It’s been buzzing around a couple of blogs that New York is considering funding three new law schools, to add to the 15 we already have. I haven’t seen anyone support the idea yet, except the politicians who want to bring jobs into their districts. But one part of the idea might have merit and be worth considering.
First the nuts and bolts of the proposal, then we’ll go to the naysayers, and then I’ll add my two rupees on which part might be a good. This is from a May 30th New York Law Journal article:
With no advance notice and little fanfare, the Legislature included in the budget passed April 2 money for two feasibility studies: $3 million for the State University at Binghamton and $2.25 million for St. John Fisher College, a Roman Catholic institution in Pittsford, near Rochester.
Additionally, it provided $250,000 for “planning” of a law school at SUNY Stony Brook — to cover expenses such as approvals by the New York State Department of Education and the Board of Regents and accreditation by the American Bar Association. Finally, the Legislature earmarked $45 million for a Stony Brook law school building should one be required.
Now the first person to check in on any such proposal is, you guessed it, Walter Olson who isn’t too keen on the idea:
Because we all know if there’s anything New York needs to subsidize, it’s the creation of more lawyers…The future lawyers of New York thank you, taxpayers!
Next up, Scott Greenfield:
I’ve long taken the position that one of the primary problems with lawyer over-reaching, ethical issues and just plain diminishing revenues is that fact that we have too many lawyers. And if we have too many in general, you can bet that New York, the lawyer haven of the world, has too many in particular.
So what’s New York going to do about it? What else, build more law schools!
Both are right that New York has plenty of law schools. But what we don’t have is plenty of public law schools. Only SUNY Buffalo and the City College of New York are public; all others require the big bucks.
So what do those of modest means do? Do we want the bar to be overly weighted toward the well-to-do, or do we want it to be more egalitarian? Should law be open only to those fortunate enough to have chosen their parents well?
Now I happen to be a big fan of public education, and when I last checked my bio I saw I was still a graduate of SUNY Albany (undergrad) and SUNY Buffalo (law). Building additional law schools may be dumb since we have so many, but more public education is a slightly different subject.
And so those feasibility studies might better be geared toward acquiring existing law schools and converting them to public education. (And making the two that we have better.) Maybe a study will show it is doable, maybe not. It seems to me that what we need are not more lawyers and law schools, but different ones.
I would also add that, in reading the comments of some public officials, the primary concern seems to be bringing pubic money into their own area. In other words, just another porky project. That is a lousy reason to build anything.
But if existing facilities and personnel can be converted from private to public in order to make the law more accessible to talented people of lesser means, then I think that’s something to consider.