More dismal news on the declining condition of American law schools reported in today’s NY Times. Elizabeth Olson and David Segal, A Steep Slide in Law School Enrollment Accelerates, Dec. 18, 2014, at p. B3 (a 30 percent decline from just four years ago, when enrollment peaked at 52,488).
“Part of the problem is that jobs that once required lawyers — sifting through documents before a trial, for instance — are increasingly being automated. . . .”
“There is also outsourcing . . . India has millions of people who speak English perfectly well and they can handle basic legal work.”
And of course, there has been a decline in the number of cases going to trial, which is a whole other subject that we won’t explore here, but which warrants mention.
What all that suggests to us is that the American legal system is coming to recognize that there is much ostensibly “legal” work in the big transactional law firms that requires only a knowledge of English, and of the business at hand, but no license to practice law — sort of like the Japanese system where a bengoshi is a real advocate, like a British barrister who goes to court and tries cases, as opposed to scriveners who spend their time at the office, reading and reviewing documents, a task that (apart from issue identification) often requires no license to practice law, but does require the knowledge of the clients’ business that lawyers often don’t posses. Add to that the increased availability of electronic data bases that put “the law” at the fingertips of the scrivener, and what you get is an increasingly clear indication that paying bright youngsters six figures a year for doing work that a good paralegal can do is not the brightest of ideas. It increasingly rips off the clients without adding value to their cause, and is therefore unsustainable, among other things because prospective law students, being no dummies, figure that incurring a large five figure (or even six figure) debt to finance a legal education simply isn’t worth it, given the slim pickins when it comes to securing legal employment capable of providing a good living and paying off the aforementioned debt.
For our earlier comments on the law school situation, click on www.gideonstrumpet.info/?p=7170 .