Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Following up on yesterday's post, Who Pays Law Professor Salaries?: Jason Solomon (William & Mary), How Much Taxpayer Money for Legal Education and Scholarship?:
We law professors like to think of ourselves as public intellectuals, opining on various issues, and others sometimes treat us that way. So here's a question of federal budget priorities: how much money should taxpayers be spending on legal education and scholarship?
Right now, hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars -- more likely billions -- is funding legal education and scholarship. You can think of it as coming from today's taxpayers directly to law schools, or think of it the way our budget rules do: that the government is making money today from loans, through interest payments and fees, but tomorrow's taxpayers will be on the hook 20-25 years out when the debt is forgiven through IBR. If taxpayer money for education was devoted to future lawyers serving unmet legal needs, it might be justified. But most of it isn't. And the massive imbalance between the supply of new law graduates and the demand for them -- projected to continue until at least 2020 -- makes the expenditures difficult to justify on education grounds...
Legal education has considerable room for improvement, but legal scholarship gets a bad rap. More and deeper knowledge about our legal system is a "public good" worth supporting. (More in a future post) The question, of course, is how much is worth supporting, given competing budget priorities and a growing deficit.