November 25th, 2011 | University

Amar, Ayres seek incentives for law school drop-outs

Yale Law School
Yale Law School Photo by Jacob Geiger.

In a piece published in Slate Magazine, Sterling Professor of Law Akhil Amar ’80 LAW ’84 and William K. Townsend Professor of Law Ian Ayres ’81 LAW ’86 propose a non-traditional plan for curbing rising student debts and post-graduate unemployment: encouraging students to drop out of law school.

Of course, their answer is somewhat more nuanced than that; Amar and Ayres also suggest a series of admissions policies designed to increase transparency, as well as a new system of loan-granting in which law schools serve as direct lenders. The most unorthodox proposal, however, remains, the drop-out solution.

“We’re lobbying our dean to unilaterally offer our students a bribe to quit,” the professors wrote in Slate.

Borrowing a model from Zappos, an online retailer that filters out flaky employees by offering new recruits a lump sum of $3000 to quit after four weeks on the job, Amar and Ayres suggest that law schools reimburse half-tuition to students who drop out of their programs after the first year. According to the professors, splitting the risk and the cost of a post-graduate legal education means that “students will not go to law school lightly, and law schools will have better incentives not to admit students likely to fail.”

After a few years, according to the professors, the system will become a powerful source of information, enabling first-year law students to use their first-year grades to determine whether they ought continue pursuing a career in the law.