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It’s official. Southern New England School of Law will be converted into the first Massachusetts public law school by the University of Massachusetts. The Boston Globe reports:
The Board of Higher Education today approved the creation of Massachusetts’ first public law school, a historic vote that opens the doors for the initial class of students to enroll in the fall. Under the controversial plan, vehemently opposed by three private law schools, UMass-Dartmouth will acquire the private Southern New England School of Law, which is donating its campus and assets to the state.
Of course the plan wasn’t just opposed by private law schools. It was also opposed by a number of people who actually care about whether or not graduates from UMass Legal will be able to spin off their legal education into an actual practice.
But, it sounds better to say that only “private” interests were arrayed in an anti-competitive attempt to block the new school. Never let facts get in the way of a good story.
More spin after the jump.
My favorite lines involve state officials who seem to have a very poor grasp of the word “affordable.”
“In the end, this comes down to quite a simple question: Is it, in the long term, in the best interest of the state for this state to support an affordable public law school?” asked Richard Freeland, state commissioner of higher education. “In my mind, the answer is yes. ” …
The school, which aims to make a legal education more affordable, will charge about $23,500 a year for tuition, much less than many private law schools.
$23,500/per year x 3 years + 3 years of forgone income – reliable job prospects = Affordable? Are we using mark-to-market accounting here?
State officials argued the now familiar refrain that a public law school will magically produce public interest lawyers:
“This brings our university into line with virtually all the great public universities in the United States and makes us 45th of 50 by having a law school,” said Paul Reville, secretary of education. “This gives us a chance to incorporate needed diversity into our university and provides a public service dimension.” …
Most of the 965,000 Massachusetts residents eligible for free legal aid are turned away because there aren’t enough public service lawyers, according to a 2008 report by the Boston Bar Association Task Force on Expanding the Civil Rights to Counsel.
Just 272 attorneys work for the state’s 21 legal services organizations, representing one lawyer for every 3,350 low-income resident, the report said. As a result, large numbers of people appear in civil cases without legal representation.
I’ll ask again, does anybody, anywhere, have a study that shows charging people $70,500 for three years of legal education leads to an increase in public service lawyers willing to take on indigent legal aid clients? Is there any fact, AT ALL, that supports this supposition that people are lining up to spend $70,500 for the right to represent clients that can’t pay? Does it not occur to these so-called education professionals that the lack of money in public interest law is the reason why there are so few lawyers willing to do the work? Or is the thought that simply flooding the market with as many lawyers as humanly possible will force the ones least able to sustain a profitable private practice into providing poor clients with legal advice so bad that, literally, NO ONE ELSE WILL PAY FOR IT!
Sorry, I promised myself I wouldn’t get angry when this inevitably vomitous display of public idiocy regarding the business side of the legal profession reared its unsupported head once again.
The Massachusetts Board of Higher Education voted unanimously for the plan. I suppose if somebody asked me if I supported a plan that would allow me to legally steal $70,500 from every person stupid enough to give it to me, I’d vote for it too.
UMass law school plan clears final hurdle [Boston Globe]
Earlier: Umass Trustees Approve Plan for Public Law School