Is it Moral for Law Schools to keep taking tuition if they can’t place their graduates in jobs?
I’m applying to law school. I’m sure there are many schools that could provide me with a decent education; I’m less confident that a degree from some institutions will get me a job. In fact, some schools, while charging outrageously high tuition, place fewer than half of their recent graduates in long-term, full-time legal positions. Is it moral for schools like these to keep enrolling students and collecting tuition dollars knowing that their product is a risky (or outright bad) investment?
Posted December 3, 2012 at 11:20 am
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1. drummie wrote:
This person seems to be a part of the current “you owe me” generation. If you know that certain schools don’t ‘place’ as many graduates as you think they should, don’t go there. If the field you seem to want to enter is saturated with few available jobs, is that the best carrer choice? But quit whining, it is not up to the school you attend to get you a job. Attorneys are apart of the ‘service’ sector of the economy so there will always be a certain demand but no one can guarantee you a job.
December 3, 12:32 pm | [comment link]
2. Cennydd13 wrote:
I’m not a lawyer, but I am of the opinion that the legal profession has become perhaps the most overloaded in the service sector, and “Lawyers are a dime a dozen” comes to mind. Lawyers will always be in demand, though, but perhaps our law schools need to cut back on their enrollment to help ease the glut of unemployed graduates. The armed forces also need lawyers in their ranks, but as drawdowns occur, their numbers will also be reduced. If a prospective law student is concerned about this, I’d suggest that he or she rethink their career choice.
December 3, 12:57 pm | [comment link]
3. jamesw wrote:
Cennydd13 makes some good points. This letter points to what is known as the “education bubble” which many people believe will burst soon (and probably has burst in some areas such as seminaries). Basically, the government has pumped the education industry full of money via student loans, which the education industry then took and used to create huge empires. But now students are beginning to question the long-term value of the incredibly high debt they have to take on in order to get an education degree for which a good job is a 50/50 proposition.
I work in a law school and have observed this process unfold. The reality is that there are a plethora of law schools that are expanding and still luring in students with the promises of BMW’s and six-figure salaries upon graduation. But there are other schools that have seen the writing on the wall and are trying to contract.
In law, artificial intelligence can do what a lot of grunt attorneys have typically done in the past. Additionally, a lot of the grunt legal work can be outsources overseas to much cheaper Indian lawyers. Thus the employment market has contracted in the US and that is not likely to change.
But it is very hard - VERY HARD - to change academic culture. And also remember that most employees and faculty in academia tend to be Democrats who think that the solution is never down-sizing or spending less, but rather in finding the mythical pot of gold through fund-raising, taxing the wealthy, when the economy “gets better”, what-have-you. The long term trend in education will be contraction in a lot of areas, and this will be a painful and difficult trend, but one that I don’t think can be avoided. Unlike government, universities can’t just print themselves more money or borrow ad infinitum.
December 3, 2:05 pm | [comment link]
4. Luke wrote:
Any student in any field who accepts a school’s promise that a job will be waiting is responsible for his own disappointment.
December 3, 3:20 pm | [comment link]
And, that disappointment will be one of the more important lessons he learns.
5. KevinBabb wrote:
There is no way that law schools could “guarantee” jobs to their graduates even if they wanted to—or even if the Government said they were required to. Legal employment follows unpredictable trends. I graduated from law school in 1987, near the top of an incredibly hot job market. Something like 80% of the people in my class had accepted job offers by Labor Day of our last year of law school (that is, over a year before we were actually licensed). On the on the other hand, people who graduated four years before I did talked about law graduates in the early ‘80s driving cabs. Then, three or four years after I graduated, during the Recession of 1991-92, the legal market plummeted again. In twenty-five years of practicing law, I have seen the job market for new graduates ebb and flow, beyond any apparent rhyme or reason, and certainly for reasons beyond the ken of law school administrators.
Of course, the Current Unpleasantness is the worst market for new lawyers that I have seen during my practice, but it is being met by substantial decreases in first year enrollment, now for two years in a row. The market appears to be working, with young people self-selecting out of law.
I agree that law schools are places of learning, not job factories. I went to law school with many people who got JDs for reasons other than practicing law. One man, an academic in social sciences, wanted a JD because it would increase the pay he could demand in academia. A couple of colleagues got law degrees with the intention of going into commercial real estate, or management of small family businesses. Beyond the fact that law schools must not be permitted to lie about employment statistics, the burden on matching education with employment should be on the student.
But if I was a recent college graduate, and I couldn’t get into a top 50 law school, I would find something else to do. Academic pedigree is incredibly important in legal work, and there is no point is going to a school that is only considered marginal. Of course, I also wouldn’t get an MBA if I couldn’t get into a Top 20 program. But that subject will emerge, I am sure, on a thread in the future….
December 3, 4:49 pm | [comment link]
6. dwstroudmd+ wrote:
Tuition is for the education. Period. It is perfectly ethical and moral for it be charged and paid by those wishing the education. What happens after the degree is awarded is not the school’s responsibility. It is true that a good education cannot be taken from you. It is not true that a good education guarantees anything other than the diploma (if you pay for it).
December 3, 4:55 pm | [comment link]
7. MichaelA wrote:
Dick: The first thing we do, let’s kill all the lawyers.
December 3, 8:15 pm | [comment link]
Cade: Nay, that I mean to do.
[Henry VI, Part 2, Act IV, scene 2]
8. Fisher wrote:
Did this person really say, “I’m less confident that a degree from some institutions will get me a job”?
I’m even less confident about the quoted assertion, simply because degrees don’t get jobs—people get jobs. What’s more (unless you outright buy one from a mill), people don’t “get” degrees; they earn them.
That said, it is unethical for a school to grant a degree to a student who has not earned it? Absolutely yes. And is it wise for a would-be employer to learn what an applicant actually did to earn that degree? Yes, indeed. And a word for student, “Don’t bother learning the tricks of the trade—just learn the trade.”
If you had an inkling about me: Yes, I am a University professor
December 3, 10:26 pm | [comment link]
9. Cennydd13 wrote:
When I was in college in the late ‘50s, I planned to enter the advertising business, and majored in the courses which were necessary. Following graduation, however, I was facing the military draft, and this left me with no choice but to enter the service.
Later on during the early years of my military career, I found that I actually liked what I was doing for a living, and decided to stay in. I knew that I wasn’t the first to realize that my career choice was not going to be the one which I had originally planned and trained for, and I think this holds true even today for so many law students who will find their prospects for employment in a law firm rather slim after graduation.
The time to think about one’s future in the legal profession is before enrollment, in my opinion.
December 3, 10:36 pm | [comment link]
10. Formerly Marion R. wrote:
Tell any children, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren who will listen: if you go to law school and do not finish in the top 10% at a top 50 school or the top 50% in a top ten school you ARE making a HUGE mistake.
By the way, I disagree that law schools are places of learning. Even the best are accreditation mills. I write as both a lawyer and an academic.
December 4, 10:17 am | [comment link]
11. Cennydd13 wrote:
10. I know some who are Boalt Hall grads from the top 10% of their classes, and even they are having a tough time finding employment. The jobs are as scarce in the legal market as in any other, and your comment’s right on the mark.
December 4, 2:36 pm | [comment link]
12. MichaelA wrote:
I can’t comment on the situation in USA, but those sound like wise words, Cennydd. In God’s providence, I have both experience and a job (as a lawyer), but it is very hard for the young people coming through.
December 4, 5:57 pm | [comment link]
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