Friday, August 24, 2012
Following up on last month's post, Chemerinsky: You Get What You Pay for in Legal Education: ABA Journal: Law Prof’s Ideal, Affordable Law School Not Possible in Reality, Chemerinsky Says:
“If you are not going to law school ... what is your alternative path?” asks Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law. “And in purely economic terms, is it better than law school? ... It’s not just monetary ... There are all sorts of exciting things you can do with a law degree.”
Asked about his own economic terms, the highly paid constitutional scholar says, “I wouldn’t have come at half the price. No one is going to take a 50% pay cut, no matter how beautiful Orange County is, and no matter how wonderful it is to be part of a new school.”
The two quotes may seem at odds—the ideal of a career bringing more than financial gain, the reality of getting the paycheck now. But they represent the two thorny sides of the debate of law school and its value.
One can hardly blame Chemerinsky for protecting his own. He had a posh teaching gig at Duke University School of Law and a family with four children to support. Still, his blunt statement represents the stark reality to the idealistic aims of law professor Brian Z. Tamanaha, author of Failing Law Schools, which calls for an innovative, top-quality, public-service-minded and affordable (i,.e. less than $20,000 a year) institution as the ideal 21st-century law school.
Tamanaha chastised Chemerinsky for failing to sell a vision of affordable excellence. Chemerinsky challenges Tamanaha’s budget skills. “I don’t know a way in which we possibly could have done what we are doing at the kind of amount [he] was discussing,” Chemerinsky said in an ABA Journal interview in response to a National Law Journal op-ed on the issue. ...As for the possibility of less expensive legal training, what Tamanaha calls for as a new paradigm, Chemerinsky sees as low cost law schools with “a lot of students, small faculty, a lot of adjuncts ... Not a law school I want to be associated with. [Tamanaha] looks at the value of a law degree in too much of monetary concerns,” Chemerinsky told me. But it’s the monetary concerns that concern me, observers of the law school bubble and the young people considering entry into the legal profession.