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UD‘s already posted on the absurd over-production of lawyers in this country, a fact overlooked for so long by law schools that now even the most elite boast plenty of unemployed graduates.

That hasn’t stopped any number of new law schools from opening their doors in the last few years, and UCLA professor and blogger Stephen Bainbridge proposes one particular demolition as part of a solution:

In 2006, California did not need a fifth public law school. We certainly didn’t need one in Irvine, when much of the growth in UC admissions is in places like Riverside.

Today, with state revenues having plummeted faster and further than Regent Montoya might have expected, we simply can’t afford Irvine’s law school. Odds are, with the California economy doing even worse than the nation as a whole, we have even less need for extra lawyers than we did when the [California Postsecondary Education] Commission rejected the Irvine proposal back in 2006.

I’m firmly convinced that UC Berkeley and UCLA will come out of the current troubles in excellent shape. We have great alumni whose support continues to grow despite the economy.

But I see no reason for the state to spend a dime on Irvine. Kill it now and put the money to better use, such as helping reverse some of the cuts to undergraduate education.

UD wrote the same thing a week before Bainbridge did:

UD’s angle on the new Irvine law school has nothing to do with whether its liberal dean can get a balanced faculty. UD wonders why America’s opening another law school. You want a debacle, look at the number of lawyers in this country. Many of the new graduates among them can’t find jobs. Harvard alone, which each week seems to add about ten new faculty to its law school, could train most of the nation’s attorneys.

How in the hell does this new law school justify itself?

I know a rich guy gave Irvine twenty million because he wanted the school to do this. But, you know, you’re not supposed to just lie there and do what rich people tell you. Rich people can be eccentric. This one likes the prospect of lots of unemployed California attorneys. Your university doesn’t have to agree with him, even if he’s waving money at you.

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14 Responses to “Irvinicide”

  1. Daniel S. Goldberg Says:

    Dr. Soltan,

    I don’t disagree with the post, but I wonder what your thoughts would be on a subject closer to home: graduate students in the humanities.* That is, I have heard some professors intimate that unless a student entering a Ph.D program in a humanities discipline is hellbent on doing so purely for their own edification — and bless them if they are — it is unjust or worse to currently accept students into such programs given the negligible prospects for gainful employment as an academic.

    I have heard some take the argument even farther, arguing that the only justification for accepting cohorts of even 2-3 new students every year is to service the needs of the existing faculty and the program itself.

    I hasten to add that if there is merit in the above, I find such a situation worse than deplorable, and find the general disdain for the humanities in higher education to be a powerful sign of just how misplaced so many of the priorities are.

    But as someone with a deep and abiding love for the humanities, the question plagues me: are humanities programs accepting too many students?

    *I am both a lawyer and a recent graduate of a humanities program.

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Daniel: I’ve long argued that graduate programs in any field that have a well-established track record of poor employment outcomes for their graduates should either be suspended, way downsized, or shut down. You can tweak this argument in a couple of ways – for instance, if your MA program in English is mainly about enhancing the knowledge and credentials of already-employed secondary school teachers, then there’s a reason to consider keeping it. Perhaps their tuition is being covered by their employers, etc. But if you’re only in it for the ego-satisfaction of tenured faculty, or to have bodies to staff freshman surveys, etc., you should really consider ending the enterprise.

    So to answer your question: Absolutely humanities programs are accepting too many students.

  3. RJO Says:

    I also agree that many graduate programs are engaging in what amounts to predatory admissions and have been for a long time.

    But since that’s (realistically) going to continue for a while, and given that there is a vast surplus already in existence, I’ve proposed at least one way that surplus could be used to sharply improve the educational quality of university life for students and faculty alike. This proposal could be put in place at almost no cost by any university president with educational integrity and a tiny bit of imagination. (Hmm, perhaps I’ve discovered a snag there.)

  4. superdestroyer Says:

    One of the other controversies is that California has had a nursing shortage for years and has to import nurses from the Philippines. Yet, no public university seems interested in starting a nursing program.

  5. MM Says:

    I totally agree with you that there are too many lawyers in this country. I’ve heard anecdotal reports that many law school publish inaccurate information on the employment of their graduates. If true, this is a serious problem. It is possible that they just don’t have reliable information. After all, no law school graduate is required to return a survey on whether they are employed 12 months after graduation, and one could imagine that jobless graduates would be less likely to return such a survey, skewing the results. However, if the school just does not know the percentage of its graduates who find legal employment, it would be preferable to say that rather than publishing inaccurate numbers.

    In addition, many lawyers are not really cut out for being a lawyer. It is a field that requires a certain amount of smarts, diligence and judgment, and many people just don’t have what it takes to do the job well. Unfortunate, but true. I’m a lawyer, and some of the people I work with meet this description. (Ordinarily I don’t write anonymous comments, but because I’m saying this about my co-workers I’m going to make an exception in this case.)

    To make things worse, many people have to take out student loans to pay for law school. Often the amount of the loan burden of law school graduates is such that it is only manageable for those few who get jobs in large law firms. The rest of the poor suckers are shit out of luck.

  6. david foster Says:

    superdestroyer…my recollection is that a couple of years ago, California thought about starting a new nursing school, but decided to start a new law school instead.

    Apparently, the manner in which Cal universi,ties get funding from somebody (the state? the feds?) is a function of number of students..and nursing schools cost more to run, per student than do law school, or most other kinds of education.

    general…I think we as a society do a bad job in informing kids about the realities of various professions & academic majors. Kids get (mostly wrong) ideas about doctors/lawyers/cops from television programs: everything else is mostly a black box unless their parents happen to work in a particular field, and sometimes even then.

  7. GTWMA Says:

    One thing that has to be factored into this is that some significant number of students I’ve talked to over the past several years plan on going to lw school, but never plan on practicing law. Given the importance of law and regulation in many areas (particularly growing areas like health care and education), the J.D. is seen as a good complementary degree to professional master’s and even Ph.D. programs for people planning on working in any capacity in those sectors.

  8. GTWMA Says:

    The other difficulty in starting nursing schools is that there is a humongous shortage of faculty. Because accreditation has VERY strict limits on who can teach nurses and how many students can be in classes, nursing schools are extraordinarily expensive to run.

  9. david foster Says:

    GTWMA…it *may* be that some of these limits could be adjusted without harming quality…don’t know enough to have a definitive opinion, but such things should be looked at.

    Indeed, any serious effort to improve U.S. healthcare should involve a hard look at the bottlenecks in the system, rather than just an obsessive focus on financing and limitations. If you’re going to provide more care for more people, you’re going to need more resources (and/or more effective use of those resources) to do it. Computerization of medical records isn’t a magic answer.

    If we had decided in 1905…as a matter of national policy…that everyone should have an automobile…but the assembly line had not yet been invented and the existing craft-based production was tightly controlled by guilds…then the effort would have been pretty much a guaranteed failure.

  10. GTWMA Says:

    I don’t know whether relaxing those things would harm quality, but this is clearly one of those tradeoffs what needs closer scrutiny. The restrictions on nursing education clearly harms access and may protect quality far less than we think. In the absence of adequate nursing supply, hospitals and other health care providers resort to agency nursing, mandatory overtime for nurses, importing nurses from overseas (where educational requirements are often lower), and using less skilled personnel (patient aides who might receive a few days to 2 weeks training) to provide certain services. Many of those may harm quality more than having nursing students in classes of 40 rather than 20. And they have other negative effects, too–our shortage of nurses creates an enormous brain drain of medical personnel from poorer nations, leaving their health systems is much worse shape (and all of us at risk from global pandemics), and not surprisingly, creating significant resentment from the giant sucking up of resources by the US.

  11. david foster Says:

    GTWMA…good explication of some of the tradeoffs. One way to think about it might be that *decreasing* the class size in nursing education results in *increasing* the number of patients per nurse in actual nursing practice.

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