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Why does law school cost so much?

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According to the Dr. Pangloss of the legal academic status quo, it’s because of reasons:

The critics do not seem to realize that it is expensive to create an effective modern law school. The actual cost of doing it right is vastly underestimated. At HYS [Harvard, Yale, Stanford] for example sticker tuition is now north of 50K per year but that is, as far as I can tell from publicly available information, about one third of the actual cost spent per student each year. Other lower ranked schools have to try to get the job done with far less, of course, and most are effective in doing so. But it is no surprise, is it, that the schools with the most resources continue to dominate in the rankings?

Diamond has a Ph.D. in political science, but that experience doesn’t seem to have given him much in the way of empirical inclinations: There are many plausible and even screamingly obvious reasons why the richest law schools are the highest-ranked law schools, but “because they provide the most effective legal education relative to the original abilities of their students” would not be anywhere on that list, given that there isn’t a shred of evidence for the proposition that elite schools enhance human capital, as the economists say, more effectively than less gloriously endowed institutions.

Speaking of empiricism and endowments, let us turn to some actual law school budgets, past and present, and ask in a longitudinally-inclined way how much the cost of legal education has risen in recent years, and why. In what follows, all dollar amounts have been converted to constant, 2012 dollars.

School A is a hyper-elite law school at the very top of the legal academic hierarchy.

School B is a strong regional law school, which has always been ranked in the 30s and 40s since the advent of the pestilential USN rankings 25 years ago. (There are currently 202 ABA-accredited law schools).

The figures below are derived from the operating budgets for fiscal years 1996 and 2012 for School B. For School A, the figures are derived from its FY2012 operating budget, and from a reconstruction of its FY1996 budget, based on its tuition revenues and endowment income in that year, which I assume together made up the same percentage of its expenditures in FY1996 as they did in FY2012. (School A’s endowment tripled in real terms between FY1996 and FY2012. In 2012 School B’s total endowment was equal to 8% of School A’s. The schools are roughly the same size in terms of total student enrollment. Per student expenditures are calculated on the basis of all law students, both JD and non-JD.)

School A

Total expenditures per student in FY2012: $101,902

Total expenditures per student in FY1996, in 2012 dollars: $49,750

School B

Total expenditures per student in FY2012: $51,472

Total expenditures per student in FY1996, in 2012 dollars: $25,544

Basically, operating costs per student doubled in real terms at both schools over this 16-year stretch, so that Strong Regional was costing as much to run per student in 2012 as Hyper Elite had cost in 1996. During this time, Hyper-Elite’s operating costs per student have risen from 50% more than tuition to twice as much as tuition. Meanwhile, at School B, due to massive tuition hikes, the ratio between tuition and operating costs actually declined significantly between 1996 and 2012.

School B’s outputs, as measured by total legal employment percentage for new graduates, median salary for new graduates, bar passage rates, and law school ranking, did not improve between 1996 and 2012, either in absolute terms, or relative to other law schools. School A’s outputs did not improve between 1996 and 2012 by three of these four metrics, in either absolute or relative terms: median graduate salaries did improve in absolute (but not relative) terms.

What accounts for this extraordinary increase in operating costs at both schools?

This question can be answered with some precision for School B: by far the biggest factor has been the increase in personnel costs, and this in turn has been mostly a product of employing far more people.

For example, at School B, per capita tenure track faculty compensation increased by slightly less than 20% between FY1996 and FY2012, while non-tenure track faculty compensation increased by 16% (This means that if everything else had been held constant, operating expenses at School B would have been less than 10% higher in FY2012 than FY1996). But while per capita compensation increased relatively modestly, the number of faculty skyrocketed: the tenure track faculty was 45% larger in 2012, while the non-tenure track faculty increased by 64%. These increases were dwarfed, however, by the increase in non-teaching administrative staff, which nearly tripled. (For example, the office of career services grew from one full-time and one part-time employee, to six full-time people. By 2012 School B employed five people whose full-time job was various types of fund-raising; in 1996, one person had been engaged in this work).

While the same granular longitudinal comparison can’t be done for School A, School A did more than double the size of its teaching faculty between 1996 and 2012, so it seems likely that much of the doubling of operating costs at the school was driven by the same personnel factors that caused costs to double at School B. (Capital improvements also played a significant role at both schools, i.e., the so-called “amenities arms race.”).

What sort of improvements, if any, in regard to providing an “effective” legal education did this spending orgy produce? The answer of course is that we don’t know. As I noted above, increased spending at each school has seemed to have no effect on measurable outputs. Note too that a linear relation between increased spending and increased pedagogical effectiveness would mean that the legal education provided by School A in 2012 was four times as “effective” (whatever that is supposed to mean) as that produced by School B in 1996.

In sum, how plausible is it that these increased costs have been even minimally defensible, in terms of any conceivable cost-benefit analysis, from the perspective of the graduates of these law schools? To ask that question is to answer it.

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  • Alan Tomlinson

    I remember William Muir, Republican jack-ass and political science professor at UC Berkeley in the early 1980s specifically saying that one of the great things about Berkeley was that it had a law school, which has a very low faculty to student ratio, because it is highly profitable, compared to a medical school which is much more labor intensive.

    These idiots are protecting their rice bowls(obscure Sand Pebbles reference).

    Cheers,

    Alan Tomlinson

  • Ns

    It’s been discussed here a few times whether even the hys track makes sense from a purely economic perspective, given the oppurtunity costs, and that the path to partner or a nice in house gig is possibly more perilous now than it was a decade ago. Given the rate of growth of the cost of attendance at these schools, I guess the question is when this will even be debatable anymore. Though perhaps financial aid at these law schools is as generous as their undergrad counterparts?

    • BoredJD

      HYS are still true need-based aid. What this means for a typical middle-class applicant I’m not sure, but CCN give merit-based aid, and we get the following breakdown:

      % Students Receiving Any Grant:
      Yale: 57.6%
      Harvard: 47.5%
      Stanford: 53.6%
      Columbia: 45.7%
      Chicago: 64.3%
      NYU: 37.1%

      Now Chicago/Yale/Stanford are much smaller than Columbia/NYU/Harvard, which might account for the disparities. But we see a real difference in the % receiving half to full tuition (what reduces the COA down to a more palatable 200K all-in):

      % Students Receiving Half Tuition or Greater:

      Yale: 23.9%
      Harvard: 15.0%
      Stanford: 24.4%
      Columbia: 9.2%
      Chicago: 13.6%
      NYU: 10.2%

      At CCN, the students receiving the full or half scholarships are those the school is trying to buy away from HYS, usually with named scholarship awards like the Rubenstein or Hamilton. Even H with its 500 students gives more large schollies than Chicago.

      • Unemployed Northeastern

        *Shockingly,* NYU Law is as stingy with financial aid/grants as is NYU undergrad. Those vacation homes in the Hamptons the school gives to senior administrators gratis, uh, don’t pay for themselves?

    • BoredJD

      To expand on this a bit based on my observations of people with similar debt loads, on a biglaw salary you can get 200K or debt (or 300K) down to a reasonable amount in a few years by living very frugally, or you can stretch it out farther and do the 3.5K Manhattan apartment and the fancy restaurants. But the problem for law schools is that just because something is worth doing doesn’t mean it’s the best option. People who get into HYS usually have acceptable options in finance, politics, consulting, or another highly-desirable white collar field. HYS might have been a better deal 30 years ago when you’d be keeping as much of the (smaller) starting salary. But add 250K of debt in the mix, maybe that entry-level analyst or consulting gig looks a whole lot better.

      And for the few people at those schools who do not get a biglaw job, or those who get laid off in the first few years, they in a terrible bind.

      • toberdog

        “the few people at those schools who do not get a biglaw job”

        Really? Shouldn’t that be more along the lines of, “the majority of people, even from those schools, who do not have a successful career in biglaw”?

        • BoredJD

          That’s why I included “in a few years.” By the time they are kicked out of biglaw around years 3-5, someone putting 50K a year to their loans would have a balance serviceable on a midlaw, government, or in-house salary.

          • Lee Rudolph

            But surely someone beginning in Biglaw who (rightly or wrongly) thinks it is possible to stay in Biglaw will have an incentive to spend that $50K a year on the kind of status symbols thought necessary (rightly or wrongly) to increase the likelihood of not being kicked out, rather than on paying down loans. I mean, $50K doesn’t go far when you (think you) need a closet full of $2.5K suits.

            • BoredJD

              TLDR; the show Suits is flame.

              As for the dress, most biglaw firms are biz casual now. You need at most 2-3 suits for client meetings and trials, and they certainly don’t have to be new 2.5K bespoke suits. Plenty of associates troll the bargain rack at Lord & Taylor.

              As for other status symbols, I know a surprising number of associates with 160K jobs living with multiple roommates and foraging for free food at firm lunches.

          • Unemployed Northeastern

            Depends. For the really buried grads who financed a GW or NYU or similar, $300,000 in total student loans (including interest gained while in law school and undergrad loans) is not out of the question. Their standard payment will be about $3,600/month, or ~$43k/year for ten years. If they get the boot in years 3-5, they’ll still have oceans of principal left. For that matter, they’ll be eligible for IBR the whole time they are in BigLaw.

            Also, here’s an awesome quote from a real estate developer about new prospective offices in DC for BigLaw firms: “”I want to say this in very polite terms: The same way the corner offices are gone, these firms are becoming much more egalitarian,” said Jeff Sussman, Property Group Partners’ president. “Because, excuse me, sir, you may not be here in five years”.”

            Read more: http://www.nationallawjournal.com/id=1202655677542/Moves-by-Law-Firms-Could-Shift-Profession%27s-Center-of-Gravity#ixzz32BAXoCDN

      • Nobdy

        The terrible bind of having the school repay their loans through the low income protection plan ?

        • BoredJD

          Terrible bind is overstating it, but you might find people who are involuntarily on that plan wishing they’d taken an alternative career instead of being tied to a repayment program for 10 years.

          • Nobdy

            Absolutely, you may find many, but they are not financially demolihed the way people who don’t have that option can be, and it is certainly worth factoring into the wisdom of attending one of these elite schools. It’s actually somewhat unfair in my opinion that people with the best job prospects also get the best insurance in case those prospects don’t pan out as they’d hoped.

      • Jamie

        “But the problem for law schools is that just because something is worth doing doesn’t mean it’s the best option”

        That would be why law school’s desires are not a useful metric for what is good for participants.

    • Baldy

      the path to partner or a nice in house gig is possibly more perilous now than it was a decade ago

      There’s no “possibly” about it. The path is more perilous than it was a decade ago.

      • And, just so we are clear about this, that path was fraught back then too. When you spend the first seven years of your career doing document review you have not gained much useful experience. This is particularly true if what you were doing was work on highly technical matters.

  • Ian

    In what follows, all dollar amounts have been converted to constant, 2102 dollars.

    Typo, or sci-fi pessimism about the law schools of the far future?

  • Anonymous

    In what follows, all dollar amounts have been converted to constant, 2102 dollars.

    Interesting. Any tips on good investments for the next 88 years?

    • Tom Scudder

      Whoops, me. Also, too slow.

    • jon

      Plastics

      • Advocat

        Canned goods and shotguns.

        • Ahuitzotl

          Hilltop farms

          • LeeEsq

            Universities.

  • Law Prof kudos

    The obvious answer to the question “why does law school cost so much?” is “because it can.”

    Since 2005 there has been no discharge option for student debt. Since 2008 – 2009 there have been limitless GRAD Plus loans for the full cost of attendance.

    Why does health care cost so much? “Because it can.”

    Why does housing cost so much? “Because it can.”

    Not to sound all Cato Institution, but the government can create perverse incentives and distortions in each of these “markets” that removes pricing in any meaningful sense. If you allow purchases to be made without immediate price/cost evaluation and pain, you get the results you see.

    The alternative, of course, was a system where it was very difficult for most poor people to attend college. The present system now makes it easy for poor and middle class people to attend college, but impossible for them to afford college.

    • NewishLawyer

      I largely agree. Housing is a complicated issue especially with rent v. own. Home ownership seems to be more of a social good than an economic good but sometimes these social goods are much more necessary especially as people begin to live to very old ages.

      In San Francisco, we get stories every few months about a really old person who is being kicked out of their rental unit because the landlord wants to turn the building into condos and said old people have nowhere to go and they can’t afford at the market rate. There was an elderly Chinese immigrant couple who also took care of their disabled daughter. There was a 98 year old widow who has no one except her neighbors (who are also being Ellis Act evicted), and now I saw a story in the Chronicle about an elderly Eastern European immigrant couple with Section 8 vouchers who are in danger of evicition. The wife has dementia.

      There are a lot of economic downsides to home ownership and ownership is not the be all and end all but we need to come up with policies that help older renters who can’t work.

      • DAS

        Part of this is due to low mortgage interest rates as well as various avenues of government support for home ownerships (both to lenders and buyers), but, even ignoring the mortgage interest and property tax deductions, if you have saved some money for a healthy down payment, it is cheaper in my quasi-urban hellhole to purchase a co-op apartment than to rent an equivalent apartment. I.e. (mortgage payment + maintenance) < rent.

        Of course, you would have to have enough money for a down payment and live in one place long enough such that the difference in what you are paying to own a co-op vs. renting makes up for the costs of buying a home (fees, points, real estate agent commissions, etc.), and people have various other reasons for renting (flexibility when it comes time to move, etc.). But purely on a cost basis, at least where I live, if you are going to live in one place for more than about 5 years, it makes no "economic" sense to rent vs. buying.

        • NewishLawyer

          Do we have statistics on renters especially people who move from rental to rental? I’ve lived in my current rental for close to six years now (since June 2008). This is my longest rental. In NYC, it seemed fairly common for younger people to move every year or so. This is easy-ish at 23. Not so much when you are older.

    • Rob in CT

      Yeah, I think this is basically right.

    • BoredJD

      A very tiny quibble, but I hate when politicians talk about college “affordability.” All that means is that poor and middle-class people can afford, i.e., have enough money to pay for, college when the tuition bill comes due.

      Affordability isn’t the issue. It’s paying the money back that’s the problem. College shouldn’t be affordable- it should just be cheap.

      • toberdog

        I disagreed with you, above, but I totally agree with you on this one.

      • Unemployed Northeastern

        According to the April report from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, less than 40% of all outstanding federal student loans are currently 1) in repayment and 2) receiving timely and full monthly payments. We really are reaching 2008-09 subprime mortgage levels of nonpayment here.

        • Former Editor

          Except that in the case of educational debt there are no properties for lenders to foreclose on and no bankruptcy for debtors to use to escape life-long consequences.

          • Unemployed Northeastern

            …And instead of recognizing the problem and being proactive about it, as they are in Chile at the moment, the various *solutions* from different politicians for higher education are, in no particular order:

            1. Double the percentage of college graduates in the country because we are *falling behind*

            2. Retroactively eliminate some or all of the income-based repayment programs

            3. Make IBR the standard repayment plan, so even people with small loan amounts can be stuck in repayment and accumulating interest for 25 years.

            4. Eliminate GradPLUS loans, not to reduce the price of graduate school but to drive business back to Sallie, Nelnet, AccessGroup, et al and to restart the lucrative Student Loan Asset-Backed Securities market.

            • Just Dropping By

              3. Make IBR the standard repayment plan, so even people with small loan amounts can be stuck in repayment and accumulating interest for 25 years.

              That only happens with IBR is made the standard repayment plan and there’s no ability to prepayment. I haven’t heard of anybody proposing to prohibit students on IBR from paying off the full balance of their loans early if they somehow find the cash for it.

              • Unemployed Northeastern

                Oh, they wouldn’t ban prepayment before they make IBR the only repayment option…

            • DAS

              Double the percentage of college graduates in the country because we are *falling behind*

              You forgot: Double the percentage of students admitted to college and then also (in part out of “concern” for how much students would have to pay for college if they don’t get a degree in four years) insist that we get all those students we are supposed to admit through college in four years. And, no, they don’t want us to lower standards … if anything, they want us not to engage in grade inflation and certainly to keep standards high.

              And, oh yes, if you point out that those students are not ready for college, they will say “well you shouldn’t have admitted those students to your college then” and/or start blaming K-12 teachers’ unions.

        • UserGoogol

          But Federal Student Loans are by definition backed in full by the Federal government, so there shouldn’t be much concern of 2008-2009-style financial crisis. Students won’t pay, the Federal government will take the loss, the end.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      “because it can” = Supply is limited and demand is large.

      One really needs to distinguish “Law school COST” from “Law school PRICE”, because it’s not as if reducing the cost of running a law school will reduce the price students have to pay.

      (BTW, this isn’t just law school, it’s a vast amount of higher-ed that has the same economic issues)

      If you want the PRICE to decrease, you need either lower demand, which seems to be happening, or more competition for supply.

      Yustabee, state schools set their PRICE as (COST-SUBSIDY+%), and their ‘public option’ competition could hold down prices overall. No longer.

  • BoredJD

    I have to at least give Diamond credit, despite regurgitating the same stuff he was spouting when he came on the scene, he actually engaged with the economic portion of Scalia’s speech. Every other post I’ve seen focuses on the curriculum issue with only a footnote about the “hey you guys ought to be paid less and teach more.”

    Law professors do not seem to fundamentally understand that if they go back to the cost/size structure of even 30 years ago, the scamblog movement largely goes away. If they tinker with their curriculum and not their economics, it’s not going to bring people back to law school. There might be other good reasons to change the curriculum, but the underlying economics have to make sense.

    Or they understand this and don’t want to face it, because the monster under your bed only comes alive if you talk about it.

    • Orin Kerr

      I think a lot of law professors are talking about it. They’re just not blogging about it.

      • Lee Rudolph

        Could you give an educated guess as to the relative sizes of
        (NUMBER OF LAW PROFESSORS TALKING ABOUT IT)/(NUMBER OF LAW PROFESSORS) and (NUMBER OF LAW PROFESSORS BLOGGING ABOUT IT)/(NUMBER OF LAW PROFESSORS WHO BLOG)?

        • Orin Kerr

          (NUMBER OF LAW PROFESSORS TALKING ABOUT IT)/(NUMBER OF LAW PROFESSORS) = .4

          (NUMBER OF LAW PROFESSORS BLOGGING ABOUT IT)/(NUMBER OF LAW PROFESSORS WHO BLOG)= .01

      • Unemployed Northeastern

        Especially since most of the prawf blawgging sites seem to be down today. TaxProf and that whole network, Faculty Lounge, etc. Cloudfare seems to be the common thread for all of them.

  • NewishLawyer

    I am going to expand and riff to all higher education.

    Has there ever been an college/university that sold itself successfully on offering a spartan but low cost education? Cooper Union used to be free but that seems to be an exception and it was a decision to build fancy new buildings that caused them to charge cash.

    How spartan or old or disrepaired can educational buildings and facilities be before student revolt and/or are turned off by the spartan nature?

    This seems to be an uneding arms race. My undergrad college adviser told me that his father showed up at college with a battered suit case and two-three changes of clothes. Now students seem to bring their entire bedrooms from home. Elite institutions might be slightly more able to offer spartan accommodations because the buildings are old and nice looking but eventually they have to be made more comfortable and up to date technologically.

    There is also probably a collective action problem of no one wanting to be the brave soul who says no to fancy buildings and fun stuff.

    Higher education students are a weird mix of student/kid who needs to follow the rules (no cheating, do your work, campus codes of conducts, etc.), consumers, and future donors. We can’t decide what they are but it does seem that when they complain or revolt, we treat them like teenagers.

    I’m serious about my question on how spartan can a college/university be and would like real answers instead of the Monty Python Yorkshiremen sketch. It seems to me the answer is not very spartan.

    • jon

      It seems that a lot of colleges have decided that they need to compete by offering a campus that would make a resort spa jealous. That doesn’t come free. But the whole country has ratcheted up what is considered an acceptable baseline of services and amenities in almost every area – and that isn’t necessarily wrong.

      But I have to think that the explosion in administrative, managerial and support staff costs a great deal more than facilities and educational provision creep over the years. It’s a natural feature of bureaucracies to want to expand, and that means more personnel and expanded scope. More staff= more power. The larger the edifice, the more important and valuable we are.

    • LeeEsq

      Fitzgerald once famously quipped that Princeton was the most plesant country club in the nation. I think that elite colleges always had some very nice amenities compared to other universities. If your catering to the upper classes, the children of Rockefellers and Vanderbilts, than you can’t afford to go to spartan. Less elite colleges could because of the socio-economics of their students.

      One reason why more and more colleges are offering luxury hotel accomodation and amenities is because the standard of living has risen a lot. When many of your students came from larger families and had to share bedrooms and bunch of other things, stuffing them into dorm rooms was more acceptable. If most kids have their own bedrooms their entire lives than they aren’t going to react well to suddenly having to live with at least another person.

      Since education at private schools is at least something like a consumer experience, your going to have to offer them somthing.

      • Unemployed Northeastern

        “Fitzgerald once famously quipped that Princeton was the most plesant country club in the nation. I think that elite colleges always had some very nice amenities compared to other universities.”

        I can assure you Fitzgerald meant that as an allusion to the social standing of the student body (and the lack of rigor in the education), not to the quality of their dorms, which was not great.

        P.S. Fitzgerald’s quote dates from not too long after Harvard president Charles Eliot called his own institution a repository for the “stupid sons of the rich.”

        • LeeEsq

          Your probably right. Princeton did have its infamous eating clubs, which were probably somewhat luxurious.

          Charles Eliot wanted to keep the Jews out of Harvard, its his own fault. Many of our elite institutions weren’t really elite academically until after World War II.

          • Lee Rudolph

            Fifty years after Fitzgearld, the eating clubs weren’t (as far as I could ever tell, mostly from outside, although I once represented the Woodrow Wilson Society in a billards tournament that took me into a few of them) luxurious; their attraction (aside from the undoubted attraction to some of being able to be very, very exclusive) lay in avoiding taking meals in the Commons (which would have been very familiar to the all the prep-school boys, of course) and being able to drink oneself into a stupor. There was a set of tennis courts on campus, and a golf course nearby (between the campus and what would later be the IAS), though I have no idea if students ever golfed there. As Unemployed Northeastern stated, the quality of the dorms was not great (but again was undoubtedly very comparable to those at the Great Prep Schools); showers and water closets (without doors! can’t encourage buggery!!) were located in the basements.

            • Unemployed Northeastern

              “There was a set of tennis courts on campus, and a golf course nearby (between the campus and what would later be the IAS), though I have no idea if students ever golfed there.”

              Williams College, which like Princeton is a vessel for the wealthy, owns/operates what is often considered the most beautiful golf course in New England: Taconic.

    • Richard Hershberger

      I have been saying for years now that there is a market opportunity here. We have a glut of un- or under-employed PhDs. We have a problem of grossly overpriced colleges. So those PhDs can form a collective, lease some appropriate space (perhaps one of those Catholic high schools we read about closing), hire a secretary and a janitor to keep the place running, draw straws with the short straw being college president, and open shop, charging enough tuition to pay expenses and a bit more to build a rainy-day fund. If some prospective student complains that the cafeteria doesn’t have a sushi bar, and where the hell is the climbing wall, kick him the hell out the door. It is perfectly obvious that the high cost of a college education is due to some combination of expensive shiny toys and bureaucratic bloat. Start over from scratch. Sure, eventually this new institution will go the way of the Cooper Institute. At that point, start over again.

      • The real challenges are:

        1) Accreditation

        and

        2) Status

        Now I would have thought that 1 was already dealt with by community colleges. But then why don’t community colleges bootstrap themselves to glory by this strategy? I’m presuming 2 kicks in.

        • Richard Hershberger

          I don’t know enough about how accreditation works to know how much of a problem it is. If you have legitimate faculty, does the accrediting agency balk due to the absence of sushi bars and climbing walls?

          For that matter, how is this different from a Catholic college? My wife went to a smallish Catholic school and was taught by actual nuns. This wasn’t exactly recent (sorry, Hon!) but neither was it all *that* long ago.

          As for community colleges, I know a guy who is a professor at the community college just up the road from my office. I have lunch with him a few times a year, in the main dining hall. It is far more extravagant than my dining hall back in the day, at a major state university. Credit where credit is due: the food is excellent. But frugality clearly is not a major factor.

          • NewishLawyer

            My law school is part of a Jesuit university. The law school is pretty free of any influence of Catholicism except closing early on Good Friday and having the library closed on Easter Sunday. The dean during my time there was Jewish. The previous dean was Jewish. Much of the faculty was Jewish.

            One professor joked with me that I counted as diversity at my school because I was an east-coast Jewish guy. Another professor heard that quip and added “but he isn’t diverse from the faculty.” Said professor who countered was also an East Coast Jewish-American.

            The other schools were also basically nominally Catholic. As far as I can tell only the admin (President and Provost, etc) were actual members of the Catholic clergy. The campus is a very liberal West Coast university.

            • burritoboy

              Since you’re talking about either Santa Clara University or USF, there’s simply not enough Jesuits to actually have them teach anything beyond theology (besides being in administration).

          • Lee Rudolph

            If you have legitimate faculty, does the accrediting agency balk due to the absence of sushi bars and climbing walls?

            The accrediting agency will definitely balk at the lack of a library; and libraries (or the equivalent in electronic subscriptions) are a huge capital outlay.

            • JoyfulA

              And accreditation isn’t available until a school is up and running for X years, right?

              It’s a great idea, except I wouldn’t want any kid of mine graduating from, or attempting to transfer from, an unaccredited college.

              • UserGoogol

                Would it be viable to run a university as an Adult Education school until the accreditation comes in? Start out teaching people who just want to learn for self-enrichment, build up a nice reputation there, and then once you get accreditation you can start getting more money out of people who want an actual diploma.

                • You’re going to have a hard time, I’d guess, competing with existing things e.g., Continuing ed programs at colleges and universities, community colleges, and then high schools and community centres.

                  Obviously, not impossible, but the bootstrap path is not obvious, since if you start at the end where things like accreditation and status don’t matter, there’s no clear “next steps” that help you move over. (AFAICT)

            • If you have legitimate faculty, does the accrediting agency balk due to the absence of sushi bars and climbing walls?

              The point is that accreditation is a lot of work. See the criteria.

              Just for a single department you have to develop a curriculum, progression standards, grievance handling, FERPA compliance, etc. etc. etc. It’s non trivial.

              Just handling finances is not trivial.

              I think that it’d be a lot easier to take an existing institution and streamline it than it would be to bootstrap a new one. For people without financial and institutional (or discipline) clout, I think it would be hard.

              There are a lot of barriers to entry.

        • NewishLawyer

          These are big problems. They could do a neat worker’s college though.

      • DAS

        Such a college will work well for kids of middle class college educated parents, but such parents wouldn’t send their kids to such a college until it has status. It would be too spartan for rich kids, and it wouldn’t provide enough academic support for poor kids who often don’t have the “soft skills” for college (in part because they have gone to underperforming schools and our “solution” for underperforming schools is to have them spend all their time administering standardized tests — so no time to work on study skills, problem solving, time management, etc. … and also to adhere strictly to “standards”, which “standards” are oftentimes very poorly thought out and counterproductive), unless you have the faculty, in addition to having full teaching loads, act as mentors, tutors, etc. And also, who is going to manage the computer infrastructure, maintain the laboratory equipment (which also needs to be purchased to teach STEM students the skills they will need to learn as STEM students), etc? Do you have your faculty do that as well?

        So you’ll either have an overworked and hence energetically drained faculty (and a key predictor of student success is having an engaged, interested and dynamic faculty) or you will start having the same sort of bloat that currently infect our colleges.

        Already one of the advantages of working at a fancier college is that the additional support staff frees faculty to work on their teaching skills and on scholarship. When you have less support for faculty, you have more overworked and less dynamic faculty, which negatively impacts student learning outcomes.

    • L2P

      Has there ever been an college/university that sold itself successfully on offering a spartan but low cost education?

      Besides every community college? In California you see a lot of ads for community colleges basically saying it’s a cheap and easy way to get into a UC school. I know a bunch of people that went to OCC or SMCC or SBCC instead of going to a UC school because it was cheaper.

      • anon

        Berea College and College of the Ozarks both offer that.

        Which is great, I guess, except that they’re the only two that come to mind out of thousands of colleges in the US…

      • NewishLawyer

        Besides Community Colleges. I also know people who did two years at community college before moving onto a UC or CSU.

        • That was my educational path – Modesto Junior College followed by CSU Stanislaus.

    • djw

      Has there ever been an college/university that sold itself successfully on offering a spartan but low cost education?

      I’ve noticed a few community colleges around here (SW Ohio) using this marketing strategy, specifically highlighting the smaller loans and loan payments associated with two years living at home going to CC + 2 years of OSU, as compared to 4 years OSU, for the same degree. (Smaller classes and more individualized attention also get mentioned, but the $ advantages are the primary focus of the ads).

  • MacK

    In other words, over a two decades in which all sorts of tools showed up to improve productivity – and indeed lawyers have been expected to become more productive – ranging from word processors to online databases such as Lexis and Westlaw; where most companies have been able to automate a vast array of administrative tasks – where target billable hours for lawyers in large firms have soared over 2000 p.a. and clients have learned to squeeze lawyers on bills – productivity in the United States’ law schools has worse than halved…and the number of administrators to do routine tasks and their salaries have soared.

  • jon

    You might see some downward pressure on law school costs, if it was still possible for a person to clerk for a lawyer for a few years, then take their chances passing the Bar.

    • Downpuppy

      It still is possible in California, as mentioned in Diamond’s piece. Also, being fair to him, he does mention the obvious:

      Far more important in the cost structure has been the riskier bureaucratic trend found across academia of beefing up the hiring of all sorts of “academic staff” who help lower faculty-student ratios and boost per capita student spending but may be doing very little to improve educational outcomes. At the same time these efforts dilute heavily the academic and policy impact of traditional tenure track faculty. This is great for deans and provosts and presidents who like to have chess pieces they can move around – something of a challenge when it comes to tenure track faculty. But the value to the profession of law is very much more in doubt.

      The rest of what he says is rubbish, but somebody had to point out the good bits.

      • MacK

        Of course when you consider this bulking up in administration, you start to realise something. A lot of this work was, 20-50 years ago done by the faculty themselves. There were faculty committees that dealt with admissions – faculty members that managed the facilities (or took turns doing so), etc., library committees, alumni relations committees and so on. Faculty members helped deal with career placement (which was easier when there were less than 2 law graduates per job.) In effect a lot of the administrators have been hired to free faculty members from the boring admin that many had to take turns doing, so released from these duties, and with their teaching load halved, they had much more time to devote to scholarship.

        • Former Editor

          And that devotion to scholarship has paid off in the development of the law. Just look at the boom in reliance on faculty scholarship in judicial opinions.

          • MacK

            FE, with that level of cynicism you might be a decent lawyer

            • Former Editor

              Thanks?

              • MacK

                ???

                I’m tired

                • Former Editor

                  I think we are dealing with an internet sarcasm fail.

        • Cynical Prof

          I don’t know how this applies to law schools, but at Second Tier State U where I teach, those faculty committees still exist. But us faculty can never seem to actually get any constructive work done on them; even when the work of the faculty on such committees relates to our own scholarly expertise, we can’t seem to produce constructive results most of the time. Of course, even when we do produce something constructive, the admin ignores us and does their own thing anyway, so why should we even try.

          Meanwhile faculty are still expected to spend time on those committees and in other service assignments, and our teaching loads are actually higher as we need to teach larger classes and supervise more adjuncts (because full time faculty lines haven’t kept pace with increased enrollment). And the expectations for scholarship have gone up.

          Something’s gotta give … so it’s no wonder our service work is less than constructive and the admin takes it over.

  • ichininosan

    It takes a special kind of cognitive dissonance to defend the high cost of attending law school, when for Santa Clara students:

    1. The annual cost of attendance is $78,170;
    2. The percentage of 2013 graduates who obtained any full-time JD-required employment nine months after graduation (excluding solo practitioners) is 42%; and
    3. The percentage of 2013 graduates who obtained big law firm or federal clerkship positions nine months out is 15%.

  • ajay

    For School A, the figures are derived from its FY2012 operating budget, and from a reconstruction of its FY1996 budget, based on its tuition revenues and endowment income in that year, which I assume together made up the same percentage of its expenditures in FY1996 as they did in FY2012.

    Why might tuition have gone up so much at law schools between 1996 and 2012?

    Let’s find out! First, let’s assume that tuition (and endowment) was exactly the same compared to expenditures in 1996 as it was in 2012…

    • Paul Campos

      This is actually a very favorable assumption in regard to School A’s 2012 operating costs per student relative to the same figure in 1996, as it assumes that the school wasn’t producing a larger percentage operating surplus in 1996 than in 2012 (although it probably was).

      In other words, you’re once again making a criticism based on a failure to understand even the most basic aspects of the subject matter, just as you did when you thought it was significant that I omitted $350K in adjunct salaries from an $18 million dollar salary pool when analyzing the proportion of tuition that went to pay law faculty at New England Law School.

      • ajay

        You’re defending a comparison of two school budgets which you made without actually having access to one of the budgets. Really, this didn’t set off any alarm bells at all?

        Though I’m flattered that you have perfect recall (numerical, even) of a comment which I can’t even remember making.

    • Morse Code for J

      I’m sure there’s a great reason for doubling tuition. I mean, it didn’t change how classes were taught or how students were evaluated between 1996 and 2012. Or how frequently graduates found jobs of any kind, much less jobs suitable to the time and money invested. I am nonetheless sure there is a reason, and that it is a great one.

  • Steve Diamond is without a doubt my favorite example of “idiotic law professor defends his self interest despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary.” Leong, Barros, Freedman, McElroy, & Friends all give him a good effort. But it’s Diamond’s commitment to ridiculousness that really sets him apart, in my most humble opinion.

    I legit wish we could get a GIF of Steve’s boss’ reaction every time he engages with the public.

    Actually, maybe that is why he is so adamant about defending the status quo? He must actually know what lurks behind the veil . . .

    • Lee Rudolph

      Actually, maybe that is why he is so adamant about defending the status quo? He must actually know what lurks behind the veil . . .

      Wait, has this thread suddenly merged with the Stephen King thread?

      • I was sticking with BoredJD’s monster-under-the-bed theme. I would never insult Mr. King by mentioning the unpleasant fact that he and Flawless Diamond share first names.

        • Ahuitzotl

          Well its not possible for Prof Diamond to be one of King’s characters – SK is famous for writing sympathetic characters that readers identify with.

          • OhioDocReviewer

            Steve Diamond could be another Greg Stillson. They’re both insincere con men looking out for themselves, all the while pretending to care for the plight of the little guy.

    • LeeEsq

      “Its hard to make a man understand the facts when his salary depends on him not understanding.”

    • Barry

      “Steve Diamond is without a doubt my favorite example of “idiotic law professor defends his self interest despite a mountain of evidence to the contrary.” Leong, Barros, Freedman, McElroy, & Friends all give him a good effort. But it’s Diamond’s commitment to ridiculousness that really sets him apart, in my most humble opinion. ”

      It’s that blithe, slimy willingness to endlessly repeat BS. He’s got more endurance than the rest put together.

  • DAS

    Not about law school costs per se but perhaps relevant: my university recently had a symposium on improving graduation rates. Two key factors are tuition and lack of support for students. But providing additional support (i.e. more tutoring, more staff to help with students who have special needs, more full time faculty vs adjuncts) costs $$$. How do we keep tuition low enough so students don’t have to work so many hours they can’t concentrate on school while still providing the “support” students need?

    Of course, it would help if our state actually supported our public institution …

    • Former Editor

      Additional time required doesn’t necessarily mean additional staff required. Already existent university employees can be refocused. A way that springs to mind for me would be to mandate or promote significant faculty hours devoted to helping students. For example, hours devoted and graduation rate among mentored students could become part of the pre- and post-tenure review processes.

      • DAS

        The university keeps threatening to hire outside staff to take over mentoring and advisement duties. Such staff have historically been rather incompetent at taking over such duties from the faculty, so the faculty largely see this as a ploy to take whatever credits/extra $$$ we get for mentoring and advising out of the contract (after all someone else is doing the job) and then, when the hired staff proves to be incompetent, they will give the job back to the faculty, but without us getting any credits/extra pay for it. And, oh yes, you will still be expected to have the same scholarly output, same service obligations and same teaching load as when you were not advising/mentoring. Also, if you do a poor job at advising, that will be used as an excuse to get rid of your or deny you a promotion, but doing a best job in the whole university of it will only land you a certificate to that effect.

        Of course, one problem with the “have faculty take on all these duties” approach is, however, that there are some faculty we want as far away from student advising and mentoring as possible. ;)

        • Former Editor

          If the faculty are already mentoring and advising to the extent that they are actually capable, and there is still a big problem, it seems to me that would reasonably suggest to the university that some other approach is necessary.

          • Anonymous

            how about eliminating some of those overpaid, superfluous administrative layers, and direct those savings to hiring more full-time faculty, or competent, outside advisors/tutors? oh, wait, that almost makes sense. never mind!

            back in the day, at my state school, admin was mostly not seen or heard. I had a 2 second meet-n-greet, with the president, at some freshmen orientation picnic thing. I knew the dean of the school of business, because he also taught statistics, and I had him for 101 & 102. that was pretty much it, for 4 years. somehow, I graduated, and the school continues to survive, albeit with a larger student body, more and bigger dorms/apts., etc., etc., etc. and, no doubt, far more admins. most of whom also never meet most of the student body.

            had I known this back in the day, I’d have gone ahead and double-majored in history & English, figuring I’d eventually become a college/university admin., solving my unreasonable desire to eat regularly, and have a roof over my head.

  • According to the Dr. Pangloss of the legal academic status quo, it’s because of reasons:

    Reminds me of how, during my former life as a superexpatbusinessman in China, flights would be announced as “Delayed due to . . . delay”. This wasn’t a mistranslation or anything – it made no more sense in English than it did in Chinese.

  • Advocat

    I’d read Diamond’s statement, but he’s still banning my IP address (along with many others, I assume).

    Because nothing says open academic debate like banning your critics from reading anything on your web page.

    • Concerned_Citizen

      If you google the URL itself (http://stephen-diamond.com/?p=5283) then open using “cached”, I think you will be able to see it despite the ban.

      • Advocat

        Oh, of course, the ban is easy to get around – it’s just the extraordinary pettiness of having a ban.

        I mean, many sites ban posting by certain commenters, but Diamond seems to be unique in banning reading of his blog by people he doesn’t like.

        I guess he doesn’t want “law school truthers” contaminating his blog by reading it.

        • Lee Rudolph

          He’s protecting your head from exploding?

        • Concerned_Citizen

          I only *ever* read his or Buzz Leitbeer’s in cached.

          I may be mistaken, but I believe (hope!) doing so denies them of my visitor count?

          My own personal pettiness!

        • Richard Hershberger

          “I mean, many sites ban posting by certain commenters, but Diamond seems to be unique in banning reading of his blog by people he doesn’t like.”

          Not true. I got banned from reading Popehat because of my comments, which were explicitly acknowledged to be consistently on-topic, but due to their “tone,” whatever that means. I was not terribly surprised by being banned from commenting. Many self-described “libertarians” turn out to be petty authoritarians when given an opportunity. Being banned (ineffectually, to the exact extent I care) was more petty than what I had previously encountered.

    • Anonymous

      “Because nothing says open academic debate like banning your critics from reading anything on your web page.”

      sounds like he’s taken a lesson from his law school: ban critical comments, and the level of critical commentary drops significantly.

      • BoredJD

        The lesson is that any opinion unaccompanied by a CV allowing people to evaluate your prestige relative to the speaker is simply background noise.* Otherwise you might have to resort to practices like “blind peer review” (shudders).

        *See http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2333771

  • Morse Code for J

    Ah, yes, Steve. The Simkovic/McIntyre paper. The “only serious effort” to analyze the lifetime earnings of attorneys, as represented by fewer than 0.1% of law school graduates over the sampled period and with zero data to differentiate outcomes by school or practice area. The one that claims that we all earn an average of a million dollars over the course of a lifetime just by having a JD, no matter where it’s from or whether we get jobs as attorneys.

    Whores like Diamond are why I don’t feel bad about arguments concerning law school duplicity that aren’t entirely fair to law schools.

    • Former Editor

      On the bright side, Diamond appears to be conceding that the After the JD studies aren’t “serious efforts” at determining real JD outcomes. That’s more than can be said for quite a few other defenders of the status quo.

    • Unemployed Northeastern

      Don’t forget about S&M’s lesser-discussed conclusions and assertions on Balkinization and Leiter’s sites: that there is no bimodal salary distribution for law school graduates, that the rank of law school has no impact on earnings, that the 25th percentile of law school graduates is the same cohort as the 25th percentile of college graduates, and that there is not and cannot ever be systemic or structural change in the profession of law, even as the leaders of the ABA, NALP, major law firms, state bar associations, and everyone else says that there are structural changes in the profession underway this very moment.

      Perhaps that is because even law professors know that these other conclusions are patently bogus and counter to reality.

  • Jake

    What is the correct move for a university that discovers that it’s only real purpose is as high quality signalling for the students that get in?

    • Paul Campos

      From the self-interested perspective of the school’s most powerful employees, the answer would seem to be to do everything to obscure this for as long as possible.

      • DAS

        I dunno. I can imagine there would be ways of embracing such a reality.

    • BoredJD

      The Architect: The function of the GRADPLUS is now to bail out the deans and professors, allowing a temporary dissemination of them into select seven-figure biglaw partnerships. After which you will be required to select from the testing center 23 individuals, 16 female, 7 male, to rebuild the law school. Failure to comply with this process will result in a cataclysmic system crash killing everyone connected to the profession, which coupled with the closing of the law schools will ultimately result in the extinction of the entire human race.
      Neo: You won’t let it happen, you can’t. You need law students to survive.
      The Architect: There are levels of survival we are prepared to accept.

      • Morse Code for J

        I’m going to enjoy watching you laid off, Mr. Diamond.

  • Stupid question, but does anyone know if SCU is under extreme financial stress from the precipitous plummet in LS applicants? Basically, is Steve Diamond himself actually under any pressure, or is he just defending the status quo for the hell of it?

    • BoredJD

      Why would anyone who can get a job as CEO of a non-profit “at a salary more than 3x my faculty salary” ever be concerned about losing his current job?

      Rob Illig thought he was going to make seven-figures as a M+A partner in NYC. Diamond took that reasoning to a whole new level of crazy.

      • I agree, it is peculiar that a man with such robust and lucrative employment options would so vehemently oppose any sort of change to the LS cost structure.

      • Lawrence Butterball Tyson

        I make 300k as a small firm partner and greatly regret becoming a lawyer. It is horrible stressful work which I’d happily trade for tenure profship making 100k.

        Campos is doing God’s work with his high profile scam blogging.

      • Concerned_Citizen

        I would guess (and it is just a guess) that SD’s straight salary (not his total comps) is on the order of 160.

        I guess I’m just naive but what ethical non-profit hires a brand new CEO in at around $500K? Screen Actors Guild, as it turns out…. and he was indeed the leading candidate.

        It’s interesting to note that it appears negotiations broke down because Hollywood Steve wanted EVEN MORE salary than they were willing to pay.

        (From LATimes article).
        “Sources close to the guild said Diamond withdrew his name from consideration Wednesday after seeking a higher salary than the union was willing to pay.”

        • It makes sense, I mean he’s getting 160k now to do very little work. Can you imagine how much he would have to be paid to do quite a bit of work?!

    • MacK

      I think it must be hang problems. Santa Clara University itself is pretty highly regarded:
      Forbes:
      #72 Overall
      #59 in Private Colleges
      #12 in the West
      US News ranks it #2 as a Master’s College
      Kiplinger #39 in Best Value Private Colleges

      So as a college/university it is pretty highly ranked.

      On the other hand the law school – oh dear – it is very much of a “you went where” school and in the lower half of US law schools. In short to SCU the law school looks to be an embarrassment.

      • Unemployed Northeastern

        The Forbes rankings are even more bullshit than the US News rankings. At least the US News rankings are fairly stable. I went to one of the NESCAC liberal arts colleges.* All pretty much have the same rank in US News year in, year out, decade in, decade out. In the three or four years Forbes has been around, my NESCAC school has bounced around several dozen places, as have several other liberal arts colleges. One year, it was ranked higher than half the Ivies. Now I’m not sure if it is even ranked as highly as Santa Clara. Whatever their methodology is, it needs work.

        In any event, we all know what Silicon Valley’s hiring proclivities are like – they’re basically the same as getting hired by Goldman or Justice or Cravath. Pedigree, pedigree, pedigree. Granted, the list of accepted pedigrees is a bit different to allow for the Claremont schools and Harvey Mudd and Caltech, etc et al, but I doubt the list includes Santa Clara any more than the acceptable list for Boston Consulting Group or Bain includes BU and Northeastern.

        *NESCAC: Williams, Amherst, Bowdoin, Bates, Colby, Middlebury, Hamilton, Tufts, Trinity, Wesleyan, Connecticut College.

      • So would that make it a likely candidate for closure if the parent university decides that it is a cost-center? Or does the relative high rank of SCU as a whole mean that they will continue to subsidize Diamond & Friends? Serious question.

        • MacK

          My own view (and UNE I agree with you in general about rankings) is that SCU is more likely to close the law school because it is perceived as being a pretty poor law school while the overall university is reasonably well regarded in a number of fields. In short the law school is a drag on SCU’s reputation (and that is before Diamond’s antics are figured in.)

          The only issue for SCU in closing the law school is the sense that there might be a “repetitional hit” from doing it. I suspect it is the concern for the repetitional injury that has caused a number of private colleges to keep the law school going – that and the desire to be seen as comprehensive in supporting various schools (which makes it easier to be a “university” as opposed to just a “college.”

          So is SC-law in trouble – yes I think it probably is, but possibly not in immediate trouble. It is more likely to be a school that closes when a few earlier schools have closed – i.e., one that closes once the wave gets going and shuttering the law school starts to be seen as a prescient and brave act by a university and not an admission of failure. This is why my prediction is that once the first 3-5 announce that they are closing a wave of others will follow – and that in part depends on who closes early.

          • MacK

            how did my spellchecker get “repetitional” – is it even a word. Reputational is what I meant.

          • Advocat

            But there are intermediate alternatives – there is another Jesuit institution with a struggling law school up the road in San Francisco. You could merge the two law schools, and babble about “repositioning” and “synergy”, etc.

            If, hypothetically, you merged the law schools, with the remaining campus in San Francisco, I wonder if tenured faculty at Santa Clara would have the right to demand jobs at the new campus.

        • ichininosan

          “So would that make it a likely candidate for closure if the parent university decides that it is a cost-center?”

          From the University perspective, the question is whether the reputational gain in having a law school outweighs the actual cost in paying for a law school and the reputational cost in having a school with a weak reputation. In Santa Clara’s case, the median student has a 3.22 uGPA and a 157 LSAT score.

          Steve’s piece appears to be written with the University administrator audience in mind, which is evidently why he writes:

          “In other words, it is a mistake to think narrowly about complex economic considerations. That means, of course, that universities have an obligation to step up and defend the place of law schools as part of their institutions when they are under economic pressure.”

          • The plot thickens!

            Steve here isn’t even talking to us, he’s talking to the SCU decision-makers! Oh man do I wish he allowed comments on his blog. Maybe I will email them and send them to this thread and JDU.

  • JustRuss

    While I hate to defend administrative bloat, citing an increase in the number of fund raisers probably isn’t a good example. If the joint I work at is any indication, hiring fundraisers is a pretty solid investment. In the last decade we’ve seen our endowment explode from a a few million dollars to several hundred million due to aggressive fundraising. Of course, tuition is still increasing, but we have lots of new buildings….

    • MacK

      As I mentioned earlier – the problem with the administrative bloat is that it reflects faculty sloughing off the administrative duties that they used to take turns dealing with – so they could instead devote more time to scholarship….

    • Former Editor

      I’d also add that this appears to vary quite a bit with the institution. If you take a look at the tax documents of a number of the lower ranked schools, you will see that the costs associated with “fundraising” sometimes come pretty close to the total amount fund-raised in a given year.

    • Morse Code for J

      Problem: people don’t take the LSAT or sign a promissory note because they want to help with capital improvements to an academic institution.

  • DAS

    per capita tenure track faculty compensation increased by slightly less than 20% between FY1996 and FY2012, while non-tenure track faculty compensation increased by 16%

    I presume those percentages are after taking into account inflation (i.e. comparing salaries as adjusted to 2012 dollars)? I find these figures unusual in and of themselves. I know at my institution faculty (baseline) salaries tend to only go up with inflation — some years the COLA is greater than inflation but that just makes up for the years in which the COLA is less than inflation. The only way the per capita faculty compensation would increase (after adjusting for inflation) is if the average seniority of the faculty increases (we do get step raises and promotions after all) or if we are hiring more experienced folks who can command higher wages when they start. In either case, presumably there is increased value (more seasoned faculty or more experienced faculty) for the increased pay. If the faculty had the same seniority/experience distribution now as it did in 1996, after adjusting for inflation, you’d have the same (more or less) distribution of salaries and hence no per capita increase in faculty costs.

    Are things that much different with law school faculties? Are they getting pay raises that we aren’t?

  • Anonymous

    Sending my children to college, I don’t see where law schools are all that much more expensive than undergraduate schools. My daughter could have gone to the University of Miami for about $60,000 per year (including room and board) to major in communications or she could have gone to Florida State University for the cost of a dorm room. Her tuition was covered by a Prepaid college plan purchased years ago, which means her tuition at FSU is about $75.00 per credit hour vs. $1700 per credit hour at UM). It wasn’t a hard decision for her. She got a new car by going to FSU. But how do private schools like UM or UNY justify charging so damn much for so little? What is a degree in communications worth?

    • ichininosan

      Even the worst law schools have a $60K+ plus COA. There are not many schools that charge significantly less, and significantly less in this context is more like $35K. An example of the latter category is Florida State, and its $38K COA for state residents. This is what passes for a “bargain” among law schools today.

      And these so-called bargains exist almost exclusively at the lower-ranked law public schools. If you happen to live in a state with premium law school, there privileges of state residency disappear. Michigan’s COA is $68K+ for its residents / $71,484 for non-residents.

  • JCougar

    I think it’s safe to say that Stephen Diamond is just mind-blowingly dumb, and nothing else needs any further explanation.

  • Gwen

    I wonder if, to a certain degree, the rise in cost at law schools (whi ch I will assume is above and beyond that of ordinary higher ed inflation) is because of the competitiveness of the legal market.

    Too few legal jobs –> Vicious cycle in which students must be more marketable to become lawyers –> Vicious cycle in which schools must try everything (cost effective or not) to convince potential students that attending their school will make them more marketable.

    With that said, I have a strong suspicion that the quality of lawyers turned out by law schools hasn’t really improved much in the past 20 years. In fact it may have fallen, since they accept more students.

    I think the most likely explanation (and this applies to education generally) is that the reduction in state support has made universities/law schools function more like for-profit corporations, including setting tuition at “whatever-we-can-convince-suckers-to-pay-us” (in economese, “market-determined pricing”) rather than “what-is-fair-and/or-what-we-actually-need-to-charge-so-that-we-can-provide-you-a-decent-education” (“socially-determined pricing”). For decades, law schools were held substantially underpriced, even before scholarships and financial aid.

  • Gwen

    One thing I noticed when I was in school was how the University of Houston seemed to want to promote a bunch of specialist centers. E.g. the Health Law and Policy Center, the Environmental Law Center, etc. Nobody needs to take a single environmental law course to pass the Bar Exam. Ditto with health law.

    And I think just about every law school is doing this.

    I can see why UH had a consumer law center, or an immigration law center, or mediation clinics. These help actual people, and I think one of the goals of a law school ought to be to expose students to actual people/clients.

    As someone who took a lot of enviro classes though — in retrospect this was all pretty much mental masturbation. Not that environmental law doesn’t matter — it’s actually very important. The problem is that it’s a discipline best learned in actual practice by the few people who actually end up practicing in that field.

    • Denverite

      I will say that health law may be a bit of an outlier to your general point.

    • Former Editor

      It is (or rather was) happening all across the industry. I’m pretty sure that the odd ones are usually a direct result of a school attempting to lure donations or appease particular faculty who want to get to be the head of their own “center.” Like faculty, some of them make sense, others don’t.

      I will say this about clinics though, they may be a good training tool for students but I consider them frequently bad for providing low income legal services. At least to the extent that the schools are funding the clinics with grant money, the level of services provided is usually far lower than the local legal services provider could give with the same funding.

      • NewishLawyer

        I was on a IP clinic in law school. We essentially tried to help people who were defendants in downloading cases. Specifically they were accused of illegally downloading major Hollywood movies and then less than reputable law firms would try and get a few thousand out of them,repeat this a few thousand times and you have a good chunk of money. We were generally well meaning and generally useless.

        My friends in the crim clinic did get good experience and work though and were able to argue cases at trial under supervision.

        • Former Editor

          As I said, clinics can be good experience for the students in some cases. Where those clinics are school funded, they probably aren’t a bad thing (although there are some considerations there too).

          When a clinic is operating with public funding, however, things start to look quite different to me. Consider the math of the following scenario (which I do not believe is all that unusual):

          A clinic has 30 students per semester, each of whom handle ten cases under supervision (this is a major overestimate to make my point) and gets 200k in grant funding for the year. The clinic thus services 600 cases per year.

          Going off the 2012 NALP data, the median APD starting salary is $50.5k. For the same 200k, the local PD’s office could hire 2 new APDs (factoring in overhead, and some increased costs for benefits and pay raises over a few years). If those two APDs have caseloads within the National Advisory Commission of Criminal Justice Standards and Goals advised limit (most are above this, in some areas WAY above this) each one of those attorneys is handling 400 cases per year.

          Thus, defendant’s serviced by the clinic for 200k: 600. Defendants serviced by the PDs office for 200k: 800.

  • OhioDocReviewer

    “When you lose and fail, it is understandable. When you win and fail, that brings madness.”

  • ChrisI

    Here’s a good tweet I found at Law Lemmings:

    https://twitter.com/verskette/statuses/466355604207198208

    For now, a LS degree should be seen as a luxury good, like a private jet. Non-rich may get one, but it won’t end well.

    Sums it up well. For all they profess to make law degrees “accessible”, ABA schools have systemically made it so it only makes sense for the wealthy to pursue them. How ironic.

    Law schools are mostly to blame for this, but a lot of fault also lies with the federal government, for unlimited GradPlus loans. Also with students themselves, most of whom seem to view law school as a Veblen good. If there was a strong demand for truly affordable law schools, then surely we’d see many more such affordable ABA schools?

  • spoilers here

    Diamond replies to this post. Calls the law school reform crowd ‘dwindling’.

    • Audren

      Listen to Professor Diamond, you fools!

      Law school tuition has doubled because law firm salaries have doubled!

      It’s simple economics!

      Professor Diamond goes on to make an excellent economic case for the continuation of Stanford law school. Unfortunately, he makes no case for the continuation of Santa Clara law school.

      • ChrisI

        Professor Diamond does resolutely defend his employer whenever SC Law’s affordability is brought up. But he’d better serve SC by keeping quiet, because there is no defending SC with rational argument. It is a bad law school which charges almost as much Stanford but offers a terrible employment outcome. The sort of debt it leaves most of its graduates with can only be serviced by Big Law or IBR – and not many SC graduates are getting into Big Law.

    • spoilers here

      And rhetorically, he’s just so weak. He feels the need whenever – as in every single time – he mentions Campos or Tamanaha to mention, in ominous tones, that one time they gave a speech at the CATO institute, as if this discredits the entire argument right there, or as though either one has far greater association with the place than having simply given an invited talk there one time.

    • Former Editor

      Because the surest sign that a movement in the law is dwindling is its endorsement by a sitting member of the United States Supreme Court.

      • BoredJD

        Something something something Cato Institute something. Just go away and let me feed off of broke middle class and lower-middle class kids.

    • ichininosan

      Consider this baseless claim from the fine “political scientist”:

      “With no disrespect intended towards Colorado I think we can safely assume that their median [salary for gradautes] is substantially lower than that, perhaps 100-120K.”

      Really? Safely assume? Obviously Diamond is not into empirical methods. If he were, he would look at the data which shows that 20 of 176 Colorado graduates found jobs at big law firms. These probably pay in the six figure range. As for the rest — 30 grads in small firms, 23 in public interest, 21 in government, 15 unemployed, etc. It’s safe to assume that the majority of these students are earning a salary in the $40K range. Do the math.

      • Former Editor

        Why should Prof. Diamond even need to do math himself? The median numbers are available from US News (if you pay the nominal fee for full access). Colorado’s median private sector salary is 70k and its median public sector salary is 50k.

        • Lee Rudolph

          And 70K + 50K = 120K!

          • Former Editor

            Are you a law school Admissions Director by any chance?

      • spoilers here

        The median salary reported was $55,608 and the mean was $66,318. Twenty-five percent of the graduates reporting salaries earn $72,000 or more per year, and 25 percent of the graduates reporting salaries earn $50,000 or less per year.

        http://www.colorado.edu/law/careers/graduates

        • BoredJD

          And only 127/159 employed reported a salary. And “reported” includes people for whom the salaries are quasi-public info, i.e., those working at big firms. The guy making 27K at Joe’s LLP is less likely to report and have a salary that is quasi-public.

          • sort of

            Yeah. I’m a ‘number’ in that class – I didn’t report a salary because I’m a self-employed consultant and hence don’t have a salary. I’ve already cleared six figures, and we’re not even halfway through the year. So not all the people unreporting are necessarily starving to death (at least I’m not).

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