September 29, 2011
More, Cheaper Lawyers Needed (A comment on "law school scams")
In the "law school scam" dust-up, there has sometimes been inadequate attention paid to the gaping need for lawyers. The worry is that a proliferation of law schools is producing too many attorneys for the market to bear, leaving many jobless.
In my experience, many ordinary people need lawyers, but many also believe that they cannot afford the lawyers they need. (Yet other ordinary people might well benefit from legal advice, but not recognize their own need.) They suffer injustices silently, even when the law would be on their side.
I am not arguing in favor of a more litigious society--lawyers can often prove useful in putting deals together, benefitting both parties--and ensuring that neither is unduly exploited in the relationship.
Thus, trying to reduce the number of law graduates might itself leave a world with a greater measure of injustice.
One solution is to make law school cheaper--and thus make it possible for lawyers to perhaps lower their fees to make justice more accessible for ordinary people. An alternative is to offer loan forgiveness programs tied to lower-than-usual earnings.
The concept of "low-bono" is a particularly valuable one in this regard--providing affordable representation, yet still allowing lawyers to make a living.
September 28, 2011
The California Model
While reading this intriguing article linked in the post below (which describes the creation of a new law school in Indio, California), I was reminded of how California provides a distinct model for legal education.
In other states, bar membership is predicated on holding a degree from a law school which is nationally accredited by the ABA. California, however, has its own state accreditation for law schools, and graduates of state-but-not-nationally-accredited law schools are eligible to become members of the bar. Quality control is emphasized through the bar exam, which traditionally has been difficult to pass relative to the tests given in other states.
One result of this different model has been a proliferation of law schools. For example, the law school mentioned in the article, the California Desert Trial Academy College of Law, will offer night classes in a courthouse for fewer than 50 students (at least in the begining).
Certainly, there are advantages to the California model. With more law schools, legal education can be more local and emphasize particular skills or areas of practice. The Indio school is geared towards both factors-- it will emphasize trial practice, and was created in part because the next closest law school was "70 miles away."
On the down side, many of the graduates California law schools fail to pass the bar exam, and have spent their tuition money only to fail to reach their goal.
Certainly, most other states lack the critical mass of people it would take to make the California system work-- there simply aren't enough potential law students. But is it worthwhile, even in California?
-- Mark Osler
September 25, 2011
Of interest in The National Law Journal
These recent pieces from The National Law Journal caught my eye this weekend: