It may be that the innovative law school of the future will not focus exclusively, or even primarily, on JD education. The JD has faded in public esteem, perhaps permanently, as word has spread about about the astounding tuition spiral, deceptive recruitment practices, worthless professional training, sinking admissions standards and bar passage rates, and above all, about the awful employment outcomes. Recall, though, that it is called law school, not lawyer school, and, indeed, University of Chicago lawprof Todd Henderson once pricelessly suggested that a "better moniker" for the institution would be "leader school."
What if financially ailing law schools could be revived through the creation or dramatic expansion of non-JD and non-LLM degree programs, such as the "MJ"? (For the unfamiliar, this acronym stands for the illustrious "Master’s in Jurisprudence," not only for marijuana, mango juice, and monster jam). What if law schools could experiment with bachelor’s degrees in law, thereby not only mulcting revenue from teenagers fresh out of high school, but also intensively grooming those same teenagers for eventual JD matriculation? What if non-JD degree and certificate programs could be marketed all over the world, perhaps even offered entirely in convenient online format, so that people can be scammed from the comfort of their own homes? What if overall law school enrollment could soar without the troublesome, if largely theoretical, possibility that the ABA might enforce its quality control standards?
This intoxicating vision is no mere cannabis-and-mango juice hallucination. As the ABA explains on its website, "ABA accreditation does not extend to any program supporting any other degree granted by the law school. Rather the content and requirements of those degrees. . . are created by the law school itself and do not reflect any judgment by the ABA accrediting bodies regarding the quality of the program. Moreover, admission requirements for such programs, particularly with regard to foreign students, vary from school to school, and are not evaluated through the ABA accreditation process."
University of Washington Law Dean Kellye Testy provided some details in a recent, though undated, talk to the law faculty at Touro, that was posted online four months ago. Testy's perspective deserves attention because her services as Dean of her public law school are so highly valued by her State’s taxpayers that they are happy to provide her with a $378,900/yr. salary. She is, moreover, President of the Association of American Law Schools (AALS) and has been designated the sixth most influential legal educator in the US. So a notable driver in the thrilling monster scam, or jam, crashfest that is American legal education.
The crisis in legal education, as understood by a $378,900/ yr. law school dean:
- "What’s happening right now is a lot of schools are living on either reserves they have build up or they are living on the good will of their University letting them have deficits. Neither of those things are going to last a lot longer." (Video at 42:01-42:14)
Remedy 1: The MJ:
- "I’ll share this just in case its of an area of interest. The JD education we do is really just one small part of the education we provide [at the University of Washington School of Law]. In addition to admitting those 165 or so JDs every year we have about 200 students a year that we educate that are in LLM programs, Ph.D in law program, and most recently what we call an MJ, a Master’s of Jurisprudence, and that is something that I know some schools have started thinking about." (15:42-16:12)
- "Like a lot of schools, when revenue issues got difficult, we started thinking how can we have alternate revenue sources and build on the teaching capacity that we might already have. So we started this master’s degree of jurisprudence to educate people who don’t want to become a licensed lawyer, but just want to know something more about law. And we were thinking about people like HR professionals, compliance professionals, there is so much health care industry. . .And so we began this program last year and we have one class, and the first class drew about 25 students and they are fascinating." (42:45-43:24)
- "The downside is my faculty colleagues do not like having them [MJ students] in their classes. I thought it would be kind of neat because we are already teaching a class on X, Y, and Z, to have two or three more students in the class wouldn’t seem to be a huge thing. . . [but] the faculty find the difference between those students and our JD students so stark that they are kinda like “What do I do with these people?"" (43:47-44:17)
- "The problem with the MJ is. . . students come to it with the idea that what I really want to do is learn more about employment law or communications law [but]. . . you are not going to have two classes in advanced communications law." (46:14-46:27)
Remedy 2: The Law School BA
- "One of the conversations underway at U-Dub right now is whether the law school itself should offer an undergraduate law degree. And the theory there is that in every country but ours law is undergraduate and that if you were teaching an undergraduate law degree your pipeline might even be better. . . so we’re in high conversation at UW with the undergraduates. . . because you can imagine that that does not thrill the Department of Political Science." (32:32-33:05)
Remedy 3: China
- "The University of Arizona. . . started an undergrad law program in Arizona and also in China, and they ended up with something like 200 students in Arizona and 600 students in China for this program. So that’s obviously going to get people’s interest up too, when everyone’s trying to think about student numbers and all." (47:28-45:57)
The Bottom Line:
- "Like everything we do, it is a good reminder that we are not after gross revenue, we are actually after net revenue." [nervous chuckle] (44:45-44:52)