Phi Beta Cons

The Right take on higher education.

Law School is Oversold, Too


Today’s Wall Street Journal has a perceptive letter from a soldier stationed in Iraq, commenting on a recent article in which a law-school graduate lamented the poor job market in her profession. Here’s his letter:

Do We Really Need All These Lawyers?

In the article “A Bachelor’s in Borrowing” (Personal Journal, Nov. 25), Elina Agnoli, a recent law-school graduate, says: “People have this notion of law-school graduates getting $150,000 right off the bat. But that’s not the reality for the law grad in 2008. I’ve got friends waitressing with J.D.s . There’s something wrong with that scenario.”

Someone should inform the lamentable Ms. Agnoli that, despite her attempts to cloak herself in the victim’s mantle, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that scenario. Even granting that America has, arguably, the strongest rule of law in the world, we still have far too many attorneys, concerned with far too much rent-seeking. By any measure — per capita, per dollar of gross domestic product, per square foot — we have more lawyers than any country in the world, so we may not pay any additional, freshly minted ones a very good wage. Had the feckless Ms. Agnoli gotten a degree in economics, she would understand that concept.

Sgt. Peter Cook
Forward Operating Base Falcon

Very good! I bet that if he took a bar review course and studied hard, Sergeant Cook could pass the bar exam without having set foot in a law school.

The trouble is that the legal profession has set up absurd barriers to entry into their club. In most states, no one can attempt the bar exam without first having earned a law degree, and accreditation standards ensure that earning that precious piece of paper takes approximately three years. Why not allow students to go to law school for just one year — most of the essential courses and instruction in legal research and writing take place in the first year — and then decide whether they want more? In fact, a good case can be made for getting the government out of regulating the legal profession entirely, as I did in this Cato paper.


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