Monday, February 11, 2013

What Are They Thinking??



Law  School graduates are having a hard time finding jobs. It is a sorry state of affairs in part because many of those now graduating may be better at doing what lawyers do than students who graduated years ago. Just like tenure, getting there first may block things up for capable and more talented people.

But this is not why I writing. Law schools are all out to somehow do something "radical." Radical means, in this setting, teaching more skills or making law a two year degree. The demand for more skills is really a call from those in practice for greater subsidization from public and private schools. That may be fine for private schools but I have never figured out where profit making law firms get off asking for handouts in the form of instruction. What is the distinction between that and paying them to hire law graduates. In fact, why not just pay the firms directly and let them to the skills training. After all, the dirty little (not really so) secret fact is that most law professors practiced so long ago or so little that they do not have an inkling of how to teach skills.

The two year degree may be a good idea but, if it is, it has nothing to do with the current crisis. Sure, it means a lower investment in legal educations and and an easier time paying off loan IF salaries do not similarly decline. How many people actually think  the 2 year law graduate is going to demand the same starting salary as the three year graduate?  In short, the two year option is likely as not to leave people exactly where they are.

You can think if it in terms of supply and demand. Demand has shifted to the left or not shifted to the right sufficient to offset the rightward shift in supply. The resulting surplus means unemployment. In theory, wages could fall so there is less or no unemployment and but the salaries would be rock bottom. Just how far they would have to fall to soak up the surplus I do not know. Lowering the cost of a legal education by going to two years does mean less debt. It also shifts the supply curve even further to the right -- an increase in supply. Does increasing the supply of lawyers -- even two year lawyers -- seem like a sensible solution to the current glut?

Again, maybe the two year degree idea is sound but I am not sure how it is viewed as a serious reaction to the current plight of law grads.


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