In her January 25 post, my friend and fellow blawger Susan Cartier Liebel asks “what obligation does the ABA owe to law students?” Susan’s post and the November 2009 report, The Value Proposition of Attending Law School by the ABA Commission on the Impact of the Economic Crises on the Profession and Legal Needs she mentions should be on every prospective law student’s must read list.
While I agree that the report should have wide distribution among prospective law students, I respectfully disagree with two of the post’s underlying assumptions: (a) that the ABA owes an obligation to prospective law students and (b) that the sole reason d’être for not quickly disseminating the report is simple greed.
Like any guild, the ABA’s primary and perhaps only obligation is to the masters of the craft; to secure to those masters all the benefits and blessings of the trade and to protect them from external threats be they political or social. The ABA’s interest in law students is regulatory, after all were untrained apprentices loosed upon the public, untold damage could be done to the guild’s public image. It is not for the guild to initiate the unwashed into its mysteries, to be fully informed is only for the initiated and comes at a price.
The second is that the ABA and law schools are acting out of greed. Sure, greed has a role to play, I believe that the overall mind set of the leadership of these august bodies is such that most simply cannot comprehend the current sea change is the real factor here. The ABA and its accredited law schools have concentrated on the need to feed compliant, incompletely but uniformly trained, completely interchangeable bodies into the maw of that post-WWII phenomenon, BIG LAW, driving students through an educational system modeled after a factory assembly line, and fixated on a employee mind set that allows no variation from the “associate-junior partner-partner-retired” career trajectory. Both the ABA and its accredited law schools have excelled at this task and in the process have traded innovation for growth and flexibility (read as risk) for stability with the law schools going one step further by trading credibility for rank.
It is no wonder that the ABA found the findings presented in the report to be shocking, after all reality was clashing with long held perception; cognitive dissonance is always an unpleasant experience (one wonders if the ABA’s 2010 outreach to solos is a symptom). Yet it takes more than being shown a sea change to sway long held beliefs – it took the Catholic Church slightly under 300 years to accept Copernican heliocentrism (talk about all deliberate speed); one hopes the ABA can shift its mind set with a little more haste.