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November 18, 2012

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Mack

Too many lawyers anyway, charge too much, and seem to be the only ones who get paid when damages are awarded, not to mention drive up the costs of all else they get in the middle of.

Lisaglerman

Legal education certainly has its shortcomings, and the job market presents challenges. Nevertheless, I suspect that many people who would like to become lawyers are hesitating to apply to law school because of inaccurate negative propaganda and because of incomplete information. Lots of the employment data is distorted because it falsely assumes that all the good jobs for lawyers require bar passage; in fact, there are lots of great jobs in law and policy-making that are not traditional law practice jobs. More important, prospective law students don't seem to know yet that whatever the tuition and the debtload, that under the new "pay as you earn" loan repayment assistance program, loan payments can be made modest and manageable and a large percentage of the student loans will be forgiven. Just as we need to educate prospective law students that rankings do not equate with educational quality or professional prospects, we need to get the word out that the student loan debtload of graduating law students is no longer the scary monster that it was before the College Cost Reduction and Access Act and the Obama administration's expansion of the loan repayment program.

Dean

Lisaglerman: "Nevertheless, I suspect that many people who would like to become lawyers are hesitating to apply to law school because of inaccurate negative propaganda and because of incomplete information."

No, they are hesitating because, for the first time people are actually getting to see the REAL numbers behind the employment stats: where people are working and how much they are getting paid.

"More important, prospective law students don't seem to know yet that whatever the tuition and the debtload, that under the new "pay as you earn" loan repayment assistance program, loan payments can be made modest and manageable and a large percentage of the student loans will be forgiven."

A few points:

1. This is a government assistance program for people who have been put into financial hardship. You don't think that's a sign that there is a problem in legal education; you are selling students on attending law school based on the idea, up front, that this will most likely create a financial hardship for them.

2. If you don't get a public interest job, this "modest and manageble" payment plan will be a 10% garnish on your wages for the next twenty years. And the loan forgiveness at the end will result in a potentially devastating tax hit.

Lisagerlman: "we need to educate prospective law students that rankings do not equate with educational quality or professional prospects"

Actually, rankings often do equate with professional prospects. Let's look at your school, for example:

Catholic University of America - Columbus School of Law
USNWR Rank: #82
Total Tuition for Three Years: $125,490

Percent Unemployed: 13.3%

Percent Working Part-Time or Short-Term: 4.9%

Percent Working Full-Time (but in jobs where the JD was neither a requirement nor an advantage): 8%

So that is over 1 in 4 grads that are either not working at all, doing temp-work, or doing work for which the JD provided no benefit.

I also notice that your school chooses not to release salary information. But I imagine the numbers aren't very good if one of your recruiting tools is education students on government aid programs.

Concerned Citizen

Dear Professor Lerman, what evidence (you know, real data) do you have for the proposition that "Lots of the employment data is distorted because it falsely assumes that all the good jobs for lawyers require bar passage; in fact, there are lots of great jobs in law and policy-making that are not traditional law practice jobs."

And I apologize in advance for being so picky, but "lots of great jobs" does not count as data.

So, let's try to put this into some sort of perspective requiring a bit more rigor than "lots and lots".

How many is "lots"? Is "lots of good jobs" enough to employ an extra 22000 or so a year who can't get regular law jobs?

On IBR - I've seen you hawking this now on at least a couple of comment sections. What do you propose be done with the significant tax bill the majority of student debtors will owe upon being "forgiven" his or her debt?

And even more fundamentally, why do you think this is a good program? Why is it a good thing to shift the cost of law school to the public in such a fashion?

Law school tuition continues to increase apace, the law schools themselves are paid on the front end, but the debt gets strung out over 20 years and eventually is shifted onto the public.

Is this a good thing? Funneling public monies into the pockets of school administrators and faculty (considering that most law schools state that the majority of an operating budget goes to salaries)?

Anon

Wow, I see Professor Glerman has posted this little gem of advice before:

http://www.businessinsider.com/the-case-for-law-school-2012-11

Trying to convince people to obtain a degree, knowing ahead of time that it will likely lead to a financial hardship, is unconscionable.

Also, if you really think IBR is such a great deal, then you clearly don't understand how it works. If you aren't at least covering the interest every year, then at the end of the 20 years the tax bill will be massive. So enjoy a continuation of the lost income, even after your loan has been forgiven.

Honestly, Lisa, we understand that your job depends on warm bodies willing to sign over huge financial aid checks, but there are serious consequences for these students.

AnonProf

Quit with the ad hominem attacks. I think this crowd of smart alecks advising people not to go to law school is the same group of naysayers who tells people to avoid philosophy, classics, modern languages, biology, and other intellectual endeavors because the money isn't there. If you're not interested in law school, or any of those other disciplines, stay out of the pool of applicants. And if you've gone to law school and done poorly in the job market, spare us the sour milk and go and improve your resume. Recently I heard the same foolishness about medical school: a physician advised a high school student not to pursue a medical career because Obama Care would make reimbursements too low to repay loans. The number of available nursing jobs has also dropped, go advise someone to avoid nursing school.

Attorney99134

AnonProf, most of us are encouraging uninformed, naive and possibly desperate people from staying out of the pool of law school applicants. Happy?

As for many recent law school grads who are unemployed, just how do you expect us to improve our resume when there are no positions available, even volunteer positions? Network?

Concerned Citizen

Dear AnonProf - if and to the extent any of my questions, comments to Professor Lerman can be construed as 'ad hominem', I retract them and apologize.

That said, perhaps you can answer some of the questions I raised? Is it a good idea to launder about 5 billion dollars a year, in public monies, through law schools?

And why should anyone singing the praises of using IBR - particularly a law school professor - not be called to task for only singing praises, salesmanlike, without presenting any information on aspects that might give the buyer pause? (Are we to hold law profs to lesser ethical standards than television advertisers?)

Fundamentally, should any law prof or law school be singing the praises of using IBR? IBR is intended to be a stopgap safety net for those in financial distress. Instead, some law schools and some law professors are touting it, at the very beginning of the law school admission process, as a routine way to manage debts incurred by going to law school. Does this not bother you even just a little bit?

And if it matters, I am someone who went to law school 15 years ago and have a great law job; I manage a smallish in-house legal department. That does not blind me to the fact that we (US ABA accredited law schools) are producing approximately twice as many new grads per year as there are new jobs (this according to BLS stats (yes, I recognize the redundancy) indicating on the order of 22000 law jobs opening up per year).

Finally, I'm surprised that you wouldn't recognize at least one distinct difference between medical and legal professions that makes your one anecdotal story completely inapt - that is, there can be no overproduction of doctors because the number of MDs and DOs is strictly controlled by the number of available slots in residency programs.

So what this "one doctor" happened to tell this "one high school student" is amusing but really a strong element of "price of tea in China?".

Finally, if you could help us get a somewhat more definite grip on whether the "lots of great jobs" (that aren't regular law jobs) are available in numbers capable of significantly ameliorating the 20K+ annual law grad excess, I'd be much obliged. Yes, I realize this was Professor Lerman's statement and not yours, but I figured maybe an Anon lawprof might be more plugged in to the actual data than am I. I just feel that "lots" is too capable of interpretive bias to be of much use to us.

Good day.

Cogsys

While much is noted of the inability of a large percent of law graduates to obtain a position, I believe that (had we full information) we would find the percent of English Literature, Philosophy, or other 'soft' majors who subsequently went to law school and are employed is much improved over their cadre of fellow undergraduates who did not go to law school. One may as well advise these undergraduate majors to have chosen work in a factory or on a farm rather than go to an undergraduate institution for these degrees.

In short, universal statements about the worth of a law degree do not analyze the law degree as merely a terminus of the educational process that includes earlier choices that are unrelated to the law school choice. I believe the degree is a better platform at employment than the relative worth of a law degree over a PHD in one of these subjects, which generally have teaching as the sole terminus of the employment process.

Thus, the question is not whether a law degree is worth while, but whether a law degree after a 'soft major' is more valuable than continuing one's education in that field.

Concerned Citizen

"I believe that (had we full information) we would find the percent of English Literature, Philosophy, or other 'soft' majors who subsequently went to law school and are employed is much improved over their cadre of fellow undergraduates who did not go to law school."


Why? Inasmuch as we don't have full information, as you note. Do you have any basis for this belief?

I suppose we could bat anecdotes back and forth. Let's put it in the realm of high volume employment, since there's no sense talking about the 0.01% who manage to get a job as manager of a major league baseball team.

There are of course industries that want degreed employees but don't really care what UG degree they have. For example, underwriting and claims departments at large national insurers such as Chubb, State Farm, Allstate, Country Companies and the like are quite willing to hire for any real four year degree type.

So your hypothetical EngLit major could get a job at one of the above. But could the EngLit cum JD? Or would the JD be viewed with suspicion by the HR department, viewed as someone "settling" for the current job and ready to flee when the legal market "gets better"?

Or even if they do get that job - the average law grad will be well over $100,000 in debt and have also spent 3 years in opportunity cost to get it. I can't see how that puts them in a better position than having started 3 years earlier and without the law school debt.

But that's just an example. Sure there will be EngLit-JD's who blow the top off the curve in terms of employment outcomes. But what about the average person?

Another bit of anecdote with at least some data behind it. According to the website linked below, your average English Lit or Philosophy major appears to be significantly more employable than the NALP data indicates for your average JD (that is to say, their rates of unemployment are significantly less than for law grads).

http://www.studentsreview.com/unemployment_by_major.php3


So, let's just say I have a really, really hard time buying what you're selling.

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