More Law Schools – But Why?

Are there really too many law schools? Well, yes, actually and this month the ABA accredited another at Concordia University, taking the number beyond 200 in the US.

But even the ABA are questioning whether this list should be expanded given that 10 US law schools were unable to place more than 30 per cent of their graduates.

As Bloombergs report, those job numbers don’t include positions that schools fund for their graduates or people who say they are starting their own practice.

At the University of Massachusetts School of Law, the American school with the worst job outcomes by this measure, just 22 percent of people who graduated in 2014 got those types of law jobs.

“We are a work in progress, and we need to improve our bar-pass rate and improve our employment, and I am not embarrassed about that,” says Mary Lu Bilek, the dean of U-Mass Law. Forty-two of the 60 U-Mass Law students who took the bar in February or July 2013 passed the test. The school counted 81 graduates in 2014. Bilek notes that the school’s employment numbers have improved in recent years and says she doesn’t think it’s fair to discount people who have opted to do things with their J.D. besides become lawyers.

“The traditional elite jobs aren’t the jobs that our students generally want,” she says. “There’s not room for another law school that wants to have students who want to do that, because there aren’t enough jobs for that.”

Years of a disappointing job market for lawyers have dramatically reduced the number of people interested in getting a law degree. According to the Law School Admission Council, just under 53,000 people are expected to apply to law schools by the beginning of the 2015 academic year, down from more than 100,000 in 2004.
Instead of making more things that fewer and fewer people want to pay for, one thought would be to eliminate some of those things. Are there law schools that should disappear? “Maybe. But how is that going to happen?” asks Al Brophy, a law professor at UNC. “Will it happen because places say voluntarily, ‘hey, we aren’t making money, so we should shut down?’”

Schools will not volunteer for their own demise, Brophy says, partly because so many people—alumni, faculty, staff—have a strong interest in keeping the end at bay. “It is going to take a lot to have schools shut down. What I think we are going to find is that they are going to be able to operate on shoestring budgets.”
Bilek, the U-Mass law dean, says she will continue to focus on preparing students for the careers they want, even if they stray outside the standard path for lawyers.

“I don’t want law schools to get away with pretending students can get jobs that they can’t get,” she says. She also doesn’t want the only measure of a school’s success to be the number of people it places in traditional law firms.

Source: Bloomberg Business
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