More on the value of legal education

Larry Ribstein —  5 July 2011

Ted Seto responds to Brian Tamanaha’s post about the price of legal education. Noting that HLS tuition rose at an annual compound rate of 7.71% from 1973 to 2011 while Cravath’s starting salary rose 6.04% he observes with appropriate caveats that

law school tuition does appear to have been inflating at a rate hard to justify by reference to purely economic returns, even by New York top-dollar standards. * * * It does seem safe to assume . . . that 7.7% compound annual tuition increases are not sustainable indefinitely. For most schools, the 3.38% mean annual wage inflation rate for lawyers experienced prior to the Great Recession may be a reasonable benchmark for tuition increases until we have further data. * * * Even if tuition increases average 3.38% from now on, schools will face structural financial strains * * *

This is a very useful analysis as far as it goes.  But I would reiterate what I said last week — that this assumes law schools don’t increase the value of what they offer in today’s market.

Which is to say that if law professors give any credence to these numbers, and surely they should, whether they can count on continuing to be paid depends on their ability to respond to the market for legal expertise.

Larry Ribstein

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Professor of Law, University of Illinois College of Law

2 responses to More on the value of legal education

  1. 
    Walter Sobchak 6 July 2011 at 1:55 pm

    The more likely result is that law will be taught in community colleges alongside honest and useful trades like HVAC Installation, and automobile repair.

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