Too Many Law Schools?

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Mark Greenbaum writes in the Los Angeles Times that there are too many law schools in America. According to the article:

The problem can be traced to the American Bar Assn., which continues to allow unneeded new schools to open and refuses to properly regulate the schools, many of which release numbers that paint an overly rosy picture of employment prospects for their recent graduates. There is a finite number of jobs for lawyers, and this continual flood of graduates only suppresses wages. Because the ABA has repeatedly signaled its unwillingness to adapt to this changing reality, the federal government should consider taking steps to stop the rapid flow of attorneys into a marketplace that cannot sustain them.

The basic problem is that people rack up an average $92,000 in debt (for private law schools) because of the implied promise of a high-paying job at the end. Except that industry predications indicate that there are likely to be less than 30,000 legal jobs available per year. Some 45,000 people graduate from law school every year.

And more law schools open every year, including a new, unaccredited one at U.C. Irvine. The problem, according to the author, is that the American Bar Association “cites antitrust concerns in refusing to block new schools.”

The author says that it appears clear now that the ABA has a conflict of interest and should get out of the business of accrediting law schools. It’s not clear how this step would entirely solve the problem but it’s about time someone pointed out that going to law school is no longer the golden ticket it was once thought to be. In fact, the law degree is starting to look a little more like the famously unlucrative humanities PhD.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer