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February 01, 2013

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MacK

Anon - you might not be blathering if you could propose something better than " a two-step calculation based on the broadest employment numbers possible."

So come up with an economic theory in which the current law school establishment remains at its current scale but produces some 22,000 JD per annum, or cuts costs so that tuition is at about the 1/2 of current levels that almost every commentator says it needs to be.

If you don't, you are blathering. There are circa 12,000 full time law professors, most with de minimis practice experience, in 201+ law schools. The bulk of law schools costs is faculty payroll. Tuition leaves most law students well over $150,000 in debt and needs to come down so they do not end up in such poverty as to qualify for IBR.

Now, cogently, anon, explain how you cut output by half, raise productivity so that costs are a half the current level and keep remotely near 12,000 law professors employed? Or even 6,000? To be blunt, the only way to look at this is that there is room for a basic establishment of 3,000 tenured law professors and work out how you can go up from that number.

Confused

Speaking of Emperors of Legal Education, don't you serve that role at Loyola, Dean Yellen? In this post, you are basically acknowledging that a good portion of graduates from Loyola end up with poor outcomes. As Dean, doesn't the responsibility to enroll only the number of students that have a reasonable chance of success in the legal field fall on your shoulders?

You talk about cutting the size of your class by 25-30 students. That token cut competely ignores the market reality that less than half your graduates (conservatively) are obtaining jobs which justify their investment. That begs the question, what is the constituency that you are serving as Dean? If it was the students, you would be taking significant steps to lower tuition and drastically cut the size of your class and payroll. As that is clearly not what you plan to do, may I suggest the possibility that your main focus as Dean is the wants and needs of the faculty? If that's the case, you may want to make that fact a bit clearer to your consumers. Perhaps a disclaimer on your website that Loyola Chicago exists to provide cushy employment to its professors and secondarily, to give a small section of its students the opportunity to have a meaningful legal career.

Andy

@AnonProf: The majority of law professors have minimal experience as practicing lawyers, do not themselves know how to "think like a lawyer," and thus are incapable of teaching their students to do so. "Thinking like a lawyer" requires someone to actual participate in the legal world for several years, not reading cases by yourself in an office.

I mean, most junior faculty are in terms of scholarly ability only slightly above their own students, which is incredibly problematic. Probably the most absurd thing is that even when it comes to abstract, scholarly legal research, most law faculty are also not competent to do that, because a JD is not a research degree and you do not learn proper research methodology in law school. Unsurprisingly, when I practiced I almost never saw law review articles cited in either parties' briefing. Personally, I learned more about research methodology in a few weeks of my PhD program than I did in 3 years of law school.

Anon

It's very important not to engage MacK, otherwise there will be no adult discussion left. He's a powerless non-entity who claims to be a lawyer but spends all day posting on the Internet. He makes silly proclamations--"3 in 4 law profs will have to go!," says irrelevant anonymous Internet poster--which then bait others and prevent any serious discussion. Please, moderators, do something!

Sisyphus

Anon, great response. Don't atually engage in a discussion, just ask the moderators for a ban. That's showing everyone who the better person is!

tether

MacK -- Those are interesting citations, but I do not think any of the cited portions make the point you made -- outright contempt by practicing lawyers and judges toward law profs. A couple of them argue contempt going the other way, but I am not sure what those articles base that proposition on. It is a different thing to say "I will not hire you because you are on a different career track" than to say "I have contempt for you and what you do, and that is why I willl not hire you."

To be sure, judges are always looking to be hired as adjuncts and the like, and enjoy being invited to law schools to speak.

Anon

Well, Sisyphus, I have to agree that "discussion" with MacK is quite a lot like pushing a rock up a hill just to have it roll down again for eternity, so maybe that's just your 'cup of tea.' In any case, the blog is fortunate to have Dean Yellen's contributions, they should use moderation to insure an intelligent discussion.

Forgotten Attorney

Anon, seems like your idea of "intelligent discussion" is one where everyone agrees with you.

Face it Anon, in the near future, you and your colleagues will be forced to accept an increased workload, teach more classes, grade more papers and publish articles that actually matter. Either that or accept your contract buyout. But Anon, you have nothing to worry about - I'm sure Cravath and Wachtell are just itching to take you back to their partnership ranks.

MacK challenged you to come up with an economic model that will reduce the number of graduates and reduce law school tuition. I'll give you a simple suggestion. Assuming you are a Lawprof of a top 100 school, you and your similarly situated colleagues should advocate the closing of all "unranked" schools. The faculty of these lowly schools will pull a guilt trip by calling you racist or elitist but really that's all they can do.

Anon, maybe you haven't read the NYT, WSJ or the Atlantic lately, but Lawprofs and Lawadmins are being labeled as the greedy villains and rightfully so. I strongly recommend reading the Atlantic article below - it is my personal favorite.

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2013/01/law-school-applications-are-collapsing-as-they-should-be/272729/

So Anon, you can quit blathering and try to fix the problem or continue blathering while waiting for your eventual unemployment check.

anonymous

If practitioners respected law professors' acumen they would: (a) cite law review articles a lot more; and (b) bring them on as consultants on important cases far more than they do now.

Anyway, soon we'll be able to see who is right, the anonymous law professors here or MacK, when law schools start closing and law professors start sending their resumes into large firms.

Forgotten Attorney

2:40, with the overwhelming evidence from government statistics, the legions of anecdotal unemployed and underemployed graduates and even some maverick lawprofs, we all know who will eventually be right.

Confused, Dean Yellen's post makes it clear who his constituent is - the US News Rankings.

As a practicing attorney, it is sad and infuriating to see lawprofs like Anon take such an indifferent and cavalier attitude towards their students and recent graduates. They will eventually be cynical towards the practice of law and take it out on their clients. They will leave thinking "If law schools can scam me, what's stopping me from scamming my clients?"

MacK

But anon - perhaps you are not answering because you cannot, and then coming up complicated explanations as to why you should not...

Let me put it this way, had you actually practiced law, had to argue economic issues (as I have in antitrust and competition), you might have been able to find some holes in my analysis of 3 in 4 (though a few might say it could be worse if the faculty profile has to change.) The only thing sustaining the current existence of 12,000 tenured law professors is the student loan system. However, as public sentiment becomes steadily more hostile to law schools - the loan system is likely to be curtailed. That will lead to a further decline.

So, the point remains - if there are jobs for 1/2 of current graduates and law schools also have to cut costs, raise productivity - what leads anyone to believe that the baseline level of tenured law professors is more than 3,000?

By the way, that is pretty well what is normally done in calculating these sorts of questions - come up with a baseline and then try to justify departures from it.

 Confused AND Amused

I'm a practicing attorney who has absolutely no use for those of you in "legal academia." And when you are out on the street looking for jobs (which you will be, because the law school industrial complex is falling apart), I am so looking forward to giving you the same advice your law schools are giving to today's demoralized, indebted and increasingly hopeless graduates: "network!" "hand up a shingle!" "get out there and use your versatile J.D.!" In other words: my sympathy for your employment woes will be non-existent.

JPM


Law schools have little economic incentive to roughly tailor their class sizes to take into account the available legal jobs available.

It is as if Honda were to be paid according to how many vehicles they could pump out - rather than according to how many were actually purchased. In that case the Honda factory would be running 24/7.

Law schools are paid up front, according to how many students they enroll. The student carries all the risk and has virtually no recourse. If the student cannot get a job - well, that's their problem.

If a student pays sticker at any law school in Boston (over $40k a year in tuition at all law schools) and fails to get a job in Biglaw, they are looking at financial ruin. I don't make that statement lightly - but now that interests on federal loans is around 8% and starts accumulating when you are in school, you will be in deep financial trouble on $50,000 a year in any large city (assuming you can get a job.) I would warn any prospective student to think long and hard about law school.

But as the old saying goes, "it's hard to convince someone of something, when their paycheck relies on them NOT understanding it." There are many vested interests in the legal/political/financial/education establishment that profit greatly at the expense of students.

Many financially lucrative and easy jobs in admin positions in academia are political patronage picks. Which is why, for example, all the politicians in Massachusetts were applauding UMASS taking over an unaccredited law school when we are already completely saturated with lawyers up here (we have SIX law schools in Boston alone.) Why were they doing that? They know al their friends will have plumb admin positions at UMASS law.

anons

Is it too much to ask that those who are visiting from ITLSS to actually engage in the substance of the post? Perhaps MacK is correct and the vast majority of academics will end up being laid off. Perhaps Confused AND Amused is correct that academics deserve no sympathy if this were to happen. However, none of this has anything to do with Dean Yellen's thoughts on enrollment and his provocative suggestion that markedly decreasing enrollment might actually hurt the prospects of those who do enroll.

There is also a contradiction between 1) claiming that lower ranked schools should close (particularly while criticizing any consideration of the rankings) and 2) chiding professors for their alleged lack of practice experience, even though empirical data shows that these are the schools that employ the faculty members with the most legal experience (see the Newton study cited by Mack).

Incidentally, I have seen numerous citations to Bill Henderson's work on "structural changes" in the legal market, but even Bill concedes that much of the change is occurring at the margins with LPOs. And recent reports from Citibank and Wells Fargo suggest that BigLaw is experience the same (or better) growth than it did outside of 2004-2007. This does not mean that the employment market for new lawyers will pick up anytime soon, but the "structural change" argument is very quickly becoming conventional wisdom based on limited data.

MacK

anon - I read the substance of the post. The answer is that if some schools shrink and others grow, but the massive excess of law graduates continues to exist, then a contraction in enrolment in a lower ranked school, outside say the top 14 will tend to not help - bottom half of the class at Loyala will still be bottom half at Loyola. A caveat though a broad regional school reduction in a given region may help.

However, Yellen's estimate of how many schools need to close is divorced from reality. Other than Cooley, most of the lower ranked schools are smaller than the median. That means that closing a lot of small lower ranked schools will not have a big impact - you need to reach quite high up, to schools ranked in the second tier to get the reduction in capacity. But closing schools and reducing class sizes is not the sole solution, cost needs to be cut to - and that means cutting faculty payrolls at the remaining schools - a higher faculty/student ratio with professors teaching more classes.

Then if the demand for a changed curriculum are also going to be met the current faculty profile is wrong. So that means more change to existing faculty.

Law professors need to face harsh realities, especially if they are in their 30s or 40s - their academic career is likely to end before they hit retirement age.

AnonProf

MacK,
You've completely mischaracterized me "the average law professor has barely 2.6 years of legal practice (reading your posting it would seem that you have less)". I practiced for about eight yrs before entering the academy. I practiced in a diverse number of areas during that time. Not all those years were easy (there were difficult bosses, unpleasant circumstances) and others were great (victories, comradery). I find that my current job requires significantly more preparation time and longer hours than my yrs in practice (no exaggeration, the truth). Despite my years of experience, I have friends who have never practiced. Some of them are the best educators in the legal academy. I won't name them because that would be unfair since they're probably not on this blog. Your ad hominem attacks weaken you argument.

It's silly to blame law professors for unemployment. As I said earlier, we are educators not career counselors. Just as you wouldn't blame your undergrad professors or high school teachers for not finding a job after completing those levels of learning, so too it's absurd to blame law teachers (unless of course they didn't do their job and write you letters of recommendation) for taking an educational risk that didn't pan out for you.

I hope things get better for you, but counsel you to desist from lashing out and seek to strengthen your resume and look for alternative ways to use your law diploma.

A final point, and then I’m bowing out of this thread (it’s too negative, too unpleasant), I have no idea how I or any of my colleagues would do in the current market, if we were to be forced back into it by economic realities at our law schools. But why you would wish us ill, not knowing our backgrounds, circumstances, and engagements with students, is beyond me.

Anon Grad

"It's silly to blame law professors for unemployment"

One could argue that. What one cannot deny is that they ARE - or more accurately, their outlandish salaries are - to blame for that unemployment being financially crippling for their graduates, because it is their salaries that lead directly to the staggering debt loads they carry.

As for your claim that your teaching require more hours than your time in practice, I simply do not believe you. I cannot.

West

"Your ad hominem attacks weaken you argument."

What, exactly, does your argument-from-authority-while remaining-anonymous do?

"taking an educational risk that didn't pan out for you."

...because you jackwads promoted a system of lies and degenerate behavior that's finally being exposed for what it is.

If you're a law professor, you're either (1) ignorant of your surroundings, which makes you a lousy academic/public servant; or (2) you knowingly participated in a scam.

"it’s too negative, too unpleasant"

Reality sucks, doesn't it? How do you think it feels for the numerous grads of your law school trying to make it with six-figure debt?

2011 grad

@Anons 2:42, Confused posed some good questions about the substance of Dean Yellen's article above (which have yet to be answered). And to follow up, Dean Yellen says that his school will "probably" cut 25-30 students next year. Even assuming that they voluntarily cut this many (I will believe it when I see it), he explicitly states that this is because of the US News rankings--and not a concern for students/the profession/taxpayers/anyone but faculty and admins of law schools. And then you all wonder why we react so viscerally and violently to some of these remarks.
Doing my best with Loyola's employment numbers, which except for the very first figure are difficult to make sense of (I'll get to that below):
--only 46.8% of their 2011 class got long term, full time employment as attorneys 9 mos. after graduation (66.36% bar required x 86% full time x 82% long term). And 5% of THIS NUMBER were new grads hanging out their shingle as solos. Now, even assuming that EVERY short term, full time employed attorney is a state or federal judicial clerkship (rather than say, a document review position), then you still only get 57% of people employed in full time, attorney positions. This assumption would favor Loyola, and even for clerks (especially state clerks, who comprised 8 of the 12 people Loyola grads at judicial clerkships) their is no guarantee that they will find legal employment after the clerkships end. As taken from the above post, Loyola's 2011 class was 251. So, using the %'s above:
--about 133(rounded down) Loyola graduates had not secured long term, full time positions as attorneys 9 mos after graduation;
--Even adding in the short term, full time attorneys (some of which must have been document reviewers), you get only 143/251 people with these jobs;
--Total number of grads getting jobs as lawyers is 166/251. And let's remember that less than 251 reported, and as Dean Yellen points out above, the non-reporters are more likely to be unemployed. So really we can assume that the numbers above appear more favorable than they are, because for the sake of ease it just used the total class size rather than the number who reported (which I couldn't find).
And so back to my point (which hopefully is sufficiently related to the subject of original post): Dean Yellen points out that "The “right” number of law students must surely be related to the job market." He then goes on to say that they are "voluntarily" reducing they class size to suit the US News rankings, by reducing the incoming class size by an amount that will have a negligible effect on the number or percentage of unemployed grads at his school. Translation: "The results for unemployed law grads is tragic. Yes there is a problem. Yes we know what it is. Yes we can fix it. My law school won't because--well we just won't. And we (as law schools generally) won't fix it for the right reasons. In fact, we will knowingly refrain from fixing it as long as possible, changing only as our US News rankings status dictates. We won't be subtle about our lack of concern for recent, current, and prospective students because we don't have to be. There is no Emperor of Legal Education. And due to the non-existence of this thing I just made up, we have no obligation to act morally, and we have no obligation to feel remorse, because unless and until there is a nonfictional authority to command and enforce such mandates, they don't exist."

And Dean Yellen, please explain to me--and your prospective students--why the first and most prominent graphic on employment numbers on your website proudly displays a figure of 86.85% employment for graduates? Is this not misleading? Is it merely a coincidence that the most favorable--and most misleading--numbers are displayed first? Don't you think that an uniformed person (e.g. a prospective student) will look at those numbers and assume that the 86.85% represents people employed as attorneys? Do you care? Do you know? Or are there too many "buffers" between you and the pie chart guy for you to have any responsibility?

And with regards to why we can't just have a intelligent "discussion," there is really nothing left to discuss. What do we do when law deans are openly admitting the things in this post, yet do nothing to remedy it? What are we left to do when on one hand a Dean is claiming the legal education sky is falling, but on the other welcomes as many students as possible, so long as his school's precious US Rankings don't suffer?

Sorry for the long post, but it's another Saturday night on the couch because my going out money went to cover my student loan payment (ok, it didn't cover it but it went towards it anyway).

Sisyphus

"Just as you wouldn't blame your undergrad professors or high school teachers for not finding a job after completing those levels of learning, so too it's absurd to blame law teachers."

My high school and undergrad teachers didn't demand inconceivably (and unjustifiably) large salaries which are directly related to student's crippling financial situation. It would be nice to hear a few law profs at least consider the possibility they are overpaid.

"it’s too negative, too unpleasant"

Perhaps you need to spend more time investigating the outcomes for law students. If you did, you would see just how atrocious the legal "market" has become and would realize it's quite reasonable to be negative or unhappy. Having said that, I don't think this thread is particularly negative. Rather, the comments are simply reflecting the reality of life as a lawyer in a terribly glutted market with massive loans and little prospect for employment.

Lastly, if reading some uncensored comments about the legal "profession" is one of the most negative things you are dealing with today, you are one lucky individual.

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