Tom the Temp
[I wrote this as a Letter to the Editor to the Los Angeles Times on Thursday, January 27, 2010. They apparently were not interested in publishing this in their forum.]
I am the author of “Third Tier Reality,” a blog dedicated to informing potential law students of the risks inherent in going to law school. I am writing in this forum to weigh in on Mark Greenbaum’s opinion piece to the Los Angeles Times on January 8, 2010, and the response from the president of the American Bar Association, which was featured on Above the Law.
Carolyn Lamm asks Mr. Greenbaum to look at the number of students, as opposed to the number of law schools. Fine, let’s do that. We will look at the sheer number of U.S. law students enrolled for the 2008-09 academic year:
By the ABA’s own numbers, ABA-approved law schools had a cumulative enrollment of 142,922 students in 2008-09. There simply is nowhere near such a demand for lawyers, to justify such massive enrollment.
Now let’s look at the number of annual law graduates. According to the NALP, ABA-accredited law schools produced 43,587 graduates for the Class of 2008. The ABA reports 43,588 JDs for the same year.
http://nalp.org/uploads/08SelectedFindings.pdf (page 2)
The fact remains that American law schools are producing far too many graduates. Simply put, there are nowhere near this many available attorney positions in a given year – even in a good economy.
While we are at this, let’s look at some more numbers. Let’s take a peek at the average amount of student debt for law students.
For the 2007-08 academic year, the average amount borrowed for students attending public law schools was $59,324. For those attending private law schools, this amount was $91,506. For the 2001-02 academic year, these respective figures were $46,499 and $70,147.
Carolyn Lamm is incorrect in alluding to the consent decree between the Department of Justice and the ABA, as a reason why the ABA cannot limit the number of law schools or available seats. The suit originated due to the ABA requiring law schools to pay their professors at a certain level. Furthermore, the consent decree expired – by its own terms – on June 25, 2006. The parties have chosen to abide by this lapsed agreement.
Carolyn, if your organization is so concerned about violating antitrust law, you may want to ask the American Medical Association how it manages to accredit only 131 U.S. medical schools.
Or you may want to confer with your counterparts at the American Dental Association to see how they are able to keep the number of ADA-approved member schools down to 58 – without violating antitrust laws.
Could it be that those professional schools actually care about protecting the significant investment of their practitioners and students? Carolyn, your organization simply needs to own up to the fact that it does not care about current law students or recent law graduates.
"Men are born ignorant, not stupid; they are made stupid by education."