Friday, December 14, 2012

Baloney From a Law School Dean About the Value of Attending Law School

Lawrence E. Mitchell, Dean of Case Western Reserve's Law School, published an op ed essay in the New York Times in late November, seeking to assure the public that attending law school is still a sensible investment.  Mitchell described the criticism of American law schools as "hysteria."

In my opinion, Mitchell's essay is a bunch of baloney. The reality of the law-graduate job market is that salaries are going down and the job market for well-paying attorney jobs is shrinking while the cost of going to law school has become unreasonably expensive. 

Dean Lawerence E. Mitchell:
Nothing to see here, folks: just move along
At least this is the view of Federal Bankruptcy Judge Ann Aiken as expressed in the recent bankruptcy court opinion of In re Hedlund (2012). The judge pointed out that law school tuition rose more than three hundred percent between 1989 and 2009, which is twice the rate of inflation for that period and four times the rate of job growth. “Accordingly,” Judge Aiken observed, “with the exception of the independently wealthy, students must take out loans in order to finance their [law] degrees” (p. 907).

Meanwhile, as tuition costs keep going up, wages for beginning attorney are going down. Citing a report by the National Association for Law Placement, Judge Aiken pointed out that annual compensation for first-year associate attorneys in private practice went down in 2010. In addition, the demand for new attorneys is shrinking. According to Judge Aiken, “The most recent statistics indicate that, through the year 2018, there will only be 25,000 openings for the law schools’ 45,000 new graduates each year” (p. 907). (This discussion of Judge Aiken's Hedlund opinion comes from one of my earlier blog postings.)

I won't comment further on Dean Mitchell's op ed essay, which was criticized by several people on the web.  A very able critique was posted on the   "Behind the Law School Scam" blog at http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2012/11/response-to-larry-mitchells-new-york.html
In fact, this robust, feisty and fact-packed blog, which is written by a law professor, is must reading for anyone contemplating law school.

References

Hedlund v. Educational Resources Institute, Inc., 468 B.R. 901 (D. Or. 2012).

Lawrence E.Mitchell. Law School is Worth the Money. New York Times, November 29, 2012, p. A23.

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