Thursday, June 05, 2008

New Law Schools Everywhere?

The New York Lawyer has published the story reproduced below about the sudden explosion of law schools in several states, including New York, Connecticut, Maine, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Idaho. As the article points out, these schools are in additin to the new law school in Irvine, California, and a number of other schools that have opened their doors in the last few years. Most of these states already have a number of law schools (Idaho and Maine are probably not in this category), and it is questionable why they would feel the need to add more. Speaking specifically of New York, where no fewer than three new law schools are contemplated (in Rochester, Stony Brook, and Binghamton), there are already fifteen law schools, ranging from top-tier schools to fourth-tier schools. New York has a fine public law school in Buffalo, which is desperately in need of more funding. Why not support the school we already have?

Every day, we see reports about law firms that are laying off associates and rescinding offers of fall employment (this happened just last month to one of my students). Our Career Services staff works hard to place students and alumni, but they are fighting a tough market. And I don't think we are unique. Most of the start-up schools will not be highly ranked, at least at first, and that will make the job search even harder. I wonder if it's ethical to accept students knowing that they will have a difficult time finding jobs. A lot of these new schools seem to be planned as a way to burnish the reputation of their founding universities rather than in response to a genuine societal need for more attorneys.

Too Many Lawyer Factories and More on the Way
New York Lawyer
June 3, 2008

By Leigh Jones
The National Law Journal

As many as 10 new law schools are in the works, with the majority of them proposed in the eastern part of the country.
While their proponents insist that the schools will serve the needs of their communities and beyond, the plans are drawing sharp criticism from those who argue that creating more law schools is irresponsible.
With three new law schools proposed in New York alone and others also in the early stages in Connecticut, Maine, Pennsylvania and elsewhere, developing facilities to pump out juris doctor degrees is the goal du jour for institutions looking to build a bigger name for themselves.
Planners assert that their schools will offer specialized programs and innovative curricula to J.D. hopefuls. Critics, however, point to a tight job market and starting salaries that do not cover the ballooning costs of tuition for the majority of students already graduating from the nation's hundreds of law schools.
"I have no doubt that those concerns are valid, but it's whether they end up being compelling reasons to pull back on starting a law school," said Loren D. "Chip" Prescott Jr. He is the newly appointed dean of the Wilkes University Law School Planning Initiative, which is pushing to open a law school in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., by 2010.
Wilkes University will be competing with Pennsylvania's other schools, which include Duquesne University School of Law; Pennsylvania State University Dickinson School of Law; University of Pennsylvania Law School; University of Pittsburgh School of Law; Temple University James E. Beasley School of Law; Villanova University School of Law; and Widener University School of Law.
Prescott cited a number of reasons to launch a law school in Pennsylvania. First, the closest law school to the area is a two-hour drive away, he said. Second, he sees a need for creative, hands-on training absent in legal education today. Third, a "brand new school," he said, can provide such innovation more readily than older schools constricted by outmoded traditions.
"A school starting from scratch can make a unique contribution," he said.
Crowded in N.Y.
In New York, 15 law schools already are in operation. As in Pennsylvania, they run the rankings spectrum, from top-tier New York University Law School to Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center, ranked in the fourth tier by U.S. News & World Report.
Plans are in motion within the State University of New York system to launch two law schools: one at Stony Brook University on Long Island and another in Binghamton, about 200 miles from New York City. In addition, state lawmakers also have set aside money for a law school upstate in Rochester, which would be affiliated with St. John Fisher College.
Other proposals in the Northeast include a new law school at the University of New Haven in Connecticut and another at Husson College in Bangor, Maine. Elsewhere in the country, Louisiana College in Pineville, La., is set to open a Christian-focused law school, and Lincoln Memorial University is planning a law school in Knoxville, Tenn.
In Boise, Idaho, Concordia University has a law school in the works and University of Idaho College of Law is expected to open a branch in Boise as well.
Almost all of the new schools will seek accreditation from the American Bar Association (ABA). Nearly all states, with the notable exception of California, require students to graduate from an ABA-accredited law school in order to take the bar exam.
All of those schools are in addition to University of California, Irvine Donald Bren School of Law, expected to open in autumn 2009, and at least seven other law schools that have popped up across the country in the last five years seeking accreditation by the ABA.
"This is beyond absurd," said William Henderson, a professor at Indiana University School of Law — Bloomington. His scholarship focuses on the legal job market.
Henderson's research, which is based on data obtained from the ABA and ALM Research, a subsidiary of the parent company of The National Law Journal, shows dismal job prospects for many law graduates from lower-tier schools already in existence. New law schools historically have fallen into the lower tiers of the rankings by U.S. News & World Report, at least in their first years of operation.
Part of Henderson's research focuses on so-called "bad outcomes" experienced by law students, which include graduates who were unemployed nine months after graduation, whose job status was unknown or students who flunked out. He determined the 50 law schools with the highest percentages of "bad outcomes," and revealed a range between 49.1% and 27.9% of bad outcomes among the 20 law schools with the highest percentages of such outcomes. All of those schools were ranked either in the third or fourth tier by U.S. News & World Report.
"The popular perception is that there's a big monolith of wealth," he said. "The reality is that some people are making lots of money and a lot of people are not able to make a living."
Henderson's research is based on data collected from 2005 and 2007. But the job market may be even bleaker now due to a downturn in the economy in 2008.

1 comment:

beforewisdom said...

I wonder if it's ethical to accept students knowing that they will have a difficult time finding jobs

Academic institutions have schizophrenia about whether they are providing job education or "higher education". When it suits them, they will pick one over the other, more likely the "higher education", education as an end in itself option as it is convenient of absolving them of all sorts of responsibility.