OPINION

You get what you pay for in legal education

, The National Law Journal

   | 8 Comments

Although everyone wants legal education to be less expensive, Brian Tamanaha proposes a model that is economically impossible without dramatically decreasing the quality of legal education.

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What's being said

  • Rayiner Hashem

    One need only look back to the dark ages of 1990 to see what private law schools could do with $20,000/year (in 2012 dollars). Given such meager revenues, legal education must have been quite intolerable at the time when most contemporary legal educators went to law school!

  • joe

    out trolling for more tuition dollars from gullible kids. Disgusting.

  • Gerrytown

    "But as I see each year when I read the student evaluations at my school, overall the evaluations for the full-time faculty are substantially better than they are for the adjuncts. It is easy to understand why. Teaching is a skill, and most people get better the more they do it. Moreover, full-time faculty generally have more time to prepare than adjunct professors who usually have busy practices."

    What does this have to do with anything? Student evaluations are filled out well before students realize that the professor hasn't taught them anything that will help them actually practice law. Professors may be better at teaching in general (although I've seen some horrid counter-examples), but that doesn't mean a student wouldn't be better off being taught by someone with a clue about the actual practice of law, especially if that has the added bonus of not putting them into crippling debt with iffy employment prospects. If the qualification for being a law school professor should be based on teaching ability, my band teacher from seventh grade needs to get hired by HLS today.

  • Truth

    "Just Say No" is incorrect. You can see government data on wages and unemployment here: http://www.askapeer.com/pages/labor-market-data The only occupations that pay better than Law are medicine (doctors) and CEOs. (Possibly Petroleum Engineers, but that is a very recent phenomenon). CEOs don't do much better than lawyers, and many of them have law degrees to boot, especially at the big companies that pay the best. The proportion of MBAs who will become CEOs is tiny. The proportion of JDs who will become lawyers is quite large, probably a substantial majority. Unless you can either: 1. Get into medical school or 2. Get a job as a trader at a hedge fund Law school is by far your best chance of making it into the upper middle class. And when you consider lawyers' skill set--basically just reading and writing--it is truly shocking how much money they make. You can compare lawyers to journalists, editors, authors, historians, etc. here: http://www.askapeer.com/pages/compare-jobs Across the distribution, lawyers make nearly twice as much as other workers with similar skill sets.

  • Truth

    "Just Say No" is incorrect. You can see government data on wages and unemployment here: http://www.askapeer.com/pages/labor-market-data The only occupations that pay better than Law are medicine (doctors) and CEOs. (Possibly Petroleum Engineers, but that is a very recent phenomenon). CEOs don't do much better than lawyers, and many of them have law degrees to boot, especially at the big companies that pay the best. The proportion of MBAs who will become CEOs is tiny. The proportion of JDs who will become lawyers is quite large, probably a substantial majority. Unless you can either: 1. Get into medical school or 2. Get a job as a trader at a hedge fund Law school is by far your best chance of making it into the upper middle class. And when you consider lawyers' skill set--basically just reading and writing--it is truly shocking how much money they make. You can compare lawyers to journalists, editors, authors, historians, etc. here: http://www.askapeer.com/pages/compare-jobs Across the distribution, lawyers make nearly twice as much as other workers with similar skill sets.

  • Just Say No

    It is clear that a student right out of college with an MBA has a better chance of making more money than a student makes fresh out of law school. AND spending less in tuition! I am sure that Mr. Chemerinsky's point is valid as he is only speaking of his EXPENSE budget. There is a gap between what the law school receives in revenue and what the law school spends. This so called school “tax” is paid to the larger university. Many universities look at their law schools as a large profit center and take a larger share of the law school revenue than other academic programs. Let’s be honest, law jobs are down, law pay is down, law school enrollment is down but wait, tuition is still going up. Why would anybody want to go to law school and pay in excess of $100K, $150K or more only to graduate with a job outlook so dim and with an average pay of $45,000 to $65,000 per year? The law profession is a bit out of whack. California and other states want to admit “foreign-born non-citizens who are not legal residents” to their bar. I want to know how they were even admitted to law school and then allowed to take the bar. Could it be the all mighty buck? It used to be that the illegals workers only took the jobs that Americans did not want. I guess that says something about the law profession.

  • JDNUL

    Why doesn't Dean Chemerinsky invite a corporate efficiency/law firm consultant, or even a volunteer retired public company GC, to examine UCI's cost structure? I can almost guarantee that at least 20-25% of the Dean's total budget can be cut without "compromising" the quality of the legal education that UCI provides. Let's also radically reduce financial aid available to prospective law students based on college GPA, LSAT score and other agreed-upon evaluative factors. If prospective students had to consider paying for law school "as you go" or could only secure half or two-thirds of the financing that they do now, far fewer would apply to attend, and the bottom third to half of law schools would go out of business, as they should to place supply more in line with demand. In addition, tuition at the surviving schools would have to decline substantially. I attended Northwestern Law School in the late '70s, and the tuition there is 10 times higher than for my last year. There is no way that the "real" cost of operating a "top 14" law school has increased by more than 5 times in 33 years, especially consdering the impact of technology. If faculty salaries were cut by 15-20% at all law schools, I doubt that too many full-time faculty would enter private or in-house practice, because they would have to work much harder. In any case, most of them could not survive having to produce work usable by clients (as opposed to law review article-like memos) on deadline and satisfy clients and supervising partners. There are many very good private practice and in-house lawyers, including those in their 50s or 60s who have made money and would like to contribute to the development of the profession, who would jump at the chance to earn 20% less than current faculty to teach law school full-time. Pedagogy and class preparation skills could be taught in a crash 3-month course. Moreover, at most top 20 law schools, faculty are not teaching more than 2 courses per semester. If Dean Chemerinsky can teach 4 courses per semester and discharge his deanship responsibilities, regular faculty can carry the same teaching load (rather than produce more mostly useless law review articles that virtually no practitioners read). Dean Chemerinsky does not want to change the current model because he and his colleagues have the best jobs around and they don't want to alter their "cushy" existence or face competition.

  • Highly-Indebted Lawyer

    The estimated cost of attendance at UCI is either $71,000 or $77,000 depending on whether you are in-state. This means the a UCI grad will be at least $250,000 in debt by the time he/she takes the Bar exam. I would like to know what type of amazing careers Professor Chemerinsky believes his students will obtain to justify this level of indebtedness. At that level of indebtedness, you would need work in Biglaw for at least 5-10 years. Will all of Professor Chermerinsky's students get jobs in Biglaw? Will all of them make it in Biglaw long enough to pay down their debts? Also, once these Biglaw superstars are working for themselves and not for Sallie Mae, will they say, "oh wow, that was worth 10 years of my life"?

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