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Friday, November 2, 2012

WaPo: Will Law Students Have Jobs After They Graduate?

UC-Irvine LogoWashington Post:  Will Law School Students Have Jobs After They Graduate?:

Erwin Chemerinsky is a noted constitutional law scholar who has devoted his career to legal education. He is also the founding dean of the law school at the University of California at Irvine. Chemerinsky’s new school opened in 2009, amid the financial crisis and a related — and perhaps permanent — sharp constriction in the job market for new lawyers.

Though the University of California has four well-established law schools, Chemerinsky says UC-Irvine’s program fills an unmet need. Irvine, he says, “puts far more emphasis on preparing students to be lawyers at the highest level of the profession than perhaps other law schools.”

To do that, Irvine needed top-flight facilities and professors. Price, seemingly, is no object. UC-Irvine, a public university, offers the second-most-expensive legal education in the country. At more than $77,000 a year including living expenses for out-of-state students, a JD from Irvine tops the bill from Harvard, Yale or Stanford. Only the University of California at Berkeley, at almost $78,000, costs more.

Chemerinsky seems untroubled by this, arguing in an interview that Irvine is no more expensive than Stanford or the University of Southern California, really. He highlights the success of his first class of 56 students, which graduated in May. Nearly 80% have already found full-time jobs as lawyers. Excellence costs, he says, and, by implication, excellence pays. ...

There are a few other recent statistics that Chemerinsky and his colleagues at the nation’s law schools — a disproportionate number of which are in or near Washington — might want to bring into sharper focus.

In 2011, more than 44,000 students graduated from the 200-odd U.S. law schools accredited by the ABA. Nine months after graduation, only a bit more than half had found full-time jobs as lawyers.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics forecasts 73,600 new lawyer jobs from 2010 to 2020. But just three years into that decade, about 132,757 new lawyers have hit the job market. ...

[H]undreds of thousands of law students are being trained for a profession that no longer has room for most of them.

“It is hard to describe the misery we are generating,” says Paul Campos, who has taught at University of Colorado Law School since 1990. “We close our eyes to an entire generation of people we are selling a bill of goods to. We have talked ourselves into believing that what we are doing is defensible, and it’s not. It is not defensible to charge people $200,000 for a degree which is worse than worthless. We have a systemic catastrophe on our hands.”

Campos blames the federal loan program, which he says issues loans to cover any amount of tuition, to any number of law students, with no regard for post-academic realities. In his Law School Tuition Bubble blog, 2008 Marquette University JD Matt Leichter, who writes frequently for AmLaw Daily, estimates that 2010 law school graduates took on $3.6 billion in loans, and that students over the next decade (for whom there are statistically zero jobs) will borrow $53 billion.

“If the federal government applied any actuarial standards, half the law schools would shut down tomorrow,” Campos says. “The whole thing is a basically a giant subsidy machine run for the benefit of legal education.” ...

Perhaps Chemerinsky is brilliant in his bid to create a Yale of the West. If the middle is now doomed, the bottom has always been doomed, and only the elite are likely to weather the storm, then join the elite.

But if UC-Irvine Law ends up being just another respected middle-of-the-pack academy, its graduates, who will soon number 200 a year, will join the crisis already affecting the students of mid-tier schools.

Paul Campos (Colorado) writes on his blog that "the story highlights the mind-boggling absurdity that is UC-Irvine (I would give roughly even odds on this law school existing ten years from now)." he also states:

I've heard from a reliable source that a certain Midwestern law school that sits -- or at present wobbles -- a considerable distance from the bottom of the ABA-accredited hierarchy has unilaterally slashed its entire faculty's salary by a non-trivial percentage.

ABA Journal, Law School by the Numbers: 300K Additional Law Grads by 2020; 73K New Jobs Forecast for Decade

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I can't wait until the finger pointing starts within the U.C. System when Prop. 30 (Jerry Brown's tax increase) fails next week and massive cuts to U.C. go into effect.

Chemerinsky's superfluous law school will have a major target on it's back. There was never a need for the school, that much is clear, and with the U.C.'s current and foreseeable fiscal situation, I can't think of a more logical (and fair) deparment to wipe off of the books entirely than Irvine's law school.

Posted by: Anon | Nov 2, 2012 2:00:19 PM

pretty sure that Prop. 30 will pass.. Californians should hope it doesn't but it will.. basically prop 30 will increase taxes, take more capital from the private sector, cause prices to go up, business will leave.

Posted by: zman | Nov 3, 2012 10:08:24 AM

More to the point: Will there be laws after they graduate?

Posted by: PacRim Jim | Nov 4, 2012 1:35:09 PM

Chemerinsky and the University of California system richly deserve each other, and will continue their fond embrace as they circle the drain. If they closed a full third of the law schools in California tomorrow, they'd still only be half-way toward a solution to at least one of their problems.

Posted by: Beldar | Nov 4, 2012 1:42:44 PM