Our Bar . . . is . . . an asylum for the lame, and the halt, and the blind from the law schools of this country. And they are still coming.

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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7 Responses

  1. Miriam Cherry says:

    plus ca change, plus la meme chose…

  2. Frank says:

    Fascinating analysis, and a great reminder about the lessons of the past.

    The cross-national comparisons are also interesting. On the one hand, we tend to think of lawyer-proliferation and “big gov’t” as going hand in hand. OTOH, Thomas Geoghegan has argued that “the Right Made America a Lawsuit Nation” by dismantling the type of regulatory structures and corporatist bargaining that a country like Germany uses to settle many disputes.

    I think your 1930s comparison suggests that, whatever law schools do, the macroeconomy will probably swamp its effects. (As will a Supreme Court or ALEC-inspired “reforms” that sharply limit access to justice.) On the other hand, in an economy increasingly riddled with potentially ruinous clauses in contracts, more and more people may need lawyerly skills, as this old post of mine suggests:

  3. WL says:

    All this historical perspective tells me is that the legal academy has resisted change for nearly 80 years, even in the face of empirical evidence that there are deep flaws in the Langdell pedagogical model. It does not make me think better of law schools, nor change my views (which tend to align with David Lat’s NYT Room for Debate op-ed).

  4. WL says:

    And another thing: none of these historical articles even begin to explain why law school tuition inflation has far exceeded tuition inflation in other areas of academia. (I’m being charitable here, and comparing law school to other graduate programs, since all higher education tuition has far exceeded normal economic inflation.)

  5. [I deleted this comment, which was silly, incoherent, and obnoxious to boot. -dah.]

  6. Liz says:

    Somehow I find it less than shocking that there would have been a surplus of lawyers two years into the Great Depression.

    Was this a lighthearted attempt at perspective “Oh, this is just like the last century’s historic unemployment crisis?” Because if so, I’m not sure it’s the best tactic to take if one really hopes to reassure those affected.

  7. brad says:

    A little late, but one thing I wanted to add to the general discussion that I haven’t seen posted anywhere yet:

    Some of the frustration of students with professors come from the fact that outside a small handful of schools the student is not a potential future colleague in the same way as a typical graduate student in the Arts and Sciences. Due to the overwhelming snobbery of this profession, which is near its apex in the legal academy, students and professors are simply members of different castes. This creates a divide which is difficult, if not impossible, to ever see across.

    I witnessed this first hand at a discussion about outing oneself in one’s resume. There were several faculty members that were quite vehement in arguing that there was an ethical duty to do so. Quite easy to say when you graduated from Harvard Law, clerked for a Federal Appeals Court Judge and now are a tenured professor!