Whither Law School Accreditation?

Dave Hoffman

Dave Hoffman is the Murray Shusterman Professor of Transactional and Business Law at Temple Law School. He specializes in law and psychology, contracts, and quantitative analysis of civil procedure. He currently teaches contracts, civil procedure, corporations, and law and economics.

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3 Responses

  1. Nate Oman says:

    Dave: I am skeptical of your claim that screening is always cheaper than after-the-fact sanctions. It seems to me that screening has two major down sides. First, it requires an enormous amount of information by the screeners in order for them to know what they should or should not screen out. Second, it is massively over-inclusive as many folks that should not be screened nevertheless must bear the costs of going through the screening process. After-the-fact sanctions, by contrast don’t require that we have perfect knowledge of the ways that one might screw up ex ante, only an ability to clearly identify screw-up’s ex post. Likewise, although all parties will likely bear some costs even under an ex post system (eg insurance) the costs will more closely correspond to their actual risk of damage to others. It is the difference between regulating product saftey via product’s liability torts or via ex ante safety regulations. The tort system strikes me as a better option. Transformed to the legal context, rather than making everyone who wants to be a lawyer go through the rigamarole of the the bar, etc. etc., just lower the barriers to entry but make it much easier to sue for malpractice. What I suspect you would end up with is a system of informal, flexible, but highly effective “regulation” via insurance contracts.

  2. As one who thinks that law school is too long, that the legal clinics tend to too narrowly define the “public interest” and that on-line resources are diminshing the importance of the law library, I think the states put too much reliance on law school accreditation and not enough thought into exactly what they need from the law schools. This problem is only maginfied with the ABA as the accrediting agency. The recent re-focus of their accreditation standards only feeds into the mindset of many of us that the ABA has become an organization more interested in assuaging liberal guilt than representing the interests of lawyers.

    A few years ago, the President of the ABA spoke at a DC Federalist Society luncheon – when he asked how many of us were members, maybe a third of us raised our hands. And I believe that if law firms weren’t paying the dues, that number would have been significantly decreased. Beyond the excellent Tax Division, the ABA just comes across as a lot of fluff and not at all deserving of its prominence in our legal structure.

  3. Elliot Reed says:

    Dave – one thing you haven’t considered is whether law school should be kept at all. Requiring an additional three years of school after college is an enormous entry barrier, yet I have never found a convincing explanation why the undergraduate degree is a necessary prerequisite.

    Given that the third year of law school is widely considered to be a waste anyway, the barriers to entry into the profession could be enormously reduced by eliminating law school in favor of an undergraduate major in law.