Last week I read a blog post on a law professor’s blog in which he notified the world that the University of Alabama law school was starting a new  program offering lawyers a masters degree in law (LL.M.) in tax law.   Although the law school has offered a masters in tax degree since 1977, this new program will allow students to take all of the courses online over the internet. The ivory tower prof who wrote the post proudly announced not only the beginning of the new law school program, he also linked to a brochure about the new program, linked to a video about the new program, gave the class schedule and an email address at the University of Alabama where people could send messages for more information.  Makes me wonder why the prof is shilling so hard for the new program.  I suspect he thinks it is wonderful that more young lawyers will be able to  go deeper into debt to get a masters degree in tax law.  I’ve got news for him, the view from the ivory tower is much different than the view from the trenches where young lawyers must seek employment.

After reading the blog post on the new LL.M. in tax program I submitted a comment to the ivory tower guy’s post that was critical of the new masters in tax program, but he refused to publish my comment .   He probably didn’t want anybody to rain on his law school is  the greatest thing and masters in tax degrees are the ultimate parade.  A few days later I sent the prof a message asking why he would not publish my comment.  He didn’t have the courtesy to answer my question.  The following is the comment that I submitted to ivory tower guy that he refused to publish as a comment:

Adding a new LL.M. in tax program is absurd at this time.  There is no need for more tax LL.M.s  I’ve read recently that laws schools are graduating around 70,000 prospective lawyers a year, but the legal market is only hiring 40,000 new lawyers.  I have an LL.M. in tax from New York University, and I just don’t see the need for more lawyers with this degree.

I think it’s just another example of law schools taking advantage of young people who are running up huge debts to get a law degree with no assurance that they can get a good paying law job or even any job as a lawyer.  I know a young man who borrowed almost $60,000 to go to his first year of law school at California Western in San Diego last year.  I think it is wrong for law schools to let young people incur that kind of debt for a degree that may become almost worthless.

I also know two young people who graduated in May of 2009 from the University of Washington School of law with LL.M. degrees in tax.  Neither one of them has been able to find a job as a lawyer.  One works as a legal assistant in the same firm where she worked as a legal assistant before law school and tax school.  Her husband cannot find work as a lawyer even though he is offering to work for free.

Sure the economy is a problem that affects all of the U.S., but law schools need to be more open with students and disclose the real facts of law school graduate life.  Securities laws require that issuers of securities disclose all material facts and not fail to omit any material facts.  Arizona real estate law is the same for sellers of real estate.  Why aren’t law schools required to tell their prospective and actual students about the real costs and opportunities for legal employment, including actual and meaningful statistics about the hiring experience (or lack thereof) of the law school’s graduates?

I found the following tidbits of information in the University of Alabama’s brochure about the new online LL.M. program:

  • “The LL.M. in Tax Program has rightfully earned a reputation for being one of the best educational values available.”  The brochure does not offer any support for this bold statement of fact.
  • “we have assembled a “dream team” tax faculty”
  • Tuition will be between $25,200 and $26,490 for 24 semester credit hours.

I could not find anything on the law school’s website or in its sale brochure that discussed if having a master’s degree in tax law would help an unemployed lawyer get a job or an employed lawyer get a better job or make more money.  I am sure that the new program will make a lot of money for the law school.

There is something terribly wrong with the higher educational system in general and the law school education system in particular.  What is wrong is that these education systems are misleading young people into incurring massive debts to pay for degrees that many times do not justify the investment.  See “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be…Lawyers.”  Law schools are at the top of the student abuse chain because of the staggering cost for a year of school.  One hundred and sixty-five law schools charge more than $20,000 a year for tuition.  One hundred and one laws schools charge more than $30,000 a year for tuition.  See the table comparing law school tuition.  If a student can get by with room, board, books and incidentals of $15,000 a year, the cost for three years of law school is:

$20,000/year tuition = $35,000/year = $105,000 total
$30,000/year tuition = $45,000/year = $135,000 total
$40,000/year tuition = $55,000/year = $165,000 total

Here are the monthly payments at six percent simple interest paid over 10 and 20 years for the above-three debt amounts:

$105,000 debt = $1,160 and $749
$135,000 debt = $1,491 and $962
$165,000 debt = $1,823 and $1,176

I feel very sorry for young people graduating from law school in these difficult economic times.  More often than not they have been mislead by their law schools into believing that a law degree is a ticket to a great paying job.  Why aren’t the law schools required to give exact graduate job hiring and salary statistics?  Even though ivory tower guy and the intellectual elites that teach and run the nation’s law schools are putting their collective heads in the sand because it all boils down to big money in the pockets of the law schools and their faculties, the media and other people are starting to notice the problems with legal education in the United States.  Here are a few recent articles on the topics of  the high cost legal education, the significant lack of new lawyer job openings and related issues:

  • Los Angeles Times, January 10, 2010:  “No more room at the bench.  The American Bar Assn. allows unneeded new law schools to open and refuses to regulate them. The government should consider taking steps to stop the flow of attorneys into a saturated marketplace.”  This article explains how law schools are cranking out many more graduates than available law jobs.
  • National Law Journal, December 14, 2009:  “Going to law school? Proceed with caution.  A J.D. used to mean a first-class seat on the gravy train. Now? Not so much. Critics say law schools have a duty to warn.”  I agree with the duty to warn.  Most law schools are not being honest with the prospective investors students.  I am waiting and hoping for the class action lawsuits to start naming laws schools as defendants and law professors as co-conspirators because they are also profiting at the expense of the investors students.
  • For a real eye opener that analyzes law school from an economics perspective see the titillating article called “Mamas Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Be…Lawyers” written by Herwig J. Schlunk, Associate Professor of Law at the Vanderbilt University School of Law.  The abstract for this article states, “This essay treats a legal education as an investment, and asks the question of whether, based on known costs and expected benefits, such investment should be undertaken. The inquiry will necessarily differ from one potential law student to another. But for three posited ‘typical students’ at private law schools, the investment is shown to generally be a bad one.”  See several charts that summarize the economic consequences of law school for three typical types of law students.
  • Above the Law’s post called “No. More. Law Schools!”  For more on the topic of law schools, law students and legal employment, see this blog’s topic area called “Law Schools.”
  • Above the Law’s post called “Hypocrisy on Stilts: Law School Professor Calls Out Trade Schools Over Student Debt.”  You’ve got to read about the clueless law school professor who criticizes trade schools.  He said “‘If these programs keep growing, you’re going to wind up with more and more students who are graduating and can’t find meaningful employment,’ said Rafael I. Pardo, a professor at Seattle University School of Law and an expert on educational finance.”  Talk about the pot calling the kettle black!  Earth to law professor:  Your law school is charging law students $35,340 for 30 credit hours (one year of school) and the law schools are cranking out thousands of more law grads than there are law jobs.
  • Tax Prof Blog:  “National Jurist: Law School Faculties 40% Larger Than 10 Years Ago.”  Read the comments to this post to learn what many recent law school grads think about debt and legal employment.