Time again to check up on the law school scene. Here's what's happening:
Signs of intelligence in the universe? The youth of America are wising up: Law school applications took another plunge this year. Reports the National Law Journal:
Approximately 8,000 fewer first-year law students will show up nationwide this year compared to two years ago, when enrollment reached an all-time high, according to the American Bar Association. This year’s numbers represent a 15 percent decline since then and a 9 percent decline since last year.
The article doesn't say why applications are down. Perhaps all the alarms that I and other bloggers have been sounding about the (expensive) folly of pursuing a law degree in a shrinking legal job market is getting through.
Stop dissing law schools, says Case Western dean. Meanwhile, Lawrence Mitchell, dean of Case Western Reserve University’s law school, has no doubts about who's to blame for the dropping applications. He writes in an editorial for The New York Times:
For at least two years, the popular press, bloggers and a few sensationalist law professors have turned American law schools into the new investment banks. We entice bright young students into our academic clutches. Succubus-like, when we’ve taken what we want from them, we return them to the mean and barren streets to fend for themselves.
Mitchell argues that the recession's impact on legal jobs, placed in historical context, "hardly seems catastrophic." He adds, "the focus on first jobs is misplaced" if you take a long view on careers. I could quibble with him about how that first job in law determines career paths (big firm, small or solo practice) but I won't dwell on it. I do think, however, that he overinflates the skill sets one learns in law school:
[T]he career for which we educate students, done through the medium of the law, is a career in leadership and creative problem solving. Many graduates will find that their legal educations give them the skills to find rich and rewarding lives in business, politics, government, finance, the nonprofit sector, the arts, education and more.
Ah, yes, law school as a font of creativity and life's essential skills. Those law school deans are such darned romantics!
But the University of California at Los Angeles School of Law is now putting sex front and center, offering an entire LL.M. on law and sexuality, which, according to UCLA, is the first program of its kind. The National Law Journal says the program aims to prepare "students to practice and perform scholarship in gender-identity and sexual-orientation law." Moreover, UCLA says it plans to enroll international students in this speciality.
I know that gay rights and gender identity issues are hot topics right now, but do people really need an LL.M. in this area? And are there really that many jobs in this field in the first place—especially in the international arena? I mean, is Baker & McKenzie about to start a sexuality practice in Shanghai or Saudi Arabia any time soon? I hate to be so pedestrian, but shouldn't every penny spent on legal education—especially for an "extra" degree like an LL.M.—further job prospects?
Quiz—What's missing from this list? Yahoo lists careers for people who don't like people (to be totally accurate, they are jobs for people who like to work alone). The winners in the category are:
- Software developer
- Graphic designer
- Medical records technician
- Computer programer
Whoa—where is lawyer? Beats me why paralegal is on the list but not members of the bar. My best guess is that paralegals have even less client contact than a first-year associate doing document production.
The Careerist is honored to be named a Top 100 Blog by the ABA. Please vote for it here as your favorite in the category of "Careers and Law Schools."