Tuesday, October 3, 2017
John O. McGinnis (Northwestern), The Association of American Law Schools Claims to Favor the Public Interest, While Advancing Its Own:
The American Association of Law Schools (AALS) is a professional guild. It never misses a chance to proclaim that it is working in the public interest, while nevertheless focusing on its own interests —expanding the perquisites and number of its members. The latest newsletter makes this combination even more visible than usual. It devoted its opening essay to Access to Justice — which it claims to favor. Simultaneously, it announced its opposition to a proposal of the American Bar Association, now operating under the watchful eye of Antitrust Division, which could decrease the cost of going to law school — one of the principal barriers to access. The problem is that the proposal might well over time reduce the number of tenured professors, who, of course, run the AALS.
The ABA proposes that after the first year of law, accredited law schools could permit part-time teachers to teach any or all second and third year courses. The first year would remain mainly the province of a full-time faculty. The rationale of the AALS’s opposition is that “full time faculty are essential to providing quality education.” It provides no empirical support for this claim. ...
Without the heavy hand of regulation, law schools would operate very differently than they presently do, when so many try to resemble junior varsity Yales in devoting very substantial resources to the production of scholarship. The AALS is attempting to prevent an experiment that would create such a difference by replacing over time some tenured professors with practitioners. That opposition makes sense for the thousands of tenure-track legal professors but not for the millions of people who need better access to legal services.