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April 10, 2013

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Kedd

It is also noteworthy that William and Mary drops from #22 to #94 when school funded jobs are excluded. The advertise for one year volunteer jobs on their website and say there will be a school stipend. The have 41 school funded jobs in the last year, and top the list of public interest jobs. It does not say how much the school stipend is, but these volunteer jobs are counted as full time, long term jobs, and thus count fully in US News. I wonder how many people will choose the school because of its public interest placement is allegedly first in the nation? They have not published salary stats for their class of 2012 yet -- I wonder what the salary stats will show for their public interest jobs? I imagine their median salary for these jobs will be whatever the school stipend is.

J

Why should we not count school-funded jobs as "real" jobs? If an incoming student has a 94% chance of getting a full-time job, but 17% of the time that job will be funded by the school, is that student's expected income any lower?

The answer might be that it is, but that's not because the person may have a school-funded job after graduation. Instead, it's because school-funded jobs (in some cases) tend to be low-paying or quasi-volunteer gigs, as Kedd notes in the comment above.

I graduated a couple of years ago from a school in Dan's "second cluster," and I chose to take a school-funded fellowship to do public interest work. I'm being paid about as much as my classmates who are employed directly by an NGO or the government. I'd argue my job should count just as much for purposes of employment stats as my classmates' nonprofit jobs. On the other hand, I have some classmates who are "employed" by private firms or nonprofits or Starbucks and are making a fraction of what I'm making, or they're not really working full time, or the job isn't guaranteed to last past next week. Those are the jobs we should be discounting, not mine. Maybe we don't have the data to make that distinction, but either way the distinction Dan's making in this post doesn't quite hit the mark.

Kedd

J -- You make a good point, but I suspect your type of job may be different. You indicated that you graduated a couple of years ago and are still working in a school-funded fellowship, and it is a job you chose. Does the school put a limit on how long the fellowship lasts?

In W&M's case, the fellowship stipends are specifically advertised as ending after one year [magically, the dividing line between "long term" and "short term" for U.S. News, ABA and LST] and are "giving J.D. graduates the chance to broaden their skills and knowledge of a practice area while they continue to seek permanent employment."

http://law.wm.edu/careerservices/employers/pgfemployerform/index.php

So it sounds like no one is expecting any of these jobs themselves to turn into anything permanent, and may never result in the actual "employer" paying one dime to the worker. I wonder if the stipend would be at least minimum wage?

BoredJD

J - The distinction is important because schools with a high number of school funded jobs are likely paying EXTREMELY low salaries, not fellowship salaries. E.g. the GW P2P program that employed 1/5 of the class and paid $15/hr capped at 35 hours per week (with the Dean considering cutting it to $10/hr). That's not "about as much as my classmates who are employed directly by an NGO or the government" but closer to "about as much as my classmates who are employed directly by Starbucks or Walmart."

Schools are of course welcome to present salary data to show that their school funded jobs are actually decent paying alternatives to direct funded PI/gov't. But given the recent behavior of schools and the reticence of the ABA to require detailed salary reporting (for obvious reasons), the burden is on the schools to prove otherwise.

AndyK

With public data as to the (1) size of the legal market in a locale, (2) actual employment numbers, and (3) percent of law graduates with jobs disaggregated by market, someone now has all the data to make a reasonable estimation of the value of a given law degree by market.

So, for example, Penn is at the top of this list, and having lived in Philly, I know that a Penn Law degree will win over a comparable top-10 degree most of the time. Whereas, in NYC, a Columbia or NYU degree doesn't have that automatic regional "bump." And now we are getting close to the ability to find out exactly what the value-add of a school in a given market is.

My intuition is that higher or lower rankings in job placement is marginally affected by putting up regional walls around cities, and some schools have a better "national" brand at the expense of overall employment. Penn, I suspect based on my anecdotal experience, has a sort of "United States of Philadelphia" strategy so that their graduates can be absorbed by that city. Similarly the University of Oklahoma (I was just there this week) has a lock on the OKC market. On the other hand, Yale has a national brand but no proprietary market of any size.

All this is, I think, fairly obvious, but the interesting point to me is that we can probably now calculate it, and identify schools and markets that give parochial bumps. I suspect NYC and DC, and to a lesser extent LA, are relatively neutral markets that give less of a "bump" to regional schools than Chicago, Atlanta, or Philadelphia. But this is pure speculation and I look forward to more number crunching!

J

Kedd -- Sorry for the verb-tense confusion. I was talking about my first job out of school. The fellowship lasted a year, and there was a not-guaranteed one-year extension at a slightly reduced rate. But that rate was still on the same order of magnitude as actual salaries. More importantly, though, by my estimate about half of these fellowship jobs turn into full-time, employer-funded work. (Though that's less likely when the employer is the government or a foreign NGO.)

These fellowships are obviously inferior to full-time jobs, but I think the law school's purpose matters here. W&M seems to be offering a bit of money to tide people over. My school offers full-pay fellowships to support work for an organization that otherwise couldn't afford to hire, and it does so with the hope that the fellowship job turns into a real one. For that reason, the fellowships are targeted toward a certain type of organization, the salary is enough to support a modest lifestyle, and there is support for students and orgs who want to transition the fellow to full-time employment at the end of the fellowship term.

Not sure where all of this gets us, other than to say that not all school-funded employment is created equal, and prospective students should be aware of that fact (and the underlying data, some of which you and BoredJD have helpfully provided).

Jeffrey Harrison

I am wondering how graduates are counted who pursue another advanced degree -- LLM, or otherwise. Are the deemed to be unemployed? If so the figures could be a bit off.

Greg Sergienko

I'm wondering if these results are affected by judicial clerkships. At least as some schools are reporting them, many of them do not satisfy the long-term requirement because they're less than a year. Students in federal clerkships and appellate state clerkships will have little trouble moving into long-term jobs when their clerkships are done.

Anon

According to the ABA, judicial clerkships of all kinds (federal, state local, etc.) are considered long-term employment if they are for a period of a year of more. Judicial clerkships are considered bar passage-required employment.

Anon

Most judicial clerkships, by the way, are for a period of a year or more, and are therefore included in calculations of "long-term, full-time, bar passage-required employment."

Perplexed

Could someone articulate the objection to law schools devoting resources to obtaining JD-required, full time, public interest jobs (e.g., local prosecutor, public defender positions) for otherwise unemployed grads? Aren't graduates who take such positions better off (in terms of gaining legal experience, making connections, and applying to other positions) than unemployed graduates of other schools? And shouldn't schools that devote resources to directly helping students get jobs in a difficult economy benefit relative to peer schools who instead devote their resources to glossy brochures, fancy buildings, faculty perks, university cross subsidies . . . .

Midwest 1L

AndyK - I would be very interested in this type of data or analysis.

I left Boston and decided to not enroll in one of the mid-ranked law schools that feed into the city, although Harvard grads and maybe BC grads have more of a national reach. Boston alone has 7 law schools. I think this is an important factor for students to consider when determining what schools in which cities to enroll in. The Boston market is simply saturated with recent grads from both Boston area law schools, but also elite East Coast /Mid Atlantic schools.

That's why I left Boston, although I miss it, for a school in the Midwest that provided a scholarship and has better employment prospects than a higher ranked Boston school.

Kedd

Perplexed -- No objection to schools doing that to help out their grads, just an objection to how such things are counted. It might help them get a full time, JD required job in year 2 after they graduate. It might not. It just should not be counted as a year 1 full time, JD required job (i.e., a job 9 months out), which is what the employment stats are supposedly counting. Other grads listed as unemployed in year 1 might also get a job in year 2, yet they are listed as unemployed for the purpose of the stats.

These are the sort of loopholes which will result or have resulted in schools like W&M or GWU moving up in the rankings, then everyone else will follow suit in ensuing years, and eventually you get everyone reporting close to 100% employment again, making the stats meaningless.

Perplexed

That seems like a pretty small and speculative complaint. Since this actually helps students get real (public interest) JD jobs, I guess I don't mind if it also shows up in the "rankings."

Anon

Perplexed--

First, you're assuming that those law school programs are actually effective, and, in my admittedly limited and anecdotal experience, they may well not be. They seem to be more effective, however, in obscuring true employment figures.

But second, it's not really a practice that should be encouraged. The programs don't increase the total number of public interest jobs available to law students; to the extent they were effective, they would merely result in a transfer of employment between law schools. And law schools principally obtain their funding through tuition. So, ultimately, and to the extent they are effective, those programs are an inefficient transfer of employment between law schools, funded by law students. At a time when law school tuition has risen to unconscionable levels, encouraging a competition between law schools to expand their statistics-obscuring programs seems like a bad idea.

Kedd

Anon at 9:53 -- I do not have any data on this, but as these types of programs become prolific -- it might have the effect of reducing the number of real paid positions with government agencies and public interest. Imagine a budget conscious local prosecutor's office which might have hired young grads in the past saying -- hey, this is free to me and my budget if I keep getting a new grad with a small school stipend every year.

Kedd

I found the amount of the W&M Stipend: $11/hr -- i.e., $385 a week, $20,200 total if they stay the whole year:

law.wm.edu/careerservices/documents/pgfemployersummary.pdf

So it exceeds minimum wage, but just barely.

J

Anon at 9:53 -- "The programs don't increase the total number of public interest jobs available to law students; to the extent they were effective, they would merely result in a transfer of employment between law schools."

Yet again, the point is that this list/discussion lumps totally disparate practices together: No doubt this is true in some cases. Seems like Kedd's scenario could happen with a local prosecutor or even a national nonprofit. But it's also true that some school-funded public interest fellowships create jobs where there would be none -- recipients often work as a "special assistant" to a high-ranking government official, nonprofit leader, etc. That's a job that wouldn't exist if the grad weren't free labor for that office.

Also (tongue semi-firmly in cheek): If we shouldn't encourage practices that merely shift jobs from one school to another, then what to make of the frequent outcries against lazy/unhelpful career services offices? Shouldn't we just get rid of those offices altogether? They're certainly not job creators. Nor are the skills courses people seem to be advocating these days. If UNC adds skills courses to get its students jobs, that's just taking jobs away from Vanderbilt students who would get the jobs otherwise, no?

Anon

Being a "special assistant" or a similar position, however, is not creating a real, long-term position. Instead, it's creating a year-long internship that conveniently disguises the fact that the students in those internships were unable to obtain real employment. At the end of the internships, no real employment necessarily results, although no one at that point cares (except, of course, the law school graduate), since it no longer affects employment statistics.

Classes are a cost inherent to attending law school, and so is having someone to guide students in their career search. I'm not saying transfer of employment between law schools is bad, I'm saying transfer of employment between law schools funded by yet another cost to law students is bad. Additional skills classes or careers services people are also not incentivized by the ability to directly manipulate their employment statistics.

BoredJD

I'd absolutely support cutting career services offices to the bone. Whenever I hear that a law school is responding to the jobs crisis by beefing up their career services office I cringe. Other than event planning for OCI (which isn't even that large at most schools) and reading typos on resumes every other facet of their job could be handled by the alumni office.

Obviously you need some classes, but then again, I'd prefer a law school with no "skills classes" that cost 15K per year to one with an entire slate of "skills classes" that was 50K per year. The employment benefit is going to be marginal.

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