|Prof. Paul Campos|
As Prof. Campos puts it:
I started [this blog] because I had something to say, and this seemed a good way of saying it. For a few days I wrote anonymously – something I had never done before – more as a stylistic experiment than anything else. But naturally people in legal academia instantly became more concerned with Who Was Saying These Outrageous Things than in whether those things might actually be true. So I dropped the mask -- which ensured that a few of those people would busy themselves henceforth with irrelevant personal attacks, rather than substantive responses.
19 months and 499 posts later, it turns out that the core message of this blog – that legal academia is operating on the basis of an unsustainable economic model, which requires most law students to borrow more money to get law degrees than it makes sense for them to borrow, given their career prospects, and that for many years law schools worked hard, wittingly or unwittingly, to hide this increasingly inconvenient truth from both themselves and their potential matriculants – has evolved from a horrible heresy to something close to conventional wisdom.
That enrolling in law school has become a very dangerous proposition for most people who consider enrolling in one is now, if not a truth universally acknowledged, something that legal academia can no longer hide, either from ourselves, or – far more important – from anyone who doesn’t go out of his or her way to avoid contact with the relevant information.
I’ve never written anything about the professional and personal price I ended up paying for starting to investigate, more than a year before I began this blog, the structure of contemporary American legal education. Perhaps I’ll tell that story someday. For now I’ll merely note that if people enjoying the extraordinary protections afforded by tenure aren’t willing to confront institutional corruption, then academic tenure is an indefensible privilege.
People have asked me how I can continue to be on a law faculty, given my views. This question – when it isn’t simply a hostile attempt to derail conversation – is based on a misunderstanding. I very much believe in the potential value of higher education. And I believe that legal education can and must be reformed radically. (On one level the most important short-term reforms couldn’t be simpler: the cost of law school attendance must be reduced drastically, and the number of people graduating from law school must be decreased by a significant amount. In the longer term, the American legal system will need to confront whether it is either pedagogically justifiable or financially viable to continue to require the basic law degree to be acquired through postgraduate education).
In some very concrete, practical ways, reform is much easier to achieve from the inside. I’m proud of the fact that, as of this coming fall, my law school is on track to have cut tuition in real dollar terms over the past two years – something which perhaps no other ABA law school will be able to claim. I’m proud that CU Law School, which two years ago was publicizing highly inaccurate employment information, is now one of the most transparent schools in the country on this score. I don’t happen to believe that I would be more effective working for reform as an ex-law professor. Still, even if I did believe this, I’m well aware I wouldn’t have the moral courage to quit. That makes my belief suspiciously convenient -- but it doesn’t make it false.
In any case, reform driven by forces both outside and inside the law school establishment is essential, and it’s beginning to happen.I leave with a comment on his blog from a grateful reader who took heed of Prof. Campos' warnings:
I would like to thank you for writing this blog. This time last year I was planning on applying to law school thinking that being a lawyer was a sure way to a stable and lucrative career. After suffering 5 months of LSAT prep, taking the test this past October and December and sending out applications, I discovered this blog just as it was about time to seek out how to finance my potential law school career. The statistics you provided and the posts by recent graduates and unemployed attorneys were alarming. Needless to say, I have since changed my mind on attending law school seeing that it is a losing proposition. I would like to thank you for giving me information that helped me avoid a $175,000 mistake.Yes, thank you Prof. Campos for your courage to stand up to your fellow members of the legal academia and tell the truth to young men and women considering a career in the law.