…It really feels like the flow of op-eds is never-ending and always prone to bizarre claims.
Rutgers-Newark dean John Farmer, “To Practice Law, Apprentice First,” The New York Times.
Lawyers cost too much in part because of rates established during the economic bubbles of the past 15 years. No less than in the dot-com or real-estate or derivatives markets, the cost of legal services became unsustainable.
So lawyers can never cut their prices to stay in business? It’s either charge high or don’t work at all? Is there any empirical evidence for this kind of wage stickiness in legal services?
Big firms have been hiring a few graduates from a few select schools, and paying them exorbitantly. The result: These law-firm associates provide services, like document review or memo drafting, at rates that their competence and experience don’t merit. In a recession, clients resist paying the rates; now, firms resist hiring new lawyers.
Let’s scrap this system.
They did. It’s called staff lawyers. Otherwise, it sounds like the Biglaw market is correcting. Dean Farmer is concerned about how to increase access for poorer people so shouldn’t he be satisfied with current developments? Shouldn’t there be a glut of Smalllaw practitioners at cut-rate prices now?
We need, at its entry level, the equivalent of a medical residency. Law school graduates would practice for two years or so, under experienced supervision, at reduced hourly rates; repaying their debts could be suspended, as it is for medical residents.
Residencies/apprenticeships isn’t a bad idea, except there wouldn’t be enough slots because there isn’t enough demand for legal services.
Law firms would be able to hire more lawyers, at the lower rates, and give talented graduates of less prestigious institutions a chance to shine. The firms, at the end of the residencies, could then select whom to keep. Even for those who don’t make the cut, the residency will have provided valuable experience. The law firms should be required, under this proposal, to offer stipends to help those residents who don’t make the cut but have debt burdens.
Requiring law firms to create a price floor for workers who aren’t in demand? This is a well-intentioned but un-thought-out proposal. Residencies only work if there’s a near-certainty that the residents will be able to work in their field after their residency is over. Otherwise they’re a cheaper version of up-or-out. What this sounds like is a distorted socialized system that wouldn’t create many jobs, and the ones it would create wouldn’t pay very much.
To the next law school dean who writes in the NYT: There are more law students than there will be jobs available. There should be fewer law students and fewer law schools. Those who wish to work in Smalllaw shouldn’t have to spend three years getting a law degree to become a lawyer. Residencies are nice, but paying workers a pittance and then dumping them on the market doesn’t sound any more attractive than the current system.
Okay, I’ll be honest. I’m writing this post on Dean Farmer’s op-ed to show you this song by the Premiers: