One of the constant criticisms of the scamblog movement is that we are disgruntled JD grads who couldn't hack it, therefore we make s*!t up and impugn the good name of U.S. legal education so as to make ourselves feel better. If that were indeed the case, then one would expect a different country with a somewhat different system to perhaps have different results. Well, it appears that Canada is also struggling with the current state of legal education as well:
Law students are walking, talking dollar signs for Ontario universities. They bring with them hefty provincial government subsidies and that priceless higher-ed asset: “pre[f]tige.” [Fixed it for you. Ed.] Law students don’t require expensive laboratories or the latest and greatest equipment — the major cost to the university, by and large, is for the professors hired to instruct them. That cost generally doesn’t increase if a few extra bums are squeezed into seats in the lecture hall, which is why universities seem to welcome as many law students as possible.
The recent news from the law school at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, therefore, should come as no surprise. According to a memo recently sent to students, the school is currently weighing the idea of increasing its enrolment by nearly one-third in order to meet greater revenue demands. That means the school’s target admission number, which was set at approximately 165 in 2013, may rise by another 35 or 50 students.
This is great news, right? If there’s anything Ontario needs more of (besides expert panels on transit infrastructure), it’s lawyers.
Or maybe not. Ontario is experiencing anything but a drought of law school grads. According to the Law Society of Upper Canada, of the 1,750 students graduated from Ontario law schools in 2013, one in seven was expected not to find an articling position. That’s up from 12% of unplaced grads two years ago, and 6% five years ago. Obviously, the problem of too few positions for too many grads is only getting worse. So why on earth would law schools consider pumping out even more articling candidates?
The answer lies in those walking, talking dollar signs. The issue is not unique to Queen’s. Indeed, Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ontario, just opened a new law school this year, which will add an additional 60 candidates to the graduate pool each year. Other law schools in the province have also increased their admission numbers, including the University of Ottawa — with its first-year registrants jumping from 271 in 2007 to 381 in 2010 — and the University of Windsor, which has added about 60 spots since 1997...
Perhaps the plight of unplaced law school grads hasn’t reached the “crisis point” of their teacher counterparts, which is why Queen’s might get away with opening its admission doors. But to do so would be to ignore the weakening job prospects for its current students, as well as law students across the province. Queen’s could opt to raise its law tuition as a means of garnering additional revenue, but obviously, that would not bring in the same type of change as some 50 new government-subsidized students. So, the prevailing question remains: How many dollar signs can you squeeze into a lecture hall?
But wait, there's more:
As many in the University of Toronto law class of 2014 prepare to graduate with staggering debt loads, some students say the choice of convocation speaker is adding insult to injury. The speaker will be Ron Daniels, the former dean to blame for massive tuition hikes.
“The man largely responsible for our high tuition is coming back to pick up a free degree. Oh, the irony,” wrote student Daanish Samadmoten in an opinion piece for the law school’s independent newspaper Ultra Vires.
“I find it insulting that the man who spearheaded an initiative that has significantly contributed to the unnecessary stress in my life and the lives of many of my classmates (now and for years to come) is being honoured and rewarded at my convocation. It’s an insensitive choice at best.”
Daniels, now president of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, was dean of the U of T law school from 1995 to 2005. In that time he launched an ambitious and controversial plan to put U of T in competition with big-name American law schools...
The skyrocketing fees, which increase by the maximum allowable amount every year, and resulting student debt loads that can reach $150,000 have been a particularly hot topic on campus for the past year, he says. Students say they feel pressured to pursue higher-paying Bay Street jobs over public interest jobs. They are also concerned about the impact on student diversity and mental health, and argue that the current financial assistance doesn’t go far enough...
Associate Dean Ben Alarie says the administration is aware of the student concerns and is careful to ensure the law school is accessible and that career choices can remain flexible...The university offers need-based financial assistance and a post-graduation debt relief program for those who will earn less than $75,000, Alarie said. Both programs were introduced by Daniels. “So far, students are selecting us over cheaper law schools because they see the value (in a U of T law degree), too,” Alarie adds. “It’s a success story.”
A success story for ScamDeans and LawProfs, no doubt. Those salaries and sabbaticals have to come from somewhere. Students and graduates, on the other hand...? "Network."
It appears that people are getting the message, though, when looking at the declining Canadian figures. Hmmm....looks a lot like what is happening in the good 'ol USA.
Prospective 0Ls, non-trads, and anyone else listening - please pay attention. If you don't believe us, believe the data, the stories, and the outcomes. Outside of a very few exceptions, law school is currently a sucker's bet.