New UMass law school is for fools

By Ben Moriarty

The moon, although it looks very small in the sky, is actually quite large and has a gravitational effect on the Earth. Along with the Earth’s rotation, the gravitational pull from the moon has a continual effect on the water on our Earth, causing things like low tides and high tides.

And sometimes, in especially rare cases, this proceeding and receding of the water magnifies, and instead of a nice system of orderly tides, which usually and somewhat resemble a sine wave, the amplitudes combine and form a double high water, a grave danger to those on the coast.

This is may be the situation the University of Massachusetts system walked into this past Tuesday, when the Board of Higher Education voted unanimously for the approval of the creation of the UMass Dartmouth Law School. They willingly chose to have a second high tide.

At first, this seems like a splendid idea. Forty-four states have law schools. Why shouldn’t we? The UMass system was given the facilities of a law school by the Southern New England School of Law with its closing, so it didn’t need to spend the money on that in particular. And, with the creation of a state university operated law school, it would give people the chance to go that might not be able to go otherwise.

As UMass president Jack Wilson said, and as reported in the Collegian earlier this week, “A public law school means that law students will graduate with less debt and have more flexibility in making their career choices.”

That sentiment is so obviously an example of the idealistic, equality-for-everyone attitude that is all too prevalent in our state ­– a ideology that usually runs along the track parallel to reason, and then flips the switch so the train of reason de-rails, crashes, burns and kills all the passengers riding on it.

The problem isn’t that we shouldn’t have a law school. It is that the market is currently oversaturated. It is high tide at the moment, and we are possibly going into a second high tide.

The problem comes down to this: We should not have a law school in this climate. Massachusetts already has several law schools which are highly respected: Harvard, Boston University, Boston College and Northeastern. Three of these are top 25 law schools, and one is one of the best public interest law schools in the country.

Now, that may not matter to you, but when you realize that law schools are quite regionalized, meaning, the one you attend is in all likelihood going to be in the area you practice, this essentially means: you will be kind of screwed as a result of the surrounding schools and competition.

There is absolutely no room, rhyme or reason to having a UMass Dartmouth law school.

Graduates from tier one law schools are having some trouble finding jobs. And that is not including the dreaded average debt that is accumulated from law school, which sits gently next to one hundred thousand dollars. Tuition at the UMass Dartmouth law program is going to be around a quarter of a hundred thousand dollars a year, law school being three years, and that is a very conservative cost if you aren’t going to forsake the quality of the school.

The creation of a UMass Law School is this: you will inherit a decent debt, be pitted against students from the most respected law schools in the country in a market with too many people for such a low demand, and your degree will be from a school which has no reputation and which is not even expected to be approved by the American Bar Association until 2013.

The only real positive to this situation is that UMass Dartmouth obtained a facility, library and professors from the Southern New England School of Law. That is, they didn’t invest and have to spend an inordinate amount of money for something which seems to be nothing more than an ornament for the UMass system.

So, while the high tide is here, the moon isn’t moving across the sky and as a result, the law market isn’t receding into low tide, UMass should get in their boat, ride to the nearest town, then sell all of the fish they were given. And with that money, do something useful.

Ben Moriarty is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected]