Will college students continue to remain ill-informed about law schools?

Law schools have failed their students and the public but college graduates continue to apply and attend without having the facts or information needed to make an informed decision.

I request that you read this post and, if appropriate, forward it to any college students considering going to law school as well as any of those, such as pre-law advisers, who advise such students.

This is a unique, almost chaotic, time in the legal profession.

Large law firms are reevaluating the way they do business as the economic downturn has resulted in their clients no longer being willing to pay for the training of associates. Many also want value pricing not hourly fees.

Small firms are being given a second look and becoming more attractive to lawyers. In that vein, the presentations I am making to bar associations, including one this past September for the New York State Bar Association Committee on Lawyers in Transition, are aimed at helping lawyers learn about small firms and how to find positions there.

Law schools are under attack from all quarters: including law firms asking that the law schools prepare their students to practice law; students who are paying so much and often believing that they are getting so little; the ABA for inadequate teaching methods and devoting too much time to academic research.

Lawyers are expressing great dissatisfaction in their large firm practices. The American Bar Foundation’s After the JD study of 5000 associates from the year 2000 on found that 59% of the graduates of the top law schools working for large law firms planned to leave within two and a half years.

A significant aspect of what I refer to as the “funneling” of as high as 95% of the graduates at selective law schools to large law firms through on-campus interviewing is that as many as 50% of the students wanted careers serving the public and were diverted from those careers. As you are aware we still have a crisis in the country where 80% of the legal needs of the 45,000,000 least wealthy of us are not met by the legal profession.

Some articles point out that the high cost of law school is “justification’ for law students to take high paying positions. Rarely examined is why that cost is so high.

Those involved in advising college students who plan to go to law school in the past have focused primarily on how to get into the schools rated the best by the USNews annual survey. The problem is that that survey is defective. For example, it does not have a criteria evaluating how well the law school prepares students for the practice of law. Its focus is on intangibles such as reputation and which law schools get the most graduates the fastest into the largest law firms.

What is needed is a group of students or prelaw advisers who will research and inform college students about the state of legal education today. The group might want to design a far-reaching project could evaluate law schools based on whether they teach the fundamental values and skills of the legal profession and other relevant criteria such as reasonable cost. One example of such an evaluation tool is at the end of Overcoming Law School Defects .

The articles on my website and blog contain much information, resources and warnings about the deficiencies of legal education for those considering doing so.

I also recommend you read what Chuck Newton just posted in this Third Wave Blog entitled Death to Big Law (Schools)?

Law schools simply cannot live off the hope that poor (literally), innocent students can borrow ever increasing amounts of money, almost on a whim, to satisfy the peculiar beguilement and distraction of law school insiders. It is having and will continue to have very severe financial consequences for its graduates; marked by intense dissatisfaction for the choice they made to attend law school in the first place.

I invite anyone interested in talking about any of these issues or in designing a law school evaluation project to post a comment here or contact me directly by email.