"We don't need more ambulance chasers. We don't need frivolous lawsuits. And we don't need attorneys making people's lives miserable when they go to family court for divorces," said Rep. Frank Lasee, R-Green Bay. "And I think that having too many attorneys leads to all those bad results."Oh, yeah... people have legal problems because of the lawyers. All those divorced people? Divorce lawyers are to blame. What utter lameness! What an embarrassment to the state!
I agree that there shouldn't be frivolous lawsuits, but how do you get a court to dismiss a frivolous lawsuit? You need a lawyer. And how do you get lawyers not to file frivolous lawsuits? You train them well so they know what is frivolous and what isn't and so they have the professional ethics not to use the legal system to harass people.
Good lord, it's one thing for one legislator to think so poorly, but quite another to convince the assembly to vote along with him.
But it's not that bad:
The plan appears to have little chance at surviving negotiations between the Assembly and Democratic-controlled Senate and being included in the Legislature's final budget.What weird emotionalism in government! The governor's dead mother will help to get to the right result? She has no more place in the story than Lasee's fervid thoughts about too many lawyers.
Even if it did, Gov. Jim Doyle would likely veto it. Doyle, whose late mother was a beloved administrator at the law school, said Thursday that the plan was "a really bizarre thing that came out of nowhere."
Analyze it rationally, and you'll see that if the funding is cut the law school won't shut down. It will only raise tuition:
[Law School Dean Ken] Davis said ... [t]he school receives only $2.5 million per year in state funding, or 10 percent of its $20 million budget. Still, it would have to increase its $12,600 annual tuition, which is the lowest in the Big 10 Conference and enables many low-income students to attend.There's an easy emotional argument within reach here: Republicans only care about the rich.
"That would be a very bitter pill to swallow for us," Davis said. "We have a national reputation for access to legal education."
Lasee said he would welcome a significant tuition increase for prospective lawyers or a cut in the school's 810-student enrollment.Yes, the profession will be improved once you've limited access to the people who have the most money to spend on education. Brilliant.
"When we have an overabundance of attorneys already, there's no point in subsidizing the education of more attorneys," Lasee said.
The proposal, made public the day before the vote, prompted wide speculation. Was a lawmaker angry the school rejected him? Were the cuts retaliation against professors who called a sex offender tracking law unconstitutional? Were they punishing the Innocence Project for freeing a man who later killed a 25-year-old woman?Yes, legislators, why do you hate us? Well, everyone instinctively hates lawyers and lawsuits, and this is essentially a healthy gut reaction. But you need to think a little harder and see why we need a legal system, why we should deeply value the rule of law and the role lawyers play in preserving it, and why legal education is part of that.
ADDED: A post with amusing comments over at Above the Law.
MORE: My colleague Marc Galanter provides some information relevant to the question whether there are too many lawyers in Wisconsin:
Wisconsin, with about 2.% of the U.S. population, has about 1.2% of the country's lawyers.
The ratio of population to lawyers in the U.S. in 2000 was 264/1. In Wisconsin it was 401/1.
Among the 51 jurisdictions (50 states and D.C.), the Wisconsin's population to lawyer ratio was 38th in 2000.
Wisconsin's lawyer population is slightly older (median 50 vs. 47) and significantly less female (22% vs. 27%) than the nation as a whole. This suggests that it has not been growing at as high a rate as the nation as a whole.
In short, Wisconsin seems to have about one third fewer lawyers per capita than the rest of the country and it's not catching up.
Is this a lawyer deficit? Research has shown a correlation between economic growth and lawyer population. Causality may run in either or both directions. But it is clear that lawyer population does not have an inhibiting effect on economic growth.
The lawyer population also seem to be associated with such non-market goods as civil liberties and political democracy.
(Marc's comment is based on research done done by the American Bar Foundation, Frank Cross, and Charles Epp. It dates back to 2000, but Marc says "there is no reason to suspect that any of this has changed more than marginally.")