More law schools should consolidate, writes former dean

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There aren’t enough jobs for new lawyers, and the ones that are available don’t provide a “return on investment,” which leads to fewer people attending law school, writes Frank H. Wu, a professor at the University of California Hastings College of Law who served as its dean and chancellor from 2010-2015. Considering those things, he advocates for more law school consolidation.

His opinion piece, posted Monday in the National Law Journal (sub. req.), argues that people who previously would have been rejected by law schools are now being offered scholarships, and “law schools are running deficits.”

“These are not one-time shortages that they could recover from, but recurring losses that will accumulate until they are too great to sustain. And this is the case on dozens of campuses,” Wu writes. At his law school, the July 2016 first-time pass rate for the California bar was 51 percent.

Technology also figures in, according to Wu, and law professors and attorneys “erroneously” think that won’t change their work.

“Legal technology has developed, from the ready availability of decent forms on the internet to robust keyword searching for even massive discovery projects,” the piece reads.

“The prevailing wages globally are below the premium Americans have been accustomed to charging. It’s not clear the difference is worth it,” Wu writes. “Sophisticated clients are like everyone: They want to save money. They can turn almost all assignments into ‘commodity work.’ Except for the very best in a field, that means billing rates will be driven down.”

He mentions William Mitchell College of Law and Hamline University School of Law, two Minnesota institutions that merged in 2015 to form Mitchell Hamline School of Law.

“Improvements are not impossible,” Wu writes. “In every domain, paradigm shift has been uneasy.”





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