Sunday, January 9, 2011

Is Law School a Losing Game?

Maybe. At least that's the premise behind this Sunday's article in the NY Times by David Segal. The lengthy article includes interviews with former students who don't know how they are going to pay off their student loans and educators who feel the need to change the system. The main culprit appears to be the U.S. News and World Report rankings -
"Enron-type accounting standards have become the norm,” says William Henderson of Indiana University, one of many exasperated law professors who are asking the American Bar Association to overhaul the way law schools assess themselves. “Every time I look at this data, I feel dirty.” It is an open secret, Professor Henderson and others say, that schools finesse survey information in dozens of ways. And the survey’s guidelines, which are established not by U.S. News but by the American Bar Association, in conjunction with an organization called the National Association for Law Placement, all but invite trimming.

A law grad, for instance, counts as “employed after nine months” even if he or she has a job that doesn’t require a law degree. Waiting tables at Applebee’s? You’re employed. Stocking aisles at Home Depot? You’re working, too.

Number-fudging games are endemic, professors and deans say, because the fortunes of law schools rise and fall on rankings, with reputations and huge sums of money hanging in the balance. You may think of law schools as training grounds for new lawyers, but that is just part of it.

The U.S. Department of Education recently proposed regulations that require certain kinds of for-profit schools to disclose post-graduation placement and employment statistics and to establish some kind of nexus between the school's curriculum and real-world employability. Here's a NY Times article that's on point. Maybe it's time to force law schools to follow suit.

1 comment:

Kathryn Murphy said...

I share the plight of Michael Wallerstein along with a multitude of others. If the government will forgive tax debtors then why not student loan debtors? Many of us are not looking for total absolution just affordable payments. My loans are now with CitiBank. I have approached the Ombudsman offices of both the U.S. Department of Education (DED) and the lender. Neither are willing to negotiate payments based on income. They are willing to restructure the obligation but without any consideration to current expenses. The government comes first! Even the IRS is willing to negotiate. Why not DED or my lender? CitiBank wouldn't be around today if it weren't for a federal bailout. What makes this situation any less dire? Student loan debtors need to become more assertive and proactive. I am in the process of researching remedies and will begin sharing my thoughts in a related blog under development.

Meanwhile, I hope that you will share my comments with Mr. Wallerstein. I would love to collaborate with him on what will be my legacy to others like us.

Kathryn Murphy