The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette decided to update us on my new least-favorite new law school (Wilkes-Barre, I miss you!), Indiana Tech School of Law. Readers will recall I dipped into the topic after J-Dog did simply because the university’s reasons for establishing another law school were too absurdly self-serving to pass up, particularly in this line:
However, absent dramatic change in the way law is currently practiced and given the dynamics of the national demand for legal education, the United States may need to import foreign lawyers or increase the outsourcing of legal work to foreign lawyers in their home countries to meet this country’s projected demand for legal services. (Page 9, pdf page 17, emphasis LSTB)
After one month that line still makes me both laugh and shake my head in embarrassment for those who published it.
This month, Devon Haynie sets up the pins yet lacks the will to knock ‘em down. As you can imagine, I felt his article is too neutral rather than unbiased, particularly the heading titled, “Backed by research,” which contained this nugget:
The [feasibility study] also concluded that Indiana had few lawyers compared with other states, which could put the state at an economic development disadvantage. Many Hoosier college graduates would like to go to law school in-state, the report argued, but can’t get into Indiana’s other law schools. As a result, the report found, many Hoosier students attend law schools out of state, never to return.
Last time I checked, demand for lawyers is based on supply and demand for legal services. Unless Indiana tries to limit the practice of law to only those who have degrees from Indiana law schools, the state can easily import lawyers from other states. Neutral indeed. The real “research” that backed this move:
[Indiana Tech President Arthur] Snyder ultimately made the recommendation to move forward with the law school, he said the decision was a result of months of discussion among the board of trustees’ executive committee about how to broaden the school’s academic offerings and strengthen its reputation.
Why are broader academic offerings and a stronger reputation necessary? No answers. Fortunately, after carefully considering all the arguments thrown at them, President Snyder and Chairman Robert Wagner developed strong rebuttals:
The economy may look bleak today, they say, but that won’t last forever. And not every graduate will be clamoring for the kind of legal jobs that are in short supply today. Increasingly, Wagner notes, law school graduates are taking jobs in business and other fields where law degrees are considered an asset.
The Bottleneck Argument and the Versatile JD? That’s all they could come up with? No LSTB, they do try harder:
The school, Snyder said, will pair students with attorney mentors, place them in internships at local law firms, and draw on other local resources to ensure students are prepared to practice as attorneys immediately after graduation.
This is a non sequitur. Practice-ready attorneys are nice, but no amount of training wills clients into being. Stagnant demand for legal services is the issue.
Once Snyder appoints a dean, which he hopes to do by September, he said he will have a better idea of how the school will distinguish itself. For now, he plans for the school to concentrate on leadership, with a chance for students to earn a dual degree in law and organizational leadership.
Organizational Leadership? This is new to me, but here’s a link to Indiana Tech’s undergraduate OL degree. It’s a business degree with added courses like “Employee Development,” and, “Managing Organizational Change.” Interesting stuff but it still doesn’t create jobs. Bill Henderson comments:
“I don’t think it’s fair to heap scorn on the people starting this thing at Indiana Tech,” he said. “It creates problems for the legal profession when you have too many law schools cranking out lawyers – that’s something we’re going to have to deal with. But there’s room for improvement in legal education … It is possible to create a really terrific law school that does a better job than others.”
Yet this is not what Indiana Tech’s proponents argue. The university isn’t claiming that it’s trying to butt-out other law schools at a shrinking trough; rather, it’s claiming the trough is big enough for everyone, or that it will be when the economy recovers, or that demand for legal services doesn’t affect national lawyer mobility, or that we’ll need to import foreign lawyers in the coming decades, or that it doesn’t matter because Indiana Tech’s specialized professional degree is a Swiss army knife, and that the university needs to expand its graduate school and gain prestige without any explanation. Such is the extent of Indiana Tech’s overreach. I would not heap such scorn on Arthur Snyder’s plan if he argued that Indiana Tech was going to employ a superior curriculum to crowd out the Notre Dame 2Ls in OCI. He would be reckless and unprincipled if he planned that, given how legal education works, but we could not call him absurdly unrealistic.
However, there is no superior curriculum. No new law school can crowd out Notre Dame, law schools cannot create demand for legal services no matter what supplemental knowledge graduates receive, and no one can create financial aid ex nihilo. Consequently, it is very fair to heap scorn on Indiana Tech.