It's nice to come across a little honesty from time to time. I certainly would have appreciated more honesty from the Law School Cartel, say, twelve years ago or so, but I digress.
Ray Campbell posted a nice piece at the Faculty Lounge that bears repeating, on the concept of "JD Advantage," with an eye towards how this concept impacts and will continue to impact the Cartel to its detriment. While I don't fully agree with all the allegations of what's happening and where it is all going, it is an interesting topic and certainly a sign of the times. There are also some nice links to another largely-unsung hero of the Campos/Tamanaha camp, Professor Deborah Merrit.
There’s a trope in the kind of low brow movies I tend to watch – a character looks at a friend that he thinks has arrived just in the nick of time to save him, and then realizes that his ‘friend’ brings destruction, not salvation.
I think of that kind of scene when law schools or organizations like NALP talk up JD Advantage jobs as a reason to go to law school, with the apparent hope that filling seats with students headed to JD Advantage jobs will help schools survive. They seem to think that JD Advantage jobs are a friend to traditional law programs.
LSAC (a fellow member of the Cartel along with NALP) and its pernicious lies are a favorite target of this blog, as discussed previously. We are certainly happy to disabuse potential students not only of the notions of the Law Schools, but of LSAC and NALP as well.
I tend to think that attending law school to get a JD Advantage job is a poor idea, for reasons others have expressed well. My point here is different – if JD Advantage jobs really are on the rise as the legal services field broadens beyond just law practice, they create an opportunity for disruption of legal education that could create huge new problems for law schools.
Hey, we are all for "huge new problems" for law schools, as this falls into the "you reap what you sow" category. It can't come fast enough, especially for the new crop of lemmings headed to the gristmill.
JD Advantage jobs can be very good jobs and lead to very good careers. Some legal training helps in these jobs...Here’s the problem: law school provides poor training for these jobs. JD Advantage jobs involve skills and methodologies beyond law – say, statistical tracking of compliance activities or knowledge of how to motivate corporate employees to follow policies – none of which are taught in law school.
Even with regard to the law part of these jobs, the traditional JD training is a mismatch. Law school involves too much common law, at far too great cost, while normally providing far too little education in the complex regulatory fields – say, health care law or employment law – often at the core of these fields.
Amen to that! I was one of the self-admitted fools who went to law school precisely for "JD-Advantage" training, only to find out that after the "basics," that second and third year was, shall we say, underwhelming, for the very reasons described.
Although, I'm not certain of the "very good jobs" and "very good careers" part of the assertion. According to many sources (NALP chart), prior articles here, and blogs such as the JD Disadvantaged blog, people don't seem to be wanting these candidates all too much.
Assume two things happen, both of which are, I think, very likely. First, assume most law schools (trapped by the "think like a lawyer" ideology) offer only JD programs or "use empty seats" subsets of the JD program to people interested in JD Advantage careers, allowing schools with bespoke programs with the full range of methodologies to seize the field. Second, assume that some easing of the accreditation rules for JD programs takes place, allowing schools to offer more diverse offerings than are presently available.
The ABA is certainly open to "easing accreditation", no doubt about it - just look at the previous proliferation of law schools. Plus, they seem open to making legal training easily available to non-JDs altogether, to the detriment of current members of the Bar.
In that setting, the table is set for disruptive innovation. Holding some of the assets necessary to JD programs and with a worldview not beholden to Langdell, and with a regulatory environment open for freshly designed programs, the JD Advantage programs are poised to move up market into JD offerings...We know that for decades there has been a steady drumbeat that law schools don’t actually prepare lawyers all that well for practice. We hear that from students, from law firms, and from clients of law firms. We also know that there’s been an equally steady drumbeat that despite that, most law schools have not fundamentally changed. They continue to offer to students a program unfitted to the task.
Wait, I thought the scambloggers were disaffected, entitled party-poopers with no work ethic. A "steady drumbeat" for "decades?" My, how the narrative of the open road has changed.
JD Advantage jobs are, I think, the wedge. They have grown rapidly in number, and they will continue to grow...[a]t that point, just as the movie character eventually realizes that his friend is not really his friend, law schools will see the rise of JD Advantage jobs for the threat it is.
While I don't know that I agree that JD-Advantage jobs have "grown rapidly" and "will continue to grow," I do believe the Cartel has ironically swallowed their own poison-pill by clanging the JD-Advantage cowbell. As fewer and fewer students attended, more and more was said about JD-Advantage jobs to reel them in and get lemming$ to sign on the line-that-is-dotted. This lead to a rise in competition to the Law School model, if for no other reason that a sucker is born every minute - others saw how easy the Law School Cartel sold visions of sugar-plums to naïve students, so why not get a piece of the action? And the ABA has demonstrated a willingness to support anything, so long as it keeps their regulatory authority and hierarchy intact.
The Law School Cartel could certainly use some "competition," that's for sure. As continued poor JD-graduate outcomes press its attack from one flank, and as more and more Infilaw-types attack from the other flank, it will be interesting to watch the Law School Cartel fight their war on two fronts.
Grab some popcorn.