Paul L. Caron
Dean




Thursday, February 9, 2012

Buchanan: The Long-Term Damage From the Assault on Law Schools

Tax Prof Neil H. Buchanan (George Washington), The Long-Term Damage From the Assault on Law Schools:

It is hardly news that the legal academy has been under sustained assault for the last few years. ... My overall reaction to the public discussion is that far too many people are launching broad, baseless, ill-informed attacks on an institution that is both fundamentally well designed and essential to the maintenance of a civilized society.

This raucous atmosphere might have the effect of reducing the number of people who are potentially interested in attending law school. We have, in fact, seen a pronounced drop in law school applications this year, which could certainly be a response to the idea that law school is nothing but a "scam" or a waste of students' borrowed money. Of course, there are multiple explanatory factors at work, most obviously the continued recession-level employment prospects for far too many law graduates. Potential students need not believe any of the nonsensical attacks on the case method, nor pay any heed to the false claim that law professors are writing useless articles, to conclude that their individual best choice today is to delay applying to law school (or even to choose never to attend). ...

The New York Times and other news sources are doing serious damage to the long-term prospects of the legal academy, and ultimately to society as a whole. That damage, however goes far beyond the possibility that our future client pool is being drained on the basis of over-hyped claims. The future of intellectual inquiry is at stake, and there is good reason to fear that the damage being done now will have serious consequences well into the future.

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Comments


Professor Buchanan's "analysis" is sufficiently unenlightened and self-serving as to give credence to Paul Campos's "scam" explanation. Presumptive and embarrassing on many less than thoughtful levels.

Posted by: David Barnhizer | Feb 14, 2012 7:39:18 AM

See --
http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2012/02/kind-of-thing-that-gives-anti.html

Posted by: Tax Professional Extraordinaire | Feb 12, 2012 12:56:09 PM

"My overall reaction to the public discussion is that far too many people are launching broad, baseless, ill-informed attacks on an institution that is both fundamentally well designed and essential to the maintenance of a civilized society."

TAXES are what we pay for a civilized society: Judge Learned Hand: Helvering v. Gregory, 69 F.2d 809, 810-811 (2d Cir. 1934), aff’d 293 U.S. 465 (1935).

Law schools are not what law students pay for a civilized society. Law schools engage in outrageous behavior (increasing tuition at phenomenal amounts when inflation is de minimis; lying to U.S. News and law students about their employablity and future salary post-law school; being focused on scholarship rather than teaching law students how to be lawyers -- who remembers the rule against perpetuities let alone has used it?).

Law schools are not being assaulted, they are being deposed (or questioned before a grand jury) for their improper behavior to see the merits of a case against law schools and their clinging to a model that is about 100 years old and at least 20 years out of date.

Posted by: tax guy | Feb 11, 2012 6:07:07 AM

And, Prof. Buchanan could have added, the attacks are being made with few if any constructive solutions for the legal academy.

Posted by: mike livingston | Feb 11, 2012 3:08:17 AM

I pay for your "intellectual inquiry." It is totally useless to me. Now help me find a job.

Posted by: Broke Law Student | Feb 10, 2012 5:28:23 PM

Wait Publius, if law schools are to train lawyers, how can the social science ph.d.'s also have j.d.'s? And why would it be BETTER for the ph.d.'s to have them? Seems like your division of labor isn't so divided after all.

Posted by: bs | Feb 10, 2012 3:06:47 PM

To Publius Novus. Would you have 'intellectual inquiry' about fundamendal isues in medicine be handled by 'the social science and humanities departments of our great universities'? If not, why would you deem it proper to have fundamental inquiries about law, including its proper aims and thorny problems, handled by such departments, who typically write airy-fairy non-realistic papers at a much higher rate than law faculties? While I admit that a significant amount of scholarly work by legal academics has little real world relevance, there is a much higher percentage with real world relevance than is produced by the departments you champion, and, conversely and contrary to the current popular but uninformed and/or unsupported claims, the vast majority of legal scholarship has very clear real world relevance and has a direct significant impact on courts, legislatures and practitioners and very real use (if they realize this and take advantage of it) to law school students who want to practice law or engage in the many other vocations for which a law degree is useful.

Posted by: Richard Wright | Feb 10, 2012 11:19:48 AM

The underlying assumption is that lawyers are good for society, and, possibly, the more the better. One need not necessarily agree with the famous quote from Henry VI to question that.

Posted by: daniel | Feb 10, 2012 8:15:27 AM

Professor Buchanan, I would greatly prefer that "future intellectual inquiry" about law and society be carried out in its proper locus--the social science and humanities departments of our great research universities. I would prefer that the professors carrying out the inquiry be Ph.D.s who have been schooled in academic inquiry. If such professors had J.D.s as well, I would feel even better. What many are saying and writing--with great justification--is that the current law school-based model, involving J.D.s who may or may not have Ph.D.s cheats both the students who have paid money to become lawyers and the long term interests of society. Law schools should train lawyers. Research departments of our great universities should conduct "intellectual inquiries." This is not anti-intellectualism. It is the proper division of labor.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Feb 10, 2012 6:37:18 AM