Blogger Paul Campos of Inside the Law School Scam is giving up blogging. The message of his blog, and many others, is that American law schools (1) are unjustifiably expensive and saddle their students with huge debts; (2) send graduates into a shrinking job market, thus setting them up for unemployment and financial ruin; and (3) have been trying desperately to conceal these facts for years, using techniques that amount to a 'scam'. According to Campos, the message has been received:
and 499 posts later, it turns out that the core message of this blog –
that legal academia is operating on the basis of an unsustainable
economic model, which requires most law students to borrow more money to
get law degrees than it makes sense for them to borrow, given their
career prospects, and that for many years law schools worked hard,
wittingly or unwittingly, to hide this increasingly inconvenient truth
from both themselves and their potential matriculants – has evolved from
a horrible heresy to something close to conventional wisdom
enrolling in law school has become a very dangerous proposition for
most people who consider enrolling in one is now, if not a truth
universally acknowledged, something that legal academia can no longer
hide, either from ourselves, or – far more important – from anyone who
doesn’t go out of his or her way to avoid contact with the relevant
…People have asked me how I can continue to be on a law faculty, given my views. This question – when it isn’t simply a hostile attempt to derail conversation – is based on a misunderstanding. I very much believe in the potential value of higher education. And I believe that legal education can and must be reformed radically. (On one level the most important short-term reforms couldn’t be simpler: the
cost of law school attendance must be reduced drastically, and the
number of people graduating from law school must be decreased by a
significant amount. In the longer term, the American legal system will
need to confront whether it is either pedagogically justifiable or
financially viable to continue to require the basic law degree to be
acquired through postgraduate education).
I found ITLSS consistently witty and brave. And Campos is enough of a scholar to marshal evidence, not mere snark. His very long, very thorough description of the crisis facing American legal education is here.
I've followed this story with interest since I'm in legal education, and I sometimes wonder whether it has relevance to Germany, either because (1) Germany may be facing similar problems; or (2) There will be spill-over effects from the American crisis on the German legal scene.
As to #1, I doubt it. The main difference, of course, is that German law students, like university students in general, either pay no tuition fees or very low ones. One major driver of the sense of crisis in the U.S. is that the average law student graduates with something like $100,000 in debt, but jobs that pay enough to service this debt are few and far between. That is not a problem in Germany. However, I do think that some of the structural changes to the American job market — outsourcing, temporary contract work, much more price-conscious clients — could well begin to be seen in Germany.
As to #2, I also think the effect will be marginal, except perhaps that some American law school graduates might relocate abroad, either to find any kind of job or to make a 'fresh start' where debt collectors will find it hard to trace them. Again, though, this doesn't seem very likely. Anyone who comes to Germany or France fresh out of law school will soon face the harsh reality that an American legal education is well-nigh worthless in most European countries. Also, as non-EU citizens, Americans can be legally discriminated against in favor of EU citizens. Nevertheless, I can imagine an increasing number of law graduates — especially ones who have cultural or personal ties to Europe — trying to establish themselves across the pond.
What say you, commenters, especially Pageant? By the way, since comments are now moderated, you no longer face the horrible prospect of typing a long comment only to see it magically 'disappeared' because you unknowingly used a spam key-word.