Monday, March 31, 2014
The New York State Bar News ran my letter:
Problems with legal education not due to tuition costs, but to loansDear Editor:
Acknowledging that the crisis in our profession is important, but “Legal Education and the Future of the Profession” (State Bar News, November/December 2013) misstates the nature of that crisis.
Law school is expensive, absolutely, but the problem isn’t cost—it is the fact that the majority of law school graduates will incur that cost through loans which are nondischargable, with no realistic prospect of securing employment.
Fewer and fewer law school graduates are finding law-related jobs, and more and more of the jobs that they are finding are low-paying and unsatisfying. We are producing new lawyers at a rate far faster than the market can absorb, and almost no one is saying this aloud. New York has 15 law schools and imports lawyers from all over the rest of the country. Reining in law school costs will not fix this, and if anything it will make the situation worse.
I still believe that law is a legitimate subject to study and a worthy career to pursue. But I wish that the institutions that should be the most responsible for forming our professional culture would behave more responsibly.
If I were king of legal education, I’d do a few things. I’d eliminate roughly a third of the law schools in the country, for starters. Law schools that are free-standing—unaffiliated with research universities—would be the first to go.I would consider instituting a rule which would limit the number of law schools in a state on the basis of the population of the state. I would require that all law school applicants spend a minimum of one year outside of school. And I might extend the real-world requirement to three years, subject to some very narrow exceptions. I would require that at least 20 percent of the credits required for graduation and bar exam eligibility be skills-based courses.
And I would start looking at optional ways to reduce the curriculum to two instead of three years. (For some, the third year is a good thing, I think.)
That would be a start.
William C. AltreuterAltreuter Berlin
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