The Talent

June 17, 2008 3:35 PM

Law School: A Ticket to Massive Debt?

Posted by Zach Lowe

There is apparently an endless appetite for stories about new lawyers buried in debt and clawing for any job in the credit crunched job market.

Today The Associated Press used last week's accreditation by the American Bar Association of the nation's 199th and 200th law schools to remind readers of a truism in the world of lawyers-in-the-making: too many new associates are struggling, especially those unlucky enough to have graduated from a law school that falls beyond the top 20.

The Am Law Daily and our sibling publications have been covering the mounting layoffs nationwide for some months now. Thacher Proffitt & Wood has cut about 60 associates since the fall, according to this National Law Journal story. And late last month, the Am Law Daily picked up on the news that Sonnenschein Nash & Rosenthal laid off more than 100 staff members, including 37 lawyers.

The AP report delves into the issue of lawyers whose starting salaries right out of school are well below $100,000--many of these lawyers might be carrying debt of $80,000 or more. That's a burden that won't easily be paid off.

An interesting question in all this is whether or not more law schools are needed in such a competitive climate. Leigh Jones explored this very issue in the National Law Journal earlier this month. She reported on the possibility that as many as 10 new law schools will be launching in the northeast in the next two years.  "This is beyond absurd," said William Henderson, a professor at Indiana University School of Law in Bloomington about the planned school openings.

Makau Matua, interim dean at the University of Buffalo Law School, echoed the sentiment in today's AP report. "There's no question that we simply have a glut of law schools," Matua said.


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The high cost of law school is a but a symptom of what is wrong with legal education. Every third rate law school charges the same tution that a higher ranked school does becasue they just seek to feed on the desire that many students have in wanting to go the law school. But for what end? There are too many law schools and most of them are not that good. Legal education is outdated and the ABA is part of the problem. Law schools as they are presently organized have outlived their usefulness and what is need is a radical change. Ask yourselves why legal education is so much less in Europe? If lawyers are a good that socity needs then we should provide free or low cost tution? Who benefits from the present system? NOt the students and not the law. But the greed of law schools will not be put to an end unless the federal gov't steps in and demands that changes take place. Will this happen? Not likely since those who control things are the very same legal leaders who have graduated from these very same law schools. And all you law professors from now on if you want to be real professors you need to earn Ph.D's. This explains why wihtout doubt the law professors I have had have been the worst teachers I have had and least intellectual. Is there no shame left among you? Really!!! Law schools need to stop being run by old white guys who think the law is some grand adventure. Law schools have more in common with pharmacy school than they do with graduate school, but at least pharmacy schools do not engage in the lies that law educators do. We need to put law schools and lawyers on notice. But who has the power to do that?

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