Failing Law Schools by Brian Z. Tamanaha was published in June 2012. Among the most startling assertions in that book was that law schools will produce 45,000 new graduates annually while only 25,000 openings for lawyers are projected each year through 2018. Professor Tamanaha includes many strong critiques of how law schools operate today.
Predictably some law school deans and professors have gotten defensive about this book and other criticisms and have responded. The responses and counter responses have gotten interesting over the last week or so, so I thought I would pass some along to practicing lawyers who read this blog.
Last week Lawrence E. Mitchell, Dean of Case Western Reserve University’s law school, published an OpEd piece in The New York Times titled Law School Is Worth the Money. For those of us paying attention to these issues, this was probably one of most singularly unpersuasive pieces of professional writing that one will ever read.
Not suprisingly the legal blogosphere reacted quickly and strongly. Three days later the TaxProf Blog posted this lengthy list of dissenters to Dean Mitchell's opinion piece. A Google search reveals many more posts since then, including this one from Kyle McEntee, Executive Director and founder, Law School Transparency, which was posted as I was completing this post. These posts were not just from the "law school scam bloggers," who have been regularly posting on this topic, but from sources like the State Bar of Michigan blog and WestLawInsider, where the writer referred to "the Case Western dean’s misrepresentations (and sometimes outright lies)." This is only one instance of some tough talk about the OpEd.
I can count on my friend and colleague, Jordan Furlong, for some great insight on many topics and today he weighed in with How to kill (or save) a law school. This is great and provocative reading for anyone interested in the topic. I should note that I agree with Jordan when he says "I like law schools, and I hope they prosper." Jordan's primary point goes to law firms and law schools. If you want to deal with change and competition, first say, "if we were building a competitor to our business, what would we do?" Then do it now, before someone else does. Both law firms and law schools are constrained in what they can do in many ways, but those constraints are loosening.
Since many readers from other jurisdictions know me as an Oklahoma law blogger, I should note that "we're doing fine" here (as the song lyrics go.) We have had no huge law school expansion. We still have the same three law schools as when I was deciding where to attend. There are more practical skills taught in Oklahoma law schools, reflecting the reality that more and more graduates will find themselves in a solo or small firm setting rather than a very well-compensated apprenticeship. I guest lecture several times a year to law classes on law practice management and the University of Tulsa had me speak this year on the future of law practice to a mandatory program for 2L's.