The crisis in legal education continues, with the number of people applying to law school declining along with the job prospects for those who graduate. In the face of these trends, some law school deans are still trying to preserve an unsustainable business model. Offering what they apparently regard as innovative ideas, they’re making things worse.

Moving Through the Five Stages of Grief

As deans confront declining applicant pools, many are moving through the five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

In a previous column, I discussed deans stuck in stage 1—especially those who have taken to the editorial pages of major newspapers to tout the inherent value of a $150,000 legal degree for students who have little hope of getting jobs practicing law. Apply now, they urged, because declining applications improve your prospects for admission. Then you can do lots of great things that don’t require a J.D.

Case Western Law School dean Lawrence Mitchell made himself a poster child for these deans in denial, but he wasn’t alone. Other deans and former deans have offered similar analyses that miss the mark about what has caused the lawyer bubble to inflate and offer proposals that distract attention from their own culpability in creating the problem. Some have advanced to stage 2: anger over the situation and anyone who publicizes it.