Saturday, April 14, 2018

Look to your left; look to your right

Back in the days of The Paper Chase, there was a little speech that, at least according to legend, the Dean made during law school orientation.  “Look to your left; look to your right. One of you won’t be here next year.”  The message, of course, was that law school was not only tough to get in to, but would also be tough to complete.  And one out of every three of you will fail.  But in today’s softer, gentler world, the calculus has changed.  Well, sort of. 

Today, almost everyone gets admitted to law school, and even students with a mere 2.0 GPA in college can get scholarship money at some law schools.  Several forces have conspired to create this state of affairs.  Law schools have expanded in number to over 200, the student applicant pool has shrunk due to sliding demand and plummeting pay for lawyers, and a greater number of law schools are therefore competing for the smaller number of student loan conduits prospective students.

And today, not only can anyone get in to law school, but nearly everyone who gets in will graduate.  Things have softened from a learning standpoint, as law schools need to ensure a full three years of revenue from each of its conduits students.  Without this revenue stream, they could go the way of Whittier or Valparaiso or Savannah law schools, among others.  (The protection of the legal services consuming public takes a back seat to law school survival, of course.)    
In light of this change in the economic landscape of law schools and the legal profession, the deans’ little orientation speech should change.  The new spiel should be: “Look to your left; look to your right.  All of you will graduate and we’ll hand you a JD degree, but one of you won’t land a job that will allow you to payback your student loans, and one of you won’t land any legal job at all.”

Or, as one student at a USN #80–#90 school reports over at OTLSS:  “[T]he main difference between my school and a better school is the feel you have knowing that, out of any three students, one is going to get a good/decent job, one is getting a shit job that won’t pay back their loans, and one isn’t getting hired anywhere . . . [T]here’s way more falling bodies than trampolines to save them.”

Enjoy the next three years, kids!

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