When law schools get it wrong, they deserve the scorn that comes with a public spotlight. When they get it right, they should bask in its warm glow. The University of Chicago Law School recently got it right. Really right.
It's ironic. The home of the Chicago School--where free market self-interest reigns and the economic analysis of the law has been an article of faith for a long time--has adopted a loan repayment program that sends students this powerful message: There's more to life after law school than pursuing big law's elusive financial brass rings. If you take the large firm path, do so because it's what you want, not because you have no other financial options.
This must shock deans who have pandered to the large law firm constituencies that hire some graduates for the best-paying starting associate jobs. Former Northwestern Dean David Van Zandt made himself the most visible and ardent proponent of that approach. Chicago's new program doesn't ignore big law as a potential employer of its graduates. In fact, the school led all others in the NLJ 250's most recent ranking of big firms' "go-to schools." But it now tells the country's top students that even if they don't want big law, Chicago still wants them--so much so that it will pay their way.
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