Thursday, July 25, 2013

Against the law (school)

I actually meant to write about this a couple of weeks ago, but the thought of writing about Memorial University again nearly gave me a seizure. I’m afraid to do a search through the blog to see how many times I’ve ranted about things MUN has done to piss me off. Let’s just say more than once.
The latest is MUN’s plan to perhaps…maybe…open a law school. They’re holding public consultations on it right now across the province. Because you can always tell when an organization is serious about getting input from a group of people before making a decision when they hold consultations in July and August. A dozen people showed up in Corner Book, for example. None of them were lawyers.
Let’s be perfectly clear about why MUN is reexamining this idea. MUN wants the money. That’s it. Full stop. It was nothing to do with the province being one of two without a law school. It has nothing to do with a huge demand for lawyers in the province (there isn’t one). It has nothing to do with students from Newfoundland and Labrador being deprived of a valuable educational opportunity by not having a law school (other law schools across Canada easily handle the load).
Law schools are cash cows. MUN needs the money because revenue from tuition is flat and the provincial government is not forking over the money liked it used to. It’s a pretty simple equation.
So if MUN wants a law school, why not give it to them? You know, originally I was to write this as outrage about why MUN is doing this just for the money. Because there is no real demand for lawyers in Newfoundland, according to everything I’ve read and to friends of mine in the legal profession in the province. For that matter, there’s not much of a demand for lawyers across the country. There are not enough articling position for the grads being pumped out now in Canada.
Although it’s not as bad as the US, where it’s apparently reached catastrophic proportions. There are so many law school grads – and so few legal jobs available – that it’s becoming a real problem. Especially when you consider how much money most universities charge for going to law school. There are the law school living dead wandering the streets in the US, $100,000 in debt and no job. All because some universities decided their bottom line was more important and exaggerated their job prospects after graduation.
Which is what MUN will do, if this goes ahead (and it probably will). It’s probably going to charge tuition comparable to its med school. It will make a lot of money off this school. Students might be screwed, however, when they discover there are precious few jobs available when the graduate. People have this notion that law is a licence to make money. It’s not. It’s hard, the hours are ridiculous, it’s much more difficult to get a position than you think and, as a friend of mine put it to me last month “Laywers don’t retire; we just die.”
Then again, MUN keeps pumping out new teachers even though there hasn’t been a shortage in that profession since the early 70s. Every spring, you can count on NTV or CBC going to a job fair and finding some fresh faced recent education faculty grad expressing shock…shock I tell you…at how few teaching jobs there are in the province (or the rest of Canada. Teaching positions are getting scarce in Nunavut, which was certainly not the case 10 years ago). If you can’t be bothered to do some basic research of the job market before picking a career maybe you get what you deserve.
So yeah, I think a lot of naive suckers are going to go to MUN’s law school. I think the employment rates for those grads are going to be horrific for years. And not just because there’s little demand for lawyers right now, but because of something else a law friend told me. Most partners will choose, when all factors are equal, a new lawyer who went to the same school as they did. So if a firm in St. John’s is weighing between a MUN grad and a UNB grad and the partner making the decision is from UNB, well, guess which way that decision is going.
But on the upside, MUN will make some money. Here’s hoping they pump some of those profits into actually useful faculties. You know, like philosophy or history…
Last Five
1. Another travelin' song - Bright Eyes
2. The Sunday song - Amelia Curran
3. Someone saved my life tonight - Elton John
4. The bootleg saint - Sam Roberts
5. Things have changed - Bob Dylan*


Way Way Up said...

I noted when I was checking out a grad program on MUN's website they make a point about having the lowest tuition in the Maritimes or something along those lines. I think its always best for a university to strengthen the programs it already has before embarking on new adventures and I was pretty pleased to see that my alma matter seems to have finally clued in to this.

John, Perth AU said...

As a representative of the US (living in Australia), let me apologise for the post-WWII GI Bill, which catalysed the change in universities from centres of learning to centres of profit. That's what happens when the military gets involved.

There's some history for you.