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Law School News—Optimistic and Smug

Vivia Chen

February 6, 2013

Smiley_Hands_Cropped ? Fotowerk - Fotolia.comNo worries. Be happy. Forget last week's dire reports that some law schools won't survive. So what if law school applications have dropped 20 percent since last year? And who cares about that nonsense about making law school more relevant?

Chill. Nothing is changing. As I've often said, law schools will survive even an apocalypse. They're like cockroaches. (Click here, here, and here for some of my rants about new law schools.)

Already, The Wall Street Journal reports that there's a bumper crop of new law schools on the horizon:

Indiana Tech's new law school in Fort Wayne will be the state's fifth when it opens this fall. The law school the University of North Texas plans to open in Dallas next year will be just down the road from Southern Methodist University's Dedman School of Law, and less than an hour's drive from one in Fort Worth that Texas A&M University is in the process of buying from Texas Wesleyan University, one of nine in the state.

According to the WSJ, new law schools are booming, "with 19 new schools getting ABA's stamp of approval since 2000, and more on deck."  In some locales, there's "something of an arms race" for law schools, says this follow-up WSJ article. For instance, the University of Idaho’s law school in Moscow "is now seeking to expand its satellite campus in Boise," where Concordia University Law School launched last fall.  

The rationale for opening these new schools is—brace yourself—demand. “We’re in an area of great legal need," said Concordia dean Cathy Silak to the WSJ. "We have the second-lowest ratio of lawyers to residents in the U.S.”

But may I make a suggestion that would be a lot more efficient than opening a new law school? Why not ship off those unemployed law grads to Boise? They get jobs, and that lopsided ratio of lawyers to residents will be fixed. Presto.

Alas, that would be way too rational. Plus, I honestly believe law schools operate under their own economic theory. Fact is, it may be a good gamble to open a brand-new law school. For one, there are always suckers who will be lured by the J.D. degree. And so long as they can scrape together the money, they will find a law school to accept them.

It might end up for some as the biggest mistake of their lives, and society will pay a price, but the law schools will do just fine. So shouldn't we all just join the bandwagon and invest in a fresh batch of law schools?

Bred for success? Naturally. The results aren't surprising, so why do I find this latest poll of college freshmen a bit depressing? 

Well_Dressed_Man © Felix Mizioznikov - Fotolia.comUsing data from responses by nearly 40,000 college freshmen between 2006 and 2009, research released by the Law School Admission Council looks at the attitudes of freshmen, comparing those who later applied to law school to those who did not. Reports Karen Sloan at The National Law Journal:

Aspiring lawyers tend to be more self-confident, enjoy more family wealth, and are more likely to have a lawyer parent than the average college student, according to research released by the Law School Admission Council."

So far, so good. But here's the part that kind of made me roll my eyes:

The aspiring lawyers rated themselves more highly than the typical college student regarding academic ability, public speaking, drive to achieve, and tendency to socialize with students outside their own race. Of the eventual law school applicants, 87 percent reported that they had 'above average' academic abilities, compared to 69 percent of all college freshmen.

In sum, these lawyer puppies are a bit smug—maybe quite smug. They think they're smarter, richer, more articulate, and cooler than the next guy. In other words, they're absolutely perfect for the legal profession.

Maybe I'm romanticizing youth way too much, but couldn't they defy the stereotype just a little?

Do you have topics you'd like to discuss or tips to share? Email chief blogger Vivia Chen at vchen@alm.com. 

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Hahaha. Well, I could not help but agree, these aspiring lawyers are indeed conceited in so many ways and so over confident of themselves.

I really don't get the current whine about jobs, salaries etc. I really don't remember anyone promising the Class of '85 jobs, top salaries etc. This feels like a manufactured crisis by the "Me and Only Me" generation. Going for a professional degree does not (a) promise passage of the licensing exam or (b) that you will get a high paying job or (c) that you will get any job. So suck it up gang. I know that costs are high but when I graduated my salary (21,000 in NYC at the DA's Office) made paying back student loans onerous. I should disclose that I am now a prof after many years in the trenches so I find the current whine and attack on tenured prof's specifically odious. Those of us who take teaching and scholarship seriously work damn hard...and with the poor skills of college grads...our work is much harder since critical thinking is a lost art. And a word to the ABA...it is truly offensive that you are fanning the fires...does legal education need to be rethought YES...but not for the reasons you state. We need to have more courses and integrated courses that expose students to lawyering praxis, conceptions of morality as well as doctrine. But 2 years? Dear G-d, some can barely get the material in 3 years!!!! Let's be realistic about (a) the problems and (b) the solutions and stop this mindless attack on legal education and the educators. Baste!

Oh Vivia, how many ways do I love thee?

I think that you have to be at least a little cocky to believe that you can succeed in law school when most professors aren't good teachers, pass the bar exam, which requires you to know more information at one time than is humanly possible and make a living at a profession that is already flooded with too many lawyers! #IJS

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About The Careerist

The Careerist takes an inside look at how lawyers shape their careers and manage their lives. The blog aims to dissect developments in the profession, provide useful information and advice, and give lawyers a platform to voice their views. The goal is to provide a fresh, provocative take on the state of lawyering.

About Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen

Vivia Chen, The Careerist's chief blogger, has been covering the business and culture of law firms for a decade. A former corporate lawyer, Chen is fascinated by those who thrive (as well as those who don't) in the legal profession. Her take: Success in the law (and life) doesn't always travel a linear path. If you have topics you'd like to discuss or information to share, contact her: VChen@alm.com

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