Exile on Link Street—ABA Pres. Responds to Sen. Boxer, Lenders Protected from Student Debt Default, & Much More

Six links! Much happened in the world of legal education and student debt

(1) Debra Cassens Weiss, “BigLaw Lost Nearly 10K Lawyers in the Last Three Years,” in The ABA Journal

I can’t speak for 2010, but between 2006 and 2009 the legal sector (which employs most lawyers) lost 67,000 “persons engaged in industry,” according to BEA data.

(2) Mark Hansen, “ABA President to Boxer: Law Grads Shouldn’t Be ‘Shadowed by Overwhelming Debt’,” in The ABA Journal

President Stephen Zack responds to CA Senator Boxer’s request for an update on the ABA’s law school employment data transparency efforts. Concurrently, the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar sent its own update since it operates independently yet within the ABA.

Notably, Zack writes, “An interest in pursuing justice should not leave someone with a life shadowed by overwhelming debt.” Of course, there was no question of student lending or bankruptcy laws. That wouldn’t be very nice to the Senator.

(3) Malcolm Harris, “Bad Education,” in n+1

Harris gives me a much-needed primer on student debt and especially what happens if there’s a massive default on student debt: a preemptive bank bailout. And you thought TARP was bad:

Unlike during the housing crisis, the government’s response to a national wave of defaults that could pop the higher-ed bubble is already written into law. In the event of foreclosure on a government-backed loan, the holder submits a request to what’s called a state guaranty agency, which then submits a claim to the feds. The federal disbursement rate is tied to the guaranty agency’s fiscal year default rate: for loans issued after October 1998, if the rate exceeds 5 percent, the disbursement drops to 85 percent of principal and interest accrued; if the rate exceeds 9 percent, the disbursement falls to 75 percent. But the guaranty agency rates are computed in such a way that they do not reflect the rate of default as students experience it; of all the guaranty agencies applying for federal reimbursement last year, none hit the 5 percent trigger rate.

(4) J-Dog, “I Should Be Optimistic Because…” in Restoring Dignity to the Law

I haven’t seen much recently on the alleged versatility of the juris doctor. J-Dog overfeeds me with an article about U Illinois Prof. Larry Ribstein’s incoherent beliefs on the future of legal education, “Business Law Expert: Legal Education Must Respond to Market Forces.”

(5) Janie Paulson, “Finding Law Everywhere,” in JDs Rising

Paulson provides grads with the information they crave: jobs that take advantage of their law degrees. I’ll tease you with the classic “Barrista Barrister.”

(6) Peter Wood, “Clinical Discomfort,” in Innovations

Using the example of Suffolk University’s clinical course, the ‘Police Complaint Assistance Project,’ which students advertized to locals—improperly using the law school’s letterhead—as an initiative describing Boston police as bad cop/worse cops, Wood unusually criticizes law schools’ move from theoretical to clinical education:

The idea that students learn better by hands-on work, of course, isn’t new to education at any level, but it is an odd fit with law schools, which were established in the first place on the argument that the old apprenticeship approach (think Abraham Lincoln) was too unreliable a foundation for the growing complexities of the law. Education in the law, said the reformers of a century ago, requires systematic instruction in doctrine, principles, and legal reasoning…

The wheel has turned. We now have law schools that have diluted that rigorous approach in favor of helping clients, albeit under the watchful eyes of faculty members…

I am not sure that this clinical emphasis is an entirely bad thing, but I certainly register the complaints of senior legal practitioners to the effect that today’s law-school graduates just aren’t sufficiently grounded in the law.

Hating on liberal academia is one of the Chronicle of Higher Education’s big draws and Wood does not disappoint:

The promoters of this worldview take it very seriously but, for all that, promoting it isn’t a serious use of legal education. The world is a dangerous place. We need the rule of law, and for that we need people who understand it thoroughly and who are committed to it. What we are increasingly getting instead are expensive workshops in how to manufacture social grievances.

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