Law books for the price of printing?


Law students spend between $ 3,000 and $ 4,000 on books while studying law. For those who borrow, add an additional $ 1,000 on the 10-year plan or $ 2,000 on the 20-year plan. While a drop in the bucket when it comes to tuition and living expenses, $ 4,000 to $ 6,000 for books is not negligible.

Reducing these costs to the cost of printing is a common suggestion, but it does not appear to have been done on a large scale. In a New article In the Saint Louis University Law Journal, Professor Ben Trachtenberg of the University of Missouri School of Law explains how to do this to encourage action.

The question is: will this happen?

It starts from a sensible premise. Casebooks really offer value in the form of editing and commentary. Although the other parts of the book are generally available for free in the public domain, the people who put together the casebooks still deserve compensation for their work and expertise.

Trachtenberg presents his argument through the prism of compendiums and supplements on criminal procedure. He conservatively estimates that students at four Missouri law schools spend $ 80,000 a year on crime books. Extend these estimates to all law schools approved by the ABA, and law students spend $ 5 million per year. My estimate on the back of the envelope for the total spent by law students on all law books and additional material is about $ 100 million per year. However, Trachtenberg points out that not all courses are suitable for scale.

The costs imposed on professors to change casebooks, tastes, emphasis and other factors would ensure that no book would ever be adequate. However, that is a lot of money spent each year on an area of ​​law that is not evolving rapidly. When the law changes, the books printed by students facilitate changes without new editions or supplements.

Since the course material isn’t appearing out of nowhere, Trachtenberg suggests that law schools coordinate their efforts to fund teams to create these books. He believes that part of a university’s mission should be to control costs and disseminate knowledge. Casebook production seems like a natural fit.

But rather than schools pooling their resources, it may make more sense to do so through an external grant-funded organization. This would reduce costs even further, as students would not fund the creation of casebooks. Of course, even though students fund these kinds of projects through tuition fees, they save overall – and that’s what really matters.

Professor Trachtenberg says it’s a “who’s with me?” Kind of statement. He can’t do it alone, but hopefully he has some takers as he works to spread the idea. Full professors have the freedom to spend their time as they see fit. Why not that?

Kyle McEntee is the executive director of Transparency of the Faculty of Law, a 501 (c) (3) non-profit organization whose mission is to make access to the legal profession more transparent, affordable and fair. LST publishes LST Reports and product I am the law, a podcast on legal professions. You can follow him on Twitter @kpmcentee and @LSTupdates.


Nancy I. Romero

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