TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Friday, November 13, 2009

"Going to Law School Is Like Starting to Smoke"

Following up on Tuesday's post, Death of 'Big Law School'?, in which Erik Gerding (New Mexico) argues that law schools will face "massive economic pressure" with the demise of the BigLaw business model:

  • Above the Law: "At this point, going to law school is like starting to smoke. It’s expensive, it’s probably going to kill you, and it’s a stupid life decision. But some people just don’t care. At the very least, prospective law students should be forced to study for and take the LSAT outside. Mothers with small children should sneer and hold their nose when they pass these kids on the street."
  • Wall Street Journal:  "Fewer people will go to law school, and law school will be, well, different. Perhaps the focus will be more on teaching students on how to draft interrogatories than on reading John Rawls. If we’re reading Gerding correctly, law school may become less fun, but perhaps more useful."
  • Ideoblog:  "[L]aw firms are dying because they have no asset core binding them together. Future lawyers must be trained to build those assets. This means high-end law practice will not simply shrink or get less lucrative, but be transformed into general-purpose firms that call for closer connections between law and other disciplines."

Erik responds in The Incredible Shrinking Law School?:

Perhaps most of my predictions will turn out overly pessimistic. But the overall point, that law faculties need to start thinking about these long term pressures remains. Even professors who don't care about big law firms should consider what their fate means for our profession. ...  A lot of industries and institutions are under enormous competitive pressure, including many like newspapers and universities with important functions other than generating a profit. Law schools will be no different.

Many commentators to my post have noted that some of the sacred cows of law school may fall victim to this particular economic crisis - such as the three-year law school, tenure, and the monopoly (in most states) of graduate legal education as gateway to the bar. We may already be feeling the foreshocks of these trends.

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