Failing Law Schools
On the surface, law schools today are thriving. Enrollments are on the rise, and their resources are often the envy of every other university department. Law professors are among the highest paid and play key roles as public intellectuals, advisers, and government officials. Yet behind the flourishing facade, law schools are failing abjectly. Recent front-page stories have detailed widespread dubious practices, including false reporting of LSAT and GPA scores, misleading placement reports, and the fundamental failure to prepare graduates to enter the profession.
Addressing all these problems and more in a ringing critique is renowned legal scholar Brian Z. Tamanaha. Piece by piece, Tamanaha lays out the how and why of the crisis and the likely consequences if the current trend continues. The out-of-pocket cost of obtaining a law degree at many schools now approaches $200,000. The average law school graduate’s debt is around $100,000—the highest it has ever been—while the legal job market is the worst in decades, with the scarce jobs offering starting salaries well below what is needed to handle such a debt load. At the heart of the problem, Tamanaha argues, are the economic demands and competitive pressures on law schools—driven by competition over U.S. News and World Report ranking. When paired with a lack of regulatory oversight, the work environment of professors, the limited information available to prospective students, and loan-based tuition financing, the result is a system that is fundamentally unsustainable.
Growing concern with the crisis in legal education has led to high-profile coverage in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, and many observers expect it soon will be the focus of congressional scrutiny. Bringing to the table his years of experience from within the legal academy, Tamanaha has provided the perfect resource for assessing what’s wrong with law schools and figuring out how to fix them.
PART I: Temptations of Self-Regulation
ONE: The Department of Justice Sues the ABA
TWO: Why Is Law School Three Years?
THREE: Faculty Fight against Changes in ABA Standards
PART II: About Law Professors
FOUR: Teaching Load Down, Salary Up
FIVE: The Cost and Consequences of Academic Pursuits
SIX: More Professors, More Revenues Needed
PART III: The US News Ranking Effect
SEVEN: The Ranking Made Us Do It
EIGHT: Detrimental Developments in Legal Academia
PART IV: The Broken Economic Model
NINE: Raising Tuition, Rising Debt
TEN: Why Tuition Has Gone up So Quickly
ELEVEN: Is Law School Worth the Cost?
TWELVE: Warning Signs for Students
THIRTEEN: Alarms for Law Schools
FOURTEEN: Going Forward
EPILOGUE: A Few Last Words
APPENDIX A: List of Abbreviations
APPENDIX B: List of Law Schools Referenced
“Failing Law Schools is destined to have an enormous impact on the future of legal education. … [T]his will turn out to be the definitive account of just how out-of-balance the existing model of legal education has become.”