Coverage of the growing law school crisis continues to receive attention from both the legal media and mainstream news outlets. Meanwhile, Law School Transparency is consistently recognized for its important perspective on legal education and as a champion of substantive reform. We started with high hopes of what we could contribute to legal education, but never imagined how far the greater movement for legal education reform would go.
For the past four years, we at LST have worked tirelessly to improve the legal education system. We’ve worked on an almost* entirely volunteer basis since the beginning, dedicating what time and energy we have to turning the organization into a long-lasting vehicle for reform. (*Starting on March 1, 2013, the LST board of directors voted to provide me a modest salary, though we only have the funds to continue this salary for a few months.) It has been exciting to watch how our efforts have helped frame the debate and achieve real results, even though we have sacrificed financial security and other opportunities in order to pursue what has really become a passion for us.
Our early focus was improving the access to and the understanding of jobs data. Not only did we believe that transparency would help people trying to make more informed decisions about law school, but also that it would shed light on a legal education system rife with structural flaws. Schools still resist transparency, and fraud continues to be uncovered, but accountability has unquestionably improved. And in line with our ultimate end, affordable legal education, policymakers now question whether the current level of public investment in legal education is appropriate.
As a means for facilitating reform, transparency has been and will continue to be exceptionally powerful. As a means for keeping our doors open, it’s not been enough.
This year, we’ve raised a bit over $5000, almost all from one generous donor. While we are extremely appreciative of our donors—and you all know who you are—it has not been enough to support LST into the future, so members of our team have sought other opportunities. Our policy director, Patrick Lynch, relocated to South America where he is currently adapting the Waterkeeper model of environmental protection for Chilean Patagonia. Our research director, Derek Tokaz, has decided to pursue a career in writing.
For me, moving on has been and will continue to be extremely difficult. I have been fortunate to direct an organization that started with my law school admissions cycle and has since helped to inspire others who want to make a meaningful difference in our profession. I have counted on a number of friends and colleagues from Vanderbilt and across the legal academy as advisers, contributors, and sources of moral support. Sadly, volunteering cannot go on forever.
In redesigning this website, specifically with the addition of Reform Central, we are ready to grow with whatever time we have. LST will remain a hobby for each of us, and we will continue to hold schools accountable and help prospective students make more informed decisions. However, it doesn’t need to be so limited.
This website, which will include new content by faculty contributors and centralize reform discussions, will continue to be maintained by our staff on a volunteer basis. I have programmed and designed Reform Central so that it will serve this exact purpose despite our decreased presence. However, many of our day-to-day efforts, such as working with Congressional staffers, speaking at conferences around the country, and advising the media when they cover legal education will necessarily take a back seat unless we manage to secure financial support. Doing those jobs right means not only having basic operational funds, but also paying modest public interest salaries so that the staff can afford not to look for other ways to utilize their law degrees.
Thank you to everybody who has carried the torch for reform to date, and to those who will carry it in the future.
Executive Director, Co-Founder