Every lawyer should read Inside the Law School Scam. It’s an acerbic, well-written, credible law blog about the systemic failure of the legal education system and the devastating impact that failure is having on real people.
The blog’s author started out anonymous, but given the highly controversial nature of his subject matter, and the outrage he expresses, his identity was (unsurprisingly) quickly revealed. He is Paul Campos, a tenured “mid-career” law professor at the University of Colorado Law School. Suffice it to say he knows his subject. That insider knowledge and credibility is one reason this is no typical scamblog like those written by angry recent law school grads.
A Question of Credibility
Think about what Campos is doing: if you were able to make a very nice salary in 40 hours a week while enjoying the protections of tenure, would you bite the hand that feeds you? Would you write a law blog that fundamentally challenges the most basic assumptions upon which the legal education system is built? What does this say about Campos’ credibility? What does he have to gain, or lose, in doing this?
The other reason this blog stands out is the quality and tone of the writing. This is from August 2011:
Consider what law students actually learn in law school …. They learn that their grades are usually based on a single “issue spotting” examination that bears only a very loose relationship to anything they may have learned in class. They learn that how hard they study bears only a very loose relationship to what grades they receive on those mysterious tests …. They learn that most of their teachers know little or nothing about the practice of law. They learn that as a consequence they are learning almost nothing about the practice of law. They learn that most lawyers who have jobs as lawyers hate their jobs. They learn that despite being told almost everyone would get a job, there are no jobs.
The reaction from Campos’ colleagues has been swift and unsparing. University of Chicago law professor Brian Leiter’s responses have been particularly aggressive. One notable difference between Campos and Leiter is that Campos attacks law schools—he takes issue with the system itself, not particular individuals in it. Leiter attacks Campos directly.
Part of the profession’s biggest problems in confronting this crisis is the fact that so many of us long ago drank the Kool-Aid. The whole law school experience has made us think we are in some essential way different than people without law degrees. Even those of us who feel we were misled by our law schools feel the need to defend the system that created us and defines us. So despite the fact that the streets are littered with the broken dreams (and futures) of untold numbers of lawyers, we refuse to ask the fundamental questions. Campos is asking those questions. The least we can do is pay attention.