ABA Journal


The Modern Law Library

‘Failing Law Schools’ Author Challenges Law Schools to Make Dramatic Changes

Jul 9, 2012, 05:35 pm CDT



By GUEST on 2012 07 09, 4:12 pm CDT

“Tamanaha proposes updated accreditation standards”

I didn’t know the law schools create their own accreditation standards? Shouldn’t the headline to this article read: “Failing Law Schools’ Author Challenges ABA to Make Dramatic Changes”

By guest! on 2012 07 09, 4:35 pm CDT

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By Molly McDonough on 2012 07 09, 5:58 pm CDT

Isn’t Professor Tamanaha a professor at Washington University—one of the most expensive law schools in the Country?

If he really thought law school was an overpriced waste of time, wouldn’t he go work for a cheaper law school?

It’s like having a two-pack a day smoker as your smoking cessation coach.

By This makes no sense on 2012 07 09, 9:25 pm CDT

I’m sure he’s hoping that the lost souls who financed all their school and living expenses, and commercial outlines, and Bar-Bri courses will borrow another $25 now to buy his book.  Sadly enough, some of them probably will.

By B. McLeod on 2012 07 09, 11:38 pm CDT

It will never change so long as we continue to look to the law school “White Knight” to come along and rescue our young lawyers.  Law schools will not change until WE change.  Prospective students need to go into other fields or factor economics more heavily into the law school selection process.  Well-endowed institutions will simply put more money in their scholarship programs to attract the best students.  Most law schools will reduce tuition or class-size out of necessity, and many of the “for-profit” schools will simply go out of business.  Medical schools intentionally limit the number of their graduating doctors in order to increase the value of medical degrees.  We need to take a page from that book.  Also, ALL lawyers, judges, professors, etc. should make a concerted effort to employ young lawyers, even if it is at temporarily low salaries.  We are facing a crisis in our profession and it is incumbent upon all of us to do what we can to address the problem.

By Alex on 2012 07 13, 10:46 am CDT

Students need to work it out for themselves.

By B. McLeod on 2012 07 13, 12:20 pm CDT

The student loan debt crisis is far broader than a matter of tuition and fees.  As currently structured, most students borrow significant monies for costs other than tuition and fees.  With the limitation on allowing law students to work,  the ABA standard dovetails with the financial aid system to ensure that law students mire themselves in debt. Consideration of whether the “system” is broken needs to bifurcate the debate: the state of the financial aid system and the effectiveness of law schools and whether ABA standards should be revised should be considered separately.

By Donna Palmer-Schmitz on 2012 07 13, 1:14 pm CDT

When I went to law school in 2002, my whole class pretty much thought that we’d all come out making six figures, and the school loan interest is so low, that it was a win/win proposition. But before we even graduated, the job market sunk, and at the moment my “low” school loan rate is 3.8 while my fixed 30-year mortgage is 3.5. Not so cool with that… Unfortunately, nobody but us made those decisions. We were a bit deluded and things have changed. That’s just life.

By Jules on 2012 07 13, 2:16 pm CDT

I NEVER post on these things, but a lot of the responses to this kind of article are supremely irksome. Law students voluntarily enter into loan contracts and then complain when the loan comes due. Where is the sense of personal responsibility? Do the complainers ever stop to think that maybe they should have worked their behinds off in law school, intentionally building up both their knowledge of the law and their professional experience rather than treating it like undergrad? It’s a professional school experience, and people who do not approach it in a professional manner are often destroyed for their insolence. Perhaps I’m just jaded because most of the gripes I hear come from law students who lease nice cars, live in nice apartments, buy huge flatscreens, and pay their (usually massive) bar tabs with FSA money. If you’re one of the “more responsible” ones, then maybe you should have bothered to look into what you were getting into. What do I know, though? It took all of six months for me to figure out how to finagle the system to get through a second-tier school without a penny of debt. I guess I’m being unreasonable by expecting other people to put in that kind of sustained, evaluative effort before incurring the largest single financial obligation of their lives (assuming housing prices stay down). Also, this whole situation is not new, so please stop acting suprised. There have been a few percentage points shifting toward the negative, but the underemployment of lawyers has been a running joke since I was a child. Further, people graduating today started after the current controversy over employment reporting began. People cannot expect absolution because they failed to see what was staring them in the face. People who can’t see such things probably shouldn’t be lawyers, anyway.

By Silver Unicorn on 2012 07 13, 3:33 pm CDT

I work with law students through a non-profit organization and am used to hearing complaints about tuition and employment.  In my state, we have at least 20 ABA accredited schools and there is a lot of competition.  Lately, I have been hearing complaints about grades.  Particularly that students are receiving grades that are just low enough to disqualify them from law school.  The students tell me that they feel the school believes these students will not pass the bar and end up lowering the school’s bar pass rate, so a grade is manufactured to see to it that the student can’t take the bar.  I didn’t want to believe it until I had one student show me emails and school records blatantly and fraudulently reporting that the student received a 1.0 in a class.  When I confronted the school on behalf of the student, I was told that the school had no duty to accurately report grades.  This student now has over $80,000 in debt and cannot complete law school for 2 years according to ABA rules.  Even then, he has to start over.  Now he is suing the school.  I hope this is an isolated incident, but am concerned that it is not.  And if it is not, then I think it is disgraceful.  Law schools should fully and accurately disclose everything to prospective students, including lawsuits alleging fraud and inaccurate reporting.

By JDT on 2012 07 13, 5:30 pm CDT

@ Jules: I sympathize with the loan debt, but as a current student, please do not complain about your 3.8% rate when our rates are 6.8% and 7.9% and we’re borrowing more money on ever-rising tuition rates. Boy was that ever a mistake. Close the law schools and bring back the apprentice system, I learned more from my job this summer than from any of my classes.

By Takko on 2012 07 13, 7:25 pm CDT

I get the view that Horatio Alger solves all problems.  In the meantime, our profession faces an unprecedented crisis that impacts all of us, not just a few spendthrift law students.  The shake-out in law schools and law graduates is already occurring.  An estimated 40% of law students are graduating without jobs, and with no means to repay their massive student loan debts.  As senior members of the profession, I think we have a responsibility to at least attempt to address the problem.  No one is saying give them a hand-out (although that may indeed be what happens if Congress is compelled to allow discharge of student loan debt in bankruptcy).  But I think part of the solution lies in mitigating salary structures for young associates and new government lawyers that would allow them to gain valuable experience at a budget level that firms and gov’t agencies could reasonably, and temporarily sustain.  Firms/agencies would gain valuable, cheap labor, and I suspect that law grads would find that a $50K salary beats the unemployment line every day of the week.

By Alex on 2012 07 14, 12:39 am CDT

law schools—-a big cash cow—-no reason to change their model if chumps keep borrowing $40,000 per year and paying whatever the school demands.  Business 101

By cashplay on 2012 07 15, 1:03 am CDT

Perhaps the supply of chumps will not prove to be inexhaustible.  The schools could be over hunting their range.

By B. McLeod on 2012 07 15, 1:40 am CDT

Let’s try and think of suggestions, if not solutions.  We have a huge pro bono problem and a vast pool of underemployed lawyers.  hellooooooo!  Let’s employ these lawyers at reduced salaries and kill two birds with one stone.

By Alex on 2012 07 16, 12:28 pm CDT

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