Masters Forum: Legal Education – Is It Our Job to Discourage the Would-Be Law Student?

Dave Hoffman's anecdote about attending an ABA workshop for accreditors is priceless: the highlight was the Representative's joyful boast that several new schools had been guided toward a successful accreditation, and there were an additional handful of prospective schools in the pipeline. He neglected to mention that we were then in the middle of the worst job market for new lawyers in several generations. As I recall, his announcement was met with applause. I felt like a guy on the Titanic, watching the band play on. Everyone knows that we law schools are collectively producing too many lawyers. But no single law school school is incentivized to curtail its own output (let alone shut down). What's the answer? But Bill Henderson and Andrew Moriss recently issued a call to arms: We would like to suggest to our colleagues in the legal academy that we are approaching an endgame. Here is the reality: prospective students are not being given an accurate picture of their future employment prospects. Why? Because we are all focused on filling next year's class with as many high credential students as possible, thereby protecting our school's place in the pecking order. Our focus is so shockingly narrow that, from the outside looking in, it appears that our intent is to deceive incoming students. Brian Kelly's letter to the deans essentially makes that point–law schools fall short on candor and ethical behavior. … Now is one of the very few moments in our careers as academics where we have to make hard choices and demonstrate that we warrant the trust and respect of our tenured positions. Through our governance organizations (ABA, LSAC, NALP, AALS), we need to implement a system of complete transparency on employment outcomes. If the system has real teeth, it will force us all to work very hard to ensure we are delivering value commensurate with the tuition dollars we collect. It's the end of the road. We likely have one last chance to get it right. I'm all for more disclosure, educating prospective students on the risks that a legal education entails. As I've said before, I think state law schools will be the big winners in a world of more discerning law school consumers. But if we had to point to one single reason for the drop in law school applications, it might well be this:

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