Law School Deans

Raise your hand if you’re tired of the debate over the value of a legal education. Yeah, me too.

Well, sorry to disappoint you, but the debate rolls on. A prominent law school dean and one of his colleagues took to the pages of the New York Times to once again defend the law school ivory tower from its critics.

Who are we talking about, and what are their arguments?

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We all know that the employment landscape for recent law school graduates is still looking pretty bleak. Fifty-seven percent of 2013’s law school graduates are employed in full-time, long-term jobs that require bar passage. If we exclude the percentage of full-time, long-term jobs funded by law schools, the legal employment rate drops to 55.3 percent. Meanwhile, 11.2 percent of 2013’s graduates are still unemployed nine months after receiving their degrees. The job market sucks, for lack of a better word, and law schools are sinking in the U.S. News rankings because of their terrible employment statistics.

That’s why law schools are doing anything and everything they can to try to put their graduates to work. It seems that some schools are even willing to go to extremely unconventional lengths to do so. For example, one law school is thinking about suspending faculty raises and using that money to create a new jobs program for its graduates.

A law professor there just found out that he may not be getting a raise this year, and he is PISSED….

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Back from the big NALP conference, back from Seattle, happy to be back in New York City. The five boroughs came up a lot at the conference thanks to the big move by Brooklyn Law School to cut tuition by 15% next year.

If I may summarize the reactions from other schools about Brooklyn’s cut (I’m paraphrasing):

  • F**k those motherf**kers. It’s still super-expensive. Go STATE!
  • Actually my school did something very similar. [Elie explains why their school is not similar.] Well, that’s just your opinion, man.
  • Can somebody wake me up when Yale does it?

I expected that other schools would be a little annoyed with Brooklyn. Schools are already facing a financial crunch given the sharp drop in new law students; not many want to take on the additional financial burden of across the board rate reductions. I recently appeared on CNBC with Brooklyn Law Dean Nick Allard, and he explained that Brooklyn Law sold off some of its capital assets to afford this. I noted that not every school is in the position to do that.

But I didn’t expect some prospective Brooklyn Law students to also bitch about the reduction. I guess when you expect dumber people to subsidize your education, having that taken away from you is jarring…

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Throughout the past few weeks, several law schools have been hit hard by the realities of the market for legal education — there have been faculty layoffs and buyouts galore. We suppose this is what happens when people stop applying to law school in droves. Rather than offsetting the financial losses by charging higher tuition, most schools are “rightsizing” themselves by cutting faculty positions they deem unnecessary, a big blow to those ivory-tower elites who believed their jobs were secure.

But because nothing in the legal profession is very secure anymore, today we’ve got news of layoffs from a public law school facing major budgetary issues thanks to a gigantic funding gap across the entire university system.

Which law school could it be? Keep reading to find out…

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Rachel Canning

* The panel investigating the Bridgegate scandal gave Gibson Dunn until the end of the week to turn over all materials relied upon to clear Gov. Christie from wrongdoing. Thankfully, the governor was too busy working out to be upset. [New Jersey Star-Ledger]

* Penn Law has named Wendell Pritchett, the chancellor of Rutgers University-Camden, as interim dean to take over for Michael Fitts, who is leaving to become Tulane’s president. What an incredibly deanly name he’s got there. Congrats! [Philadelphia Inquirer]

* New York Law School is launching an in-house institute — the first of its kind in New York City — to help corporate attorneys solve their problems and law students learn about life inside a legal department. Gee, this idea sure sounds familiar. [Corporate Counsel]

* Jennifer Gaubert, the New Orleans lawyer/ former radio diva who lied about a cabbie sexually harassing and taking a lewd video of her, is now being sued by him. Karma’s a real bitch. [New Orleans Advocate]

* Rachel Canning, the New Jersey schoolgirl who recently dropped a lawsuit against her parents, was caught partying with the boyfriend who was the cause of the entire affair. Tsk tsk, bad girl! [New York Post]

In your dreams, Dean Morrison.

I still have many friends at Columbia, and it was great to see them. I was on the faculty appointments committee that helped hire some of them, and I now regret that we placed such emphasis on their basketball abilities in the hiring process.

– Dean Trevor Morrison of NYU Law, talking about his former colleagues after playing in the faculty portion of the 14th annual Deans’ Cup basketball game between NYU and Columbia. The NYU Law faculty lost, but Morrison says he “look[s] forward to being a liability on [the] faculty team again next year.”

Law deans from schools that did poorly in the U.S. News law school rankings can’t stop making excuses for their schools.

Most of the excuses are comical, but none of them bother me quite like the “diversity argument.” The diversity argument claims that a school’s low ranking is somehow because of the school’s commitment to diversity.

If it were a good argument, it would be an offensive one to make. People who do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do shouldn’t go around begging for thanks and praise for doing the right thing. But suggesting that diversity is somehow antithetical to a strong U.S. News ranking isn’t even a good argument to begin with…

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I recently had dinner with the dean of a law school. To give you a sense of this person’s perspective, I’ll say that he (or she, but I’ll use the masculine) is responsible for a law school that U.S. News ranks somewhere between 50 and 100. His school has thus been hammered by the Great Recession and the decrease in applications to law school, but the school is not (yet) thinking of turning out the lights.

I didn’t actually pry into what was happening at his school. He simply volunteered that his life was far different now than it had been a very few years ago. I guess that’s no surprise, given the tumult of the times.

Anyway, what are law school deans doing these days?

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As we mentioned in Morning Docket, one New York law school just decided to cut its yearly tuition by a whole lot — 15 percent, actually. That’s right: a top 100 law school is reducing its tuition, across the board, in a move that will take it from being the second-most expensive private law school in New York City to being the cheapest of its kind.

Of course, by “cheapest,” what we really mean is “still prohibitively expensive,” but at least it’s a step in the right direction. Perhaps this is a trend in the making for the rest of New York City’s law schools.

So, which law school is helping its students take on a little less debt?

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Zac Efron

* Dentons still has the urge to merge with a U.S. firm, and now it’s trying to tempt Patton Boggs away from Squire Sanders with a “serious overture.” Bow chika bow wow. [The Lawyer]

* Despite all the outrage over Albany Law’s faculty buyouts, some have already accepted the package offered. Looks like anything’s possible for the right price. [Albany Business Review]

* Guess which law school is cutting tuition by a whole lot? Some hints: it’s in New York and it’s been selling off real estate. We’ll have more on this later. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Perhaps this could be considered a gift of provisional accreditation: Alberto Gonzales, U.S. Attorney General in President George W. Bush’s administration, is now dean at Belmont Law. [The Tennessean]

* Take a look at this new paper by Professors Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld on race and culture in law school admissions. Actually, it’s fake, but it’s sad that it could, in theory, be very real. [Washington Post]

* Zac Efron is going to star as a Yale Law grad forced by criminals to work in the world’s largest Biglaw firm in a film adaptation of John Grisham’s book, The Associate. OMG, he’s so cute. [Hollywood Reporter]

* Our thoughts go out to the families of those wounded and killed during the Fort Hood shooting. [AP]

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