Karen Sloan, “Reformer Dean to Step Down after Long Tenure at New York Law School,” in the National Law Journal
Matasar has been one of the few legal educators publicly supporting controversial proposals to change the American Bar Association’s law school accreditation standards, including removal of what many law professors interpret as a tenure requirement.
Matasar has argued that law schools need the flexibility to experiment with new ways of delivering legal education, including untenured faculties made up primarily of adjunct professors. Those views haven’t always been popular with legal educators who support the traditional model, and some have accused Matasar of pushing cost cutting at the expense of quality.
I’ve always been cautious about Richard Matasar. Yes, he was arguing against his own interests in articles like, “The Rise and Fall of American Legal Education,” while he “oversaw a $40 million capital campaign, the opening of a new law school building in Manhattan’s Tribeca neighborhood,” served on the board of the student loan company, Access Group, and in his tenure NYLS supposedly created a practice-oriented curriculum that costs as much as Harvard’s. But when he says things like this…
Legal education does cost too much, Mr. Matasar said, mainly because it is “grossly inefficient.” Schools could cut costs by stratifying—offering, as a friend characterized it to him, a “Motel 6″ education with few bells and whistles, in which practicing lawyers teach many of the courses, as well as a “Ritz-Carlton” version taught by full-time, tenure-track professors. Neighboring schools could share library, faculty, and other resources, he said, adding, “Does every law school need an expert in the law of Timbuktu?”
…I would get annoyed. Legal education costs too much because law schools are wholly dependent on the student loan complex. The government loans in particular are a privilege, not a right. If the head of the Department of Homeland Security said, “Yes, we’re grossly inefficient, we’re really redundant to the Defense Department, but we still deserve our full budget from tax dollars,” she’d be fired and DHS would be reassessed. By contrast, law schools can charge whatever they want without any duty to the taxpayers transferring their wealth to them and subsidizing their graduates’ IBR plans. He would also sometimes rebuke law firms for not hiring graduates from non-elite law schools even though the legal profession would do just fine if NYLS closed its doors. Indeed, I have hearsay evidence from an NYLS lawyer that Matasar is in favor of shutting down law schools. One wonders why he thinks NYLS would be exempt, or more cynically, whether he thinks it isn’t and he’s jumping ship.