Law Schools

Law Dean Says Schools ‘Exploiting’ Students Who Don’t Succeed

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Law schools are “exploiting” many students who aren’t successful, according to a law school dean who spoke at a program on law school rankings earlier this month.

“We should be ashamed of ourselves,” said Richard Matasar, dean of New York Law School.

Matasar said schools need to take responsibility for the failures of their students, according to an account of his Jan. 9 remarks by TaxProf Blog. Matasar said a law school education can cost as much as $120,000 for a students who are making a “lottery shot” at being in the top 10 percent of their class so they can get high-paying jobs.

He spoke during a program sponsored by the Association of American Law Schools that is available in a podcast. TaxProf Blog noted Matasar’s remarks and highlighted a Forbes article that questions whether students are being misled into believing that large school debt translates into a life of economic privilege. The article featured a lawyer couple divorcing amid overwhelming stress because of $190,000 in student debt.

“We own our students’ outcomes,” Matasar said at the AALS program. “We took them. We took their money. We live on their money. … And if they don’t have a good outcome in life, we’re exploiting them. It’s our responsibility to own the outcomes of our institutions. If they’re not doing well … it’s gotta be fixed. Or we should shut the damn place down. And that’s a moral responsibility that we bear in the academy.”

At 50 law schools, 20 percent of the students either flunked out, can’t find jobs or have unknown outcomes, according to another speaker at the program, Indiana University law professor William Henderson. TaxProf Blog also transcribed some of his remarks.

Matasar questioned whether students are beginning to understand that law school does not guarantee a good job. He said registrations for the law school admissions test are flat or below the norm for this year. “That’s never happened in a downturn in the economy before,” he said. “They’re catching on. Maybe this thing they are doing is not so valuable. Maybe the chance at being in the top 10 percent is not a good enough lottery shot in order to effectively spend $120,000 and see it blow up at the end of three years of law school.”

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