New on SSRN: Legal Education in Crisis, and Why Law Libraries are Doomed

It’s still a bit rough, but in view of recent developments in law library land (including reports from Washington University Law School), I thought I should post this for comment:

Legal Education in Crisis, and Why Law Libraries are Doomed


The dual crises facing legal education—the economic crisis affecting both the job market and the pool of law school applicants, and the crisis of confidence in the ability of law schools and the ABA accreditation process to meet the needs of lawyers or society at large—have undermined the case for not only the autonomy, but the very existence, of law school libraries as we have known them. Legal education in the United States is about to undergo a long-term contraction, and law libraries will be among the first to go. A few law schools may abandon the traditional law library completely. Some law schools will see their libraries whittled away bit by bit as they attempt to answer “the Yirka Question” in the face of shrinking resources, reexamined priorities, and university centralization. What choices individual schools make will largely be driven by how they play the status game.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 37
Keywords: law libraries, legal education, law schools, rankings, reputation

Breaking News: Non-parallel Lines Intersect

The Red Velvet Lawyer writes:

At the conference of the Midwest Association of Prelaw Advisors held at the end of October 2013, Professor Jerry Organ predicted that jobs would exceed the number of law school graduates in 2016 (as I recall). 

He suggested that the market would turn because applicants to law school would continue to decline while the trend in new law jobs would hold at least steady.

So, here is my attempt at supporting this prediction.  I am using data provided byLSAC at the MAPLA conference, which I have discussed in earlier postings.  I am also relying on data provided by NALP.

I make the following assumptions:

  • Enrollment of first-year law students will decline by 8.0% from the previous year through the 2015 entering class.

  • Each entering class experiences an attrition rate of 12 percent. So, only 88 percent of each first-year class graduates three years later.

  • New full-time jobs in three categories — bar required, JD advantage, and other professional jobs — will hold steady at the 2012 level of 31,776 jobs.

  • All categories of full-time jobs will hold steady at the 2012 level of 33,759 jobs.


In other words, as long as enrollment keeps falling and the current attrition rate of 12% holds up, there will eventually be few enough law grads remaining that most should be able to find jobs. Of course, they’ll be competing with all the current grads who still haven’t found jobs, and all the lawyers who’ve been laid off, but maybe those other lawyers will have found non-legal work by then.

Of course, not everyone sees the glass as half empty.

The Giraffe Riddle: The Definitive Answer

If you are on Facebook, you have probably encountered the giraffe riddle. If not, the story is here.

“The door” or “your eyes”? I submit that choosing “your eyes” is based on faulty neuroscience and an inadequate understanding of “free will.” Who is the “you” that opens your eyes? Neuroscience has shown that your eyes open before “you” have any conscious awareness or agency. In other words, your eyes open: “you” do not “open” them. Agency enters into it only when “you” decide to open the door–or better yet, stay in bed until your parents go away. They should have called first. 

Teaching Kinder, Gentler Legal Ethics

Teaching Legal Ethics as a summer course for the first time seemed like a good opportunity to try some new techniques, or some old techniques I’ve never quite mastered before. This week I had four students do a role-playing exercise on working with an impaired lawyer (a lawyer suffering from substance abuse or depression). I gave them an outline of the simulation: one played the impaired lawyer, one a friend and associate in the firm, and two senior partners. The first act was a conversation between the lawyer and the associate; the second act was some time later, when the two senior partners have gotten involved. I gave them some short readings for guidance (see the list below) and let them loose to script their own scenario.

I wanted to see how the students handled this difficult conversation. I hoped that the first act would explore how a friend and co-worker would at least attempt to raise his or her concerns (a drinking problem, in the scenario they developed) in a sensitive and compassionate way. The students all did a very good job of analyzing the issues and the Model Rules, and played their parts well. They clearly took the assignment seriously. I should probably not have been surprised, though, that the scenario played out immediately in a somewhat adversarial, disciplinary, and corporate style. The tenor of the first conversation was “I’ve noticed some problems, and if you don’t shape up I’ll have to report you to the senior partners.”

From the discussion after the exercise, it was clear that the students focused on the reporting requirements of the Model Rules and on the potential liability of the law firm. While those are important, I also wanted to get across the human aspects of situations like this, and how a law firm may respond in a positive and supportive way to lawyers’ personal issues without hiding them or looking the other way. I suggested that law firm cultures vary, and that the setting they created was a highly corporate and depersonalized one. Some firms (I hope) have a culture that is more personal and caring. Rather than immediately putting the lawyer on paid leave of absence, as they did in their role-playing, a firm might grant the impaired lawyer a temporarily reduced workload, with appropriate supervision and guidance.

What I learned from the exercise was that I need to do more to emphasize the humanity of lawyers amid ethical concerns. The “scared straight” approach, while useful in moderation, can be counterproductive if it promotes depersonalization and incivility, even among colleagues in the same firm.


SUNY Buffalo Law Offering 2-Year J.D. for Foreign Lawyers

From the New York Law Journal:

Lawyers who hold law degrees from institutions outside the United States will be able to earn a J.D. in two years through an accelerated degree program at University at Buffalo Law School set to begin this fall.

The degree is part of a wider push by Buffalo Law to establish itself as an internationally known institution and to train lawyers from all over the world. Unlike students completing their LL.M., a one-year masters program, J.D. candidates in the two-year program will be part of the school’s traditional J.D. class. Their degrees from foreign institutions will give them advanced standing at Buffalo Law as if they’ve completed about 30 credit hours, or one year of law school.

“If you’re looking at this as an 18-year-old in another country, you think, ‘I can be a lawyer in my country and a New York lawyer.’ It’s a big value proposition,” said David Westbrook, a Buffalo Law professor and director of the school’s global strategic initiative. “You can hold yourself out to multinational corporations and say not only are you familiar with local laws, but you’re familiar with the law of the deals.”

The state Court of Appeals and the American Bar Association have both approved the accelerated J.D. Buffalo Law is one of the first in the nation—and the first in New York—to offer this kind of program.

More information is available here.

On law schools and institutional crisis

Bill Henderson has previously said that he expects big layoffs at law schools this fall – presumably thinking that there will be a huge overall revenue shortfall, but that schools won’t know, until opening day, just how bad their own situations look. We will soon be able to test Bill’s crystal ball. But the Catholic University story should wake up a much wider swath of academics to the impact of the current law school crisis. At universities highly dependent on law school revenue – apparently, Catholic U is among those schools – the crisis will eat directly into the budgets of other programs. But where law schools are break-even propositions – the many law schools where overhead covers just that – the reality that law schools actually need institutional subsidies (just like almost every other college in a larger school) may mean that the universities may more critically question the need for a law school…and may empower the university to impose its will and priorities on law schools that were previously very independent.

Dan Filler


What Dan Filler at The Faculty Lounge wrote:

The newest voume summary from LSAC is out and it indicates that, as of February 15, 2013, applications have increased to the point that law schools are now down a mere 18.9% in total applicants and 22% in total applications. A total of 39,351 people have applied to law school. If this pace continues, we would expect to see just short of 55,000 applicants this cycle. [Emphasis added.]

How Brian Leiter reads that:

So my earlier speculation has come true: there has been an uptick in applications this year.