Monday, August 27, 2012

Chemerinsky vs. Tamanaha on the Law School Cost Dilemma

There must be someway out of here.  I am reminded of Brecht's mockery "let's dissolve the people and elect another".  For the root of all this is voters embrace of the anti-tax agenda which has paralyzed government - nowhere more than in Prop. 13 land - California.  - GWC
Law Prof's Ideal, Affordable Law School Not Possible in Reality, Chemerinsky Says - News - ABA Journal:

“If you are not going to law school ... what is your alternative path?” asks Erwin Chemerinsky, founding dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law. “And in purely economic terms, is it better than law school? ... It’s not just monetary ... There are all sorts of exciting things you can do with a law degree.”
Asked about his own economic terms, the highly paid constitutional scholar says, “I wouldn’t have come at half the price. No one is going to take a 50 percent pay cut, no matter how beautiful Orange County is, and no matter how wonderful it is to be part of a new school.”
The two quotes may seem at odds—the ideal of a career bringing more than financial gain, the reality of getting the paycheck now. But they represent the two thorny sides of the debate of law school and its value.
One can hardly blame Chemerinsky for protecting his own. He had a posh teaching gig at Duke University School of Law and a family with four children to support. Still, his blunt statement represents the stark reality to the idealistic aims of law professor Brian Z. Tamanaha, author of Failing Law Schools, which calls for an innovative, top-quality, public-service-minded and affordable (i,.e. less than $20,000 a year) institution as the ideal 21st-century law school.
[Dean Chemerinsky] insists that tuition must be in the $50,000 range if [UC Irvine Law School] is to land in the top 20. On that point, he and I agree. What Dean Chemerinsky does not explain, however, is why it was necessary to create a “top 20” law school. If that was the driving goal, then perhaps Irvine law school should not have been created. There are already about 25 law schools in the “top 20,” three of them in California. 
Dean Chemerinsky knows a great deal more than I do about the economics of running a law school, but I am skeptical of his suggestion that there were only two options: create a “top 20” law school or a “fourth tier” law school. One way to have kept costs down with no significant loss in faculty talent would have been to recruit top professors from excellent law schools with a lower pay scale (Alabama, Florida State, Georgia, North Carolina, William & Mary, etc.) rather than from Harvard, Northwestern and Yale. But he went for the prestige.
And the rebuttal by Chemerinsky:
[A]ll of the goals that Professor Tamanaha identifies in his book – maximizing the opportunity for jobs for our students, especially jobs that will allow students to pay back any loans, best serving the profession and the community – are best achieved if we succeed in being a top 20 law school. Of our initial graduating class from May 2012, 28% secured judicial clerkships, 15 in federal courts around the country and one on a state supreme court. About 40% received offers from major law firms. Some are working at government and public interest jobs. As of this writing, 80% of the Class of 2012 has full time employment. None of this would have been possible if we did not have faculty and students of the caliber of a top 20 law school...had we followed Professor Tamanaha’s advice we could have achieved none of this and would have created a not very good fourth tier law school.

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  1. Tamanaha wins this one, doesn't he? Why should a disinterested person care that UCI wants to join the top 20? Does our country really need another top 20 school? UCI spent millions on purchasing LSAT scores so that they would not go elsewhere. What a waste of money.

    John Steele

    1. I agree. UCI is just replicating the trap that all private and `elite' public law schools are in. At Fordham we emphasize service: but the most important measure remains the number of big law and federal clerkships we get. that is what brings in the customers. CUNY Law School has been devoted to public service and affirmative action. They have struggled with bar pass rates- endangering their accreditation. Last year their pass rate dropped from a record high of 83 percent in 2008 to 67 percent this year — the lowest pass rate at the CUNY School of Law since 2005. That is not a solution.
      Soon I'll publish my paper on Rutgers-Newark `Peoples Electric' in the '60's and '70's. It's spectacular impact was possible because of the spirit of the times, the absence of today's ranking race, and, most importantly the fact that it was a practically free public university. But I don't know how to replicate it without a fundamental shift in voter attitudes toward public support for higher education.