So, why do I tell the previous story… the first thing to take away from this is that the ABA does site visits to your school and they do actually want to hear your opinion. They take your opinion seriously and act on it. (ABA Site visit schedule) This is also an opportunity for students to make their voice heard to the ABA like no other. Imagine the message the ABA would receive if rather than 6 people, the room was standing room only and the students wanted the ABA to fix the broken system the ABA is perpetuating. Part of the problem is that students are insulated and don’t realize (or believe [Epic Fail Blog]) the system is broken until they are out of law school and witness the desolation firsthand.
As near as I could tell my law school tried to hide the ABA site visit. We had been told that they would be visiting the classes during the week, but the fact that the ABA asked to speak to students in an open venue never was disseminated… the law school did not actually attempt to enlist people to show up and therefore the 6 of us represented the entirety of the school. It was an accident I ran into it, and one of the other people there was a first-year who had only been in law school for a few weeks and had no ability to constructively add to the conversation. Conversely, when the Law School dean had a ‘town hall meeting’ there wasn’t a third year who didn’t show up (and many second years) to tear him a new one about job prospects and the law school’s floundering ranking.
Attorneys are a self-regulating profession. Law Schools are regulated by the ABA, which is still technically falling under the aegis of self-regulation. Unfortunately, the regulation is rather limited and the ABA keeps handing out accreditation to schools which should not exist in the first place. Rather than handing out new accreditation, the ABA should be rescinding them from the obviously failed law schools. If you want to see which schools are in trouble, look for the ones with multiple site visits scheduled in a single year (Yes… we are all looking at you Thomas Cooley “law school” – for those few living in a cave, Cooley is considered to be the absolute worst law school in the nation. Incoming classes of approx. 1000+ students, graduating classes of about 250-300+. They accept everyone. From what I’ve heard from the graduates its a bit like like Lord of the Flies with a law library. Also, the president, sick of being the the lowest ranked 4th tier school in the nation decided to publish his own ranking system putting his school at #2 behind Harvard.) In a recent fun lawsuit… Cooley lost to a student anonymously posting that they sucked online: “America’s “second best” law school sues online critic, and loses on appeal” (decision).
So what should the ABA be doing? The legal profession is slitting its own throat by flooding the market with cheap, poorly trained lawyers. The ABA seems to take the stance that market forces will quell the problem and the flood of lower quality attorneys will be pushed out by those with better qualifications. That isn’t really what is happening though. The glut on the market is driving down the relative value for all attorneys, in addition the competition is reaching ridiculous levels. Entry level jobs (at entry level salaries) are being filled by attorneys with a decade of experience. Most firms won’t even look at you unless you are a lateral from another firm anymore.
A short example of the competition these days… a friend of mine applied for a judicial clerk position at a small state appellate court after passing the bar. They actually received a call back from the judge who apologized and said that they probably would have hired them, except they had gotten swamped with applications and they had graduates from Yale willing to move out there (roughly the middle of nowhere) to take the position. The judge couldn’t get over it… Yale law grads willing to move to take a poorly paying clerkship at a small court.The judge actually said they’d have to be crazy to pass up a Yale clerk.
So market corrections aren’t really working. Not quite in the way the ABA seems to be expecting anyway. It seems instead the top is filtering to the bottom as well. The ABA needs to start pruning the number of law schools. Additionally it needs to set caps on the number of students allowed per incoming class and keep that cap in place through graduation. I am going to add this one in big letters because it is becoming a bigger problem. THE ABA NEEDS TO STOP THE INFLUX OF FOREIGN / LLM STUDENTS WHO ARE BEING OFFERED JD POSITIONS. This is becoming a bigger problem and no one seems to be noticing… specifically Chinese students who previously were receiving LLMs are being offered JD positions instead to allow for more tuition and a bigger law school payday. Most of the LLMs I worked with in law school from China had at best a rudimentary grasp of English such that you could not even speak with them, and now they are getting a JD, with absolutely no possibility of passing the bar in the US; and I have no idea of what prospects or value a US JD has for them back home.
you may ask yourself why would a law school do this? Well the answer is that since foreign students are not eligible for US Federal Financial Aid, they are required to pay full tuition in cash, up front. Apparently the prospect of not having to deal with Fed loans and servicers and no scholarships or poor US students is appealing to some law schools.)
It would also help if the ABA attempted to roll back the clock a bit and re-establish that law is an apprenticeship model. I don’t know how many times in law school I heard that law firms complained that law school did not teach practical skills. It never has, and some of that responsibility was supposed to be taken up by established attorneys in the field. (ahem.. self regulating) Instead we see corporate law firms who effectively refuse to train new attorneys and only want to steal laterals from other firms who do train them. Thus perpetuating the concept that you shouldn’t train new attorneys because they will leave and take their added value with them from your training. How about a bit more damned regulation… maybe training quotas forcing large firms to open more internship positions to actually train more attorneys based upon the total number of attorneys at your firm.
Technically any of these suggestions are possible and able to be implemented tomorrow. Why? BECAUSE WE ARE SELF REGULATING. The ABA can choose to regulate our field and make changes NOW if they wanted. But it is easier not to rock the boat I suppose and continue to watch as our field cannibalisticly eats its own.