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Wednesday, February 06, 2013

The Problem(s) with Accreditation

There are a lot of answers being proposed to the current law school crisis.  The problem is that there are a lot of different questions, as well.  The controversy over accreditation is one example.

Brian Tamanaha, among others, has proposed a more flexible accreditation system in which different models of legal education are allowed to work within the market.  The current ABA system, it is argued, loads up schools with expensive requirements that have led to the tuition spikes of the last decade.  A more flexible -- read, permissive -- system would allow low-cost competitors to drive prices down and even import more of a practitioner focus.

One problem with this narrative is that is has been tried, to some extent, in California. 

California allows students from non-ABA-accredited law schools to take its bar exam.  The results from the July 2012 bar:

Percentage passed of first-time takers:

  • California ABA-accredited schools:  76.9%
  • ABA-accredited schools outside of California: 63.6%
  • California accredited (non-ABA): 31%
  • California unaccredited: 22.2%

The sample size for non-ABA-accredited takers is pretty small -- only 380 students, compared with over 5,500 students from ABA schools.  But the swing is pretty dramatic.  And it seems to indicate that students emerging from non-ABA-accredited schools are not in the same position to earn entrance to the profession that ABA students are.

I think this example illustrates the complexity of dealing with the current law school crisis.  If schools cut costs and lower tuition, demand for law school should, in fact, go up, leading to more law school graduates.  Economies of scale work best if you increase production.  But most commentators seem to think that the number of law grads needs to shrink, not increase.  So to address the unemployment problem through typical market reaction, law schools should be shrinking and getting more expensive.  That would saddle the next slate of students with even more debt -- but maybe they would have better job prospects.  Similarly, the ABA has been simultaneously criticized for being far too lenient in allowing new schools to open, yet at the same time for being too strict and onerous with its accreditation requirements.  The Duncan Law School saga provides an interesting example.  There are ways to thread this needle -- you can limit the number of seats and still lower tuition -- but lowering tuition should, all things being equal, increase demand.  And making accreditation more flexible should, all things being equal, increase the number of seats.

California recently altered its own accreditation requirements to require schools to maintain at least a 40% bar passage rate over a five-year period.  That's nine percent below the 2012 first-timers average -- but the calculated rate would be cumulative.  Making accreditation requirements stricter, rather than more flexible, seems to be counter to what many reformers are proposing.  And yet outside of comments from the dean of the Southern California Institute of Law, no one seems too concerned with the change.

Posted by Matt Bodie on February 6, 2013 at 11:05 AM in Life of Law Schools | Permalink


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Why do we worry about the bar passage rates of the unaccredited schools? If we are concerned about over saturated legal markets then people who cannot survive in the market should leave the market. But the problem is, is that too many of these individuals are too highly invested in a profession they probably should not be in. They would be much more apt to leave the profession if they were not so loaded with debt from the legal theory education they have been compelled to accept for the chance to enter a profession. The bar should be the barrier of entry to the profession that supposes to purport competence. The ABA has a monopoly on legal education; it is no doubt deleterious to the profession. More individuals would pursue the alternative paths to the profession, that have historically been adequate; however, the limitations that are incident to these unaccredited schools impose a risk that deters many. If the federal government was not so solicitous to provide loans there is not way these schools could be charging what they do.

Posted by: Dustin Lujan | Feb 9, 2013 7:44:15 PM


The cartel operates through the inability of graduates from unaccredited schools to sit for the bar in other states (no mobility). The people who have unsuccessfully tried to overcome this barrier to entry certainly don't think it is a "myth."

Posted by: Brian Tamanaha | Feb 9, 2013 11:26:37 AM

Ah, the cartel myth again. There is no cartel in California because you are free to go to no law school at all, or a non-ABA school or an ABA school. Voila, differentiation. And guess what no reduced demand for ABA schools!

Posted by: Anon | Feb 9, 2013 12:01:14 AM

This debate is pointless without recognising that law schools have broken trust with their students and the profession. That trust needs to be restored.

To that end the ABA standards need to be amended with respect to law schools to provide that law schools shall treat their students as if they were a lawyers clients - that they have a fiduciary duty at all times to act in the best interests of their students, that they have a duty of candor towards their students.

I cannot describe the nausea that the defences that law schools have presented in some of the scam cases has led me to feel - that students being "informed consumers" presenting false information by the law school was harmless. No lawyer would get away with the arguments that law schools have presented before a state licensing board - law schools should not either.

We need to reform the accreditation standards to impose a brutally severe ethical regime on law schools relations with their students, including their status through financial aid offices as loan originators/agents - and we need to impose the same sort of professional death on deans and professors that is imposed on lawyers - breaches of the ethics rules will result in a bar on any ABA Accredited school employing someone in any capacity as well as a loss of any right to a law license.

Law schools and their deans need to see the situation - they stand disgraced at this point. It is time for steps to be taken to make it clear - ethics rules do apply to law schools and their administrations and faculty. That is the biggest change the accreditation rules needs. That is the most important thing to restore confidence - that and actually dealing with a particularly egregious and well known cases as a matter of urgency.

Posted by: MacK | Feb 8, 2013 5:08:57 PM

"Demand may not increase supply, but it puts pressure to increase supply. That's why enrollments went up -- demand went up, and supply followed."

I'm not certain that's the case. The nature of this pressure is unclear -- I understand the cause, but I'd like to hear how it manifests itself in whatever meetings where class sizes are decided. There is also a competing pressure, the US News rankings game, where selectivity is important.

What I suspect actually happened at schools that have grown significantly is that the faculty and administration wanted to do bigger, more expensive things, and needed more warm, tuition-paying bodies in seats in order to do them. The high demand might have been a temptation, but it wouldn't have been the root cause of the pressure to take more students.

"what much of the LST movement has been trying to do, which is to decrease demand through more information"

That's not the purpose of transparency. The goal is to allow prospective students to make informed decisions and pick schools that are a good match for their career goals. It just so happens that for many prospective students no school would be a good match. I think most people in the reform crowd would love to see law school be such an appealing choice that applications sky rocket; we'd just also love to see schools exercise a bit of restraint.

Posted by: Derek Tokaz | Feb 8, 2013 6:58:07 AM

Just two quick comments -- sorry I haven't time for more:

Brian, I would think you would agree with this comment: "And it would be a shame if we traded away significantly better educational outcomes to get them." Perhaps the comment is normative, but it in no way says that we should keep the ABA rules as is, Katy bar the door. We can debate how meaningful the California evidence is, but just because I am pointing it out does not mean (as I said earlier) that it is in any way conclusive. We cannot really tell what will happen.

And Derek, under a market system, disappointed applicants will seek not to be disappointed. That doesn't mean they should get in anywhere, but it does mean they will *look* to get in. Demand may not increase supply, but it puts pressure to increase supply. That's why enrollments went up -- demand went up, and supply followed. I wholeheartedly agree that schools should not let economics dictate their admissions policies. But you have to recognize that lowering costs and thereby increasing demand is in tension with what much of the LST movement has been trying to do, which is to decrease demand through more information. Making law school more financially doable will make more people want to do it.

Posted by: Matt Bodie | Feb 7, 2013 7:39:53 PM


I am indeed fighting economics, because sometimes that's what you have to do in order to have nice things.

"I'm just saying if tuition does go down, demand will go up. And it seems like most people are arguing that demand should go down, because the jobs are not there."

You've made a very crucial mistake here. Most people are arguing that the supply of law graduates should go down (to be brought in line with employment realities). Increasing the supply of law school applicants -- those whom lowering tuition would affect -- does not necessarily increase the supply of law school graduates. There is still the very important barrier of admissions standards.

Schools can charge too much to bring demand down, they can produce too many lawyers for the market, or they can lower tuition and not increase enrollment and increase the number of disappointed applicants. I don't understand how so many deans and professors can act as if disappointed applicants is the worst of these three evils.

As to your question about slashing tuition vs. slashing enrollment, I would indeed argue both, and the one does not necessarily conflict with the other. If a school slashes enrollment it should likewise be able to slash its costs by a similar amount (if you have one fewer section of 1L Contracts, you hardly need to keep a professor lecturing to an empty room). Any effort to slash tuition for the remaining students could be mostly disconnected from the reduced class size.

"I'm arguing economics here,"

But you're arguing it in some bizzaro amoral economics bubble. Yes, economics tells us that decreasing tuition will increase the supply of applicants, but economics doesn't tell you what to do with that conclusion no more than a sale on Totino's pizzas tells me whether or not to eat them. When you step outside of the economics bubble, there are other considerations, such as professionalism, commitment to the legal community, and pride in your work that should inform your decision. The economics only tell you what you can do, it says nothing about what you ought to do.

Posted by: Derek Tokaz | Feb 7, 2013 1:18:22 PM


I agree that 1 and 2 are real risks. Nothing we are discussing is risk free. And no piece of this can be taken in isolation, because tugging on each corner has adverse implications elsewhere. The question is always: compared to what? The current situation? Some other alternative?

You asserted above: "And it would be a shame if we traded away significantly better educational outcomes to get them." That sure looks like a "normative" assertion, not pure description--you are suggesting what we should and should not do. And the clear point of your posts is that we should not change the accreditation standards in the ways I suggest because it will have undesirable (normative) outcomes.

It strikes me as problematic that you rely so heavily on the currently poor results of unaccredited California schools (setting aside that Thomas Jefferson and a few other accredited law schools have very low bar pass rates as well). These results exist under the current cartel-restricted system--and they are at least in part a product of the system. As such, they do not provide a natural test of the soundness of the system itself, nor a picture of what would follow if the accreditation system is substantially altered.

The problem is that we cannot really tell what will happen. We can at least admit that.

Posted by: Brian Tamanaha | Feb 7, 2013 12:46:42 PM

Brian -- I think you are reading my descriptive arguments as normative ones, too. I'm not saying law school tuition should remain at current levels. There are a lot of good reasons it should go down, as you suggest. I'm just saying if tuition does go down, demand will go up. And it seems like most people are arguing that demand should go down, because the jobs are not there. You can deal with this by providing counterveiling pressures for schools to go small, and I think USNWR does this pretty well. But USNWR provides no pressure to reduce tuition -- in fact, it does the opposite. We should try to incentivize lower tuition if that's what we're worried about. We should change the ABA standards if we think they are wasteful, excessive, or pedagogically stifling -- but lower tuition is a side benefit, at best, and I actually think it's an illusory one.

I still think any argument about changing the ABA standards has to deal with two problems: (1) making the standards more flexible will allow for more law schools, increasing supply, and (2) making the standards more flexible might degrade the quality of education. And I think the California experience speaks to #2. If the Massachusetts school of law can successfully deliver education at a lower price but cannot meet the ABA requirements, why isn't there a California school of law that does the same thing and achieves high bar passage rates? I think laying it all on the nonportability of a non-ABA law degree is too much -- there are enough people who just want to practice in California that a non-ABA school could enroll. The vast difference in bar outcomes provides some evidence that the ABA standards do what they claim to do -- namely, deliver students who can pass the bar. Is it conclusive evidence? No. But there's not a lot of evidence, at least as far as I have heard, that lowering the ABA standards will *not* affect educational quality, either.

As for Derek, you seem to be fighting the basic laws of economics, my friend! In your example, law schools aren't eating the cheaper party pizzas -- law students would be! What do you think would be a better outcome over the next application cycle: if law schools slashed their tuition in half but then accepted the same number of students as in 2010, or if law schools slashed their enrollments to half of what they were in 2010 and kept tuition the same? I know -- you want both! But I'm arguing economics here, and economics involves tradeoffs. Bringing down tuition should make law school into a more attractive option to people, which should increase demand. But up until now, this market has been much more price insensitive than other markets. If applicants start prioritizing price more in the future, law schools will be forced to follow suit.

Posted by: Matt Bodie | Feb 7, 2013 11:49:51 AM

Question at right angles to some of this:

Does anyone have data on what happens to the people who take the non-law-school routes to practice available in a couple of states (e.g. California's law office study option)?

If so, do we know whether they have a different practice profile than other lawyers? (In particular, does the absence of loans lead to them filling some of the undeserved low-income legal need?)

If not, why not?

If so, is part of the solution to expand these options & allow non-law-school competition to deal with those law schools w/ a poor price/value ratio?

Posted by: Paul Gowder | Feb 7, 2013 11:47:27 AM

"So in short, I do not think changes in the ABA accreditation regime will do much to lower tuition or solve the overpopulation problem."

It's not clear why you believe this. ABA rules have been interpreted to require that the bulk of faculty be in tenure track positions, restrict the use of adjuncts, limit teaching loads, provide paid release for writing, maintain substantial library collections, and a few other costly things. Eliminating these requirements would allow schools like Massachusetts school of law, which charges $17,000.

Legal educators argue that the quality of the education would suffer if all these requirements are eliminated; I grant that (though I think a law school dedicated to excellent teaching and lawyer training can be created under this lower cost model), but think some reduction in quality is an acceptable trade-off for cutting tuition in half, as long as they are trained to be competent lawyers and can pass the bar.

The problem with your position is that you are defending the high tuition model as a good way to dampen the oversupply of lawyers. Is erecting an enormous economic barrier to access to the legal profession a good thing?

As I argue in the book, this has major class implications and it leaves graduates under the burden of huge debt. If you have reservations about this, but you oppose changes to the ABA accreditation system, then I think it's important that you (or legal educators generally) propose some alternative way to deal with these problems.

I'm open to any solution. But sticking with the status quo is not one of them.

Posted by: Brian Tamanaha | Feb 7, 2013 8:50:39 AM

"If schools cut costs and lower tuition, demand for law school should, in fact, go up, leading to more law school graduates."

I went into Target the other day and Totinos thin and crispy party pizzas were on sale. They're usually $1.39, but were marked down to $1.09!

Since the price went down, my demand went up, leading me to gorge myself on frozen so-called pizza quasi-food products, wiping out any gains I'd made from my diet this year and giving me a pre-hypertensive blood pressure.

...Or that didn't happen. Perhaps despite the law of supply and demand, I saw the lower price and yet maintained a sense of dignity and self worth, and just didn't buy the cheaper pizzas. Would it not be possible for law schools to exercise the same degree of self control?

Lower costs would increase demand, but schools don't have to accommodate it. They can use the opportunity to raise admissions standards, which means producing a more talented cohort of graduates and raising the market's opinion of a law degree which in turn increases demand for those grads and helps to chip away at the unemployment problem.

"Economies of scale work best if you increase production."

Unless you have something called a "diseconomy of scale," where getting bigger actually means less efficiency. This happens in the business world a lot, larger companies have a larger percentage of support staff, and the overhead costs pile up as you hire secretaries, office managers to manage the secretaries, an IT department, an HR department, a word processing department, and secretaries to cover each of those departments, and extra IT staff to support all the those new departments, and new HR to support the new IT staff, and so on...

Take a look at your law school and ask how many support positions now exist that weren't there 20 or 40 years ago. Not that all of these additions are necessarily bad, but they are both added direct costs in terms of salaries and benefits, plus added indirect costs by themselves increasing the school's need for additional support staff.

Posted by: Derek Tokaz | Feb 7, 2013 8:06:35 AM

"I can see how it's more limiting, but California is the most populous state in the nation by a factor of about 50%, with really big legal markets."

Just because you can legally practice law in California without going to an ABA school doesn't mean any legal employers are going to hire you to do so.

It doesn't really matter that California is a large legal market when it is already oversaturated by all of the ABA schools in the state (plus a significant chunk of the grads from out-of-state schools). Employment prospects for non-ABA schools are simply awful.

Posted by: john | Feb 7, 2013 6:09:25 AM

"The difference in bar passage rates between ABA and non-ABA schools is something that those who criticize the ABA standards at least have to address."

Simple, worse inputs leads to worse outcomes. A large part of Stanford having a better bar passage rate than, say, Whittier, is that Stanford attracts better students (despite the fact that both have met the standards of the ABA).

There is nothing surprising about the fact that students from non-ABA schools would have lower bar passage rates, and that low passage rate doesn't say much, if anything, about whether the ABA standards are creating a significantly improved education.

Posted by: john | Feb 7, 2013 5:53:15 AM

Brian -- thanks for clarifying. I know you have a nuanced argument, and average tuition did not jump because of a change in accreditation requirements. At the same time, I do not think the difference in portability of an ABA- vs. California-accredited law school explains the entire difference in value. If ABA accreditation requirements were significantly onerous, one would think it would make sense to open a California-accredited school that had higher admission standards but cheaper tuition and then arbitraged the difference between the two sets of standards. That doesn't seem to have happened. Saying the non-ABA schools do worse because their students are worse does not resolve the matter. Why are the students not as credentialed? Because the non-ABA-schools are not as prestigious? But then why are they not as prestigious? Because they offer a substandard legal education? Or simply because they lack the ABA seal of approval? If the seal were really meaningless, though, those arbitrage opportunities would arise.

As you point out, ABA accreditation has very little to do with the tuition hikes we've seen. So I think changing the ABA accreditation standards would have very little effect on tuition as well. Why would schools with different standards have any different incentives to charge less?

The main thing that would bring tuition down would be a change in demand. Up until now, the market for law students has shown relatively little sensitivity to sticker price. The combination of student loan policies and U.S. News's reward system for high tuition has given schools the incentive to charge as much as possible, and then funnel those funds into merit scholarships and educational expenses. Will the market change? That's the big question. I hope someone breaks out the application numbers not only by region, but also by school, so we can see whether applicants are starting to care more about price. If both better and weaker applicants go to cheaper schools, the market will change. But if some significant segment of the market is willing to pay substantially more for higher-ranked schools (at all levels), then things will remain the same -- just with a much smaller applicant pool.

So in short, I do not think changes in the ABA accreditation regime will do much to lower tuition or solve the overpopulation problem. In fact, they might make those things worse. And it would be a shame if we traded away significantly better educational outcomes to get them.

Posted by: Matt Bodie | Feb 6, 2013 10:38:09 PM


You say: "The current ABA system, it is argued, loads up schools with expensive requirements that have led to the tuition spikes of the last decade."

That is not my argument. What I argue is that tuition spikes of the last decade are a function of willingness (students thought a law degree was worth it) and the ability to pay (federal loans provided with no evaluation of likelihood or repayment). Accreditation requirements did not cause average tuition to go from $22,000 (2001) to 40,000 (2012) in just over a decade. We raised tuition so high so fast because we could, and they kept coming (until now, because with greater transparency willingness to come is collapsing).

What explains the pricing gap between accredited and non-accredited law schools in California is the higher market value of an ABA accredited degree--which comes from the fact that people with these degree are more mobile (eligible to take the bar in any state) and have more prestige. If the accreditation bar is taken away, tuition at lower ranked accredited schools (Thomas Jefferson, Cal Western, etc.) will fall closer to the unaccredited range because the degree will lose its monopoly power.

The lower bar pass rate at unaccredited schools is at least partially (and I believe largely) explained by the lower ability of the people who enroll in these schools. The evidence for this is that the bar pass rate for accredited schools lately has been falling into the non-accredited range as they go deeper into the pool of applicants. The last two bar pass rates at Thomas Jefferson were 33% and 50%.

As Ray argues, the thrust of my proposal is to create different options for students, including lower priced versions, with law schools constructed in different ways with different types of faculties. (The model I have in mind is Massachusetts school of law, which is excluded by the ABA because it does not meet all the faculty research/tenure standards.) I still expect respectable schools to have admissions standards, admitting only students who they think can succeed in school and pass the bar. With the current decline in applicants, it must be said, even accredited schools today are accepting students with low 140 LSAT scores, many of whom will not pass the bar. Schools are doing that because they need the revenue, not because they believe the students should be in law school.

You are correct that lower cost would likely increase the number of people (price down-demand up), and that has the potential to worsen the oversupply problem. This adverse potential is not in itself a reason to keep prices high--which makes the access barrier an economic one with class and debt implications. But it does confirm that the situation is a complete mess that will not be solved in any clean fashion.

All of the above is speculation, of course.

Posted by: Brian Tamanaha | Feb 6, 2013 7:03:10 PM

I've not changed my argument, Matt, just used a different example in an effort to help you understand. If you don't see being unable to practice in 49 states, coupled with the prestige hit of being 'unaccredited', as being a profound structural difference, I don't know what I can say. To stick with BMW, I think automobiles that could not legally leave the state of California, no matter how much fun to drive, would trade at a discount to automobiles that could leave the state.
Because they are unaccredited, the unaccredited schools get weaker applicants. Weaker applicant pools do worse on the bar exam. That tells us absolutely nothing about whether differentiated models of legal education, drawing on equivalent applicant pools, could meet or exceed the bar exam performance of schools offering the ABA mandated model of legal education.

Posted by: Ray Campbell | Feb 6, 2013 2:20:06 PM

Ray -- you've changed from Walmart to BMW, so I think you get my point. If you move your example from Germany to the U.S., why wouldn't BMW sell its cars in California where there is no "cushy seat" accreditation? I think your argument hinges on the claim that the chance to sit for only the California bar is much worse than being able to sit for any bar. I can see how it's more limiting, but California is the most populous state in the nation by a factor of about 50%, with really big legal markets. You'd think that if accreditation was holding back the BMW law schools, they'd be making inroads there.

Posted by: Matt Bodie | Feb 6, 2013 2:00:34 PM

Dave -- not sure what you mean. I don't take the majority of law school reformers out there to be arguing that legal services are too expensive. I'm addressing the argument that law schools are too expensive for their graduates because of luxurious ABA requirements. Given the low numbers of attendees, as well as their low bar passage rates, I doubt the non-ABA California schools have a big impact on the price and availability of legal services.

Posted by: Matt Bodie | Feb 6, 2013 1:41:06 PM

I'm not sure why you don't understand me, Matt, but here's my guess: you may be having trouble understanding that differentiated does not mean worse. Changing ABA accreditation standards would allow schools to choose different paths to offering degrees that would have the same value. When BMW decided to move from making motorcycles and go into the car business, they were in a national market dominated by Mercedes. They chose to be differentiated, pitching BMWs as more fun to drive. If there had been 'car accreditation' in Germany at the time, based on what a Mercedes offered, BMW may not have been able to offer a differentiated offering so readily because that accreditation might have required massive interior volume and big cushy rear seats. That said, while the brands are still differentiated, I wouldn't say that BMW is worse than Mercedes. Both are elite brands.
The California unaccredited degrees do not, rather obviously, have the same value, and so attract a less qualified group of applicants. To tie Tamanaha's suggestion to something so markedly less functional along very core elements of value (where you can take your law degree and use it) really very profoundly mischaracterizes the potential of what he is talking about. The differentiated options do not need to be markedly or demonstrably inferior, and can in fact meet some needs better than the standard model, thereby allowing them in theory to attract an equivalent pool of applicants.
I talk about differentiation and what it means in my review of Tamanaha's book that's coming out in the Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics volume of review. It's accessible at the link in my signature.

Posted by: Ray Campbell | Feb 6, 2013 1:39:02 PM

Hi Matt

But isn't the right question the effect of unaccredited takers on the price of legal services in California?

Posted by: dave hoffman | Feb 6, 2013 1:31:22 PM

Law schools aren't points along the demand curve. Every year, law schools turn away applicants, so lowering prices does not necessarily mean increasing matriculation.

Shrinking law schools isn't the optimal response. Already there are too many law schools and many are inefficiently small. A social planner would reduce the number of law schools to perhaps 100 and each would be relatively large. The ABA is no social planner, but the discussion should keep the ideal state of the world in mind.

Unrelated to scale, many law schools are inefficiently remote. Students in cities have opportunities for legal employment during the semester that students in remote settlements do not. If schools are going to close, close those first.

Posted by: anon | Feb 6, 2013 1:29:47 PM

Ray, I'm not sure I follow you. Yes, I agree that non-ABA-accredited schools likely have less prestige. But the point is that if you have a problem with the model the ABA has been using, here are a set of schools which are not within the ABA model but still can have their graduates sit for the bar. The difference in bar passage rates between ABA and non-ABA schools is something that those who criticize the ABA standards at least have to address. Why aren't the California-only-accredited schools the "Walmarts" you are referring to? It seems to me that if loosening the ABA guidelines would free up schools to provide great educations much more cheaply, you'd see some evidence of that in California. Instead, you see a huge disparity along one metric of success.

Posted by: Matt Bodie | Feb 6, 2013 1:23:47 PM

I don't think unaccredited law schools are a proxy for what Tamanaha is talking about. If you graduate from one of those schools, you can take the bar in one state, California. That makes the degree less valuable than one from an accredited school. By being unaccredited, the schools are not so much differentiated as just less prestigious. That also makes the degree less valuable. As a result, you would expect - and I believe the data supports this - to get a much weaker pool of applicants, who would be expected to pass the bar in much lower percentages. Opening accredited law schools for students who maybe should not be in law school is not, I think, a fair reading of what Tamanaha is proposing. The point of Tamanaha's proposal is not so much to allow law schools to be worse, as to be different - to choose different value propositions and different paths to sustainable success, much as Walmart has chosen a different path from Macy's which has chosen a different path than Saks Fifth Avenue. Is Walmart better or worse than Saks? Your answer will depend on what you are looking for from the experience. Accredited schools less hampered by often irrational accreditation requirements could differentiate themselves just as other institutions do (can anyone say, "Michael Porter"?), offer accredited degrees not compromised or of less value from the get go, and have the potential to draw equivalent pools of applicants. It may or may not succeed, but the California experiment with unaccredited schools has very little bearing on the discussion.

Posted by: Ray Campbell | Feb 6, 2013 12:40:30 PM

There are two competing forces at play. First, the market for would be highly paid, traditional lawyers is over-saturated. Second, low cost legal services are virtually non-existent outside of Constitutionally required criminal legal aid.

The glut of the former cannot easily be shifted to the latter because of, among other reasons high debt loads and artificially boosted expectations.

The type of flexibility needed goes beyond accreditation. A type of legal professional with less total schooling (down from 7 years), at less cost, with less expensive ethical practice requirements, and a lower cognitive threshold (which is what the bar exam amounts to). These legal professional will be able to serve makets that currently are priced out of legal services altogether, it will cost far less in money and opportunity cost to become one, and the expectations for future income should be more realistic, which should ameliorate the understandable rage of the scamlaw movement.

Perhaps the ABA can revive the LLB for the second tier law degree.

Posted by: brad | Feb 6, 2013 12:20:18 PM

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