I DON’T AGREE WITH TODAY’S NYT OP-ED: “How to Make Law Schools Affordable?”

Well, at least not fully! In today’s New York Times Op-Ed page,  Professor  Brian Z. Tamanaha asserts that “[t]wo factors have combined to produce” the student debt situation: “the federal loan system and the American Bar Association-imposed accreditation standards for law schools.” He then goes on to make reform suggestions. You can read the Op-Ed piece here

Although this two-prong format works to make a punchy Op-Ed, I worry that its reductive nature will lead us astray. This assertion does not consider external influences such as US NEWS, the global recession and higher service expectations by consumers. I do agree with Professor Tamanaha, however, that both the federal loan system and the ABA standards need to be “reformed.” (And, as I am not an expert on loan reform, I hope others add comments to this post!) As to ABA standards reform, the Op-Ed is almost misleading by failing to acknowledge that since 2007 and 2008 many, many people have worked on reforming the ABA accreditation standards.

The most powerful, disturbing and accurate part of the Op-Ed is the conclusion:

“If we don’t change the economics of legal education, not only will law schools continue to graduate streams of economic casualties each year, but we will also be erecting an enormous barrier to access to the legal profession: the next generation of American lawyers will consist of the offspring of wealthy families who have the freedom to pursue a variety of legal careers, while everyone else is forced to try to get a corporate law job — and those who fail will struggle under the burden of huge law school debt for decades.”

With that, I fully agree and applaud Professor Tamanaha for reminding us of what’s at stake if we don’t ACT NOW!

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One Response

  1. Great points, Mary…particularly re the role of US News. The way that the recession seems to be reforming the economics and practice of law overall is a huge contributor in both direct and indirect ways, too. My only quibble with your post is that I think many within the academy have been working on (and have caused some changes to be made) the ABA standards since well before 2007…

    You hit the nail on the head by lauding the last full paragraph of the Op-Ed. The future of legal education does need a major re-boot as stated, and soon!

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