David Levi

It’s a little bit early for tuition hike season, but in a few weeks, we’ll start getting stories about law schools raising tuition on students just because they can. We say it every year, and we’ll say it again this year, but it appears that law school tuition is one of the only things that is recession-proof.

Law salaries remain flat. Law applications are even down, but that doesn’t necessarily mean tuition will follow. Here’s how committed law schools are to raising tuition: they’ll raise tuition and then give high-achieving students scholarships to offset the increase. It’s as if low-achieving law students are subsidizing tuition for high-achieving law students at schools across the country.

Law schools are willing to do whatever it takes to keep making the tuition number go up. At Miami, they raised tuition and then (after we asked about it) gave 2Ls a “waiver” from the hike.

It goes up at Duke. Last year, tuition went up at Duke Law School by 4 percent. Why? Why was the money needed during a time of extreme challenge in the legal job market? Who knows? It’s not like Duke is required to explain itself to students.

But this year, some Duke Law students are trying to make the administration understand that the “standard” tuition hike doesn’t make any sense for the students at the school….

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While we wait for the Supreme Court to rule on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) — by the way, live audio or video coverage would be nice — let’s pick up where we left off yesterday, with coverage of the latest Supreme Court clerk hiring.

We’ll start with some analysis of the October Term 2012 law clerks, now that we know who they are, and then show you the updated law clerk lists for OT 2012 and OT 2013….

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It seems that Supreme Court clerks are having a moment right now. They’ve made the pages of New York Magazine. They’re getting profiled by Thomson Reuters. They’re being nominated for ambassadorships (before even hitting age 40). They’re the subject of a new book edited by Todd Peppers and Artemus Ward, In Chambers: Stories of Supreme Court Law Clerks and Their Justices (affiliate link; I have a review copy and am looking forward to reading it).

And why are SCOTUS clerks in the limelight? One reason is that they are privy to some serious secrets. The entire nation is eagerly anticipating the Obamacare decision — and they know how it’s going to come out.

No wonder a “no guests” policy has been instituted at the SCOTUS clerk happy hours. The pressure to keep the Obamacare secret — but also to spill it! — must be mind-blowing.

Some of the current clerks are married; do you think they’ve been able to resist telling their spouses? If a clerk goes out for drinks with friends and gets a little tipsy, might he spill the beans? If a clerk has brunch with her parents on Sunday for Father’s Day, and Dad speculates about how the case will come out, could the clerk’s telling facial expression reveal the ruling? [FN1]

If I were one of the Elect this Term, I’d never leave my apartment except to go to work, and I’d set my email auto-reply and voicemail greetings to say the following: “Please be advised that I will be completely unavailable — for in-person meetings, telephone conversations, or any other type of contact — until June 25, 2012. Thank you for your understanding.”

This brings us to today’s topic: the latest news in Supreme Court clerk hiring. Which lucky (and brilliant) young lawyers will find themselves at One First Street for October Term 2012?

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David Levi

Dean David Levi of Duke Law School

Law schools — as Elie likes to remind readers on a frequent basis — are businesses. Like any good CEO should, Duke Law School dean David Levi has written an editorial defending his product: young lawyers.

In the National Law Journal, he starts off by acknowledging that the legal market for young lawyers is in worse shape than Duke’s reputation after the lacrosse scandal, and that this is “understandable” given the laws of supply and demand. (A subtle acknowledgment of there being too many law schools?) He then writes:

What is not understandable is the surprising amount of criticism heaped upon younger lawyers, offered as if to justify placing a disproportionate share of the economic downturn on their shoulders.

The criticism comes from law firm managers, in-house counsel and former lawyers who now comment on the legal profession…

Ahem. *Uncomfortable pause.*

They most likely represent a minority view, but they are vocal. They say that clients are no longer willing to pay for the work of young associates because their work is “worthless.” We might expect clients to make any argument that could lead to a lower bill, particularly during an economic downturn. But it is wrong and surprising for experienced lawyers inside and outside of firms to acquiesce in, even reinforce, this line of argument.

So how does Dean Levi undermine the argument?

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