"Work Pro Bono! Defend Liberty! Pursue Justice! Pay tuition! Wait...pay no attention to the employment statistics behind the curtain...! Ignore the Dean/Professor salaries...! Come back, you ungreatful wretches...!"
Well, it was bound to happen. You just can't have this level of bad outcomes and think no one is going to respond to it. The invisible hand of the market works, even in academia.
And it was necessary. Many, many sites have been calling attention to the ever-increasing rise of tuition, the bi-modal distribution of salaries, the less-than-frank employment statistics, and systemic JD overproduction. Student loan totals kept going higher and higher, default rates increased, large law firms let go of thousands of attorneys. The legal jobs market continues to be a cesspool of too many graduates chasing too few jobs.
The generalized response to these whistleblowers early on (as is always the case) was that jobless, debt-ridden graduates were entitled losers that needed to buck up and go get a job, for crissakes. Go “network” or something. Move to an “underserved” state, like Nebraska. Be willing to work for free…no one is going to hand you a job on a silver platter (well, unless you know the right people at the start, of course). You have to want it bad enough and be willing to make your own way.
However, the truth could not be swept under the rug. Then tactics changed…the deans and profs began to write multiple op-eds about how great an investment a law degree was, how “versatile” a law degree was. The theme came back to being defenders of liberty and servants to the community. How law was a long-term vocation that lead to a satisfying life. Of course tuition couldn’t be reduced…you can’t train the next generation of legal saviors on the cheap, you know. But, we’ll play games with LSAT scores, “scholarships,” and what-not to keep the students coming in. Recently, Citi/Hildebrandt opined that structural changes in the legal world are here to stay, with significant downward pressure on firm profits for many years to come, but let’s not pay too much attention to that as it conflicts with the “valuable law degree” and “preparing leaders” worldview. Keep outsourcing that doc review to India.
"Wait, so you're saying that 98% of your graduates have jobs requiring a JD, nine months after graduation. At an average salary of $135k?"
However, it appears that declines in applications are down anywhere from 10 to 30 percent, depending on the school (we’ll leave the matching of the percent-decline to the school as an exercise for the reader). Apparently, you can’t fool all of the people all of the time, even prospective law students. Professor Merritt (Ohio State) states that “I would be surprised to see applications go up again, unless there are major changes in the legal industry.”
What the lol skool cartel can’t seem to understand, despite their tone-deaf attempts to deny the obvious, data-driven truth, is that this not a failure of the students – it is the failure of the entire model of legal education. Upton Sinclair put it this way, in The Jungle:
They were of the triumphant and insolent possessors; they had a hall, and a fire, and food and clothing and money, and so they might preach to hungry men, and the hungry men must be humble and listen! They were trying to save their souls--and who but a fool could fail to see that all that was the matter with their souls was that they had not been able to get a decent existence for their bodies?
If a few people get great results, and the vast majority are consigned to debt-slavery, then you are a willing, complicit part of the problem, not the solution. Until these “major changes” come along (don’t hold your breath), the only winning move is not to play. Remember, all you “sophisticated consumers,” our learned court system has told us how to evaluate law school claims: caveat emptor.