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Monday, December 10, 2012

Silver: The Case Against Tamanaha’s Motel 6 Model of Legal Education

Motel 6 LogoJay Sterling Silver (St. Thomas U.), The Case Against Tamanaha’s Motel 6 Model of Legal Education, 60 UCLA L. Rev. Disc. 52 (2012):

The radical overhaul of legal education espoused in Professor Brian Tamanaha’s new, widely read book, Failing Law Schools, would represent a disastrous step backward in legal education. Tamanaha and his supporters argue that the current crisis in legal education—rampant unemployment among debt-laden law graduates and plummeting law-school applications—requires a dramatic reduction in law-school tuition by substituting a yearlong apprenticeship for the final year of law study and replacing tenured, full-time legal scholars in the classroom with low-cost, part-time practitioners at non-elite law schools.

This Essay examines Tamanaha’s model in light of the pedagogical needs of law students, the interests of the clients of fledgling attorneys, and the role law professors have traditionally played in championing legal reform and the rights of the disenfranchised through enlightened scholarship. Who will replace the law professor—protected by tenure, unbound to clients or special interests, and able to reflect on abuses of power from the Archimedean point of the academy—as the critic of injustice? I contend that Tamanaha’s argument for apprenticeships disserves clients and is pedagogically unsound. And that Tamanaha’s “differentiated” legal education, with elite, three-year programs training corporate lawyers and less expensive two year schools for local practitioners, would limit the choices and opportunities of law students from the start.

Update:  Orin Kerr (George Washington) is not Impressed with Silver's argument:

I think legal scholarship can be extremely valuable and worthwhile. Brian Tamanaha thinks so, too. But making the case that the status quo is the best possible world requires more than just patting ourselves on the back about how society is very lucky to have us.

Other reviews of Failing Law Schools (below the fold):

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T minus ____, until Brian Tamanaha angrily responds to 60 UCLA L. Rev. Disc. 52 (2012). Any guesses on which hotel chain he will snootily reference in response?

I love an old fashioned academic cat fight.

Posted by: Lt. Dangle | Dec 10, 2012 10:01:28 AM

Numerous tenured law professors at UT Austin totally disgraced themselves when they came out en masse in criticism of Lino Graglia.

"Championing legal reform and the rights of the disenfranchised" requires more Louis Nizer types and far fewer tenured socialist profs.

Posted by: Jimbino | Dec 10, 2012 3:23:37 PM

St. Thomas University by the Numbers:

Tuition (3 yrs): $103,854
Est. Total Cost (3 yrs): $214,882
USNWR Rank: No Ranking (i.e. below 145)

Not Working: 26.3%
Working Part-Time: 4.6%
Working School Funded: 0.9%
Working Solo: 5.4%

Working 2-10 Firms: 26.2%
(Of course, salary information is not reported)

Working 100+ Firms: 1% (i.e. 2 people)
Federal Clerkships: None

So, well over a third are, objectively, worse off for having gone to the school. Another quarter are working at small firms that likely don't pay near enough to service the sizable debt required to pay for the school. And 2 people have potentially good outcomes.

Posted by: john | Dec 10, 2012 6:31:47 PM

A couple of point-by-point critiques:

1. "A Holiday Inn–type law school
would provide a fine education for many, adequate for the type of legal practice they
will undertake.”22 Tamanaha somehow overlooks the fact that it wouldn’t be adequate
for many of the clients, often unable to afford alumni of the Ritz-Carlton law
schools, who’d be represented by graduates of the abbreviated, Holiday Inn–type

Yet, St. Johns will cost over $100,000 in tuition. How does he justify charging Ritz-Carlton tuition if his students are going to be offering discounted services to these Holiday Inn clients?

2. "Law students, in other words, would no longer be able to select freely
among the various career paths within the profession after exposure to the different
areas of law in law school. Instead, based on their ability to pay, they’d either attend
a school from which they might emerge onto Wall Street or one where they’d
have no choice but to hang up a shingle on Main Street."

As the placement stats for St. Johns show, its students are already limited as described above. The only difference is, under Tamanaha's plan, they wouldn't have to pay full price as they do know.

Posted by: john | Dec 10, 2012 6:41:51 PM

"Numerous tenured law professors at UT Austin totally disgraced themselves..."

They also disgraced themselves when they demanded (and received) ex-Dean Larry Sager's brown bags of back-alley money.

I am proud life-long non-contributor to UT Austin alumni drives.

Their insanely self-serving "forgivable" loans are unforgivable in the eyes of thousands of grads they have defrauded.

Posted by: UT Alum | Dec 10, 2012 6:51:50 PM

What I find hilarious in the Motel 6 article is the ringing defense of indebting young people to support law professor scholarship from a guy who has published, according to Westlaw, a grand total of three articles since the early 1980s, and none in the past fifteen years. Yes, it's important to give law professors the time to right the injustices of society, but not so important that we actually expect them to take time off from leisure activities to do it.

Posted by: Anonobobo | Dec 11, 2012 7:18:34 AM

So am I to assume that no professor who works at a school with employment outcomes that meet the mob's satisfaction can have an opinion on the law school crisis? When did that become the rule?

Posted by: Anon | Dec 11, 2012 7:53:51 AM