This graph nicely illustrates the
The reason for dramatic declines in applications and enrollment, of course, is that the word has finally gotten out: many law schools leave many of their graduates with staggering debt, limited and low-paying job opportunities, and the inability to hang out their own shingle for fear of committing malpractice. Things are incredibly painful in Florida, where twelve law schools have been pumping out a massive supply of lawyers, as this post discusses. In Florida, one of the results of the lawyer glut is that serious felony cases that used to require $15,000 in fees now go for about $1,500.
This drop in wages is bad for the lawyers, but it's also bad for the consumers of legal services. We're not talking about falling prices for laptops (or "tablets," or whatever the kids are into these days). The consumer won't realize it, but for $1,500 he likely won't get a defense -- either because the lawyer willing to accept that low of a fee doesn't know how to put one on, or the fee won't cover the costs, or both -- and instead will get railroaded into the first plea bargain offered by the prosecutor. While the higher fee did not guarantee good representation -- there are plenty of lawyers who take enormous fees and then convince their clients that a plea bargain is in their best interest even when it's not -- at least it allowed for the possibility of a good defense. I suppose that doesn't say much for the legal profession, but that's what we get when even our "best" law schools hire Ph.D.s in the social sciences and recent law grads who have never (or barely) practiced to educate law students.
For more on law schools, check out The Irreverent Lawyer's coverage of Arizona State Law in his insightful and, as always, entertainingly illustrated post "There's always more room in the clown car." Turns out that, despite the currently dismal state of legal education, the Sun Devils are expanding to the tune of a $129 million project. (This reminds me of my alma mater's new building, but that was only $85 million and, in Marquette's defense, the project was conceived before the recent crash in law school applications and was also funded with a $51 million gift plus a flood of subsequent, smaller donations.) But as the post points out, this is nothing new for Arizona where expansion is the name of the game: "After all," he writes, "this place helped put the bubble in real estate."
Meanwhile, in what could most generously be described as cluelessness, the ABA honored the law school dean "who has done the most to embarrass legal education." First, I have to once again marvel at how some of the highest paid people in the country call what they do "service" and are always honoring each other and doling out awards. But second, this guy was pulling in almost $900,000 per year for being a dean at a law school that is so poorly respected by his fellow academics that it "can't even get ranked by the US News."
Finally, I've often noticed and commented about how sensitive law professors can be. But one prof recently went over the top and reported a lawyer / blogger / writer to his bar association for professional discipline. What did he do? He criticized her for never having practiced law in the subject she teaches, for barely having practiced law at all, and for writing law review articles that exemplify everything that is wrong with legal education and law professor publishing. (See here.) If memory serves, there was also some general discussion of her race, gender, and attractiveness. (More accurately, she's off-the-charts hot, as in Alison Brie hot. I won't link to the prof's photo because I don't want to get reported to my state bar, but with a little research interested readers can find it themselves. Alison, on the other hand, won't mind.) Anyway, even the typically anti-lawyer bar association apparently recognized this was nothing more than free speech and discarded the overly sensitive prof's complaint.
First amendment saved -- for now.