There's a hot debate about whether legal education can pretty much wait out (as in wait for the baby boomers to pass out of the system) the current lousy market for J.D.s., or whether the crisis is permanent and drastic changes are in order. Washington University Law School professor Brian Tamanaha is in the drastic change camp and injects his ideas into the mainstream media with "How to Make Law School Affordable" in the New York Times. His prescription calls for making accreditation requirements more amenable to non-research based faculty and for capping law school loans for either students or law schools. The caps recommendation comes with two additional conditions:
Whichever cap is chosen, it will function properly only if the government refuses to guarantee private loans and if private loans can be discharged in bankruptcy, which would make banks leery of lending money to law students who are unlikely to repay. To make up for this, the law schools themselves would have to extend loans, thereby aligning their interests with the success of their students.
Tamanaha's view of the future in the absence of reform is one of increasing stratification:
If we don’t change the economics of legal education, not only will law schools continue to graduate streams of economic casualties each year, but we will also be erecting an enormous barrier to access to the legal profession: the next generation of American lawyers will consist of the offspring of wealthy families who have the freedom to pursue a variety of legal careers, while everyone else is forced to try to get a corporate law job — and those who fail will struggle under the burden of huge law school debt for decades.