My post this week relates to the letter to the ABA from the “Coalition of Concerned Colleagues”, a group of law professors who penned a letter to the ABA to kind of, sort of, perhaps politely hint that they’d like the ABA to do something to reform legal education; they’re not sure what, but yeah, they want to jump on the scam bandwagon too, just not calling it a scam in case their colleagues get angry with them.
The key paragraph of the letter is the last one, which is this:
Legal education cannot continue on the current trajectory. As members of a profession committed to serving the public good, we must find ways to alter the economics of legal education. Possible changes include reducing the undergraduate education required for admission to three years; awarding the basic professional degree after two years, while leaving the third year as an elective or an internship; providing some training through apprenticeship; reducing expensive accreditation requirements to allow greater diversity among law schools; building on the burgeoning promises of internet-distance education; changing the economic relationship between law schools and universities; altering the influence of current ranking formulas; and modifying the federal student loan program. As legal educators, it is our responsibility to grapple with these issues before our institutions are reshaped in ways beyond our control.
A good start, and anybody asking for change should be welcomed. But is this really their perception of what needs to be done? The suggestions miss the absolute mother of all problems: the fact that law schools are dumping twice as many grads into the market as there are jobs (and the fact that this is supply problem, not a demand problem; it’s easier to reform the supply than create additional demand.)
Let me repeat that. It clearly has not sunk in for some people:
THE PROBLEM IS THAT LAW SCHOOLS ARE DUMPING TWICE AS MANY GRADS INTO THE MARKET AS THERE ARE JOBS.
Now, I understand that these suggestions are coming from law professors, all of whom have a vested interested in maintaining the current state of affairs in law schools (i.e. dream jobs for themselves). But how can they miss the point so badly?
Their suggestions have the effect of making law school more attractive, not less attractive. Lowering the admission requirements even more than they are now by not even requiring an undergrad degree? More applicants. A basic professional degree after two years? More applicants. Reducing accreditation requirements? More law schools! Allowing online education? More applicants. Modifying student loan programs? More applicants.
No no no no NO! More applicants equals more lawyers. The market cannot bear the number of grads right now, so how on earth is it expected to cope with even more? Sure, some of those grads would have less debt, but an unemployed lawyer is still an unemployed lawyer.
But more applicants also equals more job security for law professors.
The bottom line remains the same. Schools must go on an applicant diet, not an applicant binge. We are suggesting that law schools slim down by going on a low calorie diet, trimming down, reducing their intake, and allowing law grads to find jobs. The professors are suggesting that instead of hitting Weight Watchers, they hit the Golden Corral, feasting on an all-you-can-eat buffet of law applicants.
Which leads to a disturbing conclusion: perhaps the efforts of these professors will actually harm students more than if law schools simply did nothing to reform themselves? It cannot be denied that their suggestions for reform do nothing to address the actual problem of an oversupply of law graduates (which implies an oversupply of law professors in the system). They instead strengthen law schools, provide job security for professors, and make it look like the system has changed; a dangerous outcome. Yet another generation of students will flock to this new, improved legal education system, only to be churned out on the other end with less debt, but more competition for the few legal jobs that remain.
The law school scam movement was started by students. We’re the ones who see the hardships first hand, from the trenches. We’re the ones living the nightmare. And we need to maintain control over the debate. While outside participants are always welcome, the message must be unified and they must understand that there is only one workable solution: significantly fewer law graduates. So blogs such as this one, and those listed on the right hand side of the page, must be supported. We need comments. We need regular hits. We need publicity. We need participation from everyone. Otherwise we just leave a vacuum that is filled with the kind of fluff contained in the letter from the Coalition of Concerned Colleagues.
As an aside, it’s also worth noting which professors signed the letter. None come from schools that are not at or near the upper end of the rankings. The low-ranked scam schools were either not invited to this elite party, or they chose not to respond.