While today’s Harvard Law students are about to pay the hoary institution as much as $54,580 in annual tuition, a new law school designed on the original Harvard Law model plans to charge $11,000. I have just received an offer to join its faculty and find the model intriguing.
Designed by the renowned legal historian, Dan Coquillette, once Dean of Boston College and former colleague of mine, the new school will have no administrators but rather an automated system, no books but a digital library, and two faculty members who will teach three courses per semester to a class of thirty-five students. There will be no ABA accreditation and the school will have to compete on the apprenticeship model.
Dan’s idea arises from his research for his magisterial history of Harvard Law School, where Dan has long been the Charles Warren Visiting Professor of American Legal History. Called “On the Battlefield of Merit,” Harvard University Press will publish this multi-volume history, volume one telling of how apprenticeship competition nearly destroyed the infant law school.
In Harvard Law’s golden age, there were just two faculty members, Joseph Story and Simon Greenleaf, who taught all the courses. With a faculty-student ratio of 17.5:1, Story also published a treatise a year.
As Dan explained in his appointment offer to me:
The students of the Story-Greenleaf School read like a Who’s Who of the New Republic, and they uniformly praised their Law School experience, particularly the close mentoring and inspiration they got from their two teachers. Of course, Story and Greenleaf knew every student in the School. The physical plant was terrible; the Library, open to Harvard Square, often lost more books a year then it gained; and the only nonacdemic employee was a janitor who spoke Latin. The students did not care, as long as there was Story at one end of a log, and a student at the other.
If we replicated that School exactly, setting faculty salaries at today’s levels and including all overhead, student tuition would be 20% of what they pay now. I am ready when you are.
I believe that this offer is non-transferable but, hey, you never know.