“你所说的‘遭受抨击’到底是在说什么？”芝加哥约翰•马歇尔法学院(John Marshall Law School)院长约翰•科克里反问道。“我们讨论的到底是来自哪一方面的抨击？”
过去的三年中，媒体针对法学院发起了一波又一波攻势，而且乐此不疲。《纽约时报》(The New York Times)曾经报道过一位背负25万美元贷款的毕业生，还为这篇文章起了这样一个标题：“读法学院是一场注定要失败的游戏吗？”谈到这位毕业生时，《纽约时报》写道，“他的秘密（如果用这个词合适的话）是，每天基本上忽略来自十几位债权人的电话和信函，这些人现在整天追着他讨债。”财经新闻网站《商业内幕》(Business Insider )最近一篇报道的标题则更加犀利：“我认为上法学院纯粹是浪费生命，大把大把地烧钱。”尽管这篇文章刻画的主人公毕业于一所排名位列前20的法学院，但他现在也被沉重的债务压得痛苦不堪。“我还没有成家，没有挣到体面的工资，令人愉悦的生活方式更是遥不可及。这一切全是当初选择上法学院惹的祸，”他写道。“我甚至都不忍心诅咒我的死对头遭遇我就读法学院的经历。”
有一种理论很简单：法学院毕业生招人嫉妒。加州大学欧文分校(University of California, Irvine)法学教授布莱恩特•加思曾经撰写过一份研究报告，探讨法学院毕业生为什么产生“购买后悔症” (buyer’ remorse)。在他看来，憎恨法学院的那些人仅仅是希望看到领跑者最终遭遇失败的那一幕。
You know law schools are deeply troubled when you ask a dean what it feels like to be under constant fire and he answers the question with a question of his own.
"When you say 'coming under fire,' what are we really talking about?" asks John Corkery, dean of the John Marshall Law School in Chicago. "Which fire are we talking about?"
You can't blame him for seeking clarity. Truth is, law schools have not merely fallen out of favor in recent years, as jobs have become scarce and unemployment among freshly minted JD graduates has soared. Law schools have become the most despised part of the academy.
Most people associate lawyers with misery: an unfair lawsuit, a divorce. But at least previous attacks had come from outside of the profession. In recent years, plenty of criticism has come from insiders, mostly law school professors who acknowledge that schools have supplied far too many lawyers than the market can absorb, and from graduates who now carry six-figure debt loads and can't get jobs in law.
Corkery's school has been sued by its graduates for embellishing employment prospects. When asked if he considers his position difficult, though, he deflects: "The fire I'm thinking of is that there are a lot less people going to law school," he says.
It's telling that Corkery first lists a problem that afflicts the schools rather than the graduates. He's on the mark about one thing, though: Law schools are trying to put out fires from all directions.
For the past three years, the media has picked up the attacks with relish. The New York Times, in an article on a graduate with $250,000 in loans, put it this way: "Is Law School a Losing Game?" Referring to the graduate, the Times wrote, "His secret, if that's the right word, is to pretty much ignore all the calls and letters that he receives every day from the dozen or so creditors now hounding him for cash," writes the author. Or consider this blunt headline from a recent Business Insider article: "'I Consider Law School A Waste Of My Life And An Extraordinary Waste Of Money.'" Even though the graduate profiled in the piece had a degree from a Top 20 law school, he's now bitterly mired in debt. "Because I went to law school, I don't see myself having a family, earning a comfortable wage, or having an enjoyable lifestyle," he writes. "I wouldn't wish my law school experience on my enemy."
Why are law schools being singled out? After all, the recent recession left Americans with an endless supply of things to complain about. (Corkery casually noted that journalism school graduates aren't doing that well, either.)
One theory is simple: everyone's jealous. Bryant Garth, a law professor at the University of California, Irvine who helped author a study on buyers' remorse among law school graduates, suggests that law school haters just want to see the frontrunners fail.
"The law degree has always been, in this country, the default degree for ambitious and talented people, who've then gone into business, have gone into politics, gone into law practice, gone into a whole range of areas," Garth says. "And basically everybody who is ambitious thinks about whether or not they want to go to law school." Perhaps it's satisfying to proclaim that those know-it-alls have been making the wrong choice all along.