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Michael O'Shea


With all due respect, you could not be more wrong or naive. The high unemployment rate for law school grad is staggering when compared to other college graduate - may be as high as 40% in some areas of the country. This is almost third world economics. Law school professors must live in a bubble to believe that anyone who wants to go to (and can get into) law school should go to law school. Ohio has eight law schools and passes around 1400 lawyers a year into the bar, into a job market that really only needs about 500 or so. Older lawyers are not (because they cannot) retiring. Bigger firms are hiring at a much lessor rate - and only hiring the same few hundred (at most) of the law school grads with the very best grades. Governmental law jobs are shrinking by the day. This leaves law school grads/young lawyers with huge debt which they can only pay by taking any small case that they can grab - and forcing themselves into a solo practitioner market that is beyond over saturated already.

I suggest you actually talk to some of your former B/C students who have been out there for the last 3 years and see what they tell you.

I get the idea of the law being a great profession - because it is. This may sound harsh to you, but the law schools are only serving themselves these days by telling prospective law students to jump in and swim in the deep pool because it looks good from the life guard chair or snack bar you law professors sit in.

Mikey the Nail, Esq.

Dean Chemerinksy,

I agree that people who truly love the law should go to law school and that they can market themselves in non-traditional ways. The law has always been a step-off point for careers in other areas.

However, the question is whether the career will pay for the education. The answer today is often, no, it will not.

Way back when, one of my law professors, after taking out a calculator to perform some relatively simple mathematics at the lecturn, said, "Let's face it, if any of us could do math we'd all be in a medical school right now."

He wasn't joking.

Regardless of love for the law, medical school graduates have no problems getting jobs even today, in the post-collapse economy.

Further, Mikey Sayeth Naught.



You are so far out of touch it is truly amazing.

What if your children's only option was attending a Tier 3 or 4 law school, and your reputation and connections would not help them get jobs? Furthermore, what if they had to finance this debt through high-interest, non-dischargable debt? Would you still advise them to go?

"Would going to graduate school provide better odds of employment? Would going to business school offer more assurance of fulfilling employment?"

They can go to work. Against the prevailing wisdom of our parent's generation, my generation has learned that more education is not always the answer. Trying to jump the line by getting a shinier degree is extremely risky when that degree is financed with debt. If law school cost $10,000 per year, a cost that could be covered by working a part-time job during school, we would not be having this discussion right now.

Unfortunately the law schools and existing generation of practitioners have done a great disservice to the profession's reputation among laypeople with a mentality favoring short-term profits and unsustainable growth. While lawyers have always been the butt of jokes, mainstream media outlets are picking up on the terrible job market for lawyers and overall law school applications are down. Will young people still want to become lawyers when all they hear is negative stories about unemployed degree holders? Will the current generation of young people recommend law school to their kids, when they count many unemployed or underemployed law graduates among their peer group? Will clients be willing to pay a premium for custom legal services when they realize the people being turned out of law schools are not wizards, but are inexperienced and poorly prepared for the realities of law practice? I think not.

Barbara Seville

"There are an infinite array of paths that one can pursue with a law degree."

Surely this hackneyed claim has been laid to rest by now. One can just as well pursue all of these other paths -- other than being a practicing lawyer or judge -- WITHOUT a law degree. In fact, in most cases having a law degree on one's resume is a significant hindrance to alternative employment.

These days it seems you don't even have to have a law degree to be employed as a law professor. A Ph.D. in any field that can credibly be appended to Law -- as in "Law and Economics" or "Law and Sociology" -- will do.


Dean Chemerinsky goes off the track when he asserts that law is a "tool for social change." It's not. Politics is. The law's primary function is to protect social stability so people know what they may and may not do, without spending years and fortunes in litigation, and in the end being left to the competing vagaries of judicial ideologies and biases.

Of course, there is room in the law for effecting change, but that's secondary and rare. Ask a few hundred practicing lawyers how many times in their careers they effected a demonstrable change in the decisional or statutory law, and you'll get your asnwer if you don't believe me.

Second, few people, no matter how smart, have the temperament and the ability to "think like a lawyer" to be good advocates. Very few.

Third, the law profession became what it is now because of explosive growth of the regulatory state that touches everything and requires all businesses to hire hordes of lawyers to stay on the right side of the at times unknowable law that is often determined only after a judge performs some sort of three-part "balancing test" or somesuch. Like it or not, but if you want a rule of law, you have to have a law of [predictable] rules. Otherwise you get a climate in which paying is cheaper than winning on the merits.

Fourth, many functions performed by lawyers do not require a law degree, as the Japanese proved -- for example, you don't have to be a bengoshi to draft contracts or negotiate business deals. Most tort cases are settled by adjusters (at least on the defense side). To say nothing of the growing outsourcing of legal work offshore.

Fifth, the legal profession, like the rest of the country, has been living it up, overpaying its members (particularly in the large firms)and as the rest of the country is finding out, the time is at hand to adjust to reality. One aspect of which is that at current tution levels law school is (a) for rich kids, or (b) attainable only at the price of indentured sevitude to one's student loan for masny years, and (c) increasingly not worth the price.

Tell your kids, Dean, to go into engineering if they have the intellectual horsepower, or if not, to get a job and go to night law school if they have the stamina.


And yet the Dean has yet to respond. Typical

Barbara Seville

There are far too many law schools already, churning out graduates/dupes who will never be able to earn a living doing a job for which a law degree is a requisite, because there are not now and never again will be enough such jobs.

The UC Irvine law school is a boondoggle and total waste of money. It should never have been permitted,and should be disbanded.

Corey Johanningmeier

As between the Dean's optimistic description of our profession's potential for social change, and the (understandably) disaffected grumblings in the comments, I would rather see more of the former.

Even in 2007, when the market was in its most recent good year, the folks who went to law school for the reasons Chemerinsky describes did better at landing top jobs than the people who came just for more money. This recession sucks, but it will end, and the people who took the long view and found a way to do some law even now will be positioned to be the leaders of the next professional wave.

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About the Blog

  • Rising tuition. Misleading employment statistics. Inadequate skills training. Law schools have faced plenty of criticism for their role in the struggles of young lawyers today. The National Law Journal has assembled a panel of legal educators and law graduates to discuss whether law schools are facing a crisis, and how they should respond to their mounting problems.

Law School Review Contributors

  • Brian Tamanaha
    A professor at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law who writes about law schools on the blog Balkinization
  • Erwin Chemerinsky
    Founding dean of the University of California, Irvine School of Law
  • John F. O’Brien
    Dean of the New England Law, Boston and chairman of the Council of the American Bar Association’s Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar
  • Kyle McEntee
    A 2011 graduate of Vanderbilt University Law School and the executive director of Law School Transparency, a nonprofit group advocating for legal education reform
  • Lucille Jewel
    Professor at Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School who has written about the problems faced by recent law school graduates
  • Michael A. Olivas
    A professor at the University of Houston Law Center and the current president of the Association of American Law Schools
  • William Henderson
    Professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law—Bloomington who studies the legal profession

Law School Review: Further Reading