Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Deborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State), Price Sensitivity:
"Our consumers are not very price sensitive." I've heard that sentiment repeatedly during the last year, as colleagues across the nation respond to criticisms of law school tuition. ...
I wonder, in fact, how much of the tuition collected by law schools represents monopoly rents from the guild restrictions of the legal profession itself. To practice law, individuals must surmount significant barriers to entry: They must complete a four-year college degree, score decently on the LSAT, attend (and pay for) law school, and pass the bar examination (which often entails paying still more tuition for a bar review course). Increasingly, these individuals must also take a series of low-paying or volunteer positions to obtain practical experience and establish their credibility as lawyers. ... [L]aw school represents the single largest--and by far most expensive--barrier to entry. Potential lawyers don't get to choose their pipers: They must dance to our tune at whatever price we charge. ...
[L]aw schools are triply shielded from the free market: first by rules that restrict law practice to licensed lawyers; second by bar admission regulations that require applicants to graduate from accredited law schools; and third by self-designed accreditation standards. When we take advantage of these restrictions to escalate tuition far beyond inflation, we're not just stifling our graduates with debt; we're abandoning our professional responsibilities.
If you have a fetish for footnotes, DCM and I published a more academic version of these ideas last year (Responsibility-Rights in the Legal Profession).