Month: July 2010

Legal Education in New York: Top of the Heap or Dream Deferred

For the record, I have no taste for Frank Sinatra.

Okay, I’m in the mood for more number-crunching, so I shall inflict it upon you, faithless reader.  In recent weeks, the dramatic regional law student saturation stuck in my mind.  Because it’s a large and popular market, I turn to the other state I haven’t been disciplined in: New York.

For those of you who read the Charge of the Juris Doctor Brigade, you’ll recall that New York added four law schools between 1970 and 1983 (one opened in 1970, but I didn’t count it, sparing the state further embarrassment).  All of these newer ones are in the New York metropolitan area.  Interestingly, unlike other areas that’ve grown rapidly in the postwar era, New York City and state suffered a population decline between 1970 and 1980.  That didn’t prevent these law schools from opening though, so we can predict that the city’s law school density issues are quite dire.  Let’s see…


Links for Sale–Tenure, Bimodality, & Big Star

Re-emerging from the depths, here’re some links.

(1) Scott Jaschik, “Law School Professors Tenure in Danger?

Dean David Van Zandt of Northwestern has been spearheading policy changes in ABA accreditation requirements that leave tenure systems up to law schools’ discretions, and so far it’s meeting with success in the ABA’s draft proposals.  The article quotes various instructors as horrified at the prospect of getting fired for publishing work that is too radical for the university community and the public to tolerate.


A Hard Link’s Night–Bill Henderson on the Credentials Bubble

The law school tuition bubble community has been runnin’ me ragged with their damn posts, so today’s link title is earned.

Debra Cassens Weiss tasks me too with, “Will the Law School Credentials Bubble Burst? Law Prof Calls Trends Unsustainable,” refering to the US News article Indiana-Bloomington Professor Bill Henderson commented in a couple days ago.  However, she links us to a paper he wrote for NALP last year titled, “The Bursting of the Pedigree Bubble.”  Here, Henderson teaches a few things about legal practice history I didn’t know before, aside from the common suspicion that variation among law schools is exaggerated.  Summary and my comments follow.

Failure to Launch: The Curious Case of Wilkes Law School, PA

Most criticisms of new law schools target UC Irvine and UMass School of Law.  Too bad the critics missed an opportunity to celebrate: last month Wilkes Law School’s opening was delayed two to four years according to Citizen’s Voice’s Andrew Staub, “Financial Worries Stall Wilkes Law School Plans.”

I'm proud to say this emerged from my imagination.

Eyeballing the Wikipedia, Northeastern Pennsylvania’s population is probably 1.2 million, and with only 325 students leaves 3,738.5 inhabitants per law student.  That looks pretty good, but the state average is much lower.  Pennsylvania, according to my research, is just above the national average (17th) in law students/state population (2,118.8), has a somewhat low law school/state population ratio (34th), but has one law student for every $93 million gross state product (18th, below national average).  With eight law schools operating, another law school adding 325 full time students (alone!) would move the state to 15th in law students per population, 25th in law schools per population, and 16th in law students per $1 million GSP (2,009, 1,400,529.7, and $88.2 million).  It’s not as severe as the rest of the northeast, the Valley of Death for law students, but including part-time students, Widener’s Wilmington, DE campus (close to Philadelphia) and law schools in badly-saturated New York, the new law school probably wouldn’t do students, the region, or the state much good.


With the Links–Law Schools React to the Juris Doctor’s Decreasing Value

US News‘s Katy Hopkins pens for us, “As Law School Tuitions Climb, so Does Demand: Some Law Schools Retool Curricula to keep the value of a J.D. strong.”

Standing out from the other legal education figures, who say nothing we haven’t heard before (defer to Elie Mystal), is Bill Henderson (noteworthy for first pointing out the pre-recession bimodality of 2006 starting salaries), making a few comments worth repeating.


Links in the Vaseline–Law School Defenders

I know.  I know.  I forgot about the amusingly-named Talking Heads compilation album in my links titles.

David Lat at Above the Law tasks me with his post, “In Defense of Going to Law School,” in which he believes the case against law school is, “greatly exaggerated.”  He gives five reasons for attending law school that counter in his opinion, “the extreme law school stance.”  I should add here that the LSTB is not “extremely” anti-law school.  In particular, if you (a) have marketable supplemental knowledge, connections, or a good enough law school, or (b) know of a small market for attorneys (this week I heard that Russellville, Alabama has zero lawyers), or (c) believe that the non-monetary benefits outweigh the costs, then law school is fine, though I recommend waiting until the tuition bubble bursts and costs drop.  The Law School Tuition Bubble takes an empirical view on legal education’s costs vs. benefits, even if it means perishing in the flames of positivism.

I don’t wholly disagree with Lat’s five reasons (except the third one) or tone, but his comments touch on many points I’ve discussed.


Land of 10,000 Lakes and One Tuition Bubble, Part II

In Part I we found out just how saturated the Twin Cities are with law students and how the cities’ schools want to address their tuition woes by integrating their libraries.  Dean Wippman (Minnesota) noted 70% of his budget is salaries, so for you Dean, we’ll discuss faculty and salaries.

Recall that Jack Crittenden singled the law schools’ faculty expansion and salary increases as the bubble’s swellpoint, both to retain faculty and maintain low faculty/student ratios for their US News rankings.  Thornton uncritically acknowledges that law professors make $100,000 on average.  Meanwhile the deans claim the salaries are flat.  Fortunately for the black-helicopter trackers who read this blog, William Mitchell College of Law is the source of the Society for American Legal Teachers (SALT)’s annual salary survey.  I don’t know what their methodology is but here’s a peek at the 2009 and 2010 numbers:

Table 2: Twin Cities Law School Salary Increases (more…)

Land of 10,000 Lakes and One Tuition Bubble, Part I

If you didn’t know already, yours truly grew up in the Twin Cities, up the road from Westlaw’s corporate headquarters in Eagan, MN.  Thus, I take special delight investigating the law school tuition bubble’s havoc on my home state.  Minnesota, as you may know, is home to four law schools, which due to its population and economic output, places it high on my measures of law student saturation per population and per million dollars of gross state product.  Let’s compare the Twin Cities to other cities in the Midwest to see just how dire the situation is: (more…)

Law School: You Get What You Put into It…Sort Of

Earlier, I distinguished the versatile juris doctor from the supplemental knowledge argument.  The two are not to be confused, and I’ll see to that in this post.

The versatile J.D. argument counterintuitively and often misleadingly asserts that a juris doctor will open employment doors beyond private or public legal practice, even though in reality that means either practicing law beforehand or performing jobs that really do not or should not require a three-year graduate-level law degree in the first place.  For example, in civil law countries, compliance or corporate general counsel are competently performed by people who have undergraduate degrees in law.

Supplemental knowledge means education and skills acquired before going to law school.  This is quite significant now because despite the recession, those with rare or unusual supplemental knowledge can make enormous salaries in niche positions, which I’m fine with because that’s just straight-up supply and demand.  People in these circumstances often proclaim (or are used to claim) that the juris doctor is a versatile degree.  In reality, your mileage may vary.

Allow me to illustrate: