Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Bait and Switch?

If there is a theme among the many student and professor posts about law schools it is that they are involved in a bait and switch. Students are attracted by the promise of employment in high paying and exciting jobs. They then discover there are not that many jobs, they do not all pay well and they can be boring. The problem here is that law schools involved in the USN&WR game want to and do inflate their employment figures. Ironically, these misleading figure may benefit students by making their degrees seem more valuable.Just think how the students would feel if, after enrolling, a school's decided to play it straight and its ranking dropped from 30th to 50th.

Playing it straight means not hiring one's own graduates, not paying firms to hire them and not giving grants to students while working. The employment figures would drop and the School's ranking would suffer. Students would have a better idea of exactly what to expect upon graduation.

What students seem to want may be hard to achieve. I think most want the world to believe that their schools' degrees are highly valued. On the other hand, they also want to know the truth. But if the truth gets out, it undermines the first objective.

I do not know what will happen. When the market for Ph.D.s dropped several years ago, applications fell and departments got smaller. The market worked. I do not know if that was because departments did not make false claims about placements or would be applicants realized that having a Ph.D. most likely qualified you to drive a taxi.

And lurking in the background is that the students are in many respects means to the ends of law professors. Without applicants and high enrollments, teaching jobs for graduates of elite law schools would dwindle.

Finally, there is a point of view perhaps held only by me. I don't thing not finding a job means legal education is a waste. Instead I think a legal education is part of becoming a well educated person. In fact, I wish Law School administrations would stress this in their sales pitches.

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