Discussion | Law School Debt: The Problem and Potential Solutions

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In October 2015, the New York Times Editorial Board called the national law school debt crisis a “death spiral” marked by rapidly increasing tuition paid for with federal loans which students are increasingly unable to pay back in a faltering legal employment market. The paper noted, “Forty-three percent of all 2013 law school graduates did not have long-term full-time legal jobs nine months after graduation, and the numbers are only getting worse. In 2012, the average law graduate’s debt was $140,000, 59 percent higher than eight years earlier.” Recent news stories include one law graduate suing her former school for inflating its employment rate and enticing her to take out $150,000 in loans to attend the school and another graduate’s case seeking discharge of his $300,000 in law school debt pending cert before the Supreme Court. Latham & Watkins recently made news by enlisting its banking clients to assist its associates in refinancing their loans at lower interest rates.

Meanwhile, as the Times noted, “Even as law schools are churning out unqualified graduates stuck under hopeless mountains of debt, millions of poor and lower-income Americans remain desperate for quality legal representation.” The mis-allocation of resources seems remarkable.

This panel discussion delves into how law school debt became such a challenging issue both nationally and individually and discuss different private and public potential solutions to the issue. The Center on the Legal Profession is welcomed LeeAnn Black, Chief Operating Officer of Latham & Watkins, Professor Jonathan Glater, Visiting Assistant Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Frank Brucato, Senior Associate Dean for Administration and CFO at Stanford Law School. The discussion was moderated by Professor Deborah Rhode.

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