Law schools: The President suggests a way to increase the value, relative to cost, of a legal education

It is no secret that law schools across the country are searching for ways to be of greater value in a highly competitive job market. Recently, President Obama suggested one way for law schools to do that: do less. Specifically, as reported by the Economist (August 31 – September 6, 2013 issue – North America edition – at page 24, the President said “This is probably controversial to say, but what the heck.” ..”[L]aw schools would probably be wise to think about two years instead of three.”

There is an old saying about law school.  The first year they scare you to death. The second year they work you to death. And the third year they bore you to death. To the extent there is some truth in that saying the price of the third year is far too high and it should be dropped.

The legal profession, including law schools, is on a forced march to create value and to make clear to clients (and to prospective students) that legal services, including legal education (which must teach more about rendering legal services), are worth the investment. Perhaps the President is on to something when he suggests that law schools create greater value by charging less and and spending less time before granting a degree.  Might the same concept apply to law firms? It is always a challenge to know when enough is enough in terms of time spent on a client matter. Past a certain point clients won’t pay. But before a certain point one can not do a first rate professional job. Law schools need to focus on teaching students how to render legal services efficiently on a cost effective basis. If law school graduates entered the marketplace as engines of efficiency, including using technology effectively, they would be of value to firms that have clients but that may not have cutting-edge knowledge of how to serve their clients most efficiently. The focus must be on creating value for clients. The rest is a waste of time and money.