Friday, January 3, 2014

A Deeper Look at the "Law School Crisis"

Professor Brian Leiter 
Takes on the Scambloggers

Professor Brian Leiter, a well-known blogger, is now writing for the Huffington Post. In American Law Schools: The New Reality, he describes the many factors that have contributed to the down turn in applicants to law school including:

  • Competition among law school for US News rankings, which forced them to compete based on expensive services instead of affordable tuition;
  • Rising student debt;
  • Poorer employment outcomes for graduates in a recessionary economy;
  • Congressional overhaul of bankruptcy laws as they relate to student loans; and
  • Lax oversight by the ABA regulators.
I've blogged about all these topics this past year.  And, it is nice to have this summary for easy reference.

In his second article, American Law Schools and the Psychology of Cyber-Hysteria, Professor Leiter looks at the "toxic" environment law schools face while trying to respond to the market downturn in responsible ways.  He starts the article by saying:
Previously, I wrote about how the steep decline in applications to law schools was an unsurprising "consumer" response to the downturn in the legal sector in the wake of the financial crisis and the recognition that student debt was no longer dischargeable in bankruptcy. What was surprising, however, was the new "meme" that took hold in cyberspace: this economic catastrophe was the fault of law schools and law professors. The psychology of this "meme" is our topic here.
* * *  
The cyber-hysteria about law schools is not only tediously repetitive, it is immune to facts or evidence.
He concludes:
If, as The National Jurist predicts, we are only a couple of years away from an equilibrium in the market between jobs and new law school graduates, then the irrational cyber-hysteria about law schools will soon be a thing of the past. The suffering that has brought it on, however, remains real, and soon Congress will need to take up debt relief for a generation of students caught in the vise of an economic catastrophe.
I want to thank Professor Leiter for using this national forum for enriching the conversation about law schools, the value of a legal education, the job market, student debt, and the role U.S. News and the ABA have played in creating the current situation.  Perhaps with a more measured analysis, we can limit and avoid suffering by all the interested stakeholders.  

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