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Do We Really Have a Shortage of ABA Accredited Law Schools?

Shreveport, Louisiana with unusual snow.

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Just What We Need: More ABA Accredited Law Schools

                                                                                                Jerome Kowalski

                                                                                                Kowalski & Associates

                                                                                                August, 2010

 

We recently reported on what we view as the unwarranted continued establishment of new law schools at a time when the profession cannot even absorb the current torrent of graduates from existing law schools. I doubt that any pragmatist, aware of all of the available facts could possibly come to any contrary conclusion.

Apparently, there are those who think that adding even more ABA accredited law schools is worthy of consideration. The current edition of The National Law Journal reports

The American Bar Association is already tasked by the U.S. Department of Education to accredit U.S. law schools. Now an ABA committee has recommended that it should seriously consider expanding that power to overseas law schools that follow the U.S. model.

In June, the ABA’s Council of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar appointed the committee of law professors, attorneys, judges and law deans to examine whether foreign law schools should be allowed to seek ABA accreditation. The council is scheduled to consider the committee’s recommendations in December.

The committee cited an earlier ABA report’s conclusion that state supreme courts and bar associations are under more pressure than ever to make decisions about admitting foreign lawyers as the legal profession becomes more globalized.

“Such an expansion would provide additional guidance for state supreme courts when lawyers trained outside the United States seek to be allowed to sit for a U.S. bar examination,” the committee said in its report. “Since that is a key function of the accreditation process generally, the expansion would be consistent with the historic role of the section in aiding state supreme courts in the bar admissions area.”

Completely absent from this rationale is the ever growing amount of legal work that is outsourced offshore.  Hitherto, work outsourced offshore had inherent limitations precluding offshore outsource vendors from performing substantive legal work.  Work performed offshore was limited largely limited to document review, preparation of largely rudimentary documents, subject to review by lawyers admitted to practice in the United States and some basic legal research, again subject to review and analysis by U.S. lawyers.

Should the ABA grant such accreditation, the result will ineluctably be significantly greater offshore outsourcing, this time, work of a substantive nature.  In short, an increasing number of legal work will be handled by non-U.S. lawyers. Jingoism aside, with the legal profession now at its lowest level of employment since 1991 (think about what that means:  the profession as a whole literally lost hundreds of thousands of jobs in two decades) and there being no likelihood that the profession will be able to absorb at least 20%, if not more,  of new U.S. law school graduates in the near term, the wholesale shipment of legal jobs overseas, the inevitable result of accreditation of foreign law schools will be akin to the virtual abdication of United States preeminence in automobile production to other nations.  Only here, there assuredly will never be any federal bailout.

In the interest of additional disclosure,  in the Spring of this year, there were ten law schools in a queue awaiting ABA accreditation, which are apparently already up and running (presumably in states where bar admission is not predicated on attending an ABA accredited school)  and already adding to the mass of law school graduates.

Of perhaps more curious interest,  The National Law Journal reported on August 11, 2010 that Louisiana College announced plans for the creation of Louisiana’s fifth law school in Shreveport, Louisiana.  The announced raison d’etra of this new law school is, as reported by Joe Aguilard, president of the college, the establishment of a “curriculum that recognizes the moral and religious foundations of the American legal system.”  President Aguilard went on to say “Our extensive feasibility study confirms that Northwest Louisiana is the perfect location for this new institution, and we are grateful to the representatives and officials of the Shreveport area who have worked hard to ensure that we locate there.”  More details about this law school were reported in the September 2, 2010 edition of  the Shreveport Times: http://www.shreveporttimes.com/article/20100902/NEWS04/9020337/Law-school-to-open-in-Shreveport

For those who may not be familiar with Shreveport, a truly lovely city, unfortunately ravaged by hurricane Katrina,  it is populated by some 200,000 souls.  Some will recall that 30 years ago, Shreveport was a relatively major “oil town” and the home of “oil and gas deals,” with which you will not be familiar if you are less than 60 years old. The oil business is gone now as are “oil and gas” syndicated tax shelters which then made Shreveport a mecca for lawyers and deal promoters; all of whom are now gone.  Shreveport’s current economy is largely the gambling industry, apparently ideally suited for a law school whose curriculum is based on moral and religious foundations.

Let’s give the founders of Shreveport’s new law school the benefit of the doubt and perhaps consider that they are motivated by a set of high minded ideals. Let us even suggest (arguendo, only) that there may be some altruism at the University of North Texas which believes Dallas has a jingoistic right to open a new law school in this economy because, after all, Dallas hasn’t opened a new law school since 1967.  (Can Wasilla, Alaska be far behind?)  Let us, for a nanosecond, consider the lack of facial absurdity of accrediting foreign law schools.

Is there any rational or morally supportable reason for Kaplan Higher Education, a sprawling complex of undergraduate, graduate and professional school preparatory programs, trade schools, and, yes, even an on line law school to build a new law school in Washington, DC which already hosts six law schools?  The folks at Kaplan seem to think so.

Kaplan, owned by the Washington Post, believes it has a duty to offers “important opportunities for low-income students.”  Kaplan itself is already investigation following on the heels of the United States Department announcement concerning “wasteful spending on educational programs of little or no value that also lead to high indebtedness for students”   Is that the “opportunity” Kaplan believes should further be bestowed on low income students?

This madness continues unabated. On December 7, 2010, the University of Delaware announced plans for a new law school anticipating its first graduating class in 2015. Elie Mystal of Above the Law had some choice observations concerning this fool’s errand. Apparently, one needs not be either smart or concerned about the future of a university’s students to lead a university. [Update: In May, 2011, the University announced that it was shelving these plans.]

[Update: On May 17, 2010, Indiana Tech announced the opening of a new law school – the fifth in that state. The rationales, according to the school’s trustees, is that Indiana hasn’t opened a new law school in 119 years and that the State of Indiana ranks 44th in the nation in terms of the ratio of lawyers to the general population.  There is no indication of any kind that something has happened to suddenly increase the demand for lawyers in that state]

I wish I could conjure up a clever punch line for the planned Shreveport law school, Kaplan’s desire to create more debt and unemployment for low income students or the  [abandoned]hubris at the University of Delaware but I simply cannot top the simple reported and unadorned facts.  Indiana just sucks the breath out of the observer.

© Jerome Kowalski, August 2010.  All Rights Reserved.

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5 Responses

  1. […] Jerome Kowalksi, “Do We Really Have a Shortage of ABA Accredited Law Schools?” and, “What If They Built a New Law School and Nobody Came?” in Kowalski & Associates […]

  2. […] Lawyers,” in the Wall Street Journal (which I wished I read earlier), Informed Skeptic, & Kowalski & Associates) on the swelling of the legal sector prompted me to compare the BLS’s employment […]

  3. Shreveport is in Northwest Louisiana. The only weather it received from Hurricane Katrina, which hit the Southeastern part of the state directly, was rain and moderate wind. It is true Shreveport’s economy is largely based on the riverboats, but also on the growing film industry and the General Motors facility that is still in production because of the efforts of the mayor, Cedric Glover. The law school will be an added benefit to Shreveport’s economy with the people it will attract and will only serve to enhance the region’s ability to compete on a national, indeed global level. It was high time a law school be placed in the northern part of the state. There is already a medical school. This doesn’t hurt the profession or the field; it serves to help! Diversity of thought and views is always good. Let it compete in the marketplace of ideas and see if it succeeds.

  4. What is the scope of finding law jobs in the US for UK law graduates?…

    Currently, the level of employment at US law firms is at its lowest level since 1992.  Bear in mind that during the two decades since 1992, American law schools graduated an average of 45,000 students per annum. Forecasts issued by the United States Bu…

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