The comments on this thread are indicative of a much broader and more dangerous trend within legal academe than any of the allegations that have been made about the few law schools specifically singled out herein. I will keep my remarks brief, but this is a complex issue with serious implications.
During the past four years, I have been an invited guest speaker/debater at roughly half of the law schools in this nation. My speaking engagements have brought me to law schools at every point along the putative prestige spectrum. As just a few examples, I’ve spoken at Yale, Stanford, Columbia, U. of Chicago, Boalt Hall, Georgetown, Duke, Northwestern, NYU, Vanderbilt, U. of Michigan, Boston U., BYU, George Washington, Widener, U. of Missouri, Lewis & Clark, Vermont, Elon, FIU, U. of Denver, DePaul, LSU, Regent, and Appalachian.
As I visit these and many other law schools, I chat with students and professors. One message I have consistently heard from students is that there are major problems in legal education today. Students, even from supposedly top-25 law schools, are often worried that they will not be able to find employment sufficiently lucrative to allow them to repay their loans and make the years of foregone opportunities worthwhile. A sentiment I’ve heard repeatedly is that “I’ve done everything right. I played by all the rules. It’s not fair that I can’t even give my work away as an unpaid intern. How am I going to climb out of this deep pit I’ve dug for myself?”
I emphasize that I’ve heard this type of message from students at some of the oldest and most highly ranked law schools in America. These are students with LSAT and UGPA credentials that, according to the statistics-driven paradigm of admissions standards, should have predicted smooth sailing. Yet there are rough waters and storm clouds even for them. What went wrong?
It is probably comforting for professors working at long-established law schools with above-average admissions credentials to deride the challenges facing younger, more diverse institutions. But this ignores a far more ubiquitous problem. There are formidable challenges confronting the students at all but the most elite law schools today, and these challenges may well be here to stay.
The relatively easy availability of federal loan money has enabled undergraduate and graduate institutions of all types to raise tuition at rates considerably above inflation for many, many years. The allure of plentiful money with attractive interest rates has pulled many young people into colleges and graduate schools who might have been better off pursuing technical/trade schools or just beginning their careers early. But as student debt continues to expand, a huge bubble is reaching critical mass. We are creating many more new, expensively educated graduates in a wide range of fields than the job market can accommodate at acceptable remuneration[emphasis added].
High rates of unemployment and underemployment, increased use of down-sizing, self-help, and off-shoring, immense numbers of people unable to make payments on their student loans, idealistic young graduates forced to work for the highest-paying employers rather than in public interest jobs, and growing unrest within the millennial generation…all of these are symptoms of real problems within higher education today. I think we need to focus more on these big-picture issues than on the challenges facing a tiny percentage of law schools. If we continue to ignore the broader, endemic difficulties, we will only guarantee that the solutions will remain unrealized.
John C. Kunich
Well said, Professor Kunich. Unfortunately, if history is any indication, these warnings will go unheeded by the Law School Cartel as real change affects their pocketbooks in a negative way. This would be especially true where Infilaw's investors and those similarly-situated are concerned.