law school

Is there any better morning than Monday’s to start an argument?

That’s why I wonder if you read an op-ed piece in last week’s New York Times. There, in “Too Many Law Students, Too Few Legal Jobs,” attorney Steven J. Harper assesses what he sees as the continued sorry state of the economics underlying legal education.

NYT Harper essay on law schools illustration by Kevin Lucbert 08-25-15

Illustration by Kevin Lucbert in New York Times

Where do you stand on legal education? Is it still on a troubling path? Or has it located useful solutions? (If you don’t think there was a problem in the first place, well, I don’t know what to say to you.)

He opens with predictably dire statistics regarding the employment picture of law grads. Given all that, and a national wellspring of hand-wringing, the profession must have developed strategies to right the ship. Right?

Not quite, says Harper. Quite the opposite, in fact:

“Amazingly (and perversely), law schools have been able to continue to raise tuition while producing nearly twice as many graduates as the job market has been able to absorb. How is this possible? Why hasn’t the market corrected itself? The answer is that, for a given school, the availability of federal loans for law students has no connection to their poor post-graduation employment outcomes.”

He goes on to spread his critiques liberally. He has little good to say about an ABA task force charged with examining the pr­­oblem. At the end of the day, he says, the task force “dodged the issues that should have been the focus of its work.” And he draws a line between the task force’s mild-mannered assessment of the industry and the man who headed the committee: former ABA President Dennis Archer, “the former mayor of Detroit, who is also head of the national policy board of Infilaw, a private equity-owned consortium of three for-profit law schools—Arizona Summit, Charlotte and Florida Coastal. These schools are examples of the larger problem.”

OK, he’s called out one of the three Arizona law schools, so I imagine I’ll hear some grumbling now.

Before writing me in anger or joy, read Harper’s complete piece here. And tell me what you think.