Paul L. Caron

Monday, July 13, 2015

Brooklyn Law School Offers 15% Tuition Refund For Students Who Don't Find Full-Time Jobs 9 Months After Graduation

Brooklyn (2015)New York Times, Brooklyn Law School Offers a Safety Net for New Students:

Beginning with students entering this year — whether in two-, three- or four-year programs — Brooklyn Law School is offering to repay 15 percent of total tuition costs to those who have not found full-time jobs nine months after graduating. That, according to school officials, is how long it typically takes graduates to get such jobs and, if necessary, to obtain the requisite licenses. ...

The introduction of the program, called Bridge to Success, comes as law school graduates across the country face increasing competition in a depressed job market that is only slowly recovering from the economic downturn. ...

Last year Brooklyn Law School, which had a total enrollment of 1,117 in the 2014-15 academic year, reduced its tuition by 15 percent, so that students entering this year pay $43,237 on average per year. ...

Now, with the tuition-reimbursement plan, the school is offering ... new students additional financial relief. To qualify, students must take the bar exam after graduating, though they need not pass it. They must also demonstrate that they have actively searched for full-time work and have made use of the school’s career resources. The 15 percent reimbursement applies only to out-of-pocket tuition expenses, including loan payments; scholarships and grants are not covered.

Mr. Allard, the school’s dean, explained that the program was meant to motivate students to seek out career resources on campus and to give them time to seek a job they want, rather than settle for the first option that comes along because of financial pressure.

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I don't know if initiatives of this type are actually being tried at any law schools, but I welcome any reports about such efforts to foster interdependence and cooperation. When I teach my undergrad students these days, I often include a research paper assignment where students are allowed (but not required) to work as teams, and submit one deliverable for their group. They all receive the same grade. As long as every member of the team is satisfied with the contributions of each other member, all the names go on the paper.

This has proved popular with many of my students. The team concept allows each person to contribute in whatever way he or she is most competent, and in whatever amount is most feasible under the totality of the circumstances. Are there free-rider problems? Probably, but by one means or another, the students have been able to reach consensus that every member of the team deserves to share in the group's collective grade. I think the negotiation and relationship-building aspects of this project are valuable learning experiences in and of themselves, in addition to the subject-matter knowledge acquired during the research and drafting of the paper.

Skills like these are increasingly crucial in real-world business. An us-versus-them attitude is less likely to produce synergy and collaborative innovation than a team approach. Don't get me wrong; as a 20-year Air Force officer, I'm no hippie and not even close to being a communist. But I've seen a partnership paradigm out-perform the traditional isolationist/competitive methods time and again. What can law schools do to give our students practice in working together, cooperatively helping one another, and collaborating to achieve better results than an student could do as an individual?

Posted by: John Charles Kunich | Jul 15, 2015 10:46:09 AM

From what I've seen in this and other legal-education blogs, there isn't much in the category of active encouragement of teamwork, collaboration, or mutual support in law schools today. If this is true, it's really out of step with some significant evolution in the way business is done today. Of course there is still competition, zealous safeguarding of trade secrets and patents, and the corporate imperative to maximize profits. But I detect an increased willingness to partner with those who may have skill sets and advantages that complement the in-house assets.

I read a lot about synergy and agility in today's business world. I'm currently finishing the manuscript for my latest book, Yes, You're a Leader!, which will deal with leadership approaches that work in the contemporary climate. One recurring theme of my new book is that isolation is rarely the optimal way to maximize innovation and productivity. Collaboration and cooperation can be an effective antidote to the Olde Schoole paradigm of dog-eat-dog. Even in the high-stakes field of Environmental Compliance (one of my primary specialties) many examples have sprung up of increased openness and partnering between the regulators and the regulated community. Even where there are clearly differences in interests between groups, there are real opportunities to find common ground and reduce conflict, to everyone's mutual benefit. Why should law school, and the actual practice of law, be in a different category where competition still reigns?

Is there a way for law students to assist each other, whether formally or informally, to help more people achieve good grades, graduate, make law review, and do well on the bar? I'm sure this has always happened to some extent, but does any law school actively foster such mutual support among students? If so, what incentives and inducements have proved effective? Similarly, are law students ever permitted or encouraged to work together on a research paper, a brief, or a take-home exam? Other than moot court and informal study groups, I saw few if any examples of such interdependence in my time as a law student or as a law professor. How about you?

Posted by: John Charles Kunich | Jul 15, 2015 10:44:48 AM

Hmmm. 15% refund is more or less equivalent to the interest that will have built up on those unsubsidized grad school loans over three years and nine months, so it's not really that great of a deal.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jul 14, 2015 10:23:23 AM

JM writes: "For marketing purposes, this money would be better off spent on scholarships. Prospective law students don't anticipate being unemployed 9 months after graduation, so they may not see the value in this."

On the other hand, maybe it works the opposite way: Everyone may fear that they will be unemployed after law school, so everyone will see value in this even though only some will receive the payment. In contrast, people aren't positively influenced by other people receiving tuition discounts.

I'm not so sure. E

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Jul 13, 2015 9:33:07 PM

Just wondering how Brooklyn is claiming a 90 percent employment rate in these articles and budgeting for a 10 percent payout? Also, would a Brooklyn grad delay a start date of a job to get the moola, thereby sinking stats further?

Posted by: Hop | Jul 13, 2015 6:21:40 PM

Questionable move from BLS's standpoint. For marketing purposes, this money would be better off spent on scholarships. Prospective law students don't anticipate being unemployed 9 months after graduation, so they may not see the value in this.

Posted by: JM | Jul 13, 2015 9:02:25 AM

This is part of the legacy of Jesse Strauss, the plaintiff's lawyer who took on BLS, his own school, some years ago (along with the other law schools he sued for fraud). As a long-time reader here, I remember what it took to "get here" with Brooklyn Law School. He will never see this comment, but compliments to Jesse Strauss.

Posted by: Ali Shendah | Jul 13, 2015 7:52:01 AM