TaxProf Blog

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

Monday, July 2, 2012

Student Loan Program Pumps Legal Ed Bubble (For Now)

The American Interest:  Student Loan Program Pumps Legal Ed Bubble: For Now, by Walter Russell Mead:

The more you are paying for your law school education, the less likely it may be that the investment will ever pay off. This would be one thing if there were enough jobs in the legal field for everyone to get one after law school, but of course that is no longer the case. A significant number of people paying $200,000 for three years of law school are going to end up with jobs they could have had without the degree.

Something that can’t go on forever, won’t, and a lot of American law schools are likely to close their doors. Via Meadia hopes that instead of simply reducing the number of law schools, Americans will figure out how to make legal education cheaper, faster and better.

It’s not at all clear that law school needs to be three postgraduate years; some of the greatest lawyers in American history never went to law school. In the UK, lawyers major in law as undergraduates and usually have one year of legal education afterwards and serve an apprenticeship for two more. It’s likely that either undergrad programs or short intense postgrad programs focused on training students to pass the bar exam combined with apprenticeships would prepare most lawyers for most legal work as well or better than our present system — and in any case, our legal system is about to undergo radical change as IT penetrates farther into the legal world and outsourcing moves more legal and paralegal work overseas.

In the meantime, some words to remember: if a second or third tier law school isn’t offering you a substantial tuition break, the school doesn’t think you’re a very competitive student. It doesn’t make sense to pay full price to enter a profession in crisis when the experts are telling you that your prospects are poor.

And do not forget: most student loans do not get discharged if you go bankrupt. They are a ball and chain that will drag you down for decades. Please, look very carefully before you leap.

(Hat Tip: Glenn Reynolds.)

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I'm a college professor, teaching several law courses to undergraduates. One of my chores is to be the advisor to students considering law school. I guess I'm obligated to share this piece with them.

Posted by: eli b | Jul 4, 2012 4:03:19 AM