So scambloggers — like the comically crude “Nando” at THIRD TIER REALITY: “Profiles in Vile Academic Self Interest“ — and all the rest with an overheated dog in the fight are jumping on Case Western Reserve Law School Dean Lawrence Mitchell’s leg after Mitchell’s ill-advised F.O.S. Op-ed, “Law School Is Worth the Money” in The New York Times last week.
Others giving the Dean what-for, included, Alison Monahan, Hamilton Nolan, Matt Leichter, Elie Mystal, Keith Lee and of course, law school critic-supreme Professor Paul Campos writing a “Response to Larry Mitchell’s New York Times editorial” as well as “Too many lawyers? Says who?”
Or that he doesn’t deserve it. Here’s his Say it Loud braggadocio, “I’m a law dean, and I’m proud. And I think it’s time to stop the nonsense. After two years of almost relentless attacks on law schools, a bit of perspective would be nice.”
Nothing new — even if the sun shines.
Few are ready to admit the legal profession has changed or that the means, method and cost of training lawyers must respond in kind. But then to quote Albert Einstein,“The difference between stupidity and genius is that genius has its limits.”
And fewer still are taking steps like Vermont Law School’s Dean Marc Mihalt who just announced his school is cutting jobs and preparing for changes.
But in the end, there’s little substantive difference between someone with his head ‘where the sun don’t shine’ versus someone who knows better but lays it on thick anyway.
This fall, 75 percent of the 201 ABA-approved law schools reported decreases in first-year enrollment.
But don’t tell Arizona State University. Despite its own law school’s 23 percent drop in applications the past 3 years — and notwithstanding a 3-year, 38 percent drop in national Law School Admissions Test Applicants, ASU is doubling-down — eyeballing a 2016 downtown relocation and expansion into a new 6-story $120 million facility.
So Dean Lawrence hardly rides alone on the absurdity trail.
Dean Wu’s dose of reality.
At least there’s one law school chieftain willing to buck the conventional wisdom. In a “Letter from Dean Wu to the ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education,” UC Hastings Law School Chancellor and Dean Frank H. Wu offers a bracing counterpoint to the ‘nonsense’ emanating from law school administrators.
Here are excerpts. First, Dean Wu states, “there are too many law students training for a J.D. in a market that is already saturated. Every objective indicator shows there is a glut of lawyers at this time.
“. . . Most law schools and most of their students are not being prepared adequately for the possibilities of serving as contract attorneys, doing highly-specialized but routine work, or adapting to other structural changes.
“. . . Law schools have opened at an alarming rate that does not correspond to actual need. The Great Recession has made that excess capacity more obvious.”
Next he writes,“tuition is too high and has risen too quickly. It is too high from several perspectives: measured by “return on investment” for individual students, by what the “market will bear,” or by general societal perceptions.
“The amounts we charge have deleterious effects not only for the persons directly affected, but also for our institutions. It undermines support for rule of law more generally, as disaffected law school graduates encourage others to perceive of the whole structure as fraudulent.”
Third, he discusses “a great irony,” — that despite the glut of lawyers,“we actually face unmet legal need.”
Fourth, he deals with what he calls the ABA’s restrictive rule concerning online legal education.
And fifth, Dean Wu dares speak the unspeakable. He decries the “widely accepted metric for assessing quality,” the US News & World Report rankings. Good luck on that one since that steer’s out of the corral and plated prime filet from the grill.
“Sixth,” he states, “the public is demanding, and the federal government is starting to insist on, accreditation standards that measure student-learning outcomes.”
Dean Wu’s last two points deal with bar admission and testing for “actual readiness to practice” along with better public education about law schools, the courts and about what lawyers really do.
Finally, with classic understatement, Dean Wu concludes with “We do need to reform.”
To which I add, ‘If only saying is believing’ and pigs really could fly.
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