Friday, January 20, 2012

Make law an undergraduate degree?

That's, in essence, the proposal of Professor McGinnis (Northwestern) and his co-author; it is, of course, the reality in Britain and Australia, as well as almost all civil law jurisdicitions I'm aware of, where it seems to work perfectly well (though note that these jurisdiction do not employ the "Socratic method" to teach law, a method, such as it is, that might not work as well with undergraduates).  That would, in all likelihood, increase the supply of lawyers, but would at least dramatically reduce the cost of becoming one.  But as Dean Rodriguez (Northwestern) notes in reply,

“The high cost of graduate legal education,” (McGinnis and Mangas) write[], “limits the supply of lawyers and leaders to higher legal fees.” Causal claim, certainly not proven. And not especially plausible. It is only in the last couple of years that law school applications have dipped; and law school spots have remained steady. For better or worse, the supply of new lawyers has held fairly steady. Legal fees, by contrast, are shrinking — which is the essential point, after all, behind growing calls for major reform in legal education and, at the very least, greater transparency by law schools with regard to employment opportunities. The causal connection between law student demand, space in law school, supply of lawyers, and legal fees is, to say the least, a complex one; we need not, and in response to McMangas, I won’t simply stipulate the connection.

There may well be, of course, other sensible reasons to reduce aggregate student debt. But the linchpin claim that widescale adoption of the European model is a panacea for high legal fees and limited access to legal work by middle and sub-middle class is not well supported in the op-ed.

Professor McGinnis and co-author reply to these concerns here.

Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

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