Paul L. Caron

Thursday, October 4, 2012

UC-Hastings Dean: Let's Shrink Law Schools (and Increase Tuition)

UC Hastings LogoHuffington Post op-ed: Shrinking Law Schools, by Frank H. Wu (Dean, UC-Hastings):

Law schools must reduce their J.D. class sizes. They should do so immediately and permanently.

The data are compelling. There are simply too many lawyers and too many law students in the United States nowadays. Only about half of recent graduates of law schools, of which there also are too many, are securing permanent full-time employment in the legal profession at this point.

There, I've said it. Indeed, my law school has taken action. Lest observers speculate, we announced our decision as part of comprehensive strategic planning, well in advance of seeing how the applicant pool looked for this academic year. ...

Law school isn't a good bet at current tuition rates for the one third of the class that we have usually seen: the bright college senior who isn't ready for "the real world" but tests well. Too many people take up three years of Socratic method based on what they've watched on television or in the movies. They will be disappointed if not embittered by the real world of document review and legal research in an environment that is an exquisite combination of the very boring and very stressful. ...

Angry individuals are demanding that law schools simply close their doors. Some institutions may well be compelled to do so. But law schools that are responsible about shrinking will be able to keep their doors open to justice. That would be in the best interests of the schools themselves, and, more importantly, their students and society.

None of us will be able to reform the system of legal education by ourselves. If we compete during this market failure instead of cooperate to reform the rules, we will regret it.

Dean Wu neglects to mention that UC-Hastings coupled its 20% class size reduction with a 15% increase in resident tuition, to $46,575 in 2012-13 (up from  $20,900 in 2004-05), as well as the elimination of 27 staff positions (and additional hiring of tenure-track faculty).  45.3% of the UC-Hastings Class of 2011 landed permanent full-time bar-required jobs.

For my perspective, see yesterday's post, The Law School Crisis: What Would Jimmy McMillan Do?.

Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:

Update:  Deborah Jones Merritt (Ohio State), Wu-less

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Anon said

"they can oen their own shop"

and undermined any remaining credibility he might have had.

Also, Anon, please Google "bi-modal salary distribution" and then get back to me about the relevance of those mean/median figures. Guess which peak on the salary graph that you'll find represents the bulk of the OCI jobs. And guess which one represents everything else.

Posted by: Herp n Derp | Oct 6, 2012 2:56:10 PM


If you were right there would be no difference between employment 9 months after graduation and on graduation day-- or for that matter, employment during the summer employment after 2L year.

But of course, there is. Some summer associates are not invited back, and some students who did not work as summer associates are offered jobs.

And of course, the students who take the right classes don't need to wait around for someone to hand them a job--they can open their own shop.

Posted by: Anon | Oct 6, 2012 7:15:01 AM

@ Posted by: Anon | Oct 5, 2012 7:40:52 AM

You really think that all it takes to get jobs is for 2L and 3L to take "substantive advanced law classes"???

You are really really clueless. By the time 2L and 3L rolls around OCI is over. I have NEVER heard of any employer who hired one candidate over another based on some class he took as a 3L. Get real!

No real life employer cares.

The real problem is that there are only like 20,000 jobs for 45,000 grads. 25,000 or so grads won't magical create jobs on their own no matter what classes they take!

Posted by: Cyferion | Oct 5, 2012 1:57:25 PM


According to the ABA, more than 85% of law grads had jobs 9 months after graduation. Not all were JD-required or full time, but the median salary was $60K, the mean was $70 to $80K and almost all were white collar. This is much better than liberal arts grads with no law degrees, who made around $30K and had much lower employment rates.

Many grads are finding jobs, or starting their own law firms. Do you think it's the students who study law and [latest fad], with a minor in online shopping and IMing during class who are getting the jobs?

Or do you think it's the students who push themselves and take challenging, technical classes that employers care about? Perhaps the students who also work internships or part time jobs throughout law school?

Posted by: Anon | Oct 5, 2012 1:33:19 PM

I am a lawyer, not an entrepreneur. Maybe part of the problem here is that non-lawyer capitalists are not allowed to own law firms, the way non-medical capitalists are allowed to own hospitals and professional practices.

If it works in Australia and the UK, why would it not work here?

Posted by: Bob | Oct 5, 2012 11:56:59 AM

Anon #2-

You kidding me? I was going to say more, but I think the point I need to get at can be summarized as follows:


Get it? Something like half of new JDs get any legal job whatsoever. The other 20k? SOL. And it's not as if a JD would be worthwhile at any price even if there were jobs for everyone with a JD. The cost of law school at this point is absolutely absurd, the job market is awful, and those of us already trying to pay our debts from law school are getting absolutely crushed. And you think that half of the graduating law students every year can't get work because of course selection? Really, course selection?? Please, bro.

Posted by: Former Stoodint | Oct 5, 2012 9:43:54 AM

Bob has a great point.

Too many law students are eager to study subjects like constitutional law, first amendment theory, jurisprudence, criminal law and criminal theory, sports and entertainment law, international human rights law, law and [insert trendy fad here], and whatever else is on offer that seems glamorous, fun, or easy.

Anyone with a modicum of good sense, google, and/or parents knows that these subjects will not help them get a job.

They don't want education. They want entertainment.

And after they go through three years of law school avoiding substantive advanced law classes in tax, commercial law, banking, insurance, securities, energy, healthcare, civil procedure (i.e., Fed Courts), trade law, accounting, corporate finance, real estate finance, antitrust, corporate law, labor & employment law, etc.

They complain that corporate law firms and big businesses aren't beating down their door to hire them.

Posted by: Anon | Oct 5, 2012 4:40:52 AM

It sounds like you should be hiring Bob.

There should be about 22,500 to 45,000 interested candidates...

Why don't you post a couple dozen listings (neglected demand and all) and let us know how it turns out.

Seriously, if you aren't blowing smoke, more power to you - but that "neglected demand" argument does strongly suggest that you should be hiring like crazy.

And many would be interested in following up on the specifics of that.

Posted by: cas127 | Oct 4, 2012 8:16:58 PM

I question the assumption in all these articles that the annual demand for lawyers is a finite number.

I especially question it, coming from tax law professors.

Who does most of the work these days involving advice about and application of the Internal Revenue Code?



Because there was too much of this work for the legal profession, when federal income taxation was expanded to require many more Americans to file returns.

If I have learned one thing from conducting a law practice that involves tax advice and return preparation several months of the year, followed by assisting clients who need estate planning and other legal work the rest of the year, it is this:

There aren't enough of us doing this, and it's a market that is as big as it is neglected.

The legal profession's survival plan for the last 70 years has been to abandon traditional legal work -- taxes, real estate, estate and trust document preparation -- to CPAs, real estate brokers and financial planners; then to complain about the lack of jobs for law school graduates.

The law school answer to this situation has been: Let's not think of new jobs for lawyers (or how to bring back clients we used to have); let's just shut down schools.

Three years of law school is not needed if students choose their practice area early enough. A five-year integrated BA and law degree would work just fine, even with higher tuition.

Change is needed. Surrender is not.

Posted by: Bob | Oct 4, 2012 1:50:00 PM