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Monday, July 9, 2012
The Failure of Law Schools to Deliver
If you're in the mood for a little gloom and doom, try doing a Google search for "law school admission". You'll find that the law job market is bad, admissions are down, and law schools are even reducing enrollment. Then you'll find the opinion pieces. And when it comes to a discussion of the merits of a legal education, bloggers pack no punches. "The First Thing We Should Do Is Kill All the Law Schools" (Huffington Post). Or, "Why Attending Law School is the Worst Decision You Will Ever Make" (Forbes).
If the bloggers seem bitter, the graduates are simply scathing. Though many are unemployed with six-figure debt, it's often hard to know exactly what drives their frustration. A read through any comments section reveals less talk about financial uncertainty, and more talk about feeling let down by the law school structure. Kids from top tier schools are simply supposed to be wooed with fat employment contracts. Now they are working at Starbucks.
The American Bar Association Journal recently tackled what it sees as the issue of pedigree in law schools, deciding that the preoccupation with ranking is "choking the profession". (Want to see some acrimony? Check out the comments section for that article). ABA Journal Many students from lower-tier law schools (and believe me, tiers matter a lot to law students), claim to have educations and careers that are perfectly satisfying. Top tier students simply can't believe that. Recruiters at top firms won't even look at graduates outside the top ten elite law schools.
This level of expectation from law school may be part of what has made the fall from grace so painful. In a system so deeply rooted in status, a dreary job market means more than money worries. It is a failure of a fundamental promise of success.
If there is a silver lining here, it is that the profession-despite obvious setbacks-will go on. Perhaps it is time for law students, graduates, professionals and the people who recruit them to start reframing their perspective on the profession. It may not seem quite as bleak.
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