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Aye Run

Dear Judge Posner,

I've been reading some of your selections from OWH, Jr. Interestingly, I came across this quote from OWH:

"I doubt if a shudder would go through the spheres if the whole ant heap were kerosened."

Then I transitioned to your Catastrophe and Risk.

What a perfect complement.

It's been a few years since I've really dug into the genre, but Mr. Dworkin's passing has me motivated to dust off the relevant volumes and have it them.

On a digression to an aside, I remember the first time I read one of your books. The book was the Economics of Justice. At the time, I was a Dworkin devotee. I couldn't wait to settle down and read "the enemy." The problem was the more I read the more I became convinced of your genius. Once I got to your history of jurisprudence in Problems of Jurisprudence you had leveled the playing field.

I still think Dworkin was a profound thinker, and will always have his place in jurisprudence. At the same time, I find myself agreeing with the insights offered by you and Justice Holmes. Maybe it just comes down to "is" and "ought."

I'm not sure.

But I do enjoy the 15 plus books of your's I've read.

Gertrud Fremling

How about cutting costs by shaving off a year or so of undergraduate education? It takes longer to become a lawyer in the United States than in many other countries. Take Sweden. Over there, high school encompasses one additional year but then you go right into studying for the law degree, which takes 9 semesters. In other words, if it were translated into the American system, it would take 5 1/2 years of college education in total, undergraduate plus graduate.

So why not promoting more "combined" degrees where a student with high enough SATs etc. could get admitted not just to undergraduate studies but also be guaranteed admittance into the law program whenever he/she had fulfilled certain minimum requirements of pre-law courses? After all, it seems that there are many general undergraduate requirements, such as foreign languages and arts, that are not really crucial for becoming a lawyer.

This could save a year or two of tuition as well as generate a year or two of earning income - all in all easily adding up to $100, 000 or more.

Terry Bennett

For someone who actually wants to be a lawyer, law school is not the goal - state licensure is the goal. It is not up to law schools to decide to offer a 2-year program. It is up to state governments to decide to accept it as sufficient prerequisite study for licensure.

Unless there are too few lawyers in a state, the state has no compelling interest in underwriting a law school. Is there anyone out there who feels their state doesn't have enough lawyers? If not, it's just another form of feel-good welfare.

Back in the 1980's, when L.A. Law was popular on TV, law school applications surged. Around the same time, megafirms started to form and plant flags in major cities. The world of the lawyer has continued to morph rapidly ever since. By 2000 a highly attractive career model had emerged (even though in practice most aspirants to the top-tier firm life were ultimately excluded) and applications were high with no end in sight. The events of late 2008 changed everything once again, and now everyone's grousing over the high cost and low return. I still assert that over the course of a 40-year career starting in 2017 or so, a law degree will easily pay for itself.

As for education generally, it continues to be a good deal in spite of the downturns. People who get degrees make more, a lot more. However, socially there is some finite limit to both the number of educated people the market can use and the number of people who can increase their value in the market through additional education. Analysts and Presidents tend to speak as if training is all that separates the rich from the poor. I observe that aptitude and attitude are significant factors as well. If we build more colleges and educate everyone, we will still have the same number of stupid people we have now; they will simply be stupid, educated people, of marginally increased value over the stupid, uneducated people of the present.


Perhaps a better question to ask is, "Why Law School at all"? Before the advent of Professional schools, Law education was centered in the functional Law office where the would be attorney, read, clerked, and the like until he was called to the Bar. As in any craft or trade, it was called an Apprenticeship program, that turned out quite a number of intelligent and capable attorneys. Perhaps even more so than today...

Eric Rasmusen

"The obvious solution for the law schools is to reduce the size of their faculties and/or reduce faculty salaries."

Or, a top 100 law school could reduce its entry standards. It would still enroll as many students, and be able to keep staff and salaries high.

If the faculty ran the schools and understood budgets, I think that is what would happen. The alternative is for them to teach fewer and bigger electives and/or accept lower salaries. The universities might like this too, since it would maintain total income and law school research output.

Deans would probably prefer not to reduce student quality, since that matters most for magazine rankings. They'd prefer lower enrollment and a smaller, worse-paid, faculty.

Thus, we should see some tension.

Terry Bennett

I could go for Neilehat's proposal. If a state wants to license lawyers at all, just beef up the bar exam from two days to 10 or so, as we've discussed under previous topics, and let anyone who passes it practice law in the state, even a 10-year-old. If a state no longer requires a law school education as a prerequisite for licensure, then the funding of a law school also ceases to be a necessity.

If you want to go even further and eliminate licensure altogether, then anybody can hang out a shingle and sell what they know about the law to people who know less. Somebody who's been through a foreclosure probably has learned more about foreclosure than somebody who hasn't, and that knowledge has value to others. As long as the seller does not overstate his credentials, there is no fraud; if there is, the practitioner could be sued for fraudulent inducement to contract just like any other contractor. If he improperly overpromises, even a non-lawyer can theoretically be sued for malpractice.

Under this second scenario, the losers are the courts, who will have to deal with a bunch of participants who don't know how to draft a complaint, etc. The simple remedy for that problem is to direct everyone to the court rules, reject cases that do not comply therewith, and start imposing serious fines for violations, to compensate the court for its loss of productivity and to deter neophyte behavior by poser lawyers. It's a little more messy, but increased freedom generally is. It would still ultimately function.

David Simpson

It is a given fact that in general most if not all schools today cost high. There are certainly extreme and effective measures that should be done to ensure that it won't rise higher. Several options though are present like scholarships, grants and online education. I guess interested learners should think carefully before fixing their mind on what option to choose.


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