Sunday, November 26, 2006

Public and Private: Do MoneyLaw Rules Differ?

My discussion with Orin Kerr leads to an issue that I think MoneyLawyers need to address: Are there different MoneyLaw rules for public and private law schools? Put differently, should there be different rules depending on whether students are paying full cost tuition or are enjoying taxpayer subsidization. If there are, the argument would be that the identity of the principal shifts and with it the programs, courses and opportunities a school might offer. In baseball terms, one could see it as whether the fans should vote on who is invited to the All-Star game. That decision – allowing the fans to vote – can be linked to a simple private sector desire to increase profit, not to a duty to present the highest quality play. Maybe private law schools should operate in a parallel fashion. Perhaps they already do. I concede that I have not done a comparison of public and private school offerings.

An argument that the rules should be the same and that student demand should not play a different role can be made by comparing law professors to any other professionals who are paid for their assessment of what is in the best interest of the client. Most physicians, do not just dispense whatever medication the patients think they need. One the other hand, could it be that private law schools should operate more like cosmetic surgeons and do more of what make students feel good? Is it even possible that the students know best?

I have already put my two-cent’s worth on this by saying that I do not see the rationale for public schools to offer a Tax LLM. I would add to the Tax LLM any relatively non public service oriented LLM unless the idea is to charge above cost tuition in order to cross-subsidize other programs. In fact, ideally, I would like all public law schools to vary tuition depending on a post graduation requirement of some form of public service. Yes, this means private law schools would have a better shot at relatively affluent students and that seems fine to me. This suggestion is impractical and not likely to happen but it illustrates the complexity of what it means to have fiduciary obligations in the context of public and private suppliers.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe I missed in an earlier post, but why the strong aversion to a non-public service LLM in public schools? Is it that it allows professors to teach lighter loads and "specialty" areas and not basic areas? If so, then shouldn't all LLM programs be banned?

Are there any studies examining LLM programs, their effect on income, and the subsequent effect on donations to a school? Or how about LLM programs on prestige, which can have a subsequent donative effect.

It seems that you are significantly undervaluing the importance of "prestige" for its ability to bring in money for core student programs. I could be wrong about that, but I'd at least like to see the discussion from those who know more than I.

11/26/2006 12:28 PM  
Blogger Jeffrey Harrison said...

Yes, actually it was extensively discussed.
The objection is not to their existence in public schools but to their pricing.

11/26/2006 1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Yes, I've read that point, and it still doesn't address my point about future donations. How do we know that tax lawyers don't have an effect on corporate giving to the law school (or other public schools)? Indeed, one way to avoid taxes and get free advertising is to donate money to some named project (law chair, buildings, etc.).

Also, to the extent an LLM student becomes a professor, that can have a prestige enhancing effect for the school (as can just having the program in the first place), all of which can have an effect on full paying enrollment and/or future donations.

My point is that I am not sure you are looking at all of the reasons why we might subsidize certain programs.

11/27/2006 11:31 AM  
Blogger Jeffrey Harrison said...

Sorry. I did not intend to reply to your point but to point out there was a previous discussion and that the issue was not one of whether to have the program at all. You raise a good point and I do not know whether a school raises more in donations than it spends subsidizing a non public interest area of study. Having said that, I guess I just do not believe the level of contributions would change much if the LLM program were fulling supported by tuition.

11/27/2006 6:54 PM  

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