Good News


One of my lawprof correspondents writes:

Unfortunately, this year’s dismal law school enrollments (affecting us and all schools nationwide) present a major budgetary challenge for us…

Law schools aren’t filling classes.The reasons for this are many, but can be summed up as “college graduates aren’t that stupid.”

This is unlucky for law schools; it is fortunate for lawyers, for the profession, and for society. 

Scott Greenfield wrote yesterday about the unpleasant truth of criminal-defense practice:

The irony is that most criminal defense lawyers aren’t making enough money to live as well as the middle class clients they’re expected to subsidize.  It’s unfair that people should have to pay for lawyers?  Perhaps, but it’s unfair that lawyers aren’t doing any better than the clients who can’t afford them.

The fact is that the vast majority of criminal defense lawyers are starving.  Because of this, lawyers are cannibalizing themselves, stealing cases in the hallway and undercutting each other at every turn.  Websites create the expectation that people can get $1000 of legal representation for $12,97. They teach that lawyers desperately want to give away their advice for free.  The message is lawyers are fungible, or that no one wins anyway, so why bother paying money when you can lose just as well for free.

(The context was a discussion of the stories we tell each other: “we’ve become a bunch of liar, fakers, pretending to be doing great because no one wants to appear to be a failure.” I have found most criminal-defense lawyers to be honest with each other when things aren’t going well—we like to bitch, and misery loves company—but that may be a matter of local culture. A subject, perhaps, for another post.)

In the comments to Greenfield’s post a reader asks him how to start building a viable profession. Greenfield’s first suggestion: “How about controlling the number of people who are given license to practice so that there aren’t tens of thousand milling about with expensive degrees and no way to support themselves.”

America needs fewer lawyers and more mechanics (my standing offer to America: end the war on drugs, and I’ll work as a mechanic). The upheaval in the practice, and now in the law schools, is the market telling us in no uncertain terms that we are overlawyered.

The market will, if it is allowed to work, correct itself. It looks as though it is doing so. In three years there will be fewer new lawyers than in two. There’ll still be more lawyers—more than “too many”—but suppressing the supply a little bit is a start.


3 responses to “Good News”

  1. Thank you for writing about this issue. I have been a criminal defense attorney since 1986. Things are worse now than ever.

    Since the 1970s, law schools have been cash cows for universities. Graduating classes in the 70s were thirty students at many schools. In the 80s, graduating classes were in the hundreds. Schools started part time programs.The ABA kept approving more schools. Recently, Cooley Law School, based in Michigan, opened a campus in Florida. Florida does not need another law school.

    Law schools cannot keep churning out graduates with impunity. They take the tuition and then have no responsibilty to its graduates or to the profession. I have no sympathy for the law professor who wrote in.

  2. Another reason to not update our patent system. Some lawyers are making a killing with the present system. 🙂

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