Comments on the Legal Education Cartel

28 Pages Posted: 30 Jul 2008 Last revised: 10 Dec 2012

See all articles by Lloyd R. Cohen

Lloyd R. Cohen

George Mason University School of Law

Date Written: July 16, 2008


Outlines the argument that law schools are one of the two great barriers to entry of the legal professions cartel. The legal education cartel has some unusual features that channel and constrict the cartel generated rents into forms peculiar to the academic world. The central question explored is who owns the law school, and what do they seek to maximize. The argument made is that law schools, much like their almost universal parents, universities, are hybrid enterprises. They partake in the characteristics of, and bear similarities to: (1) the worker owned firms in the former Yugoslavia; (2) traditional non-profit enterprises; and (3) large equalitarian partnerships. In addition there is something quite unusual in the extreme sorting function of law schools. In legal education, more than in the rites of passage of any other profession, the most powerful impact of the law school at which one matriculates is on the sorting of the graduates based on their entering credential s, rather than on any putative superiority of the legal education they receive at higher ranked institutions.

Keywords: ABA, accreditation, cartel, faculty governance, law schools, legal scholarship, ownership, politics, Shepherd

JEL Classification: K0, K10

Suggested Citation

Cohen, Lloyd R., Comments on the Legal Education Cartel (July 16, 2008). Journal of Contemporary Legal Issues, Vol. 17, 2008; San Diego Legal Studies Paper No. 08-034; George Mason Law & Economics Research Paper No. 08-52. Available at SSRN:

Lloyd R. Cohen (Contact Author)

George Mason University School of Law ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States
(703) 993-8048 (Phone)

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