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FAU Law School?

FAU's medical school was an ambitious move that gave the university a much-needed shot in the arm, as the offering of a professional degree always elevates the academic profile of any university that offers it.

And of course once a medical school is in place, the natural thought is to move on and open a law school as well. Seems like a package deal, for some reason. If we can train doctors to "serve this community", surely we can train lawyers to stay here as well? Law schools are cash cows, everyone wants to be a lawyer, we need to jump on this train now, right?

Don't hold your breath.

See, a medical school is an easier sell to the Board of Governors because any institution can trot out the same statistics showing the number of physicians going into retirement and the insufficient armada of med students preparing to replace them, particularly in relation to the upcoming retirement age of the Baby Boomer generation and those who will now have medical insurance under Obamacare. Not only that, but the number of applicants to medical schools far exceed the number of seats available by about 50%; granted, that's an important filter to produce good doctors but any number showing a shortage is another feather in the cap of anybody (public or for-profit) that's trying to argue that they need to open up a medical school because the demand for spots exceeds the supply. It's all dollar signs to investors in schools like this one and this one. The result is a bunch of new medical schools.

In contrast, it doesn't sound like we're staring down the barrel of a lawyer shortage any time soon.

The New York Times recently reported that the number of people applying to take the LSAT (the law school admissions test) is down 16.4% this year. Above The Law is reporting that 51% of the nation's law schools are cutting class sizes, primarily because the jobs simply aren't out there to support all the new graduates. In fact, only a small percentage of graduates are actually landing jobs in law fields, with a number of them either "competing with college graduates and M.B.A.?s for jobs in compliance, risk management or business development" or returning to work as bartenders or servers at the same restaurants that put them through college... only this time they have $250,000 worth of student loan debt on their backs from law school.

From the CBS article:

"University of Colorado law professor Paul Campos has studied the legal job market and found that it's been shrinking because in part because of outsourcing and computer automation. He estimates that of the 45,000 law graduates each year, almost 45 percent can't get jobs that require a law degree.
"Many of the people who are going to law school right now are never going to be lawyers," Campos said."

Needless to say, it doesn't paint a rosy picture for the prospects of an FAU College of Law. While the graduates of schools like Harvard Law and Yale Law are still in demand, we'd be the new kid on the block and in the legal profession, that's not generally regarded as a good thing. Some existing law schools are looking at trying to add specializations in the third and final year of law school to make their graduates more attractive. If FAU were to open a law school, I imagine it would go this route.

But opening a law school means we'd have to make a compelling argument to the Board of Governors... and that compelling argument just isn't there. It certainly doesn't help that they greenlit a law school down the road at our rival institution, FIU, which further damages any case we might make for "serving the region." It's a fact that former President Brogan reminded me of a couple years ago when I asked him about it. He "really didn't think the state would allow any more law schools for a while."

Maybe it's a blessing in disguise. With some law schools now being sued because their graduates can't find law jobs, do we really want to get dragged into something like that?

Of course not. There are other programs that FAU could focus its energies on (like pharmacy school) while they wait out the storm. Maybe it will clear some day and we can make a proposal, but for now it's just not a good idea.

                                                                             GO OWLS!


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