Law Schools

Critics Are Not Persuaded by Dean's Op-Ed Criticizing Anti-Law School 'Hysteria'

Case Western Reserve University law dean Lawrence Mitchell appears to be fighting a losing battle.

In a New York Times op-ed, Mitchell last week criticized the “hysteria” and “overwrought atmosphere” that are discouraging talented individuals from attending law school. Now the law school critics are responding. TaxProf Blog lists the articles and blog posts, including a Salon article by University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos, author of the blog Inside the Law School Scam.

Campos takes a closer look at Mitchell’s arguments. Mitchell wrote of worries about discouraged prospective students giving up the possibility of a lucrative career. Campos offers this translation: “Getting people to spend $200,000 for a 50/50 shot at a legal job of any kind is getting harder every day.”

Mitchell argued the emphasis on first jobs is misplaced, given career spans of 40 to 50 years. Campos translates: “We have been careful to collect no longitudinal data on long-term outcomes for our graduates, so let’s assume that data would be good if we actually had it.”

Mitchell declared that the median starting salary for practicing lawyers last year was $61,500. Campos translates: “The median starting salary for the 36 percent of 2011 law graduates who were in jobs requiring a law degree and whose salary was known was $61,500. This means that fewer than one in five 2011 law school graduates were known to be making at least $61,500 while working as lawyers.”

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