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Law student woes (and reason for professorial envy)

  • June 24th, 2012

It is the season for job-seeking law students to spray emails wherever they hope a seed might sprout. I admire them, even as the messages make me sad. I think of all the energy and hope that has gone into years of study, the day-dreaming of  putting their learning into practice. I try to answer each with something more than a formulaic 'try elsewhere" because I'm so conscious of what the next few months or years will be like for the students in the bottom half of the distribution of grades, initiative and persistence. For some the worst of it will be idealism dented. For many it may be losing the expectations of entitlement to high income.

How desperate it must be in the US (and Europe) at the moment. Only 55% of law graduates last year in the US secured law jobs and they have huge student loans financially justified only if they get elite law jobs.

A review of a new book on legal education 'Failing Law Schools' by Brian Z Tamanaha,  says that  in the US;

"The out-of-pocket cost of obtaining a law degree at many schools now approaches $200,000. The average law school graduate’s debt is around $100,000—the highest it has ever been—while the legal job market is the worst in decades, with the scarce jobs offering starting salaries well below what is needed to handle such a debt load"

The book tempts me but not enough to buy. I'll leave it to the academics. From reviews it would appear that some of the criticisms have pertinence here, for example that "Law professors … generally have had little practical experience themselves, and their published output is largely detached from law and of little use to lawyers and judges in their actual work."

I'm not so worried about a lack of pertinence to law practice in academic work as I am about the paucity of insight and discipline when they do approach matters of contention. At the conference mentioned in my last blog post I did not get time to commend Peter Watts' NZLJ article on criminalising director conduct. It is particularly notable for being the only academic comment I found on a topic of serious and urgent importance.

There is at least one important difference between the US and here. It might wound those of our academics who deserve more credit and money. US law professors seem to be more richly rewarded. The blurb summarises the book as follows (emphasis mine):

" On the surface, law schools today are thriving. Enrollments are on the rise, and their resources are often the envy of every other university department. Law professors are among the highest paid and play key roles as public intellectuals, advisers, and government officials. Yet behind the flourishing facade, law schools are failing abjectly. Recent front-page stories have detailed widespread dubious practices, including false reporting of LSAT and GPA scores, misleading placement reports, and the fundamental failure to prepare graduates to enter the profession."


  • Roger Strong
  • June 25th, 2012
  • 7:46 pm

 Not only law schools-there are lots of graduates who discover that the courses that they have taken have been oversold and that there is no job at the end. Much of the blame must go to the universities themsleves but also a great deal to the secondary schools who point the young people in certain directions. I have a known a few so called 'career advisors' over the years and few have been worth a cracker.


Jesus life is tough Stephen, I graduated and worked easily as a Veterinarian,it was cool, it was the eighties , then my daughter graduated a few years ago, she told me one third of her class from Massey University Veterinary could not get work, she goes to Australia the lucky country to upgrade qualifications, but even there she tells me things are tough,  

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