Cost of Legal Education

A recent GAO report, HIGHER EDUCATION: Issues Related to Law School Cost and Access is garnering attention in the blogosphere ( clinicians -with-not-enough-to-do, poverty law) and more conventional media.

Responding to a GAO survey, law schools blamed  a move toward ” a more hands-on, resource-intensive approach to legal education” and competition for US News rankings for increases in tuition, not ABA accreditation standards. More resource intensive legal education included: clinical and skills courses; diversity of specialized course offerings; increased students support – academic, career services, admission .

The report made no attempt to evaluate the relative role of the three cited factors.  On the surface it seems intuitively obvious that clinical and skills courses would be more expensive than “podium” courses.  For better and worse many schools  rely heavily on grant and other outside funding, as well as low-cost adjunct faculty, for clinical and skills course, which would, of course, reduce the cost of such courses to the law schools.  So interesting question whether clinical and skills courses deserve their “star billing” on this list.

Note that many – but not all –  “best practices” are more resource intensive than dominant approaches to legal education.   “Best practices” and “more hands-on, resource- intensive”  overlap but are not identical.

One Response

  1. I’ve not figured out yet how to adjust the resolution on the slides to make them readable, but I’m wondering if they considered what role teaching load plays in the cost calculus analysis. Is there a relationship between tuition and whether faculty have a 10 vs. 12 vs. 15 credit load? And the related cost of underwriting scholarly work? I strongly believe in support for scholarship but if we want a clearer picture of education costs, and if the conclusions were largely based on answers from administrators (and I used to be one) rather than independent evaluation, I’m left wondering about these conclusions.

    I have no doubt that law school deans’ choices about how to best position their school vis-a-vis US News (and related budgetary choices) ranks number one in the reasons for skyrocketing tuition. But I am left wondering what the conclusions would have been if the analysis included the cost of scholarly activities, university subvention fluctuations, and other factors that may not have come up in the interviews.


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