Let’s Cut All Graduate School By a Third

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law

By Nelson P. Miller

Nelson P. Miller, Associate Dean for the Grand Rapids Campus and Professor of Law, offers this tongue-in-cheek retort to the calls for reducing the scope of legal education.  
National media reported that President Obama joined a chorus of law school critics a while back by suggesting that to save on tuition costs, law students should graduate in just two rather than three years.  Law graduates can learn on the job at law firms, the argument goes.  Those senior law partners love teaching new associates the professional ropes.  And clients love paying those new associates for work that they cannot yet do, haven’t you heard?

The argument makes so much sense that one has to ask, why stop at law schools?

Most agree that healthcare is too scarce and expensive in part because of a doctor shortage.  Medical students graduate with much larger debt loads than law students.  Why not license medical students after just two years?  A little on-the-job training never hurt anyone, especially in a surgical suite.  That’s why they have malpractice insurance, isn’t it?  They give you a free do-over, right?  The receptionist can probably tell you if that lump is cancer anyway.  Or you can use the internet for self-diagnosis.  Didn’t you just read that patients are out-diagnosing their doctors now by two to one?

Commercial airline pilots are in great demand due largely to increases in consumer air travel in China and other Asian nations.  Commercial pilots undergo years of rigorous training and certification before qualified to fly.  Why not certify commercial pilots after a third less training?  On-the-job training can work there, too.  The junior pilot who almost landed the flight from China in San Francisco Bay didn’t kill anyone, did he?  Think of the debts those new pilots would avoid, cutting their training by a third.  They could buy that condo in Aspen years earlier.

And then we have engineers—the kind that ensure that bridges and buildings stand.  Have you seen how expensive engineering school is lately?  Everyone knows that we have far too few students entering the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields.  Those years of professional school are not only expensive but discouraging.  Why not cut the schooling of engineers by a third?  Urban renovation knocks down buildings these days within a decade or two anyway.  They no longer need to last.  Think instead of the stress those engineers would avoid having to pay for all that extra educational debt.

Accountants don’t need as much professional training as they get either, now do they?  A few mistakes on your taxes won’t hurt you that much.  Haven’t you heard that the IRS has a new consumer-protection function to control its over-zealous auditors?  Most tax debts are not dischargeable in bankruptcy, but the IRS will work with you.  And when you try to sell your business with your books a mess, buyers don’t care.  They know that they can always sue you for misrepresentation.

Nurses, social workers, emergency medical technicians—they can all get by just fine with one third less education.  And they, too, will have lots less educational debt and lots less stress paying back that debt.  On-the-job training can work in every profession, can’t it?

Our real concern should not be for the training of those who enter these critical professions where lives, families, businesses, and finances are on the line.  You don’t need a lawyer to draft a proper will.  Let your life’s fortune go where it pleases.  You won’t be around anyway.  That business you sold after a lifetime’s work building it up?  The buyer shouldn’t have to pay for it when your lawyer screwed up the paperwork.  Your ex-spouse wants the kids, home, and retirement accounts?  Be generous.  Don’t expect your lawyer to know what’s fair or how to get it.

No, our real concern should be for the education of hairdressers.  Let’s keep our heads on straight, here, after all.  Who cares how much educational debt your hairdresser incurred when it’s your hair about which we’re talking.  Not just hairdressers, either.  Plumbers, too.  Definitely plumbers.  And pedicurists.  And chefs.  Let’s keep our priorities straight here.  Protection of the public is paramount.  Have you had an overcooked steak lately?  We should not stand for that.

At Cooley, students actually can graduate in two years, and at substantial savings, by enrolling in Cooley’s accelerated full-time program.  But they go full time, all year long, and they take the full 90-credit curriculum taught by the same outstanding faculty as any other Cooley student.

1 Comment

Filed under Knowledge, Skills, Ethics, The Value of a Legal Education

One response to “Let’s Cut All Graduate School By a Third

  1. And while we’re at it, let’s reduce enrollment in all graduate schools by one-third. Think of all the money that could be diverted from Federal student loans to road repairs?

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