The Price To Play Its Way

Ann McClure's picture
Monday, December 19, 2011

The library at the Duncan School of Law may look like nothing more than 4,000 hardbacks in a medium-size room, but it is actually a high-tech experiment in cost containment. Most of its resources are online, and staples like Wright & Miller’s Federal Practice and Procedure — $3,596 for the multivolume set — are not here.

“We have a core collection,” says Sydney Beckman, the school’s dean, “and if someone needs something else, we provide it.”

Duncan, which opened two years ago, has 187 enrollees, all of whom have wagered that this library — and everything else about the school — is up to scratch. Because before these students can practice in every state, Duncan needs the seal of approval of the American Bar Association, the government-anointed regulator of law schools.

That means complying with a long list of standards that shape the composition of the faculty, the library and dozens of other particulars. The basic blueprint was established by elite institutions more than a century ago, and according to critics, it all but prohibits the law-school equivalent of the Honda Civic — a low-cost model that delivers.

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