Law Schools

Want to Make Law School a Better Bet? Require Waivers and Give Rebates to Dropouts, Yale Profs Say

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Yale law professors Akhil Reed Amar and Ian Ayres are citing the example of an Internet shoe-selling company in an essay suggesting ways to discourage would-be law students who are unlikely to succeed after graduation.

Zappos offers $3,000 to new employees at the end of a four-week training course if they want to quit the company, the professors say in a Slate opinion piece. The idea is to rid the company of employees who aren’t enthusiastic to work there. Amar and Ayres think the idea could be modified for law schools.

Their proposal: Law schools could offer rebates of half the annual tuition to any students who quit after the first year. Then the schools could disclose what percentage accepted the offer, and the salaries they earned after dropping out. (Students who go on to law school elsewhere would have to repay the money.)

“A half-tuition rebate splits the loss of an aborted legal career between the school and the student,” they write. “Each has skin in the game, so students will not go to law school lightly, and law schools will have better incentives not to admit students likely to fail.”

Amar and Ayres say entering law students need more information about their chances of success and a chance to change their minds before running up too much student debt. “We’re lobbying our dean to unilaterally offer our students a bribe to quit,” they write. “Like Zappos, Yale could gain a first-mover advantage.”

They also propose these ideas:

• All law students who receive federal loans should be required to disclose whether they passed the bar and how much they earned for the first 10 years after graduation. Then law schools should have to disclose the information.

• Anyone who has less than a 50 percent chance of passing the bar in three years’ time, based on the statistics, should have to sign waivers acknowledging the risks of their education investment.

• Law schools could be required to loan tuition money to students so they would have to take the hit for any nonpayment.

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