Tamanaha has written a thoughtful critique of legal education; we agree
with his assessment and many of his prescriptions. Tamanaha, however,
does not press hard enough on a fundamental flaw that plagues both legal
education and law practice: Our profession operates as a tournament
guild. Law schools and established practitioners maintain a lengthy,
stressful, and expensive series of competitions to separate winners from
losers. A small number of lawyers reap most of the guild profits;
others toil for much less reward or leave the profession.
Addressing this problem requires easing the market restraints that currently shield the legal profession. Ordinary fraud and consumer protection laws adequately protect clients; tighter constraints benefit established lawyers, while harming new lawyers and consumers. In this essay, we outline law’s status as a tournament guild, then suggest how market competition could address some of the problems identified by Tamanaha and other critics of legal education.