Monday, February 7, 2022

Über-toilet coming to West Virginia?

A new bill before the West Virginia House of Delegates would establish a law school at Marshall University.

Now, Old Guy had never heard of Marshall University, but he can say that this proposal is even more ridiculous than the proposal to open a law school in Shreveport, Louisiana. West Virginia is declining in population. The largest city, Charleston, does not have even 50,000 people. Pretty though its mountains can be, the state is the very poster child of illiteracy and backwardness. (Q: What does a West Virginian girl say when she loses her virginity? A: "Cut it out, Pa; you're crushing my Marlboros.") This rural, retrograde state absolutely does not need even the toilet law school that it already has, let alone another one.

Even Brad D. Smith, the president of Marshall University, has expressed polite doubts. He points out that he and his colleagues have not "seen or conducted a market study for the development of a law school". Indeed, Mr. Smith, a sensible person would start there! Especially after the Indiana Tech catastrophe. But don't expect much sense in the West Virginian legislature.

How little sense? Have a look at this:

A law degree is one of the most versatile degrees, [Delegate Matt] Rohrbach said. Many corporate CEOs and other corporate leaders hold the degrees to help them better fulfill their roles without ever stepping [sic] foot in a courtroom, he said.

First of all, as we have said countless times, a law degree is actually one of the least versatile degrees. It's useful for practicing law—and just about nothing else. And it's not even very useful for that, because there are two graduates for every entry-level job. 

Second, we've also exposed the fallacy of concluding that the fact some "corporate leaders" or other supposedly prominent people have a degree in law implies that the degree contributed significantly to their professional attainment. Many "corporate leaders" own a set of golf clubs, but it does not follow that by buying a set of golf clubs you will stand a decent chance of becoming a "corporate leader".

Third, a new law school at Marshall University would only ever be an über-toilet, and anyone who wants an idea of what would await its graduates can have a look at the many über-toilets that see fewer than half of their graduates working in law ten months after graduation—and then usually in low-paying positions. An über-toilet in West Virginia could expect to fare even worse than its established counterparts in more urbanized states, because whatever demand there is for lawyers in West Virginia is amply met by the one law school in the state and others in the region. 

In a manner strikingly reminiscent of Indiana Tech's "feasibility study", Rohrbach maintained that his proposed law school would "fill[] the need in the Huntington, Charleston, Beckley market. There's [sic] a lot of people with a need, but they can't really quit what they're doing and move to Morgantown for three years" in order to study law at West Virginia University.

Why does that recall Indiana Tech? Because there too we were told of the vast numbers of people stuck in Fort Wayne who couldn't move their asses to attend one of several law schools within a two-hour drive. But the bogus "feasibility study" could not change the facts. What Indiana Tech found was that the local market consisted of a couple of dozen people at most—by no means enough to run a law school. And hardly anyone moved to Fort Wayne for the privilege of studying law 'n' hip-hop at Indiana Tech. The über-toilet was gone in four years, and the parent university lost much of its endowment on the disaster. The same fate would surely befall a law school at Marshall University, except that Fort Wayne—which is quite a bit bigger than Huntington, Charleston, and Beckley combined—would look downright promising in comparison to southwestern West Virginia.

Mr. Smith, take it from Old Guy: resist every effort to saddle your institution with a law school.