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Are Law Schools Like Automakers? Dean Says Some Educators Will Fail

Posted Apr 29, 2009 8:03 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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The law school dean in the news earlier this year for his charge that some law schools are “exploiting” unsuccessful students is getting more press attention for his predictions about the future of legal education.

This time, Dean Richard Matasar of New York Law School was responding to an audience member who spoke during a panel discussion sponsored by the Best Lawyers in America, according to the Fulton County Daily Report.

The audience member’s provocative comment: "You're producing a product that very few people want. Firms have hiring freezes. Why not stop producing the product—or create new markets for what you're producing? You're like the auto manufacturers who produce a product for which there is no demand."

Matasar’s response: Some law schools will probably go out of business, and those that survive will cut the cost of a legal education. Matasar said shortening the time spent in law school could help, but that is difficult because ABA accreditation requirements stipulate a minimum number of classroom credits for graduation, according to the story.

Matasar started his presentation with an observation about the legal job market, the story says. "I've never seen so many lawyers jettisoned and needing career help. Not just those straight out of school but also after two decades of practice," he said.

In January, Matasar said schools need to take responsibility for the failures of their students. He said a law school education can cost as much as $120,000 for students who are making a “lottery shot” at being in the top 10 percent of their class so they can get high-paying jobs.

Law schools are exploiting students, he said during the Jan. 9 conference. “We should be ashamed of ourselves," he said.

The Wall Street Journal Law Blog also noted Matasar’s recent comments.

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