Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Bait and Switch?

If there is a theme among the many student and professor posts about law schools it is that they are involved in a bait and switch. Students are attracted by the promise of employment in high paying and exciting jobs. They then discover there are not that many jobs, they do not all pay well and they can be boring. The problem here is that law schools involved in the USN&WR game want to and do inflate their employment figures. Ironically, these misleading figure may benefit students by making their degrees seem more valuable.Just think how the students would feel if, after enrolling, a school's decided to play it straight and its ranking dropped from 30th to 50th.

Playing it straight means not hiring one's own graduates, not paying firms to hire them and not giving grants to students while working. The employment figures would drop and the School's ranking would suffer. Students would have a better idea of exactly what to expect upon graduation.

What students seem to want may be hard to achieve. I think most want the world to believe that their schools' degrees are highly valued. On the other hand, they also want to know the truth. But if the truth gets out, it undermines the first objective.

I do not know what will happen. When the market for Ph.D.s dropped several years ago, applications fell and departments got smaller. The market worked. I do not know if that was because departments did not make false claims about placements or would be applicants realized that having a Ph.D. most likely qualified you to drive a taxi.

And lurking in the background is that the students are in many respects means to the ends of law professors. Without applicants and high enrollments, teaching jobs for graduates of elite law schools would dwindle.

Finally, there is a point of view perhaps held only by me. I don't thing not finding a job means legal education is a waste. Instead I think a legal education is part of becoming a well educated person. In fact, I wish Law School administrations would stress this in their sales pitches.


Anonymous said...

I agree with post 100%. Students should be sold that expanding your mind and learning are one of the great things about being alive, whether it leads to the best job or not, haven't you spent your time doing one of the great things in the human experience. I think the hysteria to get a degree and then a job keeps many students from being in the moment while in school.

Anonymous said...

I believe that there is this kind of inflation in everything we do. People who play the stock market inflate the value of stocks because who wants to invest in a stock market where the assets don't appear valuable. If as a country we choose to start caring about the truth instead of manipulating facts to appease our ego and our desires, we are going to realize that we aren't the richest country in the world and we aren't the smartest country in the world. The truth might be that America is not the world's super power anymore. Most people don't want to admit the truth if that truth is bad for them, that's how people are with law school rankings and just about everything else.

nisha said...

This is an excellent thought provoking post.

Nate said...

Great post. I pasted in a link to an article about the possibility of the higher education bubble bursting written by a law professor at the University of Tennessee. I thought you might be interested in it.