Paul L. Caron

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Criticism of Case Western Dean's NY Times op-ed, Law School Is Worth the Money

A number of critics have assailed the New York Times op-ed by Case Western Dean Lawrence Mitchell, Law School Is Worth the Money:

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I wrote about the Mitchell article too. Although I'm not a lawyer, I went to law school for a year by accident and spent two years teaching the LSAT, and during that time I learned a lot about how law schools work and how much money many them make for their home institutions.

If you know anything at all about law schools and the structure of law schools, it's impossible not to see Mitchell's piece as self-serving and disingenuous at best, and cruelly mendacious at worst. The kindest thing one can say is that he might simply be suffering from the intellectual blindness many of us suffer from.

Posted by: jseliger | Dec 4, 2012 2:07:21 PM

Why talk about the merits of being a lawyer when the government that is responsible for enforcing laws that are created just, do neither? Its because lawyers are fruit of the poisonous tree, the authors of evil. At least in the wild west, justice was done, at the end of a gun. In America, justice and the will of the people are thwarted at every turn by those purporting the rule of 'law'. What a sad sick joke Amerikan 'justice' is. Anyone that understands the US legal system know for truth that Shakespeare was right.

Posted by: Fred | Dec 2, 2012 10:49:31 AM

Vermont, typically leftwards and backwards, actually does a few things right. Gun rights and their 4-year legal clerkship for Vermont attorney allows applicant to sit for Vermont Bar.

Of course, not a lot of economic activity in Vermont, so Vt license not all that helpful unless you already have money, with one exception.

Vt. License creates ability to represent any US taxpayer before IRS and tax court.

That's what I would do today --- instead of law school.

I did get my Vermont license years ago --- I'll probably start offering that clerkship to some of my employees (Vt does require 4 yr undergrad degree required to be eligible for clerkship)

Posted by: Tax Attorney | Dec 2, 2012 9:00:05 AM

I'm lucky enough to have graduated before the bottom fell out of the industry. But right now, the hard numbers show that law school professors are the purveyors of ruined lives.

Posted by: Ars Sine Artificio | Dec 2, 2012 6:22:23 AM

Who is the good Dean's audience? The media? The legal academy? Practicing lawyers? Current or potential students?

If it's the media, I've yet to see someone win a fight against media "hysteria" and "nonsense" in the Age of the Internet.

If it's the academy, he'll get a few pats on the back at next year's AALS conference (assuming travel stipends aren't cut by then).

If it's practicing lawyers, the op-ed will reconfirm their belief that academics have no clue about what's actually been happening in the profession since the '80s (e.g., bimodel salary distribution, electronic discovery, outsourcing, etc).

If it's student, he has a real problem. Dean Mitchell makes a system argument about what the profession should look like--the typical the best and brightest promoting access to justice and the rule of law stuff--and then argues applicants a not properly valuing a law degree's worth. His best and strongest arguments seem to be: (1) other professions are struggling too; (2) you can get jobs other than being a lawyer; (3) tuition and debt are not so bad relatively speaking; and (4) the baby boomers will die and you can take their jobs.

But potential law students, not the practicing bar or legal academics, make the choice about whether to debt-finance the academy's tuition bills. And they make that choice based on what's in their own self-interest, not on what will achieve the academy's idealized version of the profession.

If the Dean can't make better arguments about why attending law school is in an applicant's self interest, the decline in applications will likely continue unabated.

Posted by: Neal Green | Dec 2, 2012 5:42:30 AM

Mr. Livingston,

Reading bond prospectuses was also tedious work. Your judgment is not worthy of respect. You seem to have no idea just how much damage the status quo of legal education is doing to a significant number of graduates, and what it is doing to the "profession", if there ever really was such a thing. "Courageous"? How do people like you even exist?

Posted by: Ryan Mushrush | Dec 1, 2012 4:13:45 PM

This post illustrates the triumph of the blogosphere.

Had a Dean of a law school penned such an op-ed 25 years ago in the holy NYT, his "argument from (presumed) authority" would have been unassailable and utterly unquestioned.

Indeed, such an op-ed would have never had to have been written - because the Authorities would have gone utterly unquestioned in the first place.

Their unexamined corruption would have continued unabated.

As, indeed, it did.

For decades.

As, indeed, it would have done.

For decades.

Had the blogosphere not shattered the empire of lies.

Posted by: cas127 | Dec 1, 2012 11:16:58 AM

Mr. Livingston - please address the substance: it's not a "law school sucks crowd" its a " school appears to not make sense in light of the employment data, only now available after schools had to be forced through popular revolt, vs. the cost."

What is so difficult to understand about that??? 150k in debt for a less than 50 percent shot and permanant full time employment as a lawyer is a scary bet, and folks (only recently being inoformed of this reality) are waiting it out. If things improve, applications will increase, but then, and only then should folks dive in.

Posted by: Anon | Dec 1, 2012 10:05:17 AM

There's whining, then there is fair criticism. Considerig that law profs pride themselves on preparing students to become lawyers--an occupation adversarial in nature and where your ideas are attacked everyday--they wouldn't mind having their feet held to the fire a little bit.

Law school does not flat out "suck." But large parts of it are either obsolete, ineffectual, or flat out broken. For the profession to thrive, these probelms need to be addressed by people in & out of the ivory tower.

Posted by: Keith Lee | Dec 1, 2012 7:33:38 AM

I think Mitchell was courageous to post this. The "law school sucks" crowd has in my judgement become tedious. If you really believe this, why keep teaching?

Posted by: michael livingston | Dec 1, 2012 3:10:10 AM