Overregulated Law Schools

CHAPEL HILL, NC, February 26, 2008 — A new paper from the Pope Center contends that legal education in North Carolina could be more accessible and affordable, but state restrictions are holding back the advent of new law schools. It discusses the state’s law schools in detail, presenting in vivid graphs available data about student outcomes such as student debt load and salaries upon graduation.

“Legal Education in North Carolina: A Report for Potential Students, Lawmakers, and the Public,” by Andrew P. Morriss and William D. Henderson, offers two signs that the state government is restricting law school formation: Its law schools are, on average, more selective than law schools in other states, and the state has fewer private-sector lawyers per capita than any other state (758/1).

Morriss is the H. Ross & Helen Workman Professor of Law & Business and a professor with the Institute for Government and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois. Henderson is an associate professor of law at the Indiana University School of Law–Bloomington. They urge the state of North Carolina to announce its own criteria for accrediting law schools and to permit graduates of such schools to take the bar exam. (Currently, only graduates of American Bar Association-accredited law schools can take the exam.)

Highlights of the study:

    • The paper compares North Carolina law schools from a student’s perspective.


    • Graphs show each school’s tuition, bar passage rate, debt after graduation, initial salaries, etc. (for those schools for which information is available).


    • It discusses the U.S. News law school rankings in depth.


  • It recommends ways to improve access, affordability, and competition to legal education in the state.

Some findings:

    • Forty-six per cent of UNC-Chapel Hill law school graduates leave the state for their first job.


    • The average starting salary for a Duke law graduate is $110,000; for Chapel Hill law graduates, $100,000.


    • N.C. Central law graduates have a debt of $17,215; Wake Forest graduates, $75,418.


  • The student-faculty ratio is lower at Wake Forest than at Duke.

And there are many others.

The Pope Center for Higher Education Policy is a nonprofit institute, based in Raleigh, dedicated to improving higher education.

For a pdf of the report, click here.