Once upon a time, a law degree could basically guarantee a decent-paying job and a nice suburban house. But all that has changed. Now, many law schools are fast becoming credentialing degree mills — and the expensive, three year degrees don’t guarantee legal jobs. Increasingly, people with law degrees work at jobs that don’t even require bachelor’s degrees.
This week, an editorial in the WSJ offered a commonsense solution for fixing the law school bubble: Make law an undergraduate major: “This option would reduce law school tuition to zero. And the three years of students going without income would be replaced by a year of paid apprenticeship and two years earning a living as a lawyer.”
They have done this in the Commonwealth countries for years and it wasn’t until around the turn of the 20th Century that America started making a three year graduate degree a bar for entry: Daniel Webster and Abraham Lincoln both managed to do pretty well for themselves without ever having set foot inside a law school classroom. Bringing back the “bachelor of laws” probably won’t guarantee the high income it once did, but you won’t have to give a pound of flesh for it either.
Some graduate programs in law — generally, the best and most prestigious ones — will survive. Most would convert to undergraduate programs, with the side benefit that more undergrads in other fields could take some basic law courses as well. Money and time will be saved, at no discernible cost to the public.