Law School Shake-Up Coming?

by George Leef

Walter Russell Mead notes the pressure that is building for change in law schools in this post. When even the guildmaster (that is, the American Bar Association) is talking about change, you know that matters are serious.

A couple of points regarding the post. Mead quotes one bar spokesperson who claims that “unauthorized practice is harming the public.” That’s baloney. Almost never do unauthorized practitioners undertake legal work that they really don’t know how to do. Nearly every unauthorized-practice case is brought by bar-association attack dogs, not by aggrieved consumers. “Unauthorized practice” is merely competition from people who are not part of the legal guild, but such work is no more likely to be incompetent than is work by licensed attorneys.

Second, the comment by the former University of Louisville Law School dean is most revealing. If law school’s duration were reduced to two years, many law professors would have to take a substantial pay cut. Horrors! That illustrates the point Thomas Sowell has been making for decades — education is mostly run for the benefit of the producers, not the consumers.

If law school had to pass the test of the market, many professors would have to take 100 percent pay cut, because there would be no demand for the sort of legal-theory courses they teach. In a Pope Center piece, law professor Charles Rounds called such courses “bad sociology, not law.” The absurd three-year model of law school means that students must stick around and take something in their third year in order to amass enough credits to graduate. That is why law schools have jobs for professors who teach edgy, politicized courses. Eliminate the required third year, and many of those profs become fifth wheels.