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March 30, 2013

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Michael Risch

Any reason not to add a second column that adds in JD advantage - full time as well? It's not as great as JD required, but a) it's a job and b) some students actually want positions like that.

Michael Risch

Seems like you would also want a third column that subtracts out any hires by the school.

John Doe

The law school scam has been revealed, and the edifice of legal education is imploding. In that process, many of you faculty will lose your jobs. What will you do after that? Only God knows. Certainly your skills are useless outside of academia. My advice: Better start practicing making those mochas and lattes.

John Thompson

It's a good thing that U.S. News continues to focus heavily on peer academics' opinions, and doesn't allow its ranking to be controlled by such petty considerations as whether you can reasonably expect to find work as an attorney after graduating.

Otherwise, people might ask embarrassing questions about why some schools cost so much and are ranked so highly (e.g., Georgetown) when they are outperformed on this minor issue by several cheaper ones (e.g., West Virginia, Kentucky, Alabama).

PJ Carlesimo

A guy named John Thompson dissing G-Town?

In any event, these cheaper schools probably place well in states like West Virginia, Kentucky, and Alabama, which pay very little and where people that go to G-Town (or most other schools) are not interested in working.

AnonProf

I wonder how these statistics compare to the job prospects of those people who graduated with degrees from disciplines other than law, both with undergraduate and graduate degrees. My guess is that for many folks the law degree continues to be a great investment. (And here I apologize for only concentrating on the monetary value of the degree since I think law school education is meant to do much more than make a person marketable.) Tough to believe that people with a philosophy, linguistics, biology, classics, physics, literature, political science, modern languages, or similar degrees do better than those graduating with a J.D. In some cases, I'd guess, persons with degree from those disciplines fare significantly worse. But I'd like to see the actual numbers to see whether my conjecture is correct. For those obsessed with quantifying the value of the law degree on the basis of actual job market performance, I'd recommend criminology or engineering, which might actually get you in the job market with much less debt load, if that's your chief concern.

Another take away point for me is that the law graduates of some schools in the lower tier schools, against which we've been hearing much clamoring, do quite as well as their higher rated competitors.

confused

AnonProf,

A couple things you might want to consider when comparing the employment outcomes of JDs with graduates of other disciplines:

1) The average debt load of graduates of private law schools is $125,000 with many schools topping $150,000. http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/average_debt_load_of_private_law_grads_is_125k_these_five_schools_lead_to_m/

http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/grad-debt-rankings

Those numbers do not include any undergraduate debt already incurred, the 6-8% interest charged while enrolled or funding for bar prep courses and associated bar exam costs which can add an additional 5 figures of debt.

Can you point to any sources that would suggest that graduates of other disciplines incur anything close to those costs?

2) For years, law schools have prominently advertised the "average" starting salaries of their graduates in order to lure students interested in establishing some financial security. When a law school states that the average graduate of its institution is able to secure a job paying $80,000 or more, within 9 months of graduation, that will impact a rational person's willingness to incur debt to finance such an opportunity. In reality, schools were manipulating data to only include successful graduates in their "averages," fraudulently painting a distorted picture to applicants.

To my knowledge, the disciplines you reference above never billed themselves as tickets to high paying jobs which is likely the reason you have offered no evidence to support your "conjecture."

3) If you continued your inquiry past "conjecture" and the typical assumptions law professors make to justify their loan funded paychecks, you would learn that a good portion of those long term, full-time, bar required jobs pay nowhere close to justifying the expenditures of the average law school grad. You would also learn that JD holders suffer at a disadvantage when competing with graduates of other disciplines because non-legal employers do not like lawyers and place negative value on the JD part of an applicant's resume.

As these realities are further revealed through transparency, you will continue to see applicant numbers fall and law schools start to close.

John Thompson

@PJ:

Perhaps that's true. 38% of Georgetown's graduates in the class of 2011 reported a private-sector mean salary (or worked for a firm for whom the processing office at Georgetown for employment surveys had a "market salary," and an employee of this office filled in that number) of $160,000. About 50% of West Virginia's graduates in the same year reported a private-sector mean salary of $67,000 and a public-sector mean salary of $50,000. However, according to NALP's figures, about half of the jobs in the law available to new graduates were with small firms, paying between $50,000 and $70,000 nationally, and 41% of new graduates reported salaries of $55,000 or less. It could be that many more graduates of Georgetown are making salaries comparable to graduates of West Virginia than we are led to believe, particularly when loan repayment and cost of living are included for comparison of net outcomes.

I'm not picking a fight with Georgetown, either as a basketball program (tough loss to FGCU, guys) or as a law school. I'm just using it as a proxy for law schools deemed elite by U.S. News and peer academic opinion generally, and likewise I am using West Virginia as a proxy for non-elite public law schools. I feel that Georgetown, like many law schools regardless of U.S. News position, no longer deserves the benefit of the doubt for these massive lacunae in their salary and employment data. It may be that many graduates will find no particular professional advantage in attending a Georgetown over a West Virginia, if they can't find an employer in the law at graduation.

In this specific comparison, I am arguing that the 80-slot gap at U.S. News and the $120,000+ gap in sticker price makes no sense, when so much of the market for recently graduated attorneys seems indifferent to pedigree. This argument can be expanded to cover a number of schools who basically produce the same number of working attorneys at widely divergent costs.

Anon

AnonProf,

This is just wrong: "Another take away point for me is that the law graduates of some schools in the lower tier schools, against which we've been hearing much clamoring, do quite as well as their higher rated competitors." The lower ranked schools often have starting salaries that are less than half of those at higher ranked schools. A full-time JD required contract attorney job (even if long term) is not what most students go to law school to obtain.

Forgotten Attorney

Anonprof, can you do me and the sane among us a favor? Please convince your law school to post the following slogan on the next wave of advertising:

"Where we teach you how to think like a lawyer. Not how to get a job."

I'd love to see your school's acceptance yield rate afterwards.

I am also aware that other fields have it bad in terms of unemployment. But it does not mean that going to law school will make it better. It is pathetic that only 30 law schools broke the 70% post-grad FTLT employment rate. Schools have lower than 50% should have their accreditation reviewed by the ABA.

Matthew Bruckner

@John Thompson -

Isn't the issue really about the way these numbers are obtained?

As I understand it, schools are incentivized to reach out to every student and ask if they are employed because every graduate for whom the school lacks employment data is counted as unemployed. Still, I would think that this is not a perfect effort and schools might be unable to contact some employed graduates. Unless you assume that every graduate that the school didn't contact is actually unemployed, this figure is likely to underrepresent the employment results for schools.

The opposite is true of salary data. As I understand it, graduates can chose whether or not to share their salary information. I would assume that graduates with high salaries are more likely to self-report those salaries than graduates with low salaries. Therefore, I would expect this figure to skew upwards.

I'm not sure of the solution, but it doesn't seem fair to blame law schools for the lacunae. My school, for example, seems to do quite a bit to identify where our graduates have landed and to accurately report their salaries and other information.

John Thompson

@Matthew:

The way that these numbers are obtained is an issue. However, that law schools do not tell prospective or current law students as much as they know is a bigger one.

For example, NALP's current methodology for calculating an employment rate is to take the number of students reporting employment by the number of students reporting. Depending on which school you represent, it might suit you to be incurious about students whose employment status is not known, although in 2011, NALP reported the partial or full participation of 93% of the graduating class in its survey.

And this brings us to our next problem: it is possible for a graduate to participate in this survey without actually receiving a questionnaire. In my case, neither I nor my wife (a graduate of the same class) received a questionnaire of any kind, let alone one formatted in the way NALP suggests. However, it may be that we were added to our school's employment outcome data as employed anyway, and at a salary level of the CDO/CSO's devising. NALP encourages CDO/CSOs to use Facebook and LinkedIn to determine whether a graduate is employed or even what his salary might be in the absence of a questionnaire, and then to use their "best professional judgment" and "the highest ethical standards" in filling in the blanks. Even at firms whose salaries follow a publicly disclosed lockstep for new associates, you can see how this might be problematic as a new associate at one firm is put down by a CDO/CSO employee for a New York market salary when the graduate's office is actually in Scranton or Dover, e.g., where the market salary is $40,000 or $50,000 less. And this is where a CDO/CSO isn't encouraged to do this in bad faith to minimize brand damage during a suboptimal year for the school's graduates.

Practicing attorneys are required to disclose and explain any fact that might have a material impact on a client's decision to retain them. On that basis, I don't think that it's asking too much of schools for their CDOs and CSOs to proceed in granular detail about how much information they have, that information's provenance, and the range of possible meanings that the information could have in a bimodal market for attorneys - all of this in a required briefing to students before their first tuition check is cashed.

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