State of the Law School: Where Are We Now in Law School News?
January 29, 2014
Last night President Obama gave his State of the Union address, and whether it made you happy/mad/sad/indifferent/distracted by Joe Biden’s teeth, it marks a good a time as any to discuss the State of Law School– what is going on with legal education right now? I know all of you like to keep up on the latest news, so here is your one stop shop for the current Big Topics regarding legal education.
- Funding: The American Bar Association’s legal education task force has officially recommended that the Association “undertake an in-depth examination of law school price and funding issues”, as well as requests for a second, dedicated task force for specific recommendations. They also brought up the subject of accreditation, and eliminating or relaxing some of the unnecessarily costly standards for accreditation that might not actually drive law school quality. This is a huge move for the ABA, which is traditionally slow moving to embrace change, and signals a response to many of the criticisms that have been leveled at the legal education community as a whole regarding cost factors.
- Disabilities and the LSAT: LSAT test-takers in the state of California that require extra time or accommodations (Braille, large print, longer rest breaks, etc.) due to a disability will no longer have law schools notified that they took the test under “nonstandard conditions” or that their scores should not be compared against those of other students. A state appeals court has upheld the law that targeted the LSAC’s practice of flagging those scores; the judge cited the American Bar Association’s view that the practice discourages qualified students from pursuing a law career.
- Student Satisfaction: We spend a lot of time discussing different points of view on law school, but current law students may get the short shrift when it comes to having a voice in the general media. Indiana University’s Center for Post-Secondary Research conducted its tenth annual Law School Survey of Student Engagement, which polls over 26,000 current law students at 86 different U.S. law schools and focuses on law student satisfaction. Most of the students polled (65%) said their schools placed substantial emphasis on academic support, and 68% were satisfied with the financial aid support and advising provided. On the flip side, less than half of the respondents were content with the job search services of their schools (43%) and career counseling (42%)– an area many law schools have been ramping up recently in response to criticisms about how work-ready fresh law graduates are.
- Law Jobs: The National Jurist’s Prelaw Magazine (a great resource for anyone considering law school, so check out the whole thing) did a feature on how lower law school enrollments will impact the legal job market, perhaps as soon as 2016; essentially, the less new attorneys law schools are graduating will cause a buyers’ market that will push firms to incentivize new positions– especially important when it comes to raising salaries. Multiple different interpretations of the available data are outlined, but all paint a brighter picture for the legal job marketing in upcoming years.
- Return on Investment: U.S. News and World Report has come out with a list on which law schools have the best post-graduation salary-to-debt ratio, i.e. which schools will give a student the biggest overall return on their investment in a legal education. This a great jumping off point in looking at the financial and budgetary timeline for life post-law school. These numbers, of course, only factor in the median salaries and debts; don’t forget you can do your part by getting merit-based scholarships (usually based on LSAT scores) and other financial aid as well. The top spot went to the University of Texas, Austin, a great example of why the “T-14″mentality and rankings are not the only consideration when picking a law school; as well as ROI, remember to take into consideration locations, specializations, and other factors when exploring your options.
What are your thoughts on any or all of these topics? Changes like the ABA task force is recommended start from your voices, so speak up! Let us know what you care about, and what you want to see more of. We’ve got your back:)