Friday, April 27, 2012

Do I really expect some law schools to close in the next few years? Yes. Yes, I do.

In this cross-post on our Law School Survival Manual blog, I attempt to clarify that--although the ability to discharge student loans in bankruptcy is bleak--it's not quite as bad as I glibly said it was on the Bloomberg Law podcastBut it is bad, and something has to give.  As I indicated in my most recent essay about legal education (here), some schools aren't going to be able to justify their continued existence.  Even some very good schools are tightening their belts (see here).

And the job market for most lawyers is shrinking, not expanding.  Check out this Dealbook Q&A (here) with Michael Trotter.  His predictions are sobering.

When you combine the trends in law jobs with the increasing cost of attending law school (check out one of my favorite blogs, The Legal Whiteboard)--and you combine those two things with the fact that most student loans are non-dischargeable--you get a lot of law deans who are facing a lot of sleepless nights.  Law professors should also be nervous, because tenure won't protect them from being laid off when their law schools close. 

It's time to rethink what we mean when we talk about legal education.  That's a complex subject, but it's crucial that law professors have honest, non-turfy, non-pointy-headed-academic discussions about what we're doing and what we should be doing.

Oh, and my Buck Rogers reference in the interview?  That's from one of my favorite movies, The Right Stuff.  Here's the quote (from the site):
Gordon Cooper: You boys know what makes this bird go up? FUNDING makes this bird go up.
Gus Grissom: He's right. No bucks, no Buck Rogers. 
Yep.  No tuition, no school.  No bucks, no Buck Rogers.


Anonymous said...

There has to be an incline at some point in the job market no?

If not, with the closing of law schools ... What do you predict the outcome beyond that will be Professor Rapoport?

Nancy Rapoport said...

Thanks for asking--you've asked the single most important question we can be asking right now, and I have no clear answer yet. But I'm sure thinking about it.