, I should be more precise, as the remaining students could well be in fulfilling full-time jobs as baristas, but you get my drift.

    • John says:

      These job placement stats clearly aren’t what I would call a success, but they are likely to get even worse very fast. The school is going to have to increase enrollment up to the 200 to 400 student-per-class range of the other UC schools in order to be economically feasible. Of course, trying to rapidly increase enrollment during a period of declining applications nationwide is going to force a significant drop in standards. And UCI’s LSAT and GPA numbers for incoming students are already well below those of the t-20 schools Chemerinsky claims are UCI’s peers.

      So if Chemerinsky and his gang couldn’t find jobs for more than 80% of what will be the smallest and most highly qualified class to ever attend Irvine, what hope do the 200-400 significantly less qualified grads have? I mean, it’s not like a UCI grad can tap into the alumni network (which currently consists of 45 first-year lawyers).

      California already has seven law schools in the first tier (top 50): Stanford, Berkeley, UCLA, USC, Davis, Hastings, Pepperdine. If an applicant came to me for advice, I would recommend any of those schools over the risky proposition that is Irvine.

  7. Rhino says:

    Paul, I hope you are prepared for early retirement, because as one of the chief critics of this scam they will be making damned sure that you fall with them.

    And I admire you for doing the right thing despite the fairly obvious consequences.

  8. Scott Lemieux says:

    Hopefully not too many of them decide to become partners at Davis Polk in fits of pique

    And, don’t kid yourself, when they do, they’re not going to find anybody willing to teach 2 law courses a semester for a mere 110 grand.

  9. T.R. Donoghue says:

    I’ll be on a panel at CU Law in a couple of weeks talking about the law and labor organizing to the NLG students. I’m really hoping I run into Prof. Campos so I can shake his hand

  10. Dean says:

    Wether or not Christopher Hitchens should get a statue in a foreign country is already at 90 responses, but a discussion about students paying upwards of $250,000 for a degree that, more often than not, will never pay-off financially can’t even get 20.

  11. Eli Rabett says:

    Let us change the subject slightly to diversity. Professional schools (law, dentistry, medicine) exist to train people to practice. State law schools should focus on training people to practice in all areas of their state, which is, AFAEIK the best reason for diversity in admissions. You don’t need the “best” (whatever that is), you need people with a commitment to their community, town, city and state who will provide the needed services.

    The scandal of law schools is that they have lost sight of their mission. It is instructive to see what has and is happening with dental schools and how the ADA is aware of the problems even if they don’t have a solution.

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