A year ago this month, I was spending my days doing many of the same things I'm doing this year: preparing outlines, writing study questions, and visiting with professors to answer a few final questions before exams. But that's not all. I also was posting a video of myself being subjected to the Socratic method in one of my classes, and posting a list of the Top 10 Things to Do in Louisville on Winter Break. I also wrote one of the most popular posts of the last three years on this blog: a 25-question quiz about Constitutional Law.
Two years ago, I was writing about the stress of final exams as a 1L, and bragging about how my then 7-year-old son might be a Torts genius.
Next year, who knows what I will be doing in the legal world. Hopefully, I'll be practicing law after passing the bar. A necessary (but unfortunately not sufficient) condition to doing both is finishing the current semester, which means I need to get crack-a-lackin' on three final exams on my horizon in the next two weeks. Consequently, blogging may be light. As one of my favorite professors often tells me when I miss class, "We will try to stumble through without you."
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Friday, November 18, 2011
|The SBA's tuition poster|
Our law school is typically not prone to controversy. In my time here, there have been no major protests like this one, and certainly no scandals like this one or this one. But there's good reason to be concerned about skyrocketing tuition, and I am glad the S.B.A. (Student Bar Association) is raising its eyebrows. In a recent letter to Dean Jim Chen and members of the administration, the group decried the proposed increases, and a related reduction in the law library's budget. The letter noted that students will be paying roughly $1,200 more next year with the latest increase, and that tuition across the university will have increased 83 percent since 2004. For even more startling figures, see the poster (image, above right) that the SBA is circulating to drum up awareness about the issue. The fine print is hard to read, but the smallest number represents tuition in 1992-93. The bottom two numbers show proposed rates next year for in-state and out-of-state students, respectively.
I'm no expert on this issue, but I do have a couple of (barely educated) opinions. For starters, the tuition problem is not isolated to Louisville, and in many ways it's a smaller issue here that it is in other places. For a glimpse of a truly horrifying law school tuition debacle, check out this excellent article about a private law school in New York City where the tuition is nearly $50,000 a year -- about the same as the typical starting salary for graduates. At Louisville, therefore, I don't think we need to use a sledgehammer to swat a fly. Still, a hike of more than 6 percent in an awful economy just doesn't make sense to me when one of our claims to fame is value. If the school absolutely must extract more money for its budget, here are the two areas where I would focus:
1. Tuition for in-state students. If students are going to bear the burden, let's keep costs down for out-of-staters. Protectionist tuition policies for Kentucky residents like myself are fine, but I don't mind shouldering a little more of the burden. Plus, by keeping tuition increases at a minimum for out-of-staters, we'll attract more quality out-of-state applicants, which in turn will preserve our precious spot in the Holy Grail.
2. Faculty scholarship. I may not make many friends on this one, but it's hard for me to understand why law school professors in general, and ones at U of L in particular, are expected to spend close to half of their time on scholarship. Sure, writing the occasional law review article is fine, and attending symposia is OK too. But seriously, close to half of their time? Clients at the law firm where I work often blanch at a one-third contingent fee. Reducing the scholarship quota to one quarter, or even one-third, would allow professors to teach more classes, which would either reduce class sizes, or allow us to offer more quality courses, or both. Of course, we also could save tons of money by employing fewer professors and keeping class sizes the same, but the Holy Grail is not going to let that happen.
These two ideas are a starting point in the conversation. I'm sure others have additional, and probably better, opinions. Got a thought of your own? Post it in the comments field below. Also, check out the survey on law school tuition at the upper right of this screen.
Friday, November 11, 2011
Earlier this week I wrote about the best and worst classes of law school. This morning, I registered for what will be my last semester before graduation in May 2012. What does a class schedule look like? In this case, I'll be spending 32 hours a week working at various law offices (an externship with the Louisville public defender's office and my regular law clerk job doing mass tort work), in addition to four traditional classes. The "special topic" course at the bottom is a seminar on Obama's healthcare plan. It's going to be a hectic spring to the finish, but on the bright side I'll only have two final exams. Got a scheduling tip, or a question? Put it in the comments field at the end of this post, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.