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Various law school developments

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(1) A very significant thing happened at the ABA Section of Legal Education Standards Review Committee meeting (I can already see readers’ eyes glazing over) on Friday, which hasn’t yet been noted by the legal academic blogosphere. Per the ABA Journal:

At its meeting Friday, the committee also:

• Voted to recommend eliminating the current prohibition on granting academic credit to a student who participates in a field placement program for which the student receives compensation.

This little nugget seems to have gotten lost amid the clamor regarding two proposals to require either six or 15 credit hours of “experiential learning” of every ABA law school graduate, but is obviously related to it in a potentially crucial way.

Coupled with the Section’s decision last August to allow a full semester’s worth of academic work to be done by “distance learning,” you don’t need a weatherman to see the way the wind is blowing, which is to eventually outsource the entire third year of law school to employers, thus essentially eliminating it as an academic matter, while at the same time still retaining the third year of law school tuition.

You also don’t need to be Mancur Olson to see why the forces pushing toward this outcome are going to be almost irresistable:

*For students, this will mean spending the “third year of law school” working instead of going to class and — mirabile dictu — even getting paid for it! I haven’t done a scientific survey, but I imagine a poll of upper level law students regarding the desirability of such an option would resemble a North Korean presidential election.

*For law schools, such an arrangement allows one third of the curriculum to be offloaded, with no loss of revenue.

*Employers will enjoy the advantages of quasi-indentured labor (if you quit your job you’re going to be dropping out of school, so you can’t quit — a circumstance that will no doubt be reflected in the compensation levels and working conditions associated with these jobs).

. . . These developments will have a negative effect on one group: People who have already graduated from law school, especially recent graduates, who will see a good number of traditional entry level positions destroyed by the entrance of cheap temporary labor, in the form of third year “students” doing “externships” for both credit and (now) money. As always, these sorts of putative curricular reforms do not create more jobs, which remains the central problem for the entire model.

It says something about the state of legal education that this set of developments is probably an improvement on the status quo.

(2) A few interesting statistics from the new 509 disclosures:

*33.7% of Florida State’s 2L and 3L classes are transfer students. FSU took 90 transfers last summer and 89 the year before (there are a total of 530 2Ls and 3Ls at the school this year). LSAT and GPA scores of transfer students aren’t reported to the ABA, and therefore don’t affect law school rankings. Speaking of which:

*25th LSAT percentile for George Washington’s 2010 part-time class: 162 (86th percentile overall). For the 2013 class: 154 (59th percentile).

*Median LSAT for Valparaiso’s entering class: 143 (20th percentile).

(3) The latest LSAC volume summary continues to indicate that applications this year will be down more than 40% since 2010, and approximately 50% off their 2004 high. This extrapolates to a likely first year class of around 35,100 (down from 52,500 in 2010). I would be somewhat surprised if by this time next year no ABA law school has announced it’s shutting down.

(4) This is very, very wrong, and anyone who laughs at it should feel terrible (I know I do):

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