Law Schools and the Bar
The ongoing discussion over the expense of legal education and the high levels of debt that many students have is, I think, missing part of the problem. While the interests of practicing lawyers and law schools are aligned in many respects, in this case they are not.
Here’s what I mean. Expensive law schools mean that there will be fewer lawyers (all other things being equal). Is this something that existing lawyers should worry about? It’s probably something that they should celebrate–they will have less competition. Law schools and law students, on the other hand, are hurt by reduced enrollment and fewer opportunities.
Resolving this conflict is hard because the ABA controls the standards that law schools must meet. No accredited school can just change it’s J.D. program to two years or adopt many of the innovations that are being suggested in legal education without the approval of the ABA and the various state bars. Why should we expect that this approval will be given?