Law School Deans, Law Schools, U.S. News

What Is Wrong With California Law Schools?

Last week, the U.S. News Law School Rankings dropped. Prospective law students care about U.S. News more than prospective crack dealers care about baking soda. But for the third year in a row, law schools in California underperformed in the rankings.

Law deans in California want to do something about this. No, they don’t want to improve their schools so they produce lawyers who can better service the needs of California’s high-tech market. Don’t be ridiculous. Instead, they want U.S. News to tweak its methodology to mask the general weakness of the California employment market from prospective students.

I’m not joking, this is how deans think…

Over the past few years, only the best California law schools have remained relatively stable in the U.S. News rankings: Stanford, UC-Berkeley, UCLA (despite, you know, its apparent racism), and Pepperdine. The other eight major accredited law schools in the state (there are 21 in total) have taken a bit of a beating: USC, UC-Davis, UC-Hastings, Loyola, University of San Diego, Santa Clara, Pacific McGeorge, and University of San Francisco.

Tom Campbell, dean of Chapman University School of Law, thinks that the problem is California’s declining job prospects for new lawyers. He sent an email to his fellow California law school deans. It’s picked up in the California Recorder (hat tip: Tax Prof Blog):

The slow recovery of California’s economy, compared with the rest of the nation, has had a deleterious effect on all of us, once again; and it’s particularly cruel to our students, who are punished twice: once by the difficulty of getting a job, and a second time by falling US News rankings of their law school.

I’d like to add a third “punishment” visited upon California law students: the ridiculously high cost of tuition. Chapman, for instance, charges $44,414 for what U.S. News calls the 140th (out of 204) ranked law school in the country. By way of comparison, Stanford Law, ranked #3, charges $50,580 in tuition and fees. If you think that the difference in job prospects between Chapman and Stanford is only $6,000 a year, I’d like to offer you a really sweet deal on the Golden Gate Bridge.

Campbell’s solution to all of this is incredibly silly. Check out his proposal, and my entirely predictable reaction to his proposal, on ATL: Redline.

Continue reading on Above the Law: Redline

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