Bad Ideas, Law Schools, Texas

How to Sell a Law School to Texans

In Morning Docket we mentioned that the new public law school at UMass is off to a flying start. Let’s check back in with those students in three years when they are in massive debt and have no job prospects.

We’ve slammed UMass Law quite a bit. But there are other university systems that are looking to fleece those interested in a legal education. Last year, we reported that the University of North Texas was going forward with its plans to start a public law school.

Over the weekend, a tipster sent us the pitch North Texas is using on Texans who don’t know any better. Here’s the school’s headline:

Opening a public law school at the right time in the right place

You have got to be freaking kidding me…

As with the travesty at UMass, the North Texas argument is that North Texas somehow deserves a law school, not whether a new law school is needed (or whether its graduates will be able to find jobs). The website has five bullet points for why it’s a good idea to open a public law school in Dallas/Fort Worth. They are exceedingly stupid reasons:

* Since 1980, Texas’ population has grown from 14.3 million to an estimated 23.9 million in 2007, but no additional opportunities for legal education have been added.

I’ll stipulate that the demand for legal education is up if you stipulate that the supply of actual lawyers has totally saturated the market.

* The last public law school in Texas opened in 1967. Since 2000, the number of bachelor degrees is growing at an average rate of 2,400 per year.

Objection: relevance.

* Houston has three law schools (two public, one private). In 2007, Houston area law schools awarded 902 degrees. By comparison, the more populous DFW region had only two private law schools and awarded 457 degrees.

* In 2007, 13,026 students graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Houston area public universities, and there were 1,256 first-year law seats available in the region. DFW area public universities awarded 18,899 bachelor’s degrees and had only 538 first-year seats available. The ratio of bachelor’s degrees to first-year law seats for the Houston area was 10:1, while the DFW region had a 35.1 ratio.

Daughter: Houston has a pony. I want a pony.
Mother: Houston’s mother is a whore.

* More than 89% of Texas law school graduates are employed within nine months of graduation.

Thanks, U.S. News. This is just another person or institution using the obviously cooked U.S. News employment number to justify a totally irrational position.

Those are all very stupid bullet points, but they’re not totally insulting. The next bullet points are totally insulting:

* The Department of Labor finds job growth for lawyers will continue to be concentrated in salaried jobs, which tend to be located in urban areas, government agencies, law firms, and large corporations. In 2006, the State Bar of Texas reported 96% of its members practice in a metropolitan county.

* The DFW economy generates 1,400 new legal jobs annually; however, North Texas area employers had to recruit trained attorneys from other regions and state every year to meet hiring needs. They now can recruit graduates of the UNT at Dallas College of Law.

What the hell are they talking about? North Texas employers have to recruit out of state? That’s a misleading point. It should read: “North Texas employers had to recruit attorneys from other regions and states … and there were more than enough attorneys to fully meet the market’s needs.”

But the UMass experiment proves that these bad arguments penetrate down to prospective law students. Is there any doubt that North Texas will be able to fill its incoming class in 2012?

The ABA has shown no will to regulate the influx of new law students. So long as that persists, universities like North Texas will continue to profit from the stupidity of prospective law students.

Opening a public law school at the right time in the right place
[University of North Texas College of Law]

Earlier: More Law Schools + More Lawyers + Recession = FUBAR

(hidden for your protection)

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