October 6, 2022

Letters: The New Math of Law School

The New Math of Law School

To the Editor:

The premise of “Law School Economics: Ka-Ching!” (July 17), is belied by reality: Reform can come from within.

 In my 11 years at New York Law School, which was highlighted in the article, the first-time bar exam passage rate improved to as high as 93 percent. We have built an acclaimed student-centered facility and have instituted a practice-based curriculum, specialized research centers and an intensive first-year skills program.

Of 10 private metro New York City law schools, our tuition is lower than all but four. We have a flat-rate tuition and guarantee that the price won’t go up while a student is enrolled.

In its rankings of law schools, U.S. News and World Report publishes median salaries for graduates, but those figures are nearly two years old.  We give our students current, detailed job and salary information.

 Our large enrollment in 2009 was neither planned nor required to satisfy our bond raters. We actually accepted 150 fewer students than we did in 2008, but 170 more chose to enroll.

 We can’t dramatically change the cost structure of law schools without regulatory reform.  We can’t control vicissitudes of the economy. We can and have created a dynamic model that gives graduates the skills to challenge the marketplace, spread the rule of law and make our country a more just place.

Richard A. Matasar

Manhattan, July 20

The writer is dean of New York Law School.


To the Editor:

Your look at law school practices was laudable, but here is another question: What can society and the legal profession do with the seeming oversupply of well-trained, unemployed law grads, while also addressing the great maldistribution of civil legal access to the working poor?

Pro bono legal services have not come close to meeting the needs of these Americans. The problem has worsened as the economy continues to falter, foreclosures rise and more people are unemployed.

The talent and the need are present, but funds are required to connect the two. A pilot program is needed to provide an attorney minimum wage in place of a pure pro bono system — a move that would increase the employment of lawyers and representation of the poor. Funds could come from several sources, including the addition of fees to high-ticket corporate litigation and punitive awards. And why not require wealthy law schools that have made disproportionate profits over the years to contribute, too?

Patrick J. Mercurio, Esq.

Manhattan, July 20

The writer is a lawyer.


To the Editor:

I suggest a follow-up article about the failure of huge university endowment funds to help law students deal with the high cost of their education. Many of these funds could radically lower law-school tuition by redirecting some of their gains for that purpose.

Donors to universities seem content to write big checks, take the tax deduction and ignore what happens to the funds later. This may please their tax advisers, but it submerges students in towering debt.

Remedial steps are possible. For example, universities should tell their students how much of their endowment funds are used for tuition relief. And tax deductions could be allowed only for contributions designated solely for student aid.

Philip McBride Johnson

Fernandina Beach, Fla., July 17

The writer, a retired lawyer, is a past chairman of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.


To the Editor:

Yes, the legal profession is under pressure and is undergoing a major structural change, with “Big Law” no longer a reliable source of highly paid jobs for new law school graduates (“Law School Economics: Ka-Ching!” July 17). But this presents a powerful opportunity for the legal academy to redefine its goals, hopes and services for its students.

A law degree remains a desirable credential for access to interesting career paths, many of which serve the public interest, engage the global marketplace or help those on society’s margins. If you think we have too many lawyers, ask a Hispanic-American who is stopped by law enforcement because he looks “illegal,” or a mayor struggling to provide basic services in a time of economic stress, or a C.E.O. trying to expand her business into emerging markets.

As history tells us, a highly bureaucratized democratic society needs lawyers — in “Big Law” and little law — to speak truth to power, to navigate complex regulatory structures and to offer some assurance that our complex system of laws is interpreted as fairly and justly as possible.

Vincent D. Rougeau

Newton, Mass., July 18

The writer is dean of the Boston College Law School.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=b2a2877d743220537b9a8fe81d30d833

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