Michael Simkovic (USC), Should Law Schools Pressure Their Students to Go Into Low Paid, Thankless Public Service Jobs?:
A recent report by a Harvard law school alumnus, Pete Davis, points out that law schools like Harvard serve the interests of wealthy elites by training primarily future corporate lawyers. (See also here). This is consistent with the available evidence on graduates’ employment, notwithstanding widely publicized—and dubious—claims of law schools being liberal or left-leaning.
Whether or not this is a problem, and whether schools like Harvard should try to do a better job of training future business lawyers or try to steer their students away from business law, is a matter for debate. Davis appears to believe that business lawyers are incapable of serving important collective interests of society—or at least do not do as good of a job as public sector lawyers. According to Davis, law schools therefore have an obligation to discourage students from pursuing careers in business law.
My view is that the path toward resuscitating the public sector will entail convincing the American people to collectively share the burdens of civilization by voting for higher taxes and higher pay for public servants. Until public servants are paid fairly, no one but the very wealthy should feel any obligation to work in the public sector or encourage their students to do so. ...
Nor can law schools do much directly to reduce the gap in pay between corporate lawyers and those in the public sector. Even if tuition were free, this would leave a massive gap in lifetime earnings, working conditions, and future exit options that would still encourage many to pursue careers in the private sector. Indeed, the gap in rewards between the public and private sectors is growing. Rates for banking, corporate, and commercial lawyers have grown far more quickly than rates for lawyers in other practice areas over the last several decades. (More recent data shows this trend continuing).
Corporate lawyers’ pay may seem high to some, but it is no higher than—and no less deserved than—the pay of the leading financiers and businesses people with whom they work. ...
The American people—through the federal government’s power to tax—can afford to pay a fair price for the talent and energy of skilled labor. Educators should think twice before pressuring their students to concede to work on disadvantageous terms.
The sacrifices of those who are public-service oriented may serve as little more than an excuse to enable the wealthiest members of our society to pay less in taxes than they can and—in the views of those who see value in the public sector and believe it should be served by a talented workforce—should.