One Law School Dean Tells Us The REAL Reason Nobody Wants A JD Anymore

Business Insider

Law school is more unpopular than ever, and it has some unlikely critics.

Law professors Paul Campos and Brian Tamanaha are now calling for drastic reform of the same system that pays their bills.

Campos writes at "Inside the Law School Scam," and Tamanaha wrote the book "Failing Law Schools," which won him "Most Influential Person in Legal Education" last year.

But one law school leader says the people calling law school a "scam" are the ones who are actually hurting legal education in the United States.

"Much of the alarm about the quality and value of accredited legal education is distorted and exaggerated," says Steve Sheppard, associate dean for research and faculty development at University of Arkansas School of Law. "Where is the scam?"

Sheppard says he works with thoughtful students who are fully aware of the costs of law school. Those costs, he says, have gotten higher because students expect more: nicer facilities, smaller classes, and better career services.

So, if law students aren't being had, then why are young people avoiding law school now?

The numbers don't lie.

The Law School Admission Council's numbers indicate that applications for fall semester are on track to reach a 30-year low, the National Law Journal's Karen Sloan has reported.

Sheppard doesn't argue with the numbers, but he does provide an alternate theory of why law school applications have plummeted. Law school hasn't suddenly become a bad investment, according to his theory.

Here's Sheppard's explanation that came in an email to Business Insider:

"The decline in law school applications is as easily explained (and perhaps more accurately explained) by the drumbeat of criticism than by the economics of education or legal employment. This criticism has been initiated by unhappy law students, drop-outs, and graduates, along with critics in the law faculties who have their own axes to grind. It has been amplified by a press and blogosphere that is either not equipped to evaluate the criticism or happy to sell papers by flaming it."

That last line could have referred to a New York Times article that cited a law professor who predicted the demise of 10 law schools in the next decade.

To be sure, that expert, University of Chicago Law professor Brian Leiter, didn't tell the Times how he came up with that precise number.

But are negative articles and critical professors really behind the dramatic drop in law school applications? Let us know what you think in the comments section.



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