Quick Links—MSL Dean Calls ABA Law Schools a “Scam”

Michael Coyne, “Law School for the White and Wealthy,” in The National Law Journal

Every few months, Massachusetts School of Law dean Michael Coyne fires off an op-ed against the ABA for its expensive, obsolete education models and to tout his students’ victories at advocacy competitions. This time, referring to the legal profession’s diversity gap, he writes “For the most part, this scam has not affected African-Americans, as they are not encouraged to attend ABA law schools to begin with.”

Ouch. That’s a strong statement from a non-scam blogger.

Jim Secreto, “Transparency: The Cure for America’s Ailing Law Schools,” in The National Law Journal

Secreto, a Georgetown 3L and business student, champions transparency even though his surname does not:

The ABA’s proposal is an adaptation of performance measurement — a management technique often used to transform private and public organizations. At its core, performance measurement is about using data to demand accountability and drive innovation. For the first time, law schools would have a potent incentive to reduce tuition and accelerate the so-far glacial movement to incorporate practical skills into legal education.

I’m in favor of transparency as much as anyone else, but its goal isn’t better advertising: it’s an oblique stress test for the law schools, unwilling to comment out loud on lawyer overproduction and excessive tuition.

Some elite schools may continue to place students on prestige alone, but schools unable to carve out a comparative advantage for their graduates will eventually close.

WHAT?? Pray, how did we let too many law schools exist? When is this going to happen? How many will be affected? Which ones will close? What do you say to today’s students who’re paying sticker-price for an expensive, inadequate education? If there are too many law schools shouldn’t you be warning the public in all-caps warnings? There’s a lot of money riding on this, and I’m sure faculty and students would like some details. Whenever people say law schools will close, I hear a needle scratching a record. This is a huge admission, and others who’ve said the same thing, e.g. Northwestern dean Bill Chamberlain, did so in an offhanded way as though only a few bad apples would be affected when we know that the projected attorney to job ratio is around two to one.

More importantly, as the author of a blog that likens law degrees to an asset bubble, transparency strikes me as the irresponsible response to irresponsibility. During the housing bubble, those who knew what was happening would’ve told people not to buy houses. Likewise, no one needs a law degree today, they will be cheaper and better in the future; therefore, don’t go unless it’s free. Why are transparentists unwilling to proffer this simple conclusion?

Because it’s not nice.

That’s really the only reason I can think of, and it is pretty stupid at that. “We want to ensure students are fully informed before they make their choices,” they say, but even though they’re trained to be counselors, they’re unwilling to do what they see as the unthinkable: tell people what’s best for them. Notice, though, that the argument this blog uses is simple. No need to appeal to the ethics of legal education, the overpaid and overlarge faculty, the gratuitous new buildings with diners on top, the Villanovas admitting they defrauded the ABA to game their U.S. News ranking—it’s just straight up, sound curbstone financial advice based on macro level data from the federal government.

Don’t take me the wrong way, like Secreto, I believe transparency is a catalyst to deflating the tuition bubble, though it’s not a “cure” for the law schools (more on that later). But at least I’m willing to counsel people against going to law school in the meantime. It’s not nice, but it is responsible.

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