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

Sunday, November 18, 2012

PrawfsBlawg Debate: Reforming Legal Education's Finances

PrawfsblawgMatt Bodie (St. Louis) hosted a five-part series on the law school financial crisis on PrawfsBlawg last week:

Reforming Legal Education's Finances: Let's Debate Specifics.  This fall a lot of law schools are talking about finances. While the blawgosphere and even the national press have addressed the basic market changes driving these discussions, I have not seen a lot of specifics about the difficult financial choices at stake. Next week, I'll be posting a series of questions comparing different strategies for dealing with the new market realities. The intent of these questions is to get folks talking about the costs and benefits of different approaches, so we may have a better handle of how to address them at our own institutions.

Reforming Legal Education's Finances: Questions for the Week.  This week PrawfsBlawg will be hosting an open forum on legal education's finances. Each day we'll have a fresh set of alternatives to debate as we consider ways to reform law school spending. ... [T]he intent of these questions is to pose these issues not in the abstract, but in contrast with other possibilities. The hope is to get people talking about the costs and benefits of different avenues for actual change as schools face hard choices.

  1. Is it better to cut tuition or class size?
  2. If tuition is to be cut, is it better to cut the sticker price or to increase aid to students? And if increasing aid to students, should it be through merit scholarships or loan repayment assistance?
  3. If a school is cutting costs, is it better to cut positions or to cut salaries?
  4. If faculty salaries are to be cut, is it better to have an across-the-board cut or cuts based on different principles?
  5. Should the faculty be responsible for implementing a cost-cutting plan or is that better left to the administration?

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Only 20 years too late.

Posted by: cas127 | Nov 18, 2012 3:18:11 PM

Two questions for you prawfs: 1. Why not listen to the market, rather than devise a solution internally (among you prawfs) ? What do students say? What do law firms want? 2. Why talk of "a solution"? Why not a different solution for every school? (Sorta Federalism).

Posted by: tom beebe st louis | Nov 19, 2012 7:39:06 AM

Have been seriously thinking about law school.

When I put the numbers together and realized it would take some $150,000 in debt to make it a reality from 2014-2017 (including R&B, using average % increase per year), I went to the bathroom and threw up.

Posted by: Hopeless | Nov 19, 2012 9:20:06 AM

Deck chairs on the Titanic.

Law schools were never really necessary - remember when people used to become lawyers by apprenticeship?? It's a trade, people. The only innovation of law school was inefficiency - which you could get away with by being a monopolized profession with high, gov't-approved barriers to entry.

Legal theory is pathetic and corrupts the youth. What a stupid thing to spew political ideologies backed up by arm-chair induction of the work real lawyers do. So the whole pedagogical approach is bunk. Isn't it funny how every year a few low tier schools get better bar passage rates than their big name neighbors!

Law school is a caste system, not a meritocracy. May the monopoly die more quickly.

No 1L learns more in a lecture course than he/she could learn with Examples and Explanations for a fraction of the cost. Legal research is now mostly free and efficient: see Google Scholar for case law, or statutory law: legalinfo, findlaw, gov't online sources, etc.

You all scream that there aren't jobs for lawyers - that the market for legal services has dried up...yet America ranks in third world status when it comes to access to legal representation for the common man. PRICE is the PROBLEM. Your monopoly rents are poisoning the well.

The law schools cannot die fast enough.

Posted by: reformyourbusinessmodel | Nov 19, 2012 11:44:15 AM

A mere decade ago, law school tuition was approximately half of what it is now and graduated competent, capable lawyers.

The first question should be, "What's stopping us from returning to a model wherein the all-inclusive cost for a year of law school is about $40,000, and how do we remove those barriers?"

It is a myth that we cannot educate good lawyers for less than $60,000 a year; legal education has always been (even adjusting for inflation) substantially less expensive than that. Is there any good reason to not return to that model, at least for the vast majority of law schools?

Posted by: bridget | Nov 19, 2012 2:01:32 PM

This is a debate that will always come around, who know when it will ever be satisfactory.

Posted by: Jarod | Dec 30, 2012 7:06:46 PM