It has been a tumultuous year in the wide world of law school news: suits filed, requirements imposed, tuitions raised, and accreditation denied. To put it simply, that’s a lot of stuff. Here are some of the top law school stories of 2012:
Top Law School Story of 2012 I: No Overseas Accreditation
The ABA denied accreditation to schools outside of the United States. You could say “boo-hoo” for those foreign lawyers seeking to practice in the U.S. or you could thank the ABA for protecting your legal education and shrinking the legal labor pool in this country. Think about it. Would you rather compete with a bunch of people paying the same as you for the same education or a bunch of people paying way less for the same education and status (and thus willing to accept lower initial pay). Let the foreigners wail about the lack of fairness. You’ve got (a modicum of) job security.
Top Law School Story of 2012 II: No Job? Sue Your School
Law grads are suing their schools because they can’t find work, and they are losing. To those in the legal know, this is not surprising. For one, law schools are run by lawyers and are thus smart enough to never make any guarantee of employment. Secondly, law schools report their employment statistics only as the ABA requires them too. Last, those who are filing the suits are law school graduates and are thus presumably less susceptible to duping. However, those applying to and attending law school will now be evermore aware of their realistic job prospects, and that can only be a good thing.
Top Law School Story of 2012 III: Wanna go to Law School? Pony Up
Law schools have recently experienced a drop in applicants. It appears that fewer college graduates view a law degree as the ironclad guarantee of lifelong employment it was once perceived to be. While you might expect law schools to drop prices in order to better compete, the opposite has happened. Law schools have raised tuition prices. However, they have also increased scholarships for those most deserving (those with the best combination of need and merit). In other words, they’re asking the less-qualified, but better-heeled to foot a larger bill for the more-qualified and less well-off. After all, this strategy helps them keep pace in the U.S. News rankings, which add points for dollars spent per student (with little regard to how those dollars are spent). You gotta love the perverse incentives with which law school deans must deal.
Top Law School Story of 2012 IV: Wanna be a Lawyer? You Better be Nice
Or at least pretend. New York is requiring law school graduates to perform 50 hours of
what it calls pro bono work between graduation and admission to the bar. Does this mean a law student will have to spend a week’s worth of work helping the homeless? Of course not! Don’t be silly! Any work with clinics and non-profits counts toward the total, so most students should be well-covered by the time they graduate. So what does this amount to? It makes lawyers look better to those who don’t read the fine print (i.e. non-lawyers).
What Law School Stories Await in 2013?
Well, people can’t pretend that they expect the world when they graduate anymore. People can’t expect the cost of law school to be low anymore (unless they are high achievers with great need). People can’t expect to practice law in America after learning it in China, and they’ll need to do something that’s at least perceived as good for their fellow man before practicing in New York. So what’s going to happen in the new year? You’ll probably see more suits against law schools for failure to deliver on implied promises. You’ll probably see the cost of law school continue to rise because that makes rankings rise (despite a flagging economy). And you’ll definitely need to get a good LSAT score if you want to get a good job out of law school because a good LSAT score will get you into a good school and will raise your chances of getting a good job (read: not a guarantee).