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Failing Law Schools

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  99 ratings  ·  17 reviews
On the surface, law schools today are thriving. Enrollments are on the rise, and their resources are often the envy of every other university department. Law professors are among the highest paid and play key roles as public intellectuals, advisers, and government officials. Yet behind the flourishing facade, law schools are failing abjectly. Recent front-page stories have ...more
Hardcover, 216 pages
Published June 15th 2012 by University of Chicago Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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H. P.
May 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: professional
The recent recession hit the legal industry harder than most, and to paraphrase Warren Buffet, when the tide receded we learned law schools had been swimming naked. Something is obviously badly wrong, but a deluge of scamblogs and overheated articles notwithstanding, very little intelligent is being said about it. Brian Tamanaha—law professor, former interim law school dean, and traitor to his class—changes all that in this wonderful book, replacing hyperbole with facts and sound theory.

Feb 28, 2014 rated it liked it
"Optimism bias." For me, this was the most fascinating concept in the book. I've thought about this idea for some time, though I did not have a label for it before now. In a way, Tamanaha's Failing Law Schoools is an exposé on why and how the system is broken. Since at least my first week of law school, I have been coming to that same hard realization. Consequently, from almost that moment, I have thought "man, someone should really write a book telling poor aspiring law students/lawyers that, f ...more
Feb 10, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: law
Two significant and related take-aways from his book are (1) that the three-year model for law schools is problematic, because it forces all students to incur massive additional debt for the sake of abstract intellectual enrichment, when in fact not all law students require this, given their likely trajectories, and (2) that law schools should be able to differentiate themselves, so that schools serving working class students with working class law trajectories (my phrases, not his) can get to w ...more
Nov 07, 2012 rated it liked it
Feels a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. Also could have been an article in the Sunday Magazine of the Times, and would have been as good for it - did he really need 180+ pages to tell us there's a problem with legal education in this country? I did like the second to last page of the book, where he says that the University of Kentucky is doing things right. :) ...more
Julia Bodson
Jul 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Oh boy, this really got the anxiety going. I learned so much, all of which made me hopeless and furious. Must read for anyone going to law school!
Brian Fang
May 05, 2020 rated it liked it
on one hand, i feel a sense of schadenfreude when double digiters take out $150k @ 7.99% for law school and end up as doc review lifers or lyft drivers. on the other hand, the federal government is using our tax money to subsidize the loans made by these irresponsible prestige **ores. in any case, there is pressing need for aba as well as student loan eligibility reform, but given the current political climate, i think the situation will merely get worse.

the main problem facing crap i.e. the bot
Alex MacMillan
Apr 09, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"Every Fall, the Deans at top law schools welcome the incoming class with the same implicit message: 'You got into this elite institution. Your worries are over. You're set for life.' But that's probably the kind of thing that's true only if you don't believe it." - Peter Thiel

I met Prof. Tamanaha during his office hours at this year's admitted students weekend at Washington at St. Louis School of Law. He used his brief time to provide awareness of the devastating financial risks endemic to almo
Jan 08, 2014 rated it liked it
ouch. warning: could be depressing if you're thinking of going to law school. Some of the troubles he notes are applicable to all areas of higher education (corrosive side effects of chasing better USNWR rankings; collision course of ever-escalating tuition and student loan debt with graduates' level or falling high-income-job prospects).

Others are applicable to probably any area with a theoretical/research field alongside professional training (a lot of the discussion of whether faculty schola
Mar 23, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: law
I borrowed this book from a former President of Santa Clara University who sat on our Law School Dean search committee a year and a half ago. The members of the committee were given this book.

I am depressed and mortified in a bit of the same way that I am depressed and mortified by the child abuse scandal of the Catholic Church.

The intense economic pragmatism of the book roils me as well. I knew that I was getting doubtful about the seeming success of law schools towards the end of my law teach
Jul 07, 2013 rated it really liked it
A very interesting read that all incoming law students, faculty, career counselors, and deans should read. Certainly, it's a 'doom & gloom' but raises sober issues and presents practical solutions (although they most likely will be ignored - sorry, I'm not usually a pessimist...).

NALP's data is presented a few times - specifically one showing the bimodal salary distribution (page 113).

Jul 16, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: law, 2014
this doesn't tell me anything i didn't already know, but i have found this book useful in attempting to talk other people OUT of going to law school. it is a succinct and accurate summary of how absolutely abysmal the market and current climate are. before applying to law schools, please read this and rethink your course. ...more
Oliver Bateman
Dec 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Your standard jeremiad about law school/higher ed wickedness. A great resource if you're looking for stats and arguments to back up your claims that legal education as we know it is doomed. And a fast read, to boot. I like how Tamanaha constantly references his own privileged position while explaining how unlikely it is that others will reach such heights; he's self-aware, at the very least. ...more
Mar 27, 2013 added it
Anybody thinking of going to law school, or sending their kids or grand kids to law school, or advising students about going to law school, should read this first, and adapt accordingly. Not all law schools "fail" but buyers must beware! ...more
Shannon Rosser
Feb 05, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Just finished and upped my rating - this is a must-read before or during law school.
Jul 01, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Excellent analysis of what's wrong with law schools today and the influence of US News and World Report on legal education. ...more
Jun 24, 2012 rated it it was amazing
With average student indebtedness exceeding $100k and plummeting job prospects, attending law school today is a right horror show.
Feb 25, 2014 rated it it was ok
Not much new information.
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