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Clinton did not fail morally or geopolitically by avoiding military intervention in Rwanda. The geopolitical aspect is obvious - our security was unaffected by events in Rwanda, and our access to markets or commodities in which Rwanda participated was not hampered. But the moral aspect deserves some consideration also. If you read the Wiki on the Rwandan Genocide, you will see that the Hutu were disfavored by the German colonial forces during the 1880s, and that their lands were reapportioned among the rival ethnicity, the Tutsi, much like the land settlements following Cromwell's invasion and occupation of Ireland. There was a civil war going on, and the Hutu who committed the massacres had substantial grievances with the Tutsi going back at least as far as the German colonial period. What would our intervention have accomplished? If Iraq is any indication, we could stop large troop movements through maintaining air superiority, and we could reduce a civil war to assassinations and car bombings in the short term. And then, as soon as we leave, the old grievances return. Whatever moral obligation we have to the innocent men, women and children of the world, we have an equal or greater one to those that we would put in harm's way. That obligation is to identify a promising strategy or to withdraw if there are none.
"We do Socratic(ish) inquiry in law school because it fosters a certain kind of thinking." At its best and in the hands of a gifted teacher, maybe. From my experience, I agree with Deborah Rohde's assertion (see here: that it's used because it's cheaper and easier to use with large numbers of students than other types of instruction which require more direct student feedback. There were at least two classes that first year where I routinely thought that my time would have been better spent reading an E&E for the same concepts. You may argue that I simply had an atypically bad experience with pseudo-Socratic inquiry, or that I just wasn't academically prepared to take advantage of what was offered, but there are a lot of law graduates who agree with me. "But such surface talk is what much of the ‘2 v. 3’ debate deals in, in the process avoiding a more serious debate about what we fill any number of years of (legal) education with, and what kind of lawyer—and, indeed, what kind of person—we want to emerge from whatever educational enterprise/s is/are settled upon." What sort of lawyer do you think your school produces right now? Is that lawyer competent to represent a client even without a mentor in a firm or government office? Of the graduates who weren't hired by other lawyers, how many would you want to represent you? As I said in reply to someone else on this topic, it's not that a 2-year JD is better than a 3-year JD. It's that it's unlikely to be substantially worse, barring some fundamental improvement in how law schools teach. And of course, that kind of fundamental improvement is made implausible by all law professors being highly successful and satisfied end products of the current system.
@Anonymous JOnes/1:52 p.m.: "You're letting profiteers ruin a system that you care about, and you're standing united with them." The first stage of this was denial that anything at all was wrong with law school. The second stage of this was that only a handful of schools "at the bottom" were the problem (with a corollary to that being any student worthy of becoming an attorney should have realized what he was getting into). The difference between the "for-profits" and the "traditional" law schools is more one of scope than kind. For instance, my alma mater is a middle-ranked public school in the mid-Atlantic region. Between the fall of 2008 and today, resident tuition has gone up by over 50% and non-resident tuition has gone up by over 20%. While I would imagine that few today are paying sticker price as residents or non-residents, at least some probably are. More probably imagine they're getting a sweet deal because they have a "scholarship" which lowers their effective tuition rate to only 100-125% of what it would have been if the school's tuition increases mirrored the CPI. And of course, there are the games with mandatory curves and section placement that make it impossible for a substantial number of these students to hold on to their "merit-based" scholarships. From my conversations with graduates of other schools, I believe that my school is typical. Naturally, this increase in tuition and fees bears no relationship to the power that most of these schools have to place graduates in any kind of legal job relative to their competitors, let alone the "good" jobs. The statistics from 2010, 2011 and 2012 were pretty clear about this - with about 30 exceptions on either end of the spectrum, the majority of ABA-accredited law schools placed about 55% of their students in full-time, bar-required jobs. Most of these jobs came nowhere near allowing a new graduate to enjoy a typical middle-class lifestyle while still repaying his loans. If you were a professor at a mid-ranked law school like Maryland, why would you want to call out underperforming market competitors like Catholic or American when your placement statistics are only marginally better and your costs are only marginally lower?
As to the charge that most people in the academy think everything is just fine, what is the evidence of that? Many law schools (e.g., UC-Hastings, GW) have adopted a strategy of preserving their position in the market for prospective law students by reducing class sizes to the point where they can expect to have similar applicant quality (i.e., GPA/LSAT averages) to past years. While I would like to think that deans at least considered it in terms of reducing the misery experienced by their future graduates, the truth is probably that these schools have decided that they are prepared to accept less money over the next few years in exchange for stabilizing their U.S. News ranking and thus their market share of prospective students as much as possible. Where applicant quality cannot be held stable, U.S. News ranking must decline and therefore also the ability of the school to command an effective tuition rate sufficient to cover the cost of operations, a large portion of which is in professors' PC&B. The problem I have with Burk's assertion about lower class sizes making for better employment rates is that I don't trust law schools not to increase class sizes as soon as the number of LSAT takers will allow them to do so without endangering their U.S. News ranking. If law schools were convinced of the need for permanent change, I would expect to see deans calling for a long-term freeze or decline in class sizes, or tuition that everyone claims to find exorbitant. I would expect to see the Standard 509 subcommittee making sure that the most granular salary data held by any law school was returned to prospective law students in the clearest possible form, instead of pushing back the NALP reporting date for employment to ten months from nine after graduation. As it is, I can't believe that any law school is doing anything but preparing to live on a reduced income doing all of the same things it's been doing, and hoping that hard times fall hardest on their competitors. There is no virtue to commenting online. I respectfully disagree. In 2007, law school was an excellent investment and a versatile degree that would allow its holder to gain entry to all manner of employment, law or otherwise. In 2013, "(e)veryone agrees that job prospects for many new graduates have been poor for many years," although Burk does not allude to all of the naysaying and handwaving from members of the legal academy up to the point that this became conventional wisdom. What made the difference was a groundswell of poorly edited rage and depression that caught the attention of an increasing number of people in legal education and journalism, leading up to Campos' blog and the New York Times pieces by David Segal. If legal academia isn't paying attention to what it sees on the Internet because it's insufficiently nuanced or thoughtful in its tone, legal academia is making a mistake. The Internet is where your future classes of prospective students live, and they can look past the habitual use of swearing or name-calling to derive a point about legal education - so you might as well try to do the same.
@MacK/7:36 a.m.: Certainly a BigLaw firm or a boutique like yours might not hire a recent graduate outside of the OCI process, but municipal/county/state government offices and truly small firms seem less bothered by it, at least in my area. This prosecutor's office I mentioned had an opening about six months ago, with about the same level of competition, and the job eventually went to a career sole practitioner and 2009 graduate from the state university's law school. This guy had taken several criminal appointments in the county and made a good impression on the assistant prosecutors, so the elected prosecutor hired him over JDs both newer and older than himself. Recently, the circuit court judges have also hired attorneys who worked first as solos or associates, in some cases for more than ten years. If the market has changed such that you can get someone you know with a bar number and 2+ years of experience for not too much more than you'd expect to pay a new JD that you'd have to train, then some employers will eventually take advantage of that even if historically they would assume the worst about an applicant in that situation. Every job that goes to one of these underemployed older JDs is one that a new JD can't take.
"...if the legal academy shrinks, and the number of law graduates falls while the number of Law Jobs stays more or less the same, then future smaller classes of law grads will have an easier time finding jobs." If these are jobs that only recent graduates are competing for, then sure, but I don't think that there's such a thing as a purely "entry-level" legal job any more. When my father graduated from law school, he ran for county prosecutor, then a part-time position in an office of one. When I was in high school, he would lose one of his five or six assistant prosecutors every other year to a personal injury or insurance defense firm who liked their courtroom experience. Today, my wife is applying for an opening in his former office paying between $45k and $62k, and the long list of applicants includes several sole practitioners from the criminal defense and child welfare bar with more than twenty years of experience as attorneys in this state (one of them is a former AUSA). Conservatively speaking, there are at least a hundred thousand underemployed JDs just from the last five graduating classes, some significant number of which have passed a bar exam in one state or another. That is in addition to some number of underemployed, bar-admitted JDs who lost their positions in private practice during the market contraction for legal services, and are trying to use their experience to find positions elsewhere in the legal economy even if it's at a job which they previously would not have considered (e.g., T&E with a mid-to-large-sized firm to DUI defense or PI). I agree that Elie is unduly concerned with the opening of new law schools instead of the total number of applications. However, since I know how unconcerned with caveats law school administrators are when they shill for their product to prospective students, you should state that it's not just new JDs who compete for putatively entry-level jobs, and that the salaries for those entry-level jobs will continue to reflect a buyer's market for legal services with no relation whatsoever to the prices charged for the credentials necessary to provide those services. Bold font, red ink and underscored, if possible.
"But it does provide some reason for optimism regarding the prospects for the smaller classes of new law graduates we can expect to see entering the job market in the next few years." And to think it only took about a hundred thousand ruined careers to get here. Kudos, all around.
A working paper? My God. And here I was thinking that the ABA would do absolutely nothing.
In a post at Concurring Opinions, Simkovic says the following about nonrespondent law graduates in SIPP's data: "Census explains in greater detail how SIPP handles issues related to response bias, non-response bias, and weighting here. SIPP oversamples in poor neighborhoods, imputes when necessary, and adjust the sample weights to approach a nationally representative sample. [...] It is about a good a survey as one is likely to find conducted by people who care a great deal about nonresponse and accurate estimates." It may be as good a survey as one is likely to find (*and* conducted by people who care a great deal), but my issue is that it is not good enough to answer any of the questions it will undoubtedly be used to answer by law school administrators marketing to prospective law students. I see this study being used in the same way that the "median starting salary" and "employment rate" statistics were used before their methodological problems (e.g., unrepresentative samples, exclusion of unfavorable outcomes) were exposed in mainstream media coverage about four or five years ago. Later, when another cohort graduates and finds that its prospects aren't nearly what they had been told to expect, law schools will pick out all the ways that reasonable consumers of legal education should not have been fooled by so transparent a lie as JDs adding an average of $1M to one's income as a BA.
Even the people at the 25th percentile are making an extra $350,000 over the course of a lifetime! Wow! That's almost what they will owe if they make the minimum payment in IBR over 25 years on an obligation of $150,000 at 6.8% interest! Also, I'm not sure 1,382 voluntary JD participants of the years 1996-2011 gives us enough of a data set to say anything of real importance about the value of a JD today (versus, say, the number of the last five years' graduates on IBR and how much of their debt burden the federal government is assuming in the meanwhile).
The link for that post is here:
"Quite frankly if those faculty went back to a big firm as first year associates they'd be making more than they do now. Substantially more." There was a post not too long ago about the predicament faced by VAPs who failed to win tenure-track positions. One professor opined, "The typical VAP is someone who can go back to practice if things don't pan out." Several subsequent comments offered personal anecdotes as to why that opinion was wrong, including this first one which hit the bullet points for the rest: Really? You think firms would be eager to hire someone who is probably a minimum of five years out of law school (clerkship plus two years practice plus two years VAP) but who likely has only very junior-level practice experience? Oh, and throw in that it's obvious that the only reason that the person is looking for a job is that s/he totally failed in an attempt to get a job in his/her preferred field (teaching) -- AND the person is probably a flight risk if the law school hiring market ever rebounds? My guess is that firms won't want to touch failed VAPs with a ten foot pole. They'll either be able to beg and plead for the firm that they left to do a VAP to take them back, or they won't be able to practice law. Maybe the VAPs who had more substantial experience -- as in, 5+ years -- might have some success. Maybe. I say this as someone in a similar-but-slightly-better situation. I'm not VAPing/fellowing, but I'm also doing a term-limited job. On the plus side, it's much less obvious that I am a failed academic job-seeker (for a couple of plausible reasons), and I have a good bit of meaningful practice experience. And still, a couple of recruiters have said something to the effect of "top 5 law school, federal clerkship, several years of impressive practice experience -- well, I might be able to get you a staff attorney job at a firm." Those are your VAPs whose practice experience is most recent. What is a tenured professor to a firm but a VAP with even less recent practice experience?
"Entry level salaries for these JD's are minimum 160K and it takes off asymptotically." At BigLaw firms, maybe. But what about elsewhere? According to BLS, the median lawyer's salary in 2010 was $112k, and that strikes me as perhaps a little high in comparison to what state and federal government attorneys make. Are the in-house or business-side options that realistic for somebody who left practice as soon as they could? If so, how does compensation for those positions compare to this median lawyer's salary, or a law professor's salary that by all accounts is significantly higher for fewer deliverables under less time pressure? I'm not trying to insult law professors by saying that it's likely that BigLaw would churn them out - BigLaw takes in, maximally exploits and discards an otherwise inconceivable amount of human capital every year in the name of maintaining or increasing PPP. Almost everyone has a CV in the 0.1% entering BigLaw, and I don't believe that BigLaw work tells anyone which of a class of new hires comprise the 0.01%. More likely, people of approximately equal abilities find themselves working in practice areas of differing value to the firm, or for supportive or antagonistic personalities in management, and their advancement depends largely on a few random interactions that may or may not say anything about what kind of attorneys they are. I don't doubt that law professors can succeed elsewhere in the law or other ventures. I just seriously doubt those other avenues open to law professors are so highly compensated that they need to be paid $160,000 or more to attract future applicants.
Just because law professors leave jobs with putatively higher salaries doesn't mean that it entails a sacrifice for them. Nine of ten associates in large firms don't make partner, and are forced out within five to seven years for something else. In terms of expected lifetime earnings, 30-40 years of teaching law in the $125k-$250k range is probably better than almost any other options available to someone who couldn't make partner at a large firm or didn't want to wait to find out if they could. Maybe there's a corporate job somewhere like Ken Randall's new job that is better than teaching law for these people, or maybe these professors could open up the next great tort firm of their region if they put their minds to it. But maybe not. If we believe that a large proportion of successful faculty candidates would have been partners at their large firms, then maybe academics have sacrificed a great deal of money for their work. If we believe that a large proportion of them would have been churned out of large firms eventually if they had stayed, then legal academia outearns almost all of their other options over a career and provides more security than any other option that isn't federal civil service. If we believe that the latter is true, then maybe compensation for professors doesn't need to be nearly what it is.
"In any case, it remains the case - as you have still not adduced any evidence for an alternative - that faculty hired over the past few years earn substantially less than what is available to them in the outside world." This is what 30 seconds of Googling "biglaw contraction" will get you. Ribstein (Deceased), Larry E., "The Death of Big Law" (August 1, 2010). Wisconsin Law Review, Vol. 2010, No. 3, 2010. Available at SSRN: or Burk, Bernard A. and McGowan, David, "Big But Brittle: Economic Perspectives on the Future of the Law Firm in the New Economy" (October 6, 2010). Columbia Business Law Review, 2011; Rock Center for Corporate Governance at Stanford University Working Paper No. 87. Available at SSRN: Bloomberg Law, "MacEwen: Weil Gotshal Layoffs Start of Wave" (June 27, 2013) Maybe Ken Randall can leave to make more money at InfiLaw than he could as the dean at Alabama, but is his situation typical of the options possessed by most legal academics? If an average legal academic leaves to make substantially more in the "outside world," he or she is probably returning to BigLaw or a similar practice setting. Well, BigLaw is sweating off its excess attorneys, most of whom have credentials comparable to those of legal academics besides more recent practice experience. Why don't you provide some evidence of the higher-paying options available to faculty hired in the last few years?
Maybe they can also do a SuperNotLawyers ranking for schools that place more than 15% of their JDs in "JD-advantage" positions or other graduate programs.
"Unless something truly extraordinary has happened to non-cyclical demand, a degrees-awarded-per-capita analysis suggests that beginning in fall 2015 and intensifying into 2016 employers are likely to experience an undersupply of law grads, provided that the economic recovery continues. To some extent, this will be buffered by recent oversupply." Well, we're not going to account for anything truly extraordinary happening to this non-cyclical demand, like competition for high-end corporate work from foreign firms, or predictive coding squeezing the market for document reviewers, or a protracted budgetary standoff between Democrats and Republicans leading or contributing to freezes or reductions in state and federal attorney positions, or a public willing to take a chance on LegalZoom or similar providers for legal services cheaper than most attorneys can provide on a paying basis. But assuming none of this matters AND the economic recovery continues (whatever that might actually mean to Seto, we don't know), then there MAY be an undersupply in three years, at least somewhere in the United States. What might employers do in response to that undersupply? Eh, dunno. It's not like there aren't tens of thousands of unemployed or underemployed JDs who have passed a bar exam somewhere since 2008. Maybe those people won't help to hold down wages to a point where the Department of Justice can offer unpaid prosecutor positions not leading to employment and find takers. Who knows? Maybe this will be just what was needed to make lawyer earnings go up twelvefold the way that law school tuition has over the last thirty years. About fifteen schools at most account for the two or three thousand legal jobs in a year which offer salaries of $100,000 or more. They also account for most of the more desirable public-interest jobs. To say that there is an undersupply is not an act of fraud, but to imply that it will make a difference in salary or opportunity for most of those 36,000 new JDs almost certainly is.
Let's assume that your hypothesis is correct, and these 58,000 rational maximizers are applying because they are attracted by lower effective tuition and a wide selection of schools. What happens next year if law schools can't afford to offer the same or greater discounted tuition to students in their selected GPA/LSAT stratum, or the year afterwards? My understanding of this phenomenon suggests that law schools spend every dollar they take in from students, and so a minority will live off their endowments or state support while a majority is forced to accept students previously beneath their cutoffs to pay full freight (or closer to it, anyway) for the "good" applicants. Awareness of real effective tuition is something that is unlikely to change in the near future; the same can be said of awareness that the closer one pays to sticker price, the more one subsidizes someone else's tuition. Even if we have reached a floor for applicant numbers for the next five years, why would that matter to law schools unless it also sets a floor from which law school incomes may stabilize or rise?
Dear prospective law student: your mileage may vary. Granted, we understand a lot about what makes your mileage vary, our prices bear little to no relationship to your ultimate mileage, and we will share very little of our information with you before you sign on the dotted line. But you should trust us anyway. Why? Because we are lawyers. Lawyers *and* educators. We hold ourselves to high ethical standards. How do you know that? Well, we just told you, didn't we? So if you have nothing better to do and you get into a great law school, by all means go. What do "better" and "great" mean in this sentence? Haha, you got me, you cute little skeptic, you. I don't know, but I am sure that it cannot be quantified or broken down into ugly little statements about returns and investments. Just commit yourself to a little high-interest debt not dischargeable in bankruptcy, and we can get started with making you Immovably Upper Middle Class!
Predictably, Ben, your research has landed in the news, but without every caveat brought up by you or commenters here at TFL:
@Steven: There are maybe as many as twenty law professors who have tried to engage publicly with the struggle faced by recent graduates in an honest way. Does it really serve any purpose to insult Barros by association with his place of work? I remember before the conventional wisdom turned the scamblogs' way. I remember the constant, pointless attack levied by skeptics against people for daring to ask why the alleged benefits of a JD had not accrued to them and many of their contemporaries. "Of course *you* don't have a job. Why would you? You went to (at first, a third-tier school; then, a non-T1 school; now, a non-HYS school)." Mocking Barros for where he works is not a counter-argument to any points he raised, any more than mocking you for not attending Harvard is a counter-argument to any points you might raise.
@Anonymous Coward: Thank God you're a law professor. I'm not sure how you could live out here in the real world, with things that are even worse than having someone question your point of view on the Internet. @Ben: For what it's worth, I appreciate that you've spent as much time on this topic as you have. When you begin to address issues of salary along with debt, I would appreciate you spending some time on the assumption that entry-level salaries grow over time in practice. It makes sense that they would, as one's skillset and network in a practice niche or geographic area increases, but how much do those salaries really increase for most people? Does it happen enough for prospective law students to take that seriously into account when they calculate the potential return on their investment?
@Ben: "(1) Even in a very weak economy and job market, the Widener/Harrisburg classes of 2010 and 2011 did okay. Not perfect, not great, but okay. Many of them did very well." Based on just the universe of data provided in your last two posts, doing "okay" apparently constitutes obtaining a permanent position where bar passage is required, somewhere between graduation two or three years ago and the present. But it doesn't tell us what the Okay are making right now, how long the Okay had to wait before obtaining their present position, or what debt burden they operate under. It also doesn't tell us much about the Non-Okay and why they continue to be the Non-Okay. Given that the practice of paying new attorneys in experience is flourishing and many sole practitioners or new small firm associates will be paid only when the client's check clears, I don't think that permanent barred positions are an acceptable shorthand for doing "okay" any longer. They may well be, but it is not a given. "(4) So in two years, we will graduate one-third fewer students into what is likely to be a stronger job market due to the recovering economy." This depends on two assumptions: first, that a recovery for everybody else will be a recovery for the market in legal services generally, when the legal services sector has shed jobs overall during what little recovery we have seen in the last four years; second, that attorneys or agencies currently not hiring will feel good enough about their finances to take on new associates in this recovery. "(5) If you take away the bottom third, however you want to measure it, of the 2010 or 2011 results, you have good job results." If you take away the bottom third and the absolute number of permanent bar-passage jobs for graduates within three years of graduation remains the same, then one would expect all 80 graduates to become members of the Okay within three years of graduation. "(G)ood job results" puts it a little strongly, I think. "Cost is an important issue, but a separate one from this point about number of graduates and available jobs." Absolutely wrong. The conventional wisdom about the legal job market is not that you can't find a job as a lawyer (after all, you can make one for yourself if you have the money and patience); it is that the jobs available to the majority of graduates do not offer a return close to the money invested in obtaining the degree. I attended the University of Pittsburgh, graduating in 2011. When I began in 2008, resident tuition was $18,000 and non-resident tuition was around $29,000. Five years later, resident tuition is $26,000 and non-resident tuition is $36,000, and unlike my group, none of that debt will have its interest subsidized by the federal government while these new matriculants are in school. With interest calculated, the average student paying full resident tuition is going to be at least $30,000 deeper in the hole than someone from my class paying full resident tuition. However good the recovery will be for Americans generally or lawyers specifically, it's unlikely to be so good that this extra $30,000 in tuition will go unnoticed. (I know that sticker price is not effective tuition, but it's the sticker price for the suckers who get to cross-subsidize tuition for classmates more likely to obtain permanent barred position than themselves.)
If you were simultaneously dean of your law school and president of the ABA subcommittee on legal education, what would be your standard for basic professional competence among your graduates? What courses or work would comprise the third year?
If the discussion about reform were really about taking the most logical steps towards optimal guidelines for legal education in light of current market realities, your analogy to a litigant's burden of persuasion would be more apt. As things currently are, the better analogy is to a room full of high-functioning alcoholics at various distances from hitting bottom, and with the sloppier ones being handed the keys to drive everyone else home.