Friday, December 13, 2013

Blue Ribbon stupid

When it was announced earlier the year that a Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel was being formed to look into the feasibility of creating a law school at MUN, I resisted the urge to rant. I think Ed Hollett did a fairly effective evisceration of the idea’s stupidity. Now the panel has come out and is recommending a law school be created for the university. With appendixes it's a whopping 32 pages. I'll wait while you read it. Oh, and here are The Telegram and CBC stories.
Newfoundland’s motto is “Quaerite prime regnum dei” which is “Seek ye first the kingdom of God”. It really ought to be Home of Smart People doing Stupid Things (like picking awful mottos. That’s just terrible). A law school for MUN is a terrible idea. It’s obvious to just about everyone except, of course, Blue Ribbon Advisory Panels. A panel, by the way, that was so smart and dedicated to the task at hand, that they did their public consultation during the summer, which resulted in low turnouts. If memory serves, about a dozen people showed up in Corner Brook and they seemed mostly interested in any potential school being set up in the legal hotbed that is Corner Brook. Numbers were even lower in other places. Clearly they did their best to dissuade any notion that the fix was in for this report. That and produce a report that could, generously, be described as "fluffy". When you're quoting the notoriously easily rigged VOCM and Telegram online polls to support your argument, you're on some mighty thin ice.
You want to know how to save money on a Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel? Use Google. Now Google “law school graduate problems”. Now, that gets you 304,000,000 results, so it might take you awhile to go through that, but I think it’s clear there might be some issues out there for grads. But allow me to sum up – there are way too many law schools, pumping out way to many graduates, who have been deceived by institutions into thinking this a boom profession, with high pay and lots of opportunities. They're also drowning in student aid debt.
The reality is that unless you’re in a top law school (ie. Been around for decades. Lots of decades) and graduate at the top of your class, law is a bitch of a profession. Dubious job prospects, used as slave labour for years, long hours and, as a friend of mine in the profession quipped earlier the year, “you don’t retired from law, you just die.” Not to mention that since law schools charge more for tuition, so that unemployed, or under-employed, graduates are often stuck with staggering student loan debts.
There is the reality of law school, and then there is the myth. The Blue Ribbon Advisory Panel seems to subscribe to the myth. There is no demand for lawyers in Canada. If there’s only been three law schools opened since 1975, that’s possibly because there’s already too many law grads being thrown into the fire.
Rather than Google, how about an article on articling, from that well-know radical, nut job publication “The Lawyers Weekly.” Second paragraph:
  • Fresh-faced grads are finding it harder than ever to land an articling job after law school. While law schools continue to accept a steady number of students, the job market does not have an abundance of articling positions for those eager to start their legal careers, they say.

So yes, clearly another 80 graduates a year will make this problem go away.
Also, the mention of an increase in “civic engagement” due to the miracle of a new law school is such a piece of spin doctor bullshit (I should know, trust me. And hey, look, the panelists had a communications advisor to help them. That's thoughtful), I’d be surprised if the panelists weren’t blushing when they wrote it.
I recall another conversation with the same lawyer friend of mine. This school presupposes that local firms would hire local students. Not necessarily. First, they’re going to hire students from schools that have good reputations. Going to take a few decades for that to happen here. Secondly, which I found interesting, all skills being equal, senior partners tend to show bias towards lawyers who graduated from the same school they did and not their province of birth.
Again, might take a few decades for that to happen.
But hey, in the meantime, MUN could spend millions developing a law school, that isn’t needed, trick students into spending a fortune on tuition and student loans - it’ll probably be in the ball park of what med students pay - for jobs that will be much harder to come by than they think for law firms that really don’t need or want them.
Really, MUN already has a program for flooding an over-saturated job market with nearly unemployable grads. It's called the education faculty. Does it also need also a law school?
Yes, forward thinkers, those Blue Ribbon Advisory Panelists. I can’t wait to see their plans for a MUN School of Journalism.
Last Five
1. Into the White - The Pixes
2. Back to Tupelo - Mark Knopfler
3. Fiesta - The Pogues
4. Kiss on my list - Hall & Oates
5. Big love - Fleetwood Mac


John, Canberra AU said...

There was an episode of Doyle a couple of months ago where a crown prosecutor from Corner Brook interfered with a case to further her political ambitions. Maybe the writers were obliquely commenting on the blue ribbon panel?

The episode also featured Stuart Margolin, ex Rockford Files, as a witness Jake was transporting from Corner Brook to St John's, giving the episode a whole road trip meta-quality. It was pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Where I work (a college), the people who were on the pre-law advisory committee voluntarily disbanded, as they thought it was unethical to encourage young people to go into the law at this point.

But if the money is there it will get made -- a 3rd tier law school. Yippee.