Friday, September 24, 2010
There's been a spate of commentary, recently, on the value of the LLM. The National Law Journal asks whether it's a cash cow or valuable credential. The Wall Street Journal blog asks whether the LLM is a big fat waste of time and money. And Elie Mystal is generally disgusted.
In a more thorough look, Caron, Kawol and Pratt focus on whether to pursue a tax LLM - the one advanced law degree that everyone considers worth the candle - and conclude that for the right student, there can be real benefits. Other LLM's seem to have intrinsic value. For individuals with foreign law degrees seeking admission in selected states, an LLM may offer a dramatic payoff. But I fear that, with a few limited exceptions, the greatest economic utility of the LLM flows to law schools collecting undiscounted tuition dollars while avoiding damage to their median LSAT. And because the ABA does not accredit LLM programs, schools work under virtually no regulatory oversight. There are many reasons why institutions seek this revenue but we're kidding ourselves if we don't concede a common one: LLM programs can subsidize the scholarly enterprise. A three course load is expensive.
The fact that an LLM can't be monetized doesn't mean it shouldn't exist. LLM students can have a valuable educational experience. Nobody critcizes a university for offering an MA in Literature - even if few graduates get jobs in the field. But it's all about expectations. Law schools provide prospective JD students post-graduation employment data (though its quality debatable.) Similar transparency for potential LLM students makes sense.