Failing Law Schools by Brian Z. Tamanaha (VIDEO)

New book written for educators, policymakers and students

The economic model of law schools is broken, says Brian Z. Tamanaha, JD, JSD, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis and author of the new book, Failing Law Schools, published by the University of Chicago Press.

“The best example to demonstrate this is that in 2010, the average debt of law students was $100,000 and the median salary was $63,000 — so a person who obtains the median salary cannot make the monthly payments on the average debt,” he says.

“This involves thousands of law students. For the majority of law students, the cost of obtaining a law degree and the economic return on a law degree are out of whack.”

In his book, Tamanaha, the William Gardiner Hammond Professor of Law at WUSTL, explains in detail why the law school system is in trouble. His past experience as a dean of a law school helps shape his analysis.

He discusses law professor salaries and job requirements, tuition increases and job placement prospects.

“Law school still pays off for students going into corporate law, but that field has significantly contracted,” Tamanaha says.

“In the last two years, with the tightening of the legal market, it exposed a lot of things that were getting papered over, like the poor job results for a third of all law students,” Tamanaha says.

“When it gets to this point, it’s the obligation of legal educators to take a serious look at our role in the problem. The current economic model of law schools is unsustainable. In many cases, schools will have to radically restructure their economic operation if they hope to survive.”

Tamanaha wrote this book for legal educators, policymakers, prospective law students and current law students.

“Law school can still be a wise decision, but it has to be made carefully,” he says. Tamanaha, JD, JSD, professor of law at Washington University in St. Louis, discusses Failing Law Schools, his new book written for educators, policymakers and students.

In Failing Law Schools, Tamanaha offers formulas for prospective students to calculate tuition and general living expenses while in law school. He also gives tips for current law school students to reduce costs while in school.

“The debt numbers are so large that they can become abstract,” he says. “I want to give a concrete, clear picture of the impact of law school debt.”

Tamanaha says that law schools will not change without external pressure.

“I’ve looked at why people keep coming to law schools despite the enormous cost, and there are two main reasons: people believe a law degree will pay off and they have the ability to come thanks to the federal loan program,” he says.

“It’s time to cap the federal loan program.”

Tamanaha notes that there are signs that the demand for a legal education is decreasing.

“Many schools are seeing a drop in applications,” he says.

For more information about Failing Law Schools, visit