Jun 20, 2008

200 Accredited Law Schools: Too Many?

The ABA Journal.com reports that some are questioning the need for 200 ABA-accredited law schools. The discussion is in response to the accreditation of two new schools, Elon and Charlotte, which brought the number to 200.

Much of the discussion involves supply and demand issues. According to the Journal:

Law professor William Henderson of Indiana University warns that a law degree does not necessarily translate into high salaries. While top firms paid a median $145,000 in starting salaries last fall, overall the median salary for new lawyers was $62,000, according to figures from NALP.

''I think we have this fundamental disconnect between images of lawyers in the popular media, in the courtroom dispensing justice, where everyone seems prosperous and well paid,'' Henderson told AP. ''The reality is for a lot of people, law school is a route to trying to start your own private practice, and that's a very crowded business right now.''

I'm not sure I buy the "glut of law schools" argument. Recently, however, law schools have fashioned themselves more and more as technical academies for teaching "legal skills" and "techniques" for doing the legal thing. If all we're providing at law school is a vo-tech experience, then we need only enough student factories to fill open slots for legal technicians in the law factories. So maybe there is a glut.

On the other hand, there may be more to legal education than technical proficiency. One law professor put it this way:

[One] who aspires to a thorough acquaintance with legal science, should cultivate the most enlarged ideas of its transcendent dignity, its vital importance, its boundless extent, and infinite variety. As it relates to the conduct of man, it is a moral science of great sublimity; as its object is individual and national happiness, it is, of all others, the most important; as it respects the moral actions of men, and of nations, it is infinitely varied; and as it concerns all his rights and obligations, either derived from, or due to his God, his neighbour, his country, or himself, it must necessarily be a science of vast extent.
David Hoffman, A Course of Legal Study 23 (1846).

There are a handful of law professors in this country who still believe this about the law-- and who have dedicated their careers to exploring the consequences of this sort of belief. We need more law schools-- and there are already several-- that are willing to embrace this exploration for the good of their students and the legal profession.

1 comment:

  1. I saw this a few days ago on the WSJ Law Blog and Above The Law, and was surprised at the vehemence of the comments. The commenters are usually pretty bad, but this news seemed to drive them to new heights (or depths).

    Most people took either the pure free market view or the "more TTT to flood the market" view. I like and appreciate your take, which appears to ignore both of the common responses and focuses on continuing to do a quality job creating Christian lawyers as called beings.

    Thanks for inputting some sense and wisdom into this.