Tuesday, October 27, 2015
I'm sure all of you have seen the NYT's dreadful editorial about legal education over the weekend. Of course there were truths in it, but it was remarkably sloppy. It ignores the many reforms taking place in legal education since the crisis began. It also ignores that because of scholarship competition for students, the actual net price of legal education is declining (just ask the budget manager at almost any law school). Whether or not law schools deserve any credit for these changes, the Times shows willful blindness towards these critical factors. In addition the Times strangely suggests that the federal government could "redirect" federal student loan dollars to the worthy cause of improving funding for legal services organization. This completely ignores the fact that lending money to law students is a profitable activity for the government. Even with income based repayment and a somewhat growing number of defaults, the federal government is not "investing" in legal education, it is generating revenue from it.
Much more serious was yesterday's article in the Times examining the impact of declining admissions standards in legal education. Based on the impressive research by Law School Transparency, it discusses the impact of law schools, particularly the least selective law schools, enrolling large numbers of students whose academic credentials suggest that they are likely to struggle gaining admission to the bar. I have quibbles with both the LST Report and the Times article (for example, it is odd that the Times focused on Southern Illinois, a school with good bar passage and employment rates, and low tuition), but the basic point is an important one that legal education must address.