Too Many Law Schools?

So argues this op-ed piece in the L.A. Times.  Here’s a snippet of the argument:

Remember the old joke about 20,000 lawyers at the bottom of the sea being “a good start”? Well, in an interesting twist, thousands of lawyers now find themselves drowning in the unemployment line as the legal sector is being badly saturated with attorneys.

Part of the problem can be traced to the American Bar Assn., which continues to allow unneeded new schools to open and refuses to properly regulate the schools, many of which release numbers that paint an overly rosy picture of employment prospects for their recent graduates. There is a finite number of jobs for lawyers, and this continual flood of graduates only suppresses wages. Because the ABA has repeatedly signaled its unwillingness to adapt to this changing reality, the federal government should consider taking steps to stop the rapid flow of attorneys into a marketplace that cannot sustain them.

Perhaps, as a law professor, I’m biased on this.  But I don’t see a general market failure requiring federal government action, although perhaps (as the author suggests) regulation of self-reported data on job placement should be considered.   The author also contends that the ABA has a conflict of interest in regulating law schools.  I agree — but not because (as the author maintains) the ABA is allowing too many law schools.  If there are too many law schools, prospective law students can surely figure that out.  The problem with ABA regulation is that it seems to get diverted from focusing on educational issues to extraneous, political issues. 


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