DAVID PLOTZ’S “COMplaint” against the District of Columbia School of Law (“Juris Prudence,” 12/23/94) completely misses the target, and should be summarily dismissed.
The Council of the District of Columbia appropriates approximately one-tenth of 1 percent or less of the District’s operating budget to the D.C. School of Law (DCSL). On its face, this meager allowance does not “violate all laws of fiscal good sense.” There is simply no nexus between the city’s serious financial difficulties and the budget for the law school. More importantly, the legislative record compiled during numerous hearings amply supports the council’s decision to continue the School of Law.
All studies of unmet legal needs in the District and the direct testimony of the judges of the Superior Court confirm the unavailability of lawyers to represent low-income residents. DCSL trains and encourages students to enter public-interest and public-service practices after graduation. Forty-eight percent of DCSL’s 1993 graduates took such positions, compared with the national average of only 14 percent. There is no glut of attorneys clogging the courts to meet the basic needs of average residents of the city.
The academic credentials of DCSL students document that they are well qualified to attend law school. It is a cheap shot to compare their records to students attending other area schools without acknowledging the basic qualifications of DCSL’s student body. Unlike other District law schools, DCSL is committed to reaching out to D.C. residents who want a legal education. At present, 61 percent of DCSL’s students are District residents, 12 times the percentage enrolled at any other law school in the area. Moreover, a significant number of nonresident students (who pay tuition at a rate three times higher than residents) remain in the city, providing professional services and adding new members to the dwindling middle class.
It is misleading to focus solely on the July 1993 bar passage figures for the class of 1993. It is the only class where fewer than 50 percent passed on their first attempt. More than 60 percent of the class of 1994 passed the bar last July. The majority of DCSL graduates pass the bar on their first attempt, and most of the remainder follow suit in a reasonable time. The bottom line is that DCSL graduates become members of the bar.
More than other area law schools, DCSL is also committed, through its clinics, to providing free legal services to low-income, minority, and disabled people in the community. Each student is required to perform a minimum of 750 hours of legal services, a requirement that is unique throughout the country. Some of these services are not offered by any other program. For example, DCSL’s HIV clinic is the only clinic in the city that gives special attention to the needs of children and women, who constitute the most rapidly growing groups in the District’s HIV-infected population.
The D.C. Council has already heard from the court of public opinion in the form of testimony from hundreds of citizens and community organizations. On this basis, a solid majority of the legislators created and continue to support the School of Law. They are correct to do so.
Dean, District of Columbia School of Law, Downtown