“Scam bloggers,” law professors, and the responsibilities of superior knowledge

Professor Stephen Diamond (via Brian Leiter) undertakes another defense of law school practices from the oft-maligned “scam bloggers”:

Over the last couple of years a new industry has emerged run by a small number of recent law school graduates and an even smaller number of law school faculty. Much like deconstructionists they seem to feel that the credit crisis that engulfed the global economy beginning more than four years ago was somehow hidden from aspiring law students.They have set out to set the record straight to make sure that naive college graduates do not fall for the law school “scam” as they put it.

The actual facts, of course, about the impact of the economic downturn on the legal industry are readily available to anyone with an internet connection. Even without considering actual legal employment it would be readily obvious from newspaper headlines that taking the time and spending the money to earn an advanced degree would not automatically earn you a job down the road.

Diamond notes the historically cyclical nature of law school enrollments, but where he goes wrong is in assuming that’s all there is to the current downturn, and ignoring the evidence that this one is structural and long-term. As readers who have been following the debate closely are aware, Bill Henderson has assembled convincing evidence that law job stagnation began long before the recent fiscal crisis. Diamond also ignores the massive effects of technology and globalization on law practice and the structure of legal services, as suggested by Richard Susskind and the late Larry Ribstein argued in a series of books and articles.

Perhaps some professors remain unaware of the evidence of structural change in the profession, although the evidence is available to anyone with an Internet connection (and thanks to SSRN, they don’t even need Westlaw or Lexis to access the scholarship). There is clearly willful blindness among both law professors and prospective law students. But as our former academic dean often said, professionsls resolve ambiguities in favor of the client. Law professors who disclaim or actively avoid superior knowledge of the law market bear a responsibility to inform themselves about the challenges actuslly facing our graduates, and of communicating those challenges honestly to prospective students.

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