Ah, I knew I was onto something with that last post. The legal business is not looking good these days and Temporary Attorney just pointed me toward a good piece from the LA Times’s Mark Greenbaum. He opens with a bit of a tasteless joke given the pain that some people are facing and then continues with the bad news: there are way too many new lawyers graduating and no one seems to know what to do.Some want the ABA to stop accrediting some of the new schools. Ah, perhaps that’s a good idea. But what if they’re the cheap ones with low costs and lower loans? Maybe we want to encourage the competition? And it’s not clear that stopping the new schools would do much to stop the flood.The most intriguing part of the story is a pointer to a paper by Herwig Schlunk, a professor at Vanderbuilt School of Law, who argues quite persuasively that a legal education is a bad deal for all but a few stars. (See here for a discussion at the NY Times and here for another copy.)This should be seen as a real alarm bell for the entire college industrial complex. Everyone’s known that a cross-disciplinary program in Mayan BioPottery is a bad deal. That’s always been the case. But when the numbers stop working for the old faithfuls like law school, it shows that something is broken.For the longest time, the universities have taken it on faith that the return on their degrees is so high that they can just keep boosting tuition forever. The students will keep coming, they say, because we’re the gatekeepers for the middle class. Ah, but now that’s no longer the case. They’re the gatekeepers for an indentured class and there’s a big difference. As students start to realize the size of the debt, the smart ones will begin to balk. And then what will happen when a university degree starts to indicate that someone is a big sucker?
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