Thursday, January 17, 2013
The New York Times is reporting there are two bills pending before the Texas legislature to start a new law school in the Rio Grande Valley (the bills differ only insofar as to which university the school would be affiliated with). Approval is being sought despite an estimate from the Texas Workforce Commission that the state will create only 1600 new attorney jobs in the next five years. Texas already has nine law schools not including the proposed Rio Grande Valley school. Can you guess how Elie and Campos will likely take the news?
Texas produces more law school graduates than it has jobs for. But that has not stopped some lawmakers from proposing that the state build a public law school in the Rio Grande Valley.
Supporters of a new school say there is geographic inequity. The public law school nearest the state’s southernmost region is more than 300 miles away, at the University of Texas in Austin. In addition, they point out, the Rio Grande Valley has one of the lowest lawyer-to-citizen ratios in the state.
Before the legislative session even began, two Valley lawmakers filed bills to create a new school. State Representative Eddie Lucio III, Democrat of San Benito, said that he was not naïve enough to think that the current Legislature would spend millions on a new law school when it was facing a budget shortfall of as much as $27 billion, but that he wanted to try to keep the issue from being “sent to the back of the line.”
The other sponsor, Representative Armando “Mando” Martinez, Democrat of Weslaco, said that even if the school was initially unfinanced, “I’m not looking at leaving here without one.”
Even if the state was not facing a huge budget shortfall, making the case that it needs another law school poses a significant hurdle: who would hire the graduates? In 2009, Texas’ nine law schools produced a total of 2,340 graduates. And 1,837 lawyers passed the 2009 Texas bar exam. The Texas Workforce Commission estimates that there will be only about 1,660 lawyer job openings in each of the next five years.
Continue reading here.