Law School Tuition Inching Toward $100K

New Report Calls For Younger Representation On Legal Council

A new report is calling for the American Bar Association to improve legal education by having increased representation from younger attorneys.

The report, “A Way Forward: Transparency in 2018,” from Law School Transparency and the Iowa State Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division, calls for the ABA to add two young lawyers to its legal education council and designate two of 15 at-large council positions to young lawyers.

The recommendation for younger representation is one of five steps outlined in the report. Other recommendations include increased data transparency, user-friendly data presentation, disclosures at time of admission, and voluntary disclosures by law school.

“The future of legal education — and by extension the legal profession — depends on the ability of law schools and the profession to attract prospective lawyers,” the report reads. “Our profession must become a more welcoming place for an increasingly diverse population, as well as evolve to stay relevant in a changing legal services landscape.”

Need For Younger Representation

Law.com reports that among the 20 judges, lawyers, and law faculty who sit on the council, not one graduated from law school after 1990. Current council members, on average, earned their degrees over 30 years ago.

The report argues that young lawyers need more representation on the council. Specifically, the report notes how young lawyers are interested in bettering legal education.

“Historically, the Section has not had young lawyers on its Council,” the report reads. “The nomination rules for the Council are clear, but the process is uninviting and the practical criteria for membership go unstated.”

For many young law students, it seems like the council does not understand the impact that high tuition prices are having on students.

“The deans and faculty on the Council know the cost of today’s tuition only in the sense that they can recite the price,” the report argues. “They do not understand the life impact of tuition prices of $40,000, $50,000, or even more than $60,000 per year have on decision-making. A student working for 15 weeks at an annualized salary of $180,000—New York City market rate for entry-level associates at large law firms—would not cover annual tuition at the average private school today, let alone books and living expenses.”

Report’s Recommendations Aimed To Lower Law School Costs and Increase Diversity

The recommendations made in the report outline five main steps. Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, spoke to Law.com on what those recommendations are aimed at doing.

“The takeaway is that the cost of legal education is too high, and we need to take steps to address that,” he tells Law.com. “The first thing to address any problem is to understand the facts as they are. We want those facts.”

Law.com also spoke to Kyle Fry, a 2011 grad of Drake University Law and a writer of the report, who said younger representation is crucial for tackling the issues that affect young lawyers.

“I think it’s hard for people to comprehend the size of today’s debt, versus the size of debt in the 1980s and 1970s, where you could work over the summer and actually pay for your law school. You can’t do that anymore,” Fry tells Law.com. “Young lawyers are going to have different ideas based on the environments we were brought up in as young professional, young attorneys, and students in the time we went to school.”
In the end, the steps outlined hope to lower the price of law school. Doing so, according to the report, will attract more law students and better ensure the success of the legal profession.

“Strengthening the pipeline from prelaw students to law students to young lawyers begins with addressing the price of legal education,” the report reads. “Enacting the proposals from this report will help consumers make more informed decisions, exert downward pressure on law school tuition prices, advance legal education research of cost and diversity, and increase accountability. All together, these proposals help secure the legal profession’s continued, important place in society.”

Sources: Law School Transparency, Law.com