Law Schools

Law Schools Rearrange Deck Chairs

Maurer School of Law logo.JPGIf you’ve been paying attention, you might have noticed that the value proposition for going to law school is diminishing. Legal salaries are in a deflationary state, despite the fact that law school tuition is on the rise. And that debt/salary ratio is really only a concern for the law school graduates who are lucky enough to find an actual legal salary. Many recent law school graduates and current law students are having difficulty turning their legal education into a job as an attorney.
Confronted with these challenges, law school administrators have taken a number of innovative steps. There’s the “let’s totally ignore the problem and hope new law students are too stupid to research what’s happening in the legal economy” move. Hey, nobody ever went broke betting on the gullibility of the masses. A cherished yet under-reported program is the “let’s juke our employed-upon-graduation statistics and hope that U.S. News doesn’t really notice or care” option. Don’t knock that one until you’ve tried it. But my favorite thing is when law schools go with a “let’s announce a new initiative that won’t actually help anybody get a job, but it will look like we are doing something.” Trying something that was pioneered by the crew of the Titanic is an option that’s too good to pass up.
The latest example of this wonderful strategy comes to us from the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University. Apparently the administration has spent weeks cooking up a new plan that will allow 2Ls to take classes over the upcoming summer, and then graduate early in December 2010 (as opposed to May 2011). That’s right, if you are desperate to get out onto the barren job market as soon as possible, IU can make that happen for you.
By allowing students to graduate early, IU is bucking a trend. At other law schools, the idea is to allow students to graduate later — for a fee, of course — as schools try to grab just a little more money out of students before they enter the jobless recovery.
Exciting details after the jump.

At a couple of law schools, new LLM programs promise to teach students the entrepreneurial skills lawyers need to advise new companies or hang out a shingle on their own. The National Law Journal reports:

Duke Law School announced on Thursday that it will launch a new Law and Entrepreneurship LLM program next academic year, while the University of Colorado School of Law is awaiting approval of a Entrepreneurial Law LLM it hopes to debut in the fall.
Courses and clinics focused on entrepreneurship and emerging companies aren’t uncommon at law schools, but these new ventures would be the first LLM programs in the United States to focus expressly on the skills attorneys need to advise start-up companies or become entrepreneurs themselves.

Wait, I have a radical idea! What if there was some kind of “school” where lawyers could go to learn how to advise clients and maybe even start their very own legal practice? Wouldn’t that be awesome? If one could actually teach students how to become functional and profitable attorneys, I bet some college graduates would even be willing to pay for the opportunity to learn such interesting and important skills.
I’m sorry to dial the sarcasm meter all the way up to 11, but the proposed curriculum of these LLM programs makes me a dull boy. Duke and Colorado have had three freaking years to teach their students these skills; how is one more (expensive) year of education going to help them now?

Instead of specializing in one area of the law, lawyers advising entrepreneurs need to know a bit of everything — employment, securities, intellectual property, tax and basic corporate law included, he said. They also need to have some transactional skills.

To call this a cosmetic change is insulting to beauty products. This is more like going in for breast implants, coming out with a mastectomy, and then having the incompetent surgeon offer you a very expensive push up bra.
At least the people at Maurer School of Law aren’t charging students anything extra for the opportunity to graduate with minimal skills in an oversaturated market. Instead, the IU program just allows kids to get out into the job market sooner rather than later. Here’s how the IU Law administration explains the program:

We are going to create a special summer school program that will allow current 2Ls to graduate in December of this year, i.e. a full semester early. This summer program will operate just like a regular semester so that it will replace the semester next spring. Only those students who shift plans and are able to graduate in December of this year will be eligible to enter the program. There will be six courses offered for two credits each. Courses offered will be Mediation, Negotiations, Advanced Contracts, Advanced Civil Procedure, Transactional Drafting, and Litigation Drafting. None of the courses will conflict, so all will be available. In addition, several of our clinics will be operating on the basis of 3 credits each …
The same flat fee will operate; in other words, it would be similar financially to being here next spring from a tuition perspective. Likely dates will be from around May 17 to August 13 although that has yet to be determined exactly.

Who the hell wants to pay the same price in order to graduate early into this legal economy? Honestly. Is there even one person who wants to do this? Jesus tapdancing with a monkey grinder Christ. This program is primarily directed at 2Ls who haven’t been able to secure summer jobs. What makes the IU administration think these students will magically become employable when they graduate, early and off-cycle, in December? Winter hiring is for lateral associates who hung on for their bonuses and are now looking to move on, not for “4Ls” with no experience who couldn’t even get a summer job.
What really burns is that this early graduation program — a program that will likely help no one — is what the IU braintrust has been wasting its time with:

Now, we understand that you would have preferred to know about this earlier. Unfortunately, we have only been working on this new idea over the past few weeks, and it has taken that time to work out the relevant issues. Although we have designed these courses so that they do not conflict with courses you have taken to date, we do realize that you might want to change your schedule now if you think you want to do this. To that end, we will hold the drop/add process for this semester open until the end of this week.

There’s just one more “relevant issue” for IU to work out: how precisely does this program help anybody?
LLMs in entrepreneurial law reflect shifting view of profession’s role [National Law Journal]

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