NYU (go violets!) law professor Richard Epstein (go mono!) did an AMA on Reddit earlier today, and the top question asked of him was this:
Professor, thank you for taking some of your time to do this. I am an admirer of yours and am very interested to see how this goes. I am curious to hear your thoughts on current law school enrollment rates and costs given the state of the legal job market for new law school graduates. Do you think law schools owe a duty to their applicants to stop greedily taking in every eager mind that applies despite the economic prospects of that decision? What would you tell someone considering applying to law school right now if their reasoning was that it would be a solid career move?
And here is Epstein's response:
I am less paternalistic than you, and think that the innocents, so-called, have already scaled back their applications. But the market is tricky. It is stable at the top and if ever get a president with pro growth policies, business would expand. At the bottom, it is not a viable proposition with the current market format. It needs to be commoditized for it to work at a lower cost base. That requires corporate involvement which can then determine the mix of legal and para legal talents. But there is no cause for regulation. Information will travel quickly enough, as your question indicates.
First, wow, what a non-answer. Or at least, no an answer to the question asked. The questioner asked if law schools owe a duty to their students to behave with a bit of fiscal restraint, and additionally, what advice would he give to a prospective student applying to law school because of (perceived) career stability.
Professor Epstein answered that "it" needs to be commoditized, though it's not clear whether he means legal education or the delivery of legal services, and that corporations need to determine do something(?) to fix the ratio of lawyers to paralawyers.
And then he says two ridiculous things:
(1) There is no cause for regulation.
(2) Information will travel quickly enough.
No cause for regulation? How about all those law schools that publish fraudulent or at least willfully misleading employment data? There's no need to regulate them to prevent this sort of fraud? What about forging their LSAT/GPA data to make the school look like it's attracting better students? Is that a behavior the market self corrects in the absence of regulatory oversight? And how about requiring schools to give important information about scholarship retention rates, which the ABA recently required?
The response may be that regulations are useless because the ABA refuses to enforce them, but that doesn't mean that there isn't need to regulate the legal education industry. Besides, it's regulated like hell in ABA standards. What most people are asking for now in terms of increased regulation is to just require schools to not lie to prospective students quite so much. Or maybe Richard Epstein doesn't mind if his hamburgers are actually made from pink slime and horse meat, because the information will travel quickly enough.
Actually, no, it won't. Law schools hold all the information and while Law School Transparency has increased the amount of information out there through a mix of working with and shaming schools, the greatest tool for getting the info out there so it can spread is regulations requiring schools to publish the information.
In May of last year, LST asked NYU to improve its data disclosures. Here's what dean Ricky Revesz had to say in response:
I expect you are aware that, since the end of last year, we have added a substantial amount of employment data to the NYU Law website. If there is more information that would be suitable and helpful for us to provide, we are happy to consider doing that. For example, we are now looking into posting data of the type found in Table 12 of the NALP form (Source of Job by Employer Type), since that would likely be of interest to prospective and current students. Please let me know if there is additional information that you think would be helpful for us to publish.
Guess what data NYU still doesn't provide? The very table Ricky said they were "looking into" posting nearly a year ago. That, and all this other stuff:
- Full-time and part-time employment by required/preferred credentials (“FT/PT Jobs”)
- Classification of business jobs (“Business Jobs”)
- Position held in a law firm (“Type of Law Firm Job”)
- When the job was obtained (“Timing of Job Offer”)
- Salaries by job type (“Employment Status Known” and “Employment Categories”)
- Salaries by location (“Jobs Taken by Region” and “Location of Jobs”)
- Salaries by firm size (“Size of Firm”)
NYU also fails to publish its ABA Employment chart, and its scholarship retention data, despite this being mandated by the ABA. Further, the salary data is publishes is in violation of ABA standards.