Mark your calendar! On January 16 at noon in Washington, D.C., Prof. Brian Tamanaha of Washington University will speak at a Cato Book Forum on his much-acclaimed new book, Failing Law Schools. Commenting will be Neal McCluskey, who directs Cato’s program on education policy, and University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos, like Tamanaha a celebrated critic of the American law school scene. I’ll be moderating. The event in Washington, D.C. is free and open to the public; details on how to register here.
From the event description:
For decades, American law schools enjoyed one of the world’s great winning streaks. Amid swelling enrollments and what seemed an insatiable demand for new lawyers, they went on a spree of expansion; even as tuitions soared, the schools basked in an air of public-interest rectitude symbolized by Yale law dean Harold Koh’s description of his institution as a “Republic of Conscience.” Then came the Great Recession—and a great reckoning. New graduates were unable to find decently paying legal jobs even as they staggered under enormous debt burdens; it became impossible to ignore long-standing complaints from the world of legal practice that the law curriculum does not train students well in much of what lawyers do; and creative efforts to reduce the cost of law school were stymied by an accreditation process that closely constrains the format of legal education. In Failing Law Schools, one of the most talked-of books in years about higher education, Brian Tamanaha of Washington University has written a devastating critique of what went wrong with the American law school and what can be done to fix it. None of the key contributors to the problem—faculty self-interest, university administrators’ myopia, cartel-like accreditation—escape unscathed in his analysis.
We’ve often cited the work of Profs. Tamanaha and Campos in this space and linked to reviews and discussions of Failing Law Schools here, here, here, here, here, and here. National Jurist just named Prof. Tamanaha as #1 on its list of the year’s most five most influential people in legal education. See you there on Jan. 16!
In Schools for Misrule, I had positive things to say about the “reading law” or apprenticeship alternative to law schools, and the New York Times “Room for Debate” feature now runs a roundtable on that question with contributors that include Brian Tamanaha, David Lat, and Erwin Chemerinsky. Much deeper disruption than that may lay ahead: “Within ten years, MOOCs [massive open online courses] could replace traditional law school classes altogether, except at a few elite law schools” [Philip Schrag via TaxProf] And are law schools pro-cyclical? The state of Florida saw a steeper boom and deeper bust in legal services than the rest of the country; it doesn’t seem to have helped that five new law schools have opened lately in the state, or that many Florida law schools succeed in placing fewer than half of their grads in paying positions for which bar passage is required. [TaxProf]
Here’s the video of our Wednesday event at which author Brian Tamanaha (Washington U.) discussed his book Failing Law Schools. Neal McCluskey (Cato) and Paul Campos (Colorado) commented, and I moderated. We’ve had lots of appreciative comments from those who’ve watched, and I wholeheartedly endorse the book, which is persuasive in both its analysis and its recommendations.
More: After the panel, Megan McArdle of Newsweek/Daily Beast interviewed Prof. Campos on the latest bad numbers for law schools. Other comments include Paul Caron/TaxProf, Stephen Diamond of Santa Clara University (disapproving of Cato and the panelists) and Constitutional Daily here, here and here (differing sharply with Diamond).
And: Cato Daily Podcast (audio) with Prof. Tamanaha.
Yes, lawyers are organized as a guild, but I’m not convinced that arrangement is disintegrating or on the way to doing so. I explain why in a new piece at Liberty and Law that’s a response to an essay-in-chief by Jim Chen of Louisville Law School arguing that competition and technological advance are fast eroding lawyers’ guild privileges. The other response-essay is by Brian Tamanaha of Washington U. in St. Louis, whose new book Failing Law Schools has been getting widespread acclaim [NLJ, Garnett]
and whose recent essays in the NYT and Daily Beast have stirred widespread discussion. (& Instapundit, Paul Caron/TaxProf, Scott Greenfield).
Walter Russell Mead weighs in ["First, Let’s Indenture All The Lawyers," The American Interest] Federal student loan program serves as enabler of insane law student debt burdens [Brian Tamanaha, "The Quickly Exploding Law Student Debt Disaster," Balkinization via Caron] Related: “Judge Tosses Lawsuit against Law School over Employment Stats” [WSJ Law Blog, WLF "Legal Pulse", earlier] “Remedies for Unreasonably Defective Law Schools” [Frances Zacher, Abnormal Use, more] And: A. Benjamin Spencer (Washington & Lee), “The Law School Critique in Historical Perspective” [SSRN via Caron]
Also, another review of Schools for Misrule is out, this one from Bradley Watson in the Claremont Review.
Many links that tend to harmonize with arguments made in Schools for Misrule, along with a few others:
- Judges criticize law reviews: “The high bench vs. the ivory tower” [Richard Brust, ABA Journal]
- “The fervor of the sixties penetrated law schools quite passionately” [Ann Althouse quoting an introduction to clinical legal education]
- More on forthcoming Brian Tamanaha book, Failing Law Schools [ABA Journal]
- “The Coming Crash in Legal Education: How We Got Here, and Where We Go Now” [Richard W. Bourne, SSRN via Kenneth Anderson/Volokh] How law, medicine and architectural schools joined the academy [Richard Neumann, Jr./SSRN via Caron]
- How lucrative are the sidelines a lawprof can develop, such as expert witness work? It varies greatly, but one star’s NYC condo is for sale for $15.9M [Julie Zeveloff, Business Insider]
- “Lawsuits against law schools weak: experts” [Reuters]
- “Obama hugging Derrick Bell” video: neither newsy nor likely to damage the President’s image, and why again is Prof. Bell supposed to be a more alarming connection than Prof. Ogletree himself? [Breitbart, Hinderaker, Cooke/NRO, and an HLS reminiscence from David French at NRO]
An opinion roundtable at the New York Times’ “Room for Debate.”
Related: “How law schools are helping the elite” [Brian Tamanaha, Balkinization] And it rather missed the point for the underlying NYT report to call law schools “singular creature of American capitalism” [Larry Ribstein] Earlier: Theodore Seto via Taxprof, Stephen Bainbridge,