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Are Law-School Applicants Like 'Gatsby's Revelers?'

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  • Are Law-School Applicants Like 'Gatsby's Revelers?'


    Dan Slater, our longtime Blogger-in-Chief, wrote an interesting item today on the New York Times’s DealBook blog about the sorry state of legal education and the sorrier state of those who incur law-school debt.

    After recounting the industry’s well-known travails, Slater takes aim at the American Bar Association, “which continues to approve law schools with impunity and with no end in sight.”

    Slater laments the fact that, even in the throes of one of the worst industry downturns in history, matriculation rates continue to rise unchecked at law schools, with close to 50,000 enrollees at the 200 ABA-approved law schools.

    Worse, to lure students, some law schools offer a deceptive view of the likelihood that their graduated will land top-paying jobs. Slater points a finger at employment statistics posted on the Web sites of three low-ranked law schools in New York City. All three advertise that 45 to 60 percent of their 2008 graduates who reported salary information are making a median salary of $150,000 to $160,000, a statistic that Slater finds somewhat dubious.

    Ultimately, however, Slater serves up the sternest language for students themselves:

    “But will next year’s round of applicants heed the signals?” he writes, with that characteristic Slater panache. And then this, which deserves its own set-off block-quote:

    Or, like Gatsby’s revelers, will they simply push on at an ever greater clip, boats against the current, toward that green light in the ivory tower and the promising future that, quite literally, recedes before them? After all, there will always be the possibility, however faint, of Big Law money and white-shoe prestige — those powerful tonics for every new batch of wandering liberal arts graduates.
    Will it ever change? Perhaps not. “I don’t know if we can take it for granted that a 22-year-old knows what it means to borrow $100,000,” Nora V. Demleitner, the dean of Hofstra Law School, told Slater. “They look at the $100,000 in loans, and then they look at the $160,000 salary. And they think, ‘Well, that’s not so bad.’”
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