Two Law School Crisis Updates

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11 Responses

  1. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    I don’t find the merger of two lower-tier law schools for low enrollment hugely troubling at all. That’s the market at work.

    I’m a little more concerned for Washington & Lee raiding its endowment. As the OP notes, W&L has a pretty good regional reputation and a healthy body of distinguished and successful alumni. It’s brow-furrowing as to why it hasn’t been able to tap into that network and keep itself afloat while using the proceeds, rather than the corpus, of its endowment along with the already-substantial tuition.

    One thing that I wonder about, and don’t know much about, is whether insurance costs are at play. You’d think that the physical risks of running a law school are relatively moderate, but the professors and student clinics are frequently doing impact litigation or public-assistance legal work. Those kinds of activities generate professional negligence risks, and premiums for that sort of insurance are spiraling out of control.Report

    • Avatar Kolohe says:

      high overall, but only the third best in Virginia (US News has both William & Mary and UVa higher the latter in the top ten). And George Mason is right on their heels, only 3 steps down. Plus, all three offer discounts for in state tuition that W&L can’t. (W&M and GMU are substantial – total cost less than 30k vice mid high 40s for W&L). Last, if you are paying full freight, GWU and Georgetown are not that much more, are better ranked, and get you better connections at the end than going to school in cow college land.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      @burt-likko

      http://blogs.findlaw.com/greedy_associates/2014/03/this-is-how-a-top-law-school-plummets-17-spots-in-the-rankings.html

      I agree on the Hamline and William Mitchell merger.

      Washington & Lee dropped 17 spots in the rankings! They used to be at 26 and now are at 43. The blog post above noted that the 2012 class only had a 71 percent Bar passage rate. It seems that schools out of the Top 10 are needing to keep their enrollment level and Washington and Lee always had small class sizes of around 130. This year it will be 100. The link above also indicates that their job placement is not so great either.

      I wonder how much of this has to do with being relatively rural. Cities might not have great law schools always but they have the benefit of location, location, location. You can intern, work, during the day, etc.Report

  2. Avatar Michael Drew says:

    My girlfriend is a less-than-one-year graduate of Hamline. People are pretty well freaking out over the reputational hit to the value of their degree and the career services question. I’m assuming both will be pretty much okay, but I think people are pretty understandable convened – and angry. As is pretty standard for a situation like this, there were blanket denials that a merger was in the offing right up until it was announced, even though rumors of it were rampant for at least a year. People feel duped.

    Any informed reassurance on those concerns would be appreciated.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      @michael-drew

      That’s hard to say. Reputation is a funny, funny thing. My alma mater was known for providing the bar and bench of the Bay Area from their founding before WWI until recently. They began a slow decline sometime around 2002 or so and are now currently unranked. Yet there are still plenty of middle-aged and older lawyers who are graduate of my law school or can tell you how high esteem they find the school.

      This has not necessarily helped me (still freelancing) or many of my contemporaries but there are a good number of students who received jobs including at great firms. You can even argue that I am one of the lucky ones/people helping the statistics because at least all my freelance employment has been bar-passage required.

      I don’t know how to view the disconnect between people who talk about my alma mater still being a great place for a legal education (we are talking prosperous lawyers here and partners/owners of their own firms) and how the recession has hurt or delayed the careers of many classmates including a lot of people doing paralegal or non-legal work.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        A similar thing happened to my law school. It probably wasn’t as highly regarded as your law school because NYC has more law schools but from the 1890s to the late 20th century, it had a solid reputation for providing lawyers for handling local matters. Than it tried to compete nationally and failed.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:

      You should have seen how people were freaking out during my first semester of law school when two old firms went out of business and internships and offers were being rescinded.Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      I don’t know that I can offer an informed reassurance.

      I can tell you that unless she’s trying to get in to a prestige firm or land a plum clerkship, your girlfriend has got nothing to apologize for. She holds a juris doctorate degree from an ABA accredited law school. That is far from peanuts.

      I presume she has taken and passed the bar exam and been admitted to practice. Not only is that not peanuts, it gives her a skill and a legal ability that few people have. It’s a challenge to convert that into substantial and reliable income, but for 90% of us in the Guild, it has always been thus. Today’s way of it being tougher than advertised to make that license work does look a little different than it did in the mid-90’s when I started out — but in the grand scheme of things, it really comes down to her ability to inspire confidence.

      I had to take on kinds of work and kinds of clients I hadn’t really wanted to during law school as a young lawyer, too. I found I liked some of it, or at least liked it well enough, despite it not seeming all that attractive on the surface. Some of the work I thought I wanted to do turned out to not be all that. And I figured out soon enough that ultimately, every lawyer not on the government’s payroll is self-employed.

      So I guess what I have to say to her is, “It sucks that your law school stabbed you in the back. You’re licensed now, so the impact of that is probably less than you imagine.”Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        That’s pretty much what I’m trying to tell her. More than being licensed, she has a clerkship with a county family court judge. She’s really just pissed more than anything. I kind of overtepped by telling her that it seemed like the career services would certainly be there for here when she needs them at the new school as long as she doesn’t remain so pissed she refuses to. That comment was too soon.

        OTOH, I can’t offer her sure-thing assurances about how the merger will play into futur interviews and so forth. I really don’t think people will think less of her degree now than they would have had Hamline remained separate. Actually a fear I have is that the new school will get much better and people will be like, “Oh, you went to Hamline *before* it merged and got awesome? Oh.” But I really don’t think there’s going to be much impact like that one way or the other.Report

      • Avatar Gaelen says:

        As a fellow one year grad of a Minneapolis law school I wish her the best. I can’t comment on how this will affect reputation or career services, but it seems like what is most important is having a number of firms and older attorneys looking out for recent grads of their alma maters.

        From my job search in Minneapolis it seemed like there were a number of small to mid-size firms that were all or primarily Hamline grads, and that network is probably I not going away. One of the more experienced attorneys can probably tell you whether that is an accurate read of the situation.Report

      • Avatar Michael Drew says:

        Thanks, @gaelen ! I hope your first year as an attorney has treated you well.Report