Law School Discussion

Nine Years of Discussion
;

Author Topic: Correlation Between High Tuition Costs & Affordable Legal Assistance??  (Read 4128 times)

Opie58

  • Guest
Here is an interesting article questioning the correlation between high tuition costs and affordable legal assistance.  It also slams the overly high, and sometimes unattainable, ABA standards a school needs to achieve for that ABA seal of approval.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/18/business/for-law-schools-a-price-to-play-the-abas-way.html?_r=3&pagewanted=1

Your opinions, please.

FalconJimmy

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 684
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Correlation Between High Tuition Costs & Affordable Legal Assistance??
« Reply #1 on: December 20, 2011, 11:08:00 AM »
If I understand the gist, what they're saying is that if you dropped all standards, then people could become "attorneys" without having to attend a real law school.  Sort of like what happens in California. 

Then, since you really didn't make them do anything to become attorneys, they'll give their services away nearly for free.

Is there a glut of inexpensive attorneys in California?  Seems to me that good attorneys are as expensive in CA as anywhere else in the country, if not moreso.

Good attorneys will always be expensive.  You can hire cheap attorneys right now.  Chances are they're inexperienced, graduated from lesser schools and aren't at the top of their profession.

People don't want attorneys who don't know what they're doing.  That's why attorneys who know what they're doing can charge what they charge.  I am willing to bet that in CA, the guys who went to unaccredited schools who kick ass don't charge $20 an hour.  I bet once they establish a professional reputation, they charge what any other comparably competent attorney charges.

Which means that you will only create cheap attorneys by creating bad attorneys.

Zepp

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 31
    • View Profile
Re: Correlation Between High Tuition Costs & Affordable Legal Assistance??
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2011, 01:10:15 PM »
It's a festering pile of B.S.  Rather than whine about ABA standards (because having standards are a bad thing in the practice of law?), perhaps these deans and faculty of these sub 4T schools should look at their salaries.  Law schools are a cash cow for universities.  They are cheap to run, and the deans in even 4T schools bank half a mil. or more a year.  The blog, "third tier reality" profiles many of these schools, including the pay of administrators and faculty, and when you see how much the salaries are at even the worst ABA-accredited schools, you'll see the "standards" have less to do with the cost than the willingness of these educators to line their pockets at the expense of students that don't realize their diploma is probably the worst investment of their lives. 

There is no reason third and fourth tier schools should be charging anywhere near top 14 school prices.  The only reason they do is simple greed, and they get away with it by dazzling naive students with b.s. salary stats.  And the costs of law school has very little to do with the availability of affordable legal representation.  The reality is there are a great many unemployed lawyers out there.  The vast majority of the many thousand of students who graduate law school every year will never even get an interview at a V100 firm, much less actually work at one, billing $300 and hour.  The luck grads of T3 and 4 schools manage to get jobs at small firms doing divorces, family law, and representing your average client for not much money.  They'll probably be making some $40k a year, and just barely paying their law schoold debt.  The less than lucky ones will have to give up on the law, and take jobs in other fields to pay their debt on a degree that is doing them no good.

The problem isn't that the standards are set too high.  The real problem is students aren't getting what they pay for.  While an argument can be made that the top 14 law schools can charge $45-50k a year because their graduates have a reasonably good shot at biglaw, making $160k to start, can you honestly tell me that 4th tier schools like Touro and Suffolk are priced right at $41k a year?  Can there be any justification as to why these schools are charging only $4k/year less than Harvard and Georgetown?  Are the graduates of Touro and Suffolk only getting $12k less value on their degree than a Harvard of Georgetown grad?  The vast majority of T4 schools charge between $32k and $38k/year for tuition.  These 4T schools have no touble paying their admin and faculty six figure salaries, but the problem is that the ABA has too high a standard that makes it expensive to run their library?   They're just greedy SOBs that don't want the ABA cutting into their bottom line with silly "standards" like requiring the library have books, when that money could be paying for something far better like the dean's salary.
GULC 2010 Cum Laude

FalconJimmy

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 684
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Correlation Between High Tuition Costs & Affordable Legal Assistance??
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2011, 05:02:37 PM »
+1 for Zepp.  Great points. 

jonlevy

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 534
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Correlation Between High Tuition Costs & Affordable Legal Assistance??
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2011, 09:09:24 PM »
They're just greedy SOBs that don't want the ABA cutting into their bottom line with silly "standards" like requiring the library have books, when that money could be paying for something far better like the dean's salary.

I'm not arguing that law school adminstrators and faculty (who after all usually only possess a JD themselves are overpaid) but why would anyone actually need a paper lawbook these days? They are super expensive, cumbersome, and have regular Hellishly expensive updates. And they come in electronic versions anyway. Any attorney who is doing more than 5% of their research from paper books is way behind the technology curve. Let's face it, law books which can't be searched for terms or immediately cross referenced are a waste of time. Law schools who rely on paper are setting students up with outmoded skill sets. The ABA is so far behind the times that it is hugely irrelevant to most lawyers except where it maintains its death grip on law schools. The ABA can't even begin to resolve the morass of multijurisdictional practice and the Internet - they s_ck. But the law book publishers love them.

jonlevy

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 534
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Correlation Between High Tuition Costs & Affordable Legal Assistance??
« Reply #5 on: December 20, 2011, 09:28:59 PM »

Which means that you will only create cheap attorneys by creating bad attorneys.

Unless you define "good" as equalling how much an attorney earns, hourly fees have absolutely nothing to with how good an attorney is for a client. Some of the best attorneys work for free or on a contingent fee basis, the hourly guys who work for big firms, are usually good at one thing - billing their clients for every nanosecond spent on a case. Good attorneys work for people and causes not corporations and insurance companies. Or to put it another way, an attorney who represents SSI claimants does a Hell of a lot more good than one who helps corporations squeeze more money out of consumers and employees.  My unsolicited advice, go read one of Gerry Spence's books.

Therefore, I disagree, we need far fewer indebted attorneys who paid big law school tuition and are more concerned with paying off their loans than helping clients. If someone has a bachelors degree and training and can pass the bar, why shouldn't they be an attorney? In England, an undergrad degree, a one year conversion course, and two year training contract at a law firm are all that is required with no bar exam at all to become a solicitor (which is a lawyer).

FalconJimmy

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 684
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Correlation Between High Tuition Costs & Affordable Legal Assistance??
« Reply #6 on: December 20, 2011, 11:59:16 PM »
some of the best attorneys work for free

I imagine some do.

 
or on a contingent fee basis

And you equate 1/3 of a settlement as working for poor wages, I take it.

the hourly guys who work for big firms, are usually good at one thing - billing their clients for every nanosecond spent on a case.

Ah, yeah, I forgot.  They couldn't possibly be good attorneys. 


Good attorneys work for people and causes not corporations and insurance companies.

Morally good?  Eh, I have no quibble with you there.  at the very least, they would appear to be altruistic and willing to work for what they consider to be causes with some social benefit.


Or to put it another way, an attorney who represents SSI claimants...

Let me finish that sentence for you:  "... got appointed as an appointed representative and is getting an hourly fee from the federal government."

if they're poorly paid, its because they're just stupid, not-very good at being an attorney, not very good at running a practice, or some combination of the three.

Therefore, I disagree, we need far fewer indebted attorneys who paid big law school tuition and are more concerned with paying off their loans than helping clients.

Or perhaps what you mean is, we need more competent attorneys working for the public interest, even if the field is not very lucrative.  There are other ways to handle that.  These days, heck, we could provide student loan repayment and a modest paycheck and a lot of attorneys would jump at the chance.

If someone has a bachelors degree and training and can pass the bar, why shouldn't they be an attorney?

I agree with you there.  If it were my world, there would be no law school requirement or maybe not even any education requirement at all, but the bar would be much tougher.  Given that unaccredited schools have, what, about a 20 or 30% Bar passage rate, I'd say that any tougher bar would make the proportion of their graduates who eventually practice law a statistical rounding error.

However, what would that do to the legal industry?  How would people get jobs in the law?  By their bar score alone?  There's a purpose for the educational component involved in being an attorney. 

In England, an undergrad degree, a one year conversion course, and two year training contract at a law firm are all that is required with no bar exam at all to become a solicitor (which is a lawyer).

You may have me at a disadvantage, here, but isn't a solicitor the equivalent of an attorney who handles transactional law, exclusively?

To actually practice in court, you need to be a barrister, which is a different thing, entirely.

Or do I have that wrong?

Zepp

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 31
    • View Profile
Re: Correlation Between High Tuition Costs & Affordable Legal Assistance??
« Reply #7 on: December 21, 2011, 12:31:47 AM »
but why would anyone actually need a paper lawbook these days? They are super expensive, cumbersome, and have regular Hellishly expensive updates. And they come in electronic versions anyway. Any attorney who is doing more than 5% of their research from paper books is way behind the technology curve. Let's face it, law books which can't be searched for terms or immediately cross referenced are a waste of time. Law schools who rely on paper are setting students up with outmoded skill sets. The ABA is so far behind the times that it is hugely irrelevant to most lawyers except where it maintains its death grip on law schools. The ABA can't even begin to resolve the morass of multijurisdictional practice and the Internet - they s_ck. But the law book publishers love them.

I'm guessing you've never had to deal with a client on a tight budget (or God forbid, a pro-bono client)?  Westlaw charges $15 to view a case you pull up by citation.  Actual searches just pile on the dollars.  I suppose you can use some of the free on-line services, but I have yet to find one that's worth a damn.  There aren't too many options for low cost research, and books are still free to an attorney who knows how to use them effectively (and provided law schools are still carrying them).  And what exactly is the solo practioner supposed to do when his clients can't afford the cost of Westlaw and Lexis, and he doesn't have the volume to get a decent discount from either?  If the nearest law school stops carrying the paper volumes, he's pretty much SOL, isn't he?  So, no, I don't think it is unreasonable for the ABA to expect law schools to carry, both for use by their students or their local legal community, nor do I think it unreasonable to expect an attorney to know how to use bound resources effectively when necessary.  I think it is just as much a failure by an attorney to not know how to use bound resources as it is to be "behind the technology curve" and not use electornic resources.
GULC 2010 Cum Laude

Zepp

  • Full Member
  • ***
  • Posts: 31
    • View Profile
Re: Correlation Between High Tuition Costs & Affordable Legal Assistance??
« Reply #8 on: December 21, 2011, 12:48:31 AM »
Unless you define "good" as equalling how much an attorney earns, hourly fees have absolutely nothing to with how good an attorney is for a client. Some of the best attorneys work for free or on a contingent fee basis, the hourly guys who work for big firms, are usually good at one thing - billing their clients for every nanosecond spent on a case. Good attorneys work for people and causes not corporations and insurance companies. Or to put it another way, an attorney who represents SSI claimants does a Hell of a lot more good than one who helps corporations squeeze more money out of consumers and employees. 

So by your definition, all those attorneys, who graduted near the top of their class, in the top 14 law schools in the country, working in biglaw, representing large clients, aren't good attorneys?  You do know that most large firms have pro-bono requirements too, so do they become "good" attorneys only while doing pro bono work?  Hate to break it to you, a large poriton of those "Good attorneys [who] work for people" are pretty average at what they do, if not much worse.  Biglaw has a way of weeding out the deadbeats.  While there are many attorneys doing what they feel is for the betterment of society than just looking for a big paycheck, there are many more who just can't cut it at a big firm, and are taking whatever they can get.

If someone has a bachelors degree and training and can pass the bar, why shouldn't they be an attorney?

You know there are still a few states that let you take the bar without law school (VT, VA, NY, CA).  It's called reading the law.  You study under a practicing attorney, and then they let you take the bar.  Perhaps you should check out percentages that pass the bar.  It makes the unaccredited schools look like they have stellar bar passage rates.
GULC 2010 Cum Laude

jonlevy

  • Sr. Citizen
  • ****
  • Posts: 534
    • View Profile
    • Email
Re: Correlation Between High Tuition Costs & Affordable Legal Assistance??
« Reply #9 on: December 21, 2011, 09:34:03 AM »
A few points FJ:

1. Remember with contingent fees, attorneys do not win every case, it is real gamble and service to the public who would not otherwise be able to afford an attorney.

2. SSI, Workers Comp. SSD, Veterans Claims, etc are all on contingency, the client not the government pays and without attorneys a goodly number of these claims would fall by the wayside.

3. Loan repayment for legal public service is a great idea, I have suggested it to President Obama who has not yet gotten back to me.

4.  Harvard law graduates will always be in demand regardless.

5. English solicitors are not only transactional lawyers but they also litigate and file lawsuits, the barrister is retained directly by the solicitor if there is a trial however solicitors may now obtain rights of audience and essentially proceed without a barrister if they choose to.