Tuesday, April 29, 2014
The Commodification of Legal Education and Those Who Supply It
If you have been in legal education for over 20 years you have witnessed the commodification of the industry. It is evident in so many ways -- massive investments in advertising, gaming the rating systems, self promotion of individual professors, teaching evaluations that so far have not be connected to teaching effectiveness, desperate efforts to stay in business even when the market has said "enough." The industry in which ideas were valued, effective teaching was more important that popularity, and professors displayed some level of humility is gone.
Maybe it should never have existed. The study of law could have been a graduate program like history or literature. A training program for how to be a lawyer would be different. One department would be about ideas; the other about commodities. Like other graduate programs, the one in law would have shrunk and the commodity program would have grow and then as shrunk as demand declined.
In the commodification of legal education, professors sell themselves like dish detergent. The don't go to "conferences;" the go to conferences at the "very highest level;" they announce on facebook every time they write anything; they hustle the students for high evaluations, their deans regard any quotation in a newspaper as deserving of praise; they create conferences that are quickly filled up by those desperate to put on their resumes that they attended a conference and then regard it as an achievement. There is little sign that they love ideas. Instead they love downloads and lines of resumes.
In the course of this change, I have yet to hear anyone ask if any of this means law students will be better prepared for their careers. And, the fact is, many of these activities do not contribute to the well-being of the students or their clients.
In keeping with this theme, I have but one thing to say: BUT WAIT, THERE IS MORE, if you apply now we will discount the application fee.