The Bright Coast

Progressive Thoughts from San Diego Alums on Law, Politics, and Culture

How to Lower Law School Tuition:

Posted by brightcoast on January 13, 2011

Cut career services.

Now I know this is going to sound drastic, it is a major challenge to the typical law school bureacratic structure, but in my honest opinion, it would be a good savings of resources.

There’s nothing worse than receiving the confirmation letter from the State Bar of California, stating “Congratulations! You’ve passed the most difficult bar exam in the country. But you still don’t have a job that pays practicing law.” Ok, so it doesn’t state all of that…

Take USD Law in particular. There are at least 4 career service “counselors” 1 or 2 deans or assistant deans, and several front desk employees/work studies, not to mention a newly remodeled office to house all these people. This has got to be at least a $500k/year venture.

In its defense, from my experiences, career services does the following things: meets with students individually to give advice, organizes networking and speaker events, contacts local agencies or employers upon students’ expressions of interest, services as a gathering place for employers seeking to employ students, organizes and coordinates the on campus interviews, collects applications for non on-campus interviews in certain situations, orchestrates judicial clerkship applications, and has a library of information for students. (I’m sure there are other things they can legitimately claim to do, I am just not familiar with them.)

But herein lies my personal issue with USD Law career services, the amount of jobs they get for students does not justify the enormous cost of having so many people employed, and their services could easily be reappropriated to other departments. This is especially true considering: 1) USD Law tuition is incredibly high; 2) job prospects are low; and 3) bar passage rates have been steadily declining (July 2010 results here). The following, therefore, are my suggestions as to how USD can improve employment prospects of graduates while simultaneously strenghtening the USD Law student-alumni relations, and increasing bar passage rate.

1) Re bar passage rates: beef up academic support, pure and simple.

a. Course guidance: There are no course counselors available for students to discuss the various course and program options.

b. Outline banks– many clubs have them. It’s no secret that after first year you figure out that you don’t have to do it yourself, and in fact, if your professor has so thoroughly confused you that you can’t understand the difference between an intentional and unintentional tort (cough cough), looking at someone’s straightforward version of the black letter law would be a better use of your time.

c. Upperclassmen Mentors-There should be mandatory matching of upper and lower classmen, at least for the first year. It could ease much unnecessary confusion. It could also help students learn about what courses to take, etc. Alumni mentors would be even better, especially for the foregoing networking point.

d. Tutoring program- Make sure students understand at least the basic bar subjects, so they aren’t setting themselves up for failure. It’s no secret that one could earn a passing grade under the bell curve system, and yet be thoroughly unclear about the basic structure of the subejct matter. There is no legitimate reason why there aren’t teaching assistants beyond first year. There are more than enough work studies to fill the roles, and aside from thereby decreasing the debt of those students, it would increase student comprehension of the subject matter.

2. Alumni participation:

Career services itself admits to only providing about 25% of graduate jobs through On Campus Interviews (OCIs), which in most cases involve firms contacting the school. Thus, you don’t need an entire office to coordinate employers wanting to post, simply allow them access to the website, and allow candidates to select time slot preferences on the computer, as they already do. The rest is simply administrative.

Speaking of the career website listings, they are attrocious. There is something like one or two new jobs every MONTH. This is pale in comparison with several other schools USD Law grads have gotten access to (and in most cases had to pay) through symplicity. Being the “best law school in [San Diego],” USD Law must do better.

The jobs which are listed, or career services has information about are nowhere near the need of students graduating in this economy. And over the past 2 years, the prospects have not gotten better for law grads, yet nothing has changed in career services. It is a travesty.

Everyone knows that the best way to get a job is through networking. As an individual you have to pound the pavement, attend bar events, etc. meet potential employers. Aside from organizing events, which students can and already do organize anyway, career services is absolutely no help with the personal action required to do this.

Lastly, alumni are in the legal market now. They have graduated, passed the bar, and are now practicing law. Instead of simply passing out a packet compiled with alumni who are willing to talk to students, why not match them up at some point, facilitate the relationship. This will help students get a realistic view of what they are in for.

If career services is allowed to continue, they should be required to make a commitment of substance. Obviously 100% employment isn’t practical, but something better than including any sort of employment in graduate employment stats (see NY Times article), is absolutely necessary to maintain the integrity of the program and fairness to students. $15-$20 per hour (if a position is even paid at all!!) should have to be disclosed in these employment surveys, so that students seeking to enter law school know that they will be faced with $250,000 in debt and a job that only pays double minimum wage- what they might be making after receiving a simple bachelor’s degree.

Career services is supposed to help foster careers, and they should be held to the task. Law grads have had enough of the justifications and excuses. This is just one way highly inflated tuition can be addressed.

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13 Responses to “How to Lower Law School Tuition:”

  1. anon said

    I think you can also get rid of the faculty, haha, honestly. I rarely went to class, since I lived in OC. I relied mostly on commercial outlines, Crunchtime, and old student outlines and notes. I managed to graduate very high in the class. Take Shwarzchild for example, his lectures are absolutely useless. I received one of the highest grades in his Con Law class by ignoring him and relying on Crunchtimes. The Profs, for the most part, are just as useless as the career services. Everything you need to know is in the commercial outlines/etc.

  2. Anon said

    Someone sounds bitter.

  3. anon said

    Oh, and dude, Career Services is an easy scapegoat for the USD Admin to place the blame and act like they are making things better. Back in 2005, USD got rid of the main Career Services person and she pretty much took all the blame for the poor prospects back then. The school claimed everything would change with the office and the students would have better employment assistance. Well, again you want to go back and blame Career Services for the shit job prospects. Yes, they could do a better job, but they are not the main culprit here of your bad job prospects and high tuition.

    There are literally very few entry-level legal jobs available and Career Services cannot magically create these positions, similar to Obama creating govt jobs. The legal field is DEAD, every position receives HUNDREDS of resumes, if you don’t believe this, just post an ad on Craigslist for a junior attorney and see for yourself how many unemployed JDs exist in your area.

    Simply, there are far too many law schools in the U.S. and at least anything outside the top 50 should be closed down, simple supply and demand. The major structural changes including the ABAs 2007 approval to outsource legal work has and will have enormous long term consequences on the profession. (How upsurd that you have to take a Bar exam, pass a Character and Fitness review, and do all this shit to practice law, yet some dude in India can do the same thing without ever even having to go to law school? WTF!)

    Honestly, USD took advantage of placing all the blame on the Career Services and not taking any heat for itself back in 2005, (go read about it). Don’t let them divert the heat back on the Career staff and act like doing some changes will make everything better once again.

  4. brightcoast said

    If you are calling me bitter for having $250k in debt, while I was lured to USD with prospects of making at least $90k/year, then you are correct. Clearly the market has a lot to do with this, but I specifically recall administration blaming students for career prospects, as though career services is infallible.

    The point of my statement is that the cost that it undoubtedly takes to run a career services office does not justify the resultingly high tuition. Thus, in order to lower tuition, it should be cut, at least as long as this market exists.

    While they cannot magically make jobs appear, they can do a better job of having ANY entry level legal positions. It is incomprehensible why they wouldn’t look to other metropolitan areas such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, or Sacramento, and get information for graduates who are willing to relocate–let alone other states.

    Lastly, there are clearly too many law schools. There are three in San Diego alone. I believe San Diego’s entire population is around 1,000,000.

    The outsourcing of legal work and allowance of online law schools is appauling, and dragging the profession down. Rather than relying on the ranking of schools to close campuses down, I think the ABA really needs to come down harder on schools that are already ABA, but whose bar passage rates are atrocious. People shouldn’t be allowed to borrow thousands of dollars to attend law schools who can’t promise more than 1 in 10 or 1 in 5 will be able to pass the bar.

  5. […] How to Lower Law School Tuition: […]

  6. anon said

    I didn’t call you bitter, I don’t know who did, using my same “anon” name. Man,I’m super bitter myself! And although I don’t have the same debt as you, (thank god USD gave me a full ride all 3 years for my LSAT, but I passed up the opportunity to go to a t14, I dont know if that was a mistake or not), I graduated top 5% and I’ve been unemployed for about 6 months now. The job situation absolutely sucks! Yes, USD should not publish a 94% employed and 90k average salary figure in their shiny brochures, it is super fkn misleading to post that kind of stuff, and you would think as school like USD would have some integrity, unlike a Cooley or University of Phoenix.

  7. demkid said

    I could have gone to the University of Phoenix for law school? Darn!

  8. anon said

    Yea, i’m sure in a few years you will be able to get your law degree from Costco (like the movie Idiocracy, haha! “Where did you go to law school?…Coscto, my dad was an alumni.”) Love that movie!

  9. brightcoast said

    I think I would be less bitter if I had taken my full ride offer at a slightly lower ranked school, damnit. I seriously can’t believe the ABA is allowing online schools to stay in business, what a way to ensure the economy continues to get worse–more law school grads with tons of debt that can’t pass the bar, let alone actually get a job if they pass. Shameful.

  10. anon said

    Even if they got rid of Career Services, what would that save, like a few hundred thousand a year. The school is making (say about 700 students enrolled, each paying 40k per year) about $30 million dollars a year off all the law students. All this money, which we will never no the exact details since the school is private, gets funneled to the regents,trustees, dean and basically “owners” of USD. The school’s admin expenses are basically nothing, the major expense is the faculty. There is no lab rooms, computers etc like an engineering department. The faculty don’t need to raise corporate funds for their research projects. You can run a law school out of a garage and it would have the same overhead. Even if Career Services were to disappear, the greedy Trustees would still squeeze the students for every federal tuition dollar they can!

  11. chris schultz said

    I liked Prof. Schwartzchild. His lectures made a lot of sense if you listened. It was hard admittedly but he is very smart. Career services is awful. truly awful. They should be fired.

  12. Law Tutor said

    This summary was very well done and quite useful.

  13. Anonymous said

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