The Clarion-Ledger ran this Jimmy Gates commercial article about law school on Monday. The article quotes Ole Miss Law dean Deborah Bell and MC Law dean Wendy Scott.

Here are some of their comments:

Deborah Bell, interim dean of the University of Mississippi Law School, says the legal job market is certainly not what it was a decade ago — but there will always be a need for high quality legal work.

Translation:

No one is hiring now. But top shelf lawyers with 20+ years experience might get hired on a case.

“And a law degree is not just a path to law practice — some students leave law school to work in business, real estate, higher education or other professions where a law degree gives them an advantage,” Bell says.

Translation:

There are no legal jobs for graduates.

Scott says despite talk of a lawyer glut, there remains a shortage of lawyers in Mississippi, which means that too many people in Mississippi are without access to legal services.

Translation:

Welcome to MC Law’s Crazy Talk, with Dean Wendy Scott. In fairness, Bell made a similar comment. It’s not the first time I’ve heard this line either. But it’s extremely misleading when it does not include the disclaimer that they are talking about people who can’t afford to pay for a lawyer.

“Other studies suggest that not only are there unserved legal needs among our poor citizens, the justice gap is wide for working and middle class citizens as well,” Scott said. “Small business owners, people planning to start a business, working families facing foreclosure or bankruptcy, parents in jeopardy of losing their children — these are just a few examples of the kinds of legal needs that go unmet every day.”

Translation:

You can get plenty of legal work. You just won’t get paid.

Do the law schools understand that those legal needs go unmet because lawyers can’t work for free anymore than plumbers or law school professors?

You can read about this problem on the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission’s website. I don’t think you’ll read on it that the solution to the problem is more law school graduates.

Meanwhile, over at the Law 21 blog, ‘Debbie Downer’ Jordan Furlong has this post titled: The Obsolete Associate. Here’s a snippet:

Layoffs and hiring freezes at many law firms, occurring both in the immediate financial crisis and during the malaise that followed, contributed to a growing pool of unemployed and under-employed young lawyers and recent law graduates….

…All of this helps explain the stubbornly high levels of unemployment experienced by US law graduates over the past several years, numbers that have mostly held steady despite an historic drop in the number of law school applications…

Translation:

It’s not just a Mississippi problem.

Summary:

I love MC’s new strategy: “there aren’t too many lawyers–there are too few.” Brilliant. Best line since “these aren’t the droids you’re looking for.”

Overall, I thought the deans’ comments were measured if you know how to interpret them. They were negative without sounding negative. There’s plenty of legal work for those who don’t need to get paid to do it. By the way, those clients will also need you to come out of pocket to cover case expenses.

My criticism of the article was that it did not quote any recent law school graduates. Those are the people who are in the best position to comment on the current value of a law degree.

Asking the deans of the law schools is like asking the salesman at the Ford dealership if Fords are good cars. They have to say yes. Law school deans sell law degrees. What are they going to say? Don’t go to law school?