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November 14, 2012

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Anon508

Anon_JD, Fair enough, but let me play Bernie Burk here: what's your basis to say that? I can't say that my theory has been empirically vetted, but I think there's evidence that there are plenty of opportunities that are missed by shooting for the wrong market.

One example: According to Legal Zoom, TWO MILLION customers have used their corporation docs, wills and DIY divorces. At several hundred dollars a pop, that's a lot of lawyers who are losing business by not marketing to the right crowd.

Enough to satisfy the whole market? I frankly don't know. Enough to get many people working, you bet.

Tom

"My proposal is relatively simple. Before we declare the job market saturated and legal ed dead, how about helping some grads recognize they can have wonderful livings helping people that could actually use their services and are vastly underrepresented?"

This is laughablly stupid. We currently produce about 45,000 new law grads a year for a market that can absorb (according to the BLS) about half that. For the benefit of entering this oversaturated market, students are saddled with around $125,000 in debt ($150,000 est. for next years class).

The legal education crisis is quite simple:

1. We produce way too many lawyers.
2. We charge way too much in tuition.

Reducing class sizes/number of schools and reducing tuition won't be easy, but it is inevitable. Applications are (again) down, we are fast approaching the point when there will not be enough students to fill all spots.

Although the problems are simple, the solutions are probably complex (and certainly painful). But there is something simple we in academia can do: speak openly and loudly against these high-priced, low-ranked schools that are the cause of the crisis.

Anon_JD

As I said, for simple matters, there are already tons of lawyers who charge not much more than LegalZoom prices. You seem to think that all these solos out there aren't already trying to get this business but they are. Its just that this business "market" is nowhere near as big as you think it is.

It real easy, for instance, to see tons of ads for $200 no contest divorce. Just look through yellow pages, etc.

The people using LegalZoom are doing it because LegalZoom fulfills their simple needs. They won't pay more for a real lawyer to do it for them (or simply can't afford to).

In any case, if the only work you can ever get as a law grad (after forking out hundred of dollars and 3 years in law school) is piecemeal work for a few hundred dollars every week or so, then the scam bloggers are right. You'd be better off working retail and hoping to move up in management than practicing as a LegalZoom-type lawyer.

Tom

Anon508: "I think there's evidence that there are plenty of opportunities that are missed by shooting for the wrong market.

One example: According to Legal Zoom, TWO MILLION customers have used their corporation docs, wills and DIY divorces. At several hundred dollars a pop, that's a lot of lawyers who are losing business by not marketing to the right crowd."

I finally get it, Anon508 is taking the role of Stephen Colbert in this debate. Suggesting that students spend three years, and take on $125,000 in debt, so they can compete with LegalZoom for all those lucrative, hunderd-dollars-a-pop corp. docs, wills, and divorces.

Anon508, I do like your sense of humor.

Larry Rosenthal

It may well be the case that law schools are producing more lawyers than the market can absorb (although relying on the graduate to law-firm jobs ration is perilous because not everyone goes to law school in order to practice law in a conventional setting). It is, however, rather a leap to conclude that this is what "matters most" in legal education. If we care about positioning our graduates well in an increasingly competitive market, then we should care a great deal about offering a program of legal education that maximizes the marketable skills that students have on graduation. Any analysis that gives short shrift to this objective, in my judgment, lets law schools off the hook far too easily.

Larry Rosenthal
Chapman University School of Law

Dean

Larry Rosenthal: "although relying on the graduate to law-firm jobs ration is perilous because not everyone goes to law school in order to practice law in a conventional setting"

Yeah, that's it. It's not that Chapman grads are having a hard time finding good legal jobs, its that a significant portion of them are choosing to go into lucrative positions at consulting firms, I-banks, lobbying firms on the hill, think-tanks, etc.

This has to be one of the most egregious examples of the way schools try to hide the truth about the employment situation for law grads. I think the following stats (showing the percentage of a schools grads that take JD Advantage/Professional/Non-Professional jobs) is instructive:

Yale - 6.8%
Stanford - 5.2%
Harvard - 4.4%
Chapman - 23.2%

So at the top schools in the country, where it can be reasonable expected that the grads actually have a choice of good options, only about 5-7% or so are choosing to go into non-legal jobs. But at Chapman, for some reason, almost a quarter of the grads are choosing non-legal employment. Chapman grads aren't taking these non-legal jobs because they want to, they are taking them because they have to.

Dean

Larry Rosenthal: "If we care about positioning our graduates well in an increasingly competitive market, then we should care a great deal about offering a program of legal education that maximizes the marketable skills that students have on graduation. Any analysis that gives short shrift to this objective, in my judgment, lets law schools off the hook far too easily."

Far be it from me to let a school like Chapman off the hook easily, so lets do a quick analysis of how well you are positioning your graduates in this increasingly competitive market.

Chapman
Cost/year: $41,460
Est. total Cost: $265,265
Est. monthly loan payment (10 yr plan): $3,163

Percent employed in full-time, JD required jobs: 40.1%
25%/Median/75% salary for above jobs: $50,000/$64,000/$75,000
Percentage of above jobs that are Solos: 2.3%

Percent employed in full-time, JD Advantage jobs: 10.7%
25%/Median/75% salary for above jobs: $33,280/$55,000/$70,000

Percent employed in other professional jobs: 3.4%
No salaries reported

Percent employed part-time, all categories: 18.7%
No salaries reported

Percent unemployed: 19.8%
No salaries to report

So a Chapman grad has about a 1 in 5 chance of no job whatsoever, a 1 in 5 chance of a part-time job, and a 50/50 chance of obtaining full-time work at a salary that will almost certainly require they go on IBR (i.e. their education put them in a financial hardship that requires government assistance).

Are these good outcomes?

anonymous101

Current 2L here.

Nobody is going to law school to earn 30k a year. An undergrad degree in another field would garner that salary. Also, the debt would make that prohibitive anyways.

But the long term solution is to cut government funding--the education bubble needs to burst. When the federal government stops loaning students money to pay extortionate prices, schools will stop charging them. When law school prices fall, people will be able to work for less when they graduate. Of course, law schools need to limit the seats and make the classes more practical and less... useless.

But again education spending is out of control and outpaces inflation and all other conceivable reasons for the increases apart from loans. Student loans should be limited to a percentage of the cost of school, and locked at a rate increase of a low percentage per year. That way when the school tries to charge 45k and the government only loans 20k, maybe they will make law profs take a pay cut and reduce prices, allowing grads to take lower-paying jobs; this will also make the legal system in America better for middle and lower class people who could not afford representation otherwise.

And I totally agree, class loads need to increase for profs. I went to a community college and the profs thre all had to teach 3 classes at least, and they were available in office hours to contact at any time. In law school, profs teach 1-2 classes, are barely available, and complain on top of it. Research institutions are over-rated. It is good to have profs who are current in the field, but publishing articles does little doe improve students quality of learning in my opinion.

Anon

I know the plural of anecdote is not data, HOWEVER: I'm an '08 grad of a top 5 school who graduated swimming in biglaw offers, as did all of my classmates. I also have lots of friends from high school who graduated from "Tier 3" and "Tier 4" schools.

Five years later, where are we?

Well, few of my law school friends are left in biglaw. Many are now working more "fulfilling" prestigious jobs that pay very moderate incomes well below 6 figures. Some of them are still practicing law, others have policy or business jobs. Some are working on PhDs. Some are making it big in finance and doing much better than the biglaw people, but I would say that on average the people left in biglaw earn 2-3x what any 3 random non-biglaw people are making at their "fulfilling" prestigious jobs.

What about my Tier 3 and Tier 4 friends? Well, they mostly took the sort of jobs us elites never would've touched; small firm gigs doing less lucrative legal work, non-prestigious government work, etc. In many cases, the job search out of law school took months. While my law school friends were almost uniformly miserable in biglaw, my Tier 3/Tier 4 friends had a pretty high rate of job satisfaction. This turns out to matter a lot: most of them are now making much more money because they were good at their jobs or used their experience to move up in their field or to more lucrative legal work. One even moved from a small firm to biglaw. Another got hired by a biglaw firm out of law school as a PARALEGAL -- the HORROR --- and was made an associate after proving herself to be that good! This is the same firm so many of my friends quit because it was "horrible" "boring" "unfulfilling" etc. One just got hired through a random linkedin solicitation to a midsized firm from a small shop and is now making 6 figures. He was unemployed for about 9 months after law school.

can you take anything from this? I don't know, but I am much more skeptical of this uniform focus on starting salary than I was five years ago graduating with a fancy biglaw gig and a smug feeling.

Tom

Professor Rosenthal, I think you would have to admit that those numbers look pretty ugly.

If you add up the unemployed, the part-time employed, the other professional (non-JD required/non-JD advantage) grads, and the JD advantage grads earning less than $34,000 (a reasonable salary expectation for someone with only an undergrad degree), it would appear that for around 45% of your schools grads, the degree is of absolutely no value. If you disagree that the degree was useless for these grads, I welcome you to explain why.

Conversely, it appears that only about 10-15% of your grads will be making over $70,000, and thus, actually be able to pay off their loans without government assistance.

And all of this for the low, low price of $125,000. Surely, in your days as a prosecutor, you sent people to prison for lesser crimes.

Larry Rosenthal

On the slim likelihood that facts matter in this debate, it is worth pointing out that the employment statistics for California schools are skewed by the fact that the California bar is so difficult and most employers will not hire graduates until they pass the bar (results come out in late November). Thus, the job hunt starts later here, and lasts longer than it did a few years ago. Many of our graduates ultimately have the kind of careers described by Anon at 12:27AM.

Tom and Dean: Your views are so curious. If law schools were concealing material facts, why it is so easy for you to find them?

Bernie Burk

Cheap shot, Prof. Rosenthal, and we all are entitled to expect more of you. Facts matter tremendously in this discussion. By no means do I agree with everything that the Commenters criticizing Chapman are saying, but they are explicitly relying on reasonably reliable quantitative data, and you're not. Complete and meaningful data are not yet fully available, and as more data become available it is certainly possible that a fair assessment of the scope and nature of the challenges facing legal education will evolve. But if the problem in California had to do with particular features of that state's job market, you would not have multiple other law schools in California with placement success statistics two or three times better than Chapman's. Your assertion that all (or most of) your graduates are really doing very nicely thank you is not supported by any empirical data you've offered or of which I'm aware. Given the data we do have, it does not seem plausible.

The point here is not that Chapman has some unique, or uniquely blameworthy, problem. It is that the entire legal academy has some very serious problems. Denying that these problems exist and that everything is just fine would not appear to be a very effective coping strategy, even for the short term. For the long term, I respectfully suggest that it is untenable.

Your continued participation in this forum is invited; but let me ask you to try and contain your irritation at those who disagree with you before responding again.

Bernie

Larry Rosenthal

Professor Burk: Our nine-month placement statistics for the class of 2011 are here: http://www.chapman.edu/law/careers/employment-statistics.aspx

They can profitably be compared to those of other California schools.

That said, as my earlier post indicates, my view is certainly not to "deny[] that these problems exist and that everything is just fine." My view is instead that law schools have an obligation to do as much as they can to position their students for success in an increasingly competitive market.

FacePalm

"...can profitably be compared to those of other California schools"

Professor Rosenthal - the data you link to suggest that less than 40% of Chapman University SOL grads (2011) have full time jobs requiring the degree they just earned.

I can not speak for Professor Burk, but I can (and did) read his post. It suggests that the single most important thing is too many law school grads for the jobs available.

If you gathered all 177 of your 2011 grads in a room and asked them whether they would agree with Burk's point, my guess (based on your data) is that at least about 100+ of them would shout a resounding "Yes!".

Or do you really think those other 100+ grads paid to go to Chapman to do something "other" than practice law? Really? I mean, more than a small percentage of them?

Whether (or not) Chapman's placement stats are as miserably situated as those of other California law schools (or in your lingo "can profitably be compared") is just completely irrelevant... ...what's that phrase? Oh yes - "It Is To Laugh".

And that's very sad. I'm sure the 60% of Chapman grads who can't get lawjobs are comforted by the fact that they're in the same boat as the hundreds and hundreds other 2011 grads of California law schools with whom their penury "profitably compares".

I have heard it said that misery loves company, so maybe in time they will learn to appreciate your kind words.

Dean

Larry Rosenthal: "Our nine-month placement statistics...
They can profitably be compared to those of other California schools."

So Chapman gets called out for having dismal job placement stats, and your defense is that your school is comparable to a lot of other schools. What? Isn't that the whole point? There are too many schools like Chapman where a significant portion of the students have no real job prospects.

And thanks for the link, but I hope you don't think those stats vindicate your school in any way:

Unemployed: 19%

Getting yet another degree: 4%

Unknown: 1%

Working in a job where the JD is neither a requirement nor an advantage: 6%

Working in a JD Advantage job that pays less than $34,000: 4.5%

It's telling that the school doesn't separate out part-time or short-term, but we know that number from above: 18.7%

Please explain how the above grads have benefited from their Chapman degree.

Further, the updated stats still only show about 18% of grads will make the $70,000 and up salaries that will actually allow them to pay off their debts.

These job placement stats suggest that Chapman is about twice as large as it should be, and the salary stats suggest that it is about twice as expensive.

Dean

My mistake, the updated stats do show the number of JD Required and JD Advantage jobs that are part-time and short-term; 39 in total, so we need to bump that up to 22% of all grads.

FreeEduAid

I am glad to see more people inside academia focusing on something important -- too many grads for the number of jobs -- instead of the window dressing that is curricular reform. However, I think it's pretty clear that tuition is What Matters Most.

If the average debt load is around $125,000 and the average salary is half that, then even if there are enough law jobs to go around, it still means a lot of bad results.

We need fewer law schools, for sure, but we also need the lower ranked schools to start pricing themselves in a way that actually relates to the salaries their grads can reasonably expect.

Regards,
Susan Miller
http://www.schoolanduniversity.com

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