Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Dean Yellen Responds To New York Times Editorial On The Law School Crisis

Law Deans on Legal Education Blog:  New York Times Attacks Legal Education ..... Again, by David Yellen (Dean, Loyola-Chicago):

I'm sure all of you have seen the NYT's dreadful editorial about legal education over the weekend. Of course there were truths in it, but it was remarkably sloppy. It ignores the many reforms taking place in legal education since the crisis began. It also ignores that because of scholarship competition for students, the actual net price of legal education is declining (just ask the budget manager at almost any law school). Whether or not law schools deserve any credit for these changes, the Times shows willful blindness towards these critical factors. In addition the Times strangely suggests that the federal government could "redirect" federal student loan dollars to the worthy cause of improving funding for legal services organization. This completely ignores the fact that lending money to law students is a profitable activity for the government. Even with income based repayment and a somewhat growing number of defaults, the federal government is not "investing" in legal education, it is generating revenue from it.

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On Scott's point, if you were to review last year's bar results in Illinois, Chicago Loyola was near the bottom in passage rates and Dean Yellen was complaining about a change which might make bar exam grading more difficult:

The state’s overall passing rate has declined in the past five years, from 89 percent in 2009 down to 80.9 percent this year.

“I still hope that the board of bar examiners can be persuaded to abandon that seriously misguided plan,” said David N. Yellen, Loyola’s dean.

“They claim that too many student graduates are passing the bar with inadequate writing ability. They claim that … if they make 10 percent more people fail, they think they will be failing people with lesser writing abilities.”

Posted by: Bushy | Oct 28, 2015 11:35:45 AM

Paul, you left out the second part of Yellen's post, which presents a different picture:

"Much more serious was yesterday's article in the Times examining the impact of declining admissions standards in legal education. Based on the impressive research by Law School Transparency, it discusses the impact of law schools, particularly the least selective law schools, enrolling large numbers of students whose academic credentials suggest that they are likely to struggle gaining admission to the bar. I have quibbles with both the LST Report and the Times article (for example, it is odd that the Times focused on Southern Illinois, a school with good bar passage and employment rates, and low tuition), but the basic point is an important one that legal education must address."

Posted by: Scott Fruehwald | Oct 28, 2015 9:06:29 AM

"since the crisis began"

Let's be clear, the "crisis" referenced here is the crisis for law schools of having fewer applicants. Note that the number of the drop in applicants is a rough but close approximation of the exact number of applicants that had been getting defrauded each year by fraudulent employment data that had been presented since at least 2001.

Posted by: anon. 25 | Oct 28, 2015 8:26:32 AM


And the logical extension of that argument is that law schools should charge everyone one penny shy of the mythic million dollar JD premium. It's amazing how tone-deaf Yellen is here.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Oct 28, 2015 8:01:47 AM

"...the federal government is not "investing" in legal education, it is generating revenue from it."

Just a second - is Dean Yellen saying that because an activity is profitable, someone makes money from it, it is morally acceptable. They teach that at Loyala-Chicago. Wow, the Jesuit ethos of the school seems to have flown right out the window!

Posted by: MacK | Oct 28, 2015 6:50:17 AM

Dean Yellen is in a position to implement change. He is a member of the ABA committee on the future of legal education. That committee has been rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic for 5 years.

Law school deserves what's coming.

Posted by: Jojo | Oct 28, 2015 4:28:00 AM