Thursday, October 4, 2007
Andy Morriss' Advice for Erwin Chemerinsky: Embrace Competition and Disclose Audited Employment Data
Continuing our series of responses from various legal luminaries to the question: What is the single best idea for reforming legal education you would offer to Erwin Chemerinsky as he builds the law school at UC-Irvine?
Andrew P. Morriss (H. Ross and Helen Workman Professor of Law and Professor of Business, Institute for Government and Public Affairs, University of Illinois; Editor, St. Maximos’ Hut and The Commons: Markets Protecting the Environment blogs):
1. Embrace competition. California has the most open market for legal education in the United States, with both state-accredited and unaccredited law schools competing with ABA-accredited law schools. (This gives a large benefit to the ABA-accredited California schools’ U.S. News’ rankings – see Morriss & Henderson by reducing the denominator in the bar passage calculation.) Instead of being part of the crowd, embrace the open market and ally yourself with the non-ABA accredited schools in further opening California’s market to alternative forms of legal education. Given the effect of the ABA standards in reducing minority and low income access to legal education (see George Shepherd, No African-American Lawyers Allowed: The Inefficient Racism of the ABA’s Accreditation of Law Schools, 53 J. Leg. Educ. 103 (2003); Harry First, Competition in the Legal Education Industry, 53 N.Y.U. L. Rev. 311 (1978), and 54 N.Y.U. L. REV. 311 (1978)) and the lack of a connection between those standards and educational quality, your school can have an impact by championing an open market.
2. Treat students’ decision to attend your school as a major investment decision. Legal education is a major investment, even at subsidized in-state tuition levels. When the opportunity cost of spending three years out of the job market is factored in, the cost for students is well over $100,000 at most law schools. Students need honest, detailed, and easy-to-compare data about employment outcomes to evaluate the merits of the different “investment opportunities” law schools offer. Start your deanship with a public pledge to make such data available about your students’ employment outcomes and back it up by hiring a reputable auditing firm to certify the data as honest. Openly pressure your fellow deans, in California and elsewhere, to do the same. It may not make you popular at deans’ meetings, but you can have a major impact in improving students’ welfare.
For all the posts in the series, see here.