I grew up in the 1980s when it seemed that every person wanted to be a lawyer like the ones on LA Law. The 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s (up till 2007) was the era of Huge Law when the guarantee of a $one hundred,000 to $160,000 salary was, it seemed, extended to any individual graduating from a leading 20 college and to numerous individuals graduating from a leading 50 law college with good grades and clerkships.
Even in previously bad economies – 1990 to 1992, 1998-2000 – the law profession seemed to survive, if not thrive. Hundreds of thousands of sensible (and even not-so-sensible) men and women had been encouraged to become lawyers by a mixture of outrageous salaries – in 2007, Cravath, one of the top corporate law firms in the country, supplied bonuses of practically $one hundred,000 for best performing associates – federally subsidized student loans, the supposed security of a protected profession (with its bar exams), and putative prestige (see any John Grisham novel).
Of course, the truth of all that was normally a tiny suspect. Even though a top rated 20 law grad back in the day could count on to earn a six-figure salary, unless he chose to go into public interest law, several graduates did not have the identical luck. And whilst it’s seriously neat to consider of oneself as a high minded constitutional litigator, or a trial lawyer from a Grisham novel, the practical, day-to-day practical experience of becoming a lawyer was often (and nonetheless is) grinding.
Moments of glory are couple of and far amongst. Never get me wrong, I delight in the practice of criminal law and love assisting consumers. And as my father may say, it’s far better than digging a ditch. But the day-to-day practice of law is not out of a film script. It requires assisting people today with a DWI, drug charge, or embezzlement or larceny. Only hardly ever are most lawyers involved in higher profile murder trials involving movie stars!
The demand for law school and the government subsidization of college led to the growth of the school market, aided by publications like U.S. News with its ludicrous school rankings. Schools became monetary profit centers of universities (like productive sports applications) and in many instances had been required to kick back dollars to the central university administration to assist underwrite the rest of the less profitable parts of the university.
The fees had been passed onto current graduates and, in the end, the legal consumer in the form of high legal fees, particularly in corporate law.
Who benefited? One particular of the beneficiaries was the law college faculty. The common faculty member at a decent law college has next to no practical experience. The person went to a top rated law school, practiced for a year or two, and then went out into the legal academy job market at the age of 28 or 29 to get a faculty job. A handful of law professors hold up their sensible capabilities by performing pro bono legal work, or by consulting on the side.
Most law professors know precious tiny about what it means to be a lawyer, and they are in fact proud of this. That is because the rest of the university has constantly looked at law schools (and business enterprise schools) as basically trade schools. Considering that law professors do not want to think they’re engaged in a massive Vocational Technical college, they attempt to distance themselves from the practice of law.
Second, the actual curriculum related with law school has changed tiny from the 1930s, when it focused on 19th century prevalent law concepts or ancient tort or house law tips. These principles have extremely tiny to do with the fundamental way home, tort, or criminal law is practiced in modern America. Most of these laws are statutory, not frequent law, anyway.
As if to excuse their woefully inadequate potential to train lawyers, law professors and law school deans adore to tell incoming students that they do not teach you how to be a lawyer, they train you how to think like a lawyer by way of the Socratic Technique.
Of course “considering like a lawyer” is a silly concept. All it really means is pondering cautiously about an problem. Yes, it requires a little bit of discipline. But it is not challenging, and does not need three years of college.
The Socratic Method – the a single that was made renowned by John Houseman’s Professor Kingsfield in The Paper Chase – is also bunk. Most professors do not do it well. And all it amounts to is asking pointed concerns and hypotheticals about some thing that was just read, and will soon be forgotten.
The difficulty with the Law College – which has almost constantly been ineffective at instruction lawyers – is that it has a built in constituency – the law professor – who is going to fight like heck to retain his or her privileged position.
Online JD has been experiencing a boom in the past four years, as routinely occurs when the economy takes a dive. That’s simply because rather than go out into an uncertain job industry, a lot of young recent college grads (and even mid-career specialists) decide to go to school in the hopes of enhancing their employability. (What they are frequently undertaking is escalating their debt load, with no reasonable hope of paying these loans back. Therefore the clamoring to make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy!)
But as the legal market continues to suffer, even in comparison to other components of the economy, prospective students are going to take other paths, and turn to other types of careers, even if those careers are less financially rewarding, since the sheer quantity of revenue it takes to go to school for three years is also significantly to think about paying.
In recent conversations with fellow lawyers, I’ve heard about how even leading law schools are possessing problems placing their students. That puts the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, which is a superior law college, but not a great law college, in a incredibly hard position.
If the University of Virginia (a leading ten law college) has difficulty placing one particular-third of its student class in best law firm positions, what does that mean for the UNC-CH which is not as prestigious and also which has the unfortunate predicament of being in a state with only two moderate sized legal markets (Charlotte and Raleigh) and competing with other good law schools, such as Duke (even though Duke tends to send students out of state) and Wake Forest, as effectively as Campbell (which is an underrated school that trains its graduates better than UNC) and North Carolina Central (which is the most effective worth for a legal education in the state and trains some superb lawyers).
There are also several UNC Chapel Hill grads in North Carolina government to ever let the law school disappear entirely, but its privileged position will get started to erode. As will the privileged position of a lot of law schools.
So what will occur to the Law School? First, the smarter school deans will give up the pretense that law college is not a trade college. They will embrace the thought that the complete curriculum really should be revamped to concentrate on the sensible expertise required to practice law.