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WITH apologies to show business, there’s no business like the business of law school.
The basic rules of a market economy — even golden oldies, like a link between supply and demand — just don’t apply.
Legal diplomas have such allure that law schools have been able to jack up tuition four times faster than the soaring cost of college. And many law schools have added students to their incoming classes — a step that, for them, means almost pure profits — even during the worst recession in the legal profession’s history.
It is one of the academy’s open secrets: law schools toss off so much cash they are sometimes required to hand over as much as 30 percent of their revenue to universities, to subsidize less profitable fields.
In short, law schools have the power to raise prices and expand in ways that would make any company drool. And when a business has that power, it is apparently difficult to resist.
How difficult? For a sense, take a look at the strange case of New York Law School and its dean, Richard A. Matasar. For more than a decade, Mr. Matasar has been one of the legal academy’s most dogged and scolding critics, and he has repeatedly urged professors and fellow deans to rethink the basics of the law school business model and put the interests of students first.
“What I’ve said to people in giving talks like this in the past is, we should be ashamed of ourselves,” Mr. Matasar said at a 2009 meeting of the Association of American Law Schools. He ended with a challenge: If a law school can’t help its students achieve their goals, “we should shut the damn place down.”
Given his scathing critiques, you might expect that during Mr. Matasar’s 11 years as dean, he has reshaped New York Law School...