There is a zealous faith in American culture that higher education always pays for itself, but it’s like the subprime mortgage scandal without securitization. When people realize it’s a worthless degree, the system is going to collapse.
As we reach the end of the year, it’s time to step back and assess 2012 as it draws to a close. In the legal world, things have certainly changed from years past, but the one thing that remains constant is the focus on the state of our nation’s legal education. Something’s got to give, and while no one agrees exactly on what needs to change, many have influenced the way the discussion has developed with their insightful visions for the future.
At the end of the day, certain voices were more powerful than others. Whether through reducing class sizes or increasing the transparency of employment statistics, certain individuals have wrought substantial change in the way that law schools are currently operating — and have laid the groundwork for how law schools will be run in the future.
Whose words mattered most? Let’s take a look at this year’s most influential people in legal education….
The end is in sight for our long national nightmare. Starting in 2014, the NCAA will institute a four-team playoff to crown the national college football champion. The 14-year reign of the BCS will be looked back upon as a time of national unity: everyone thought the system was horrible. Even President Obama decried the system on the campaign trail . The BCS has been described as anything from a “horrible Jenga tower of bad arguments” to a “broken, failed, even corrupt enterprise.” Oh wait, that second quote is from a blurb for Brian Tamanaha’s recent book Failing Law Schools. But of course there is an important parallel between the BCS and the legal education industry: they have few defenders outside their own walls. The soon-to-be obsolete BCS system is only considered successful by those with a financial stake in the status quo. As for our current model of legal education, efforts to defend its value from the inside have not been well received, to put it mildly. But there’s an important difference between the BCS and legal academia. The BCS has shown a willingness to adapt and transform itself in the face of widespread and well-founded criticism.
Anyway, as even casual football fans know, a college team’s prospects are highly correlated with how the students at its affiliated law school rate their experiences. (Ed. note: this is untrue). So, after the jump, let’s have a look at how the law schools for the BCS bowl schools match up.
Mitchell has been slammed — by me, by Professor Paul Campos, by Alison Monahan, and by many others. If you’ve been looking seriously at the state of legal education, it wasn’t hard to eviscerate Mitchell’s arguments.
But Mitchell seems to believe that looking critically at the value proposition of legal education is a media-driven phenomenon. As he wrote in his op-ed, “For at least two years, the popular press, bloggers and a few sensationalist law professors have turned American law schools into the new investment banks.”
It seems that Mitchell has forgotten about the students. Bloggers and law professors don’t really have any skin in this game. But actual students feel like law school deans have taken advantage of them, and telling them “everything is okay here” isn’t a winning argument.
These kids are tired of law deans, like Mitchell, who continue to act like law schools can keep doing what they’re doing while recent graduates don’t have jobs and are crushed under a mountain of debt. They’re really sick of the subtle implication that they only reason the “great deal” of law school didn’t work out for them was that they were “lazy” or somehow undeserving.
In short, they are sick and tired of the very kind of arguments Mitchell made in the New York Times — and yesterday they spoke out about it, loudly….
Today brings us more evidence that the number of people applying to law school is dropping. A new Kaplan survey shows that 51 percent of law schools have cut the size of their incoming classes. Of those schools, 63 percent claim they are cutting in response to the weak legal job market.
While the job market is certainly a factor, we know that schools are also struggling to keep up their admission standards as fewer and fewer people apply to law school. Some people think this is a temporary trough and that applications will pick back up once the economy gets better.
But some people see a crash coming, one that will force a few law schools out of business…
Greetings from San Francisco, home of the world champion Giants, surprisingly noisy trolley cars, and the faint smell of cannabis pretty much everywhere. We’re in town to attend Ark Group‘s conference on “The Brave New World of Entry-Level Recruiting,” which examines how the world of law student recruiting by firms has changed (and will continue to evolve) since the onset of the Great Recession. Moderated by Bruce MacEwen, who kicked off the proceedings by framing the day as an opportunity for “frank conversation” between schools and firms, the conference featured an absolute Murderers’ Row of industry thought leaders, including Orrick‘s Ralph Baxter, legal academia’s apostate Paul Campos, NALP’s Jim Leipold, Indiana/Maurer‘s Bill Henderson, three Biglaw hiring partners, and deans from Berkeley, Stanford, and Hastings.
Read on for some highlights and takeaways from yesterday’s conference.
[D]on’t make a bad situation worse by doubling down on useless degrees. As I argue, going to the average law school at full price because you can’t get a job with your English degree is like having a baby to try to salvage a crumbling relationship.
* Dewey know why this failed firm’s bankruptcy team is cutting special deals with the former D&Lers who worked on the sale of the Dodgers? Like all things Biglaw, it all circles back to money. [WSJ Law Blog]
* What in William Baer’s past might lead the Senate Judiciary Committee to hold a closed meeting on his candidacy to lead the DOJ’s Antitrust Division? [Blog of Legal Times]
* In a heartwarming pro bono project, Proskauer Rose will be representing NYC in its attempts to evict an elderly newsstand operator from his kiosk in Greenwich Village. It really brings a tear to your eye, doesn’t it? [New York Post]
* Jerry Sandusky will be sentenced on October 9, and prosecutors are asking that he be classified as a sexually violent predator. Boy, that’ll be a fun title to have while he’s in jail for the rest of his life. [Bloomberg]
* “[A]t present, the large majority of law graduates — perhaps 80 percent — end up worse off after going to law school that they were before they enrolled.” Paul Campos is so cheerful in his book. [National Law Journal]
* Vault just released its rankings for the best summer associate programs. Who’s at the top? I have my money on Fitzpatrick Cella. [Vault]
* If Paul Campos were asked to give a law school graduation speech, here’s what he would say. Long story short, I don’t think he’ll ever be asked. And that is why you should read this. [Lawyers, Guns and Money]
* What do we want? Booze! When do we want it? Now! Where do we want it? The grocery store! [Courier-Journal]
* I don’t know, maybe this guy just really, really loves Jesus. Like, really a lot. Maybe too much. Ewww. [Wave3]
* You know those online net price calculators for figuring out tuition? Well, turns out they might be misleading too, just like every other flipping aspect of financing your education. [Inside Higher Ed]
* You say tomato, I say tomahto. You say law student, someone else says escort. What’s the big deal here? [Daily Mail]
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.
Whether you’re fresh off the bar exam or hitting your stride after hanging a shingle a few years ago, one thing’s for certain: independent attorneys who start a solo or small-law practice live with a certain amount of stress.
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