Monday, September 12, 2011

A Radical Proposal

This blog has had many posts on the problems that law education is facing during the severe economic downturn of the last few years.  We have discussed the economic problems facing law schools and law students, supported more transparency by law schools, and suggested changes in legal pedagogy.

As you probably know, LawProf has been especially vicious in his attacks on law schools, their administrations, and their faculties.  While I don't agree with some of his criticisms and I find that his tone is uncalled for, many of his criticisms are valid.  There is no doubt that legal education will have to make many changes over the next few years to be fairer to students and even to survive.  However, as of today, Mr. LawProf has refused to make any substantive suggestions for fixing legal education.

In light of this lapse, I have a radical proposal for a partial change to legal education.  Let's solve two problems at one time.  The first problem is the high cost of education for those who want to go into public service--those who go to law school to help the disadvantaged--and the lack of jobs for those students.  The other problem is the lack of legal services for the poor and disadvantaged.  There is a great need in this country for more legal services for the poor.  This need has occurred because enough money hasn't been allocated for legal services to the poor. 

We can help solve these problems in two steps.  First, instead of allocating law school scholarships based on merit or even on need, law schools could give scholarships to those who contract to provide legal services for the poor after law school.  (I realize that this is already done on a limited scale.)  Second, the government should allocate more money to provide jobs for these lawyers.  One of the problems with law school tuition is that states have significantly cut their contributions to state law schools.  One of the reasons behind this is the argument that states should not subsidze the tuition of those who are going to school to make lots of money.  This argument does not apply to providing legal services for the poor.  In addition, society gains when it helps those who help themselves.  In sum, allocating more funds to create more public service jobs would both create more jobs for law school graduates and aid the disadvantaged.

The above proposal will not be popular with administrators.  It would require law schools to eliminate one of their main strategies--use merit scholarships to attract the top students and thus move up in U.S. News.  However, even for those who don't like this idea, I hope it furthers the discussion.  As Albert Einstein declared: "The significant problems we face today cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them."


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