In a development that would have been unthinkable a few years ago, some law
schools around the country are shrinking. A few are even laying off faculty. The cause, as The Wall Street Journal reported earlier this month, is fewer law school applications and declining overall enrollment.
To say that University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos saw this coming would be an understatement. He's been sounding the alarm for years about the financial risk of attending law school in a glutted legal market. He even wrote a book on the topic: Don't Go To Law School (Unless): A Law Professor's Inside Guide to Maximizing Opportunity and Minimizing Risk (CreateSpace Independent Publishing
Apparently such warnings are finally having an effect — although Campos would argue, as I learned when speaking to him recently, that many more prospective students still need to get the word.
Campos: [The] median salary of people who graduated from law schools last year was around $45,000. There is absolutely no way it makes sense economically to incur $150,000 in debt and end up with a $45,000-a-year job. That's what economists call negative net present value in terms of the value of the degree. That means the degree is not worthless, but worse than worthless. ...
Campos: Law schools need to tremendously reduce their cost of operation and the number of people who are graduating from law school. We should be graduating about half as many people. Students should be paying at most half as much as they're paying now. To get there, there absolutely has to be reform at the level of federal educational loans. That's the original sin here. Anyone who is admitted to law school can borrow 100 percent of the total cost of attendance as calculated by the law school from the federal government, no questions asked. And that has had completely predictable effects in terms of the price structure of legal education.