Wednesday, August 10, 2016
Financial Review op-ed: Law Schools Sell Graduates Down the River, by Frank Carrigan (Macquarie Law School):
If the quip about "make crime pay, become a lawyer" is true, Australia is set for a massive crimewave. Towering overproduction is a reality in the Australian legal education market. But it seems that only when the bust hits will those who should have read the signs instigate a shakeout of the sector.
The cloistered company of Australian law deans has long closed its eyes to this. The leaders of the 41 law schools have enrolled students much faster than the overall growth of their respective universities. ... Law student numbers are out of hand. Nearly 15,000 finish their degree each year, and enter a market where there are only 66,000 solicitors. These graduate numbers far transcend the growth in the legal market. ...
A couple of years ago a reporter from The Australian Financial Review spoke to a number of law deans about the growing oversupply of law students. All the deans sang from the same hymn sheet. They defended the growth by pointing to the portability of a law degree. They said that the problem-solving skills drummed into the heads of law students were not only of benefit to future commercial lawyers, but also transferable to other career paths.
But their claim that the legal problems undertaken in law tutorials are a platform for a generalist degree – that will see students who miss out on a job as a lawyer well placed to enter other high-paid spheres of the economy – is a self-serving myth. ...
Law deans are running a bait and switch operation. They hold out the promise of a legal career, while adding to the unemployment queue.
Thousands of students are undertaking a degree that will result in broken dreams. They believe the neoliberal lie that the magic of the market will (somehow) deliver job opportunities if only they get their foot in the door of the legal academy. ... [T]housands of prospective law students [are] being sold down the river by a clique of rent seekers.
[T]his is just more evidence that American legal education does a better job of training law deans to advocate their positions than other countries do. The best they can offer here is the versatile-law-degree argument.