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Book review: ‘Failing Law Schools’

Brian Tamanaha’s Failing Law Schools costs way, way less than failing law school.

I used to say, “If you’re thinking about going to law school, there’s a book you have to read first.” And then I’d pitch my book, Lawyer Boy. Well, starting now, I’m going to change what I say: “There are two books you have to read: mine and Brian Tamanaha’s Failing Law Schools.”

What’s wrong with law schools? According to Tamanaha, everything. The average law student walks away just under $100,000 in debt. And for many, paying it off is nearly impossible. That’s because lawyers don’t make nearly as much as law schools would have you believe. Almost every law school over-reports its graduates’ earnings. They do this, Tamanaha says, to draw prospective students in. And law schools need to draw more students in to pay law professors’ drastically inflated salaries. Even though most law professors teach an average of six credit hours a week, even though they teach just 39 weeks a year, they make, on average, $147,000.

The Details

Failing Law Schools
Four stars
By Brian Tamanaha, $25.

Twenty-two law schools accepted 50-59 percent of their applicants. Seven schools accepted 60 percent. One school accepted 83.3 percent. Why? Because these kids were all qualified to become attorneys? No, because the schools needed the money.

Failing Law Schools isn’t for everyone. If you’re not a lawyer, a law professor, a law student, a prospective law student or one of the 100,000 kids planning on taking the LSAT this year, you’ll find this book dull and academic. But if you do fall into one of those groups—particularly those last two—you’ve got to read this.


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