Saturday, September 8, 2012
American Lawyer: A Tale of Two (California) Law Schools, by Matt Leichter:
Two of the newest law schools to join the ABA's fold are located in California: the University of La Verne, a private law school in Ontario (a city in California's "Inland Empire"), and the University of California at Irvine, a public law school. Though fewer than fifty miles apart, their ambitions couldn't diverge more: La Verne merely aspires to serve its nearby residents while UC-Irvine is boldly trying to be "the ideal law school for the 21st century," according to its dean and progenitor, Erwin Chemerinsky. Although the schools justify their goals in very different terms, neither is persuasive and both only add to the number of unemployed law school graduates. ...
There are two lessons the University of La Verne and UC-Irvine provide us. The first is that there is no "responsible" way to create a law school that doesn't involve creating unemployed graduates. Either the law school will take in students it knows will either not find law jobs or won't even pass a bar exam (La Verne), or it will force another law school somewhere else to do the same (UC-Irvine).
The second and more significant lesson, which is more closely associated with UC-Irvine than La Verne: We are slowly approaching the endgame for public law schools. Once state governments no longer consider training lawyers a public good, by cutting subsidies, public law schools mutate into vestigial state structures whose agendas are orthogonal to any public purpose, unless using their students' tuition for other university programs counts. They should either be privatized or closed.