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WSJ column proposes solution to rising legal fees

Law professor and firm associate suggest universities offer undergraduate degree in law

It’s simple math, according to John O. McGinnis and Russell D. Mangas. The high cost of law school leads to a limited supply of lawyers, and results in big legal bills for clients and few legal services for the middle class.

But McGinnis, a law professor at Northwestern University, and Mangas, an associate at Kirkland & Ellis, have a solution to this problem, and they wrote about it today in a Wall Street Journal column, “First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All the Law Schools.” McGinnis and Mangas propose that undergraduate universities be allowed to offer majors in law that would entitle those undergraduate law students to take the bar exam and serve a one-year apprenticeship.

“A student could devote half of his course work to the major, which would allow him to approximate two years of legal study,” they write. “There is substantial agreement in the profession that two years are enough to understand the essentials of the law—both the basics of our ancient common law and the innovations of our modern world.”

McGinnis and Mangas say this is what would happen if this new way of educating lawyers was put in place: Law school tuition drops to zero, legal costs fall substantially, and legal services become available to many more people, including middle-income families who now have little access to these expensive services.

But could it work? McGinnis and Mangas point to Great Britain, where lawyers are educated in college rather than law school. They claim these lawyers offer legal services on par with American lawyers.

“Ultimately, law exists to serve the public,” they write. “Legal education needs to provide more diverse options to assure a more diverse bar and a better-served public.”


Cathleen Flahardy

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