“'I once joked with my dean that there is a certain amount of money that we could drag into the middle of the school’s quadrangle and burn,' said John F. Duffy, a George Washington School of Law professor, 'and when the flames died down, we’d be a Top 10 school. As long as the point of the bonfire was to teach our students. Perhaps what we could teach them is the idiocy in the US News rankings.'”
Funny he should say that, because that is essentially what students will be doing with their money if they decide to enroll in law school next month.
But George Washington University is not at the center of David Segal's article. That would be New York Law School. Check out this charming excerpt, courtesy of the Dean of NYLS:
“'What I’ve said to people in giving talks like this in the past is, we should be ashamed of ourselves,” Mr. Matasar said at a 2009 meeting of the Association of American Law Schools. He ended with a challenge: If a law school can’t help its students achieve their goals, 'we should shut the damn place down.'
Given his scathing critiques, you might expect that during Mr. Matasar’s 11 years as dean, he has reshaped New York Law School to conform with his reformist agenda. But he hasn’t. Instead, the school seems to be benefitting from many of legal education’s assorted perversities.
N.Y.L.S. is ranked in the bottom third of all law schools in the country, but with tuition and fees now set at $47,800 a year, it charges more than Harvard. It increased the size of the class that arrived in the fall of 2009 by an astounding 30 percent, even as hiring in the legal profession imploded. It reported in the most recent US News & World Report rankings that the median starting salary of its graduates was the same as for those of the best schools in the nation — even though most of its graduates, in fact, find work at less than half that amount."
How does he justify this disconnect between his actions and his words? Here's the moral of the story:
"Asked if there was a contradiction between his stand against expanding class sizes and the growth of the student population at N.Y.L.S., Mr. Matasar wrote: 'The answer is that we exist in a market. When there is demand for education, we, like other law schools, respond.'"
The whole article is well worth a read if you want to see some shocking figures about the economics of law school. I only wish that these articles would focus on the travesty that is the second tier. By focusing on the lowest ranked schools, the media implies that the way the second tier schools operate is acceptable. (Although, thankfully, Mr. Segal does admit in his article that there is no drastic difference between the way NYLS runs and the way other law schools run.) That said, Mr. Segal has done a great job in making his ultimate point, which is that there is no way change is going to come from within the schools themselves. If someone like Mr. Matasar, whose earlier words and philosophy showed so much promise, cannot be relied upon to at least attempt to instigate change from within, there is little chance of it happening.