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May 07, 2013

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Anonymous Coward

Ben -- I admire you for sticking your neck out on these issues and providing data in what appears to be a measured and sober manner. A lot of time, people hesitate to comment on these issues with such a point of view using their real names, because the scamblogs (and the Camposes of the world) are always looking for someone to single out and slander and mock with your picture next to a pig and subject their institution to greater scrutiny. As such, only one side of the issue generally sees the light of day. I am sure that will happen to you, if it has not already; that's just how they roll. But this is important data to discuss, and I hope other institutions do similar "what happens after 9 months" surveys.

On one specific point, I am not sure that a second year bar exam is a great idea. For those folks who are lucky enough to have some form of employment in their second summer, it might be difficult to do both. You may be able to push state bars to do their grading and admission process faster -- there is no excuse for how long it takes in New York.

Jeff Matthews

Ben, you didn't address and important possibility in how to view the BLS data. It could be that the categories, "Lawyer" and "Lawyers and Judicial Law Clerks" do NOT contain mutually exclusive data. This is the assumption you are making. You might be right, but you might be wrong.

If we have 5 lawyers, and 4 work in law firms or as solos, and 1 works as a clerk, it is quite possible that the data on "Lawyers" might pertain to all 5.

This is a BIG maybe; I don't know.

Ben Barros

AC - you are right that the second year bar plan would present some summer employment issues. I think that issue could be worked out, but it is something to consider.

Jeff - this post is based on a conversation with Michael Wolf from BLS. I ran this post by him before I put it up. So it really isn't an assumption. Also, if you look at the tables, the numbers don't make sense if there is overlap.

John Thompson

@Anonymous Coward:

Thank God you're a law professor. I'm not sure how you could live out here in the real world, with things that are even worse than having someone question your point of view on the Internet.

@Ben:

For what it's worth, I appreciate that you've spent as much time on this topic as you have. When you begin to address issues of salary along with debt, I would appreciate you spending some time on the assumption that entry-level salaries grow over time in practice. It makes sense that they would, as one's skillset and network in a practice niche or geographic area increases, but how much do those salaries really increase for most people? Does it happen enough for prospective law students to take that seriously into account when they calculate the potential return on their investment?

Ben Barros

John, thanks, I'll do that. I actually think that that issue is probably the most important one on the salary front. I've been thinking about how to get at it, and have some ideas.

Jeff Matthews

Ben will find out when law schools have to get government bail-outs or shut down, or perhaps when professors lose jobs because admissions can't support the existing bloat. Not that I wish this on anyone. I don't. Everyone ought to want prosperity for everyone.

But the data points in a singular direction, and that trend is 20 years in the making. It's not about some 2008 bubble that went bust. That's merely a shallow, short-term attempt at an explanation.

Just as in real estate, colleges have bubbles, too. The only thing propping them up is guaranteed student loans - a guarantor who'd be fired if he was guaranteeing loans like these out in the market.

We'll see.... but I expect academia privately expresses concern while generally, it is quite worried for its own sake. As in all stressed organizations, you have to have the "Ken Lay's" of the world who take it upon themselves to reassure the public that the stock is still good. (not that Lay knew of the issues, but he sure denied them).

I think Tamanaha might have fairly described the primary, unspoken agenda of the Hawaii trip, but he'll have to articulate on that more if he cares to share.

Steven

I love that AC's big worry is that his institution might be subject to greater scrutiny! How horrible!

Steven

I didn't realize that Ben Barros works for Widener University School of Law

http://thirdtierreality.blogspot.com/2010/08/wipe-thoroughly-widener-university.html

I guess that explains it. This school is among the first that should close when the market correction takes place.

Ben Barros

Steven, is this the best that you can do? Do you have a point you want to make?

John Thompson

@Steven:

There are maybe as many as twenty law professors who have tried to engage publicly with the struggle faced by recent graduates in an honest way. Does it really serve any purpose to insult Barros by association with his place of work?

I remember before the conventional wisdom turned the scamblogs' way. I remember the constant, pointless attack levied by skeptics against people for daring to ask why the alleged benefits of a JD had not accrued to them and many of their contemporaries. "Of course *you* don't have a job. Why would you? You went to (at first, a third-tier school; then, a non-T1 school; now, a non-HYS school)." Mocking Barros for where he works is not a counter-argument to any points he raised, any more than mocking you for not attending Harvard is a counter-argument to any points you might raise.

Jeff Matthews

I am not a big fan of personal attack, but there are indeed some issues which bear introspection among academians.

I don't begrudge law profs maximizing their salaries. I don't mind their reluctance to give up pay, nor would I ever expect them to. I don't mind them questioning whether the problem is as bad as some say. I don't mind that they continue the casebook method despite complaints by students that, given how hard it is to land a job, maybe a more hands-on approach is in order. These things are open for debate.

But, in all honesty (and no profs need respond), for years we have all known that the law schools have been posting misleading employment statistics. While the language they employed was technically true, they have been selective in their data gathering and categorizing, without full disclosure as to the means used to skew the results. This has been common knowledge for at least 20 years. My graduating class from UT Law in 1993 can attest to it. Ask just about any of the 500+ attorneys we graduated that year. This has been the case for EVERY lawyer in any graduating class after mine in any school that I have ever known. I have never seen ONE lawyer, when the topic came up, who didn't agree the stats were bogus.

Though it has become common knowledge among lawyers after the fact (of attending law school for a while to figure out the bunk by watching all the hopeless-sounding 3rd-years ahead of us), it most certainly was not widespread knowledge among many of the members of the entering classes who really did not know many lawyers to begin with. I do think the advent of scamblogging has made the scam more transparent the more popular scamblogging has become. (Gotta love the internet for those who would have more trouble finding answers by walking pavement.)

So, in the sense that law school systematically published misleading figures, knowing they were misleading, in order to get kids with stars in their eyes to pony up $100k+, I call BS on that. Every law professor should have rebuked this practice until it was stopped. But you all (or dang near everyone of you) sat there quietly. You knew it, too. We know you did. Heck, Professor Powers even gave us 3rd years a speech about how not to worry that we didn't have jobs line-up like we expected we ought to have. It was apologetic with a dose of encouragement thrown in.

That practice was shameful. I hope you guys are more vocal about truth-in-education in the future. You don't have to be all negative on law school, but at least stand up and call for the truth when you see your compadres and employers teaming up to pull stunts like these. Don't just sit quietly and watch all those kids have their hopes dashed so that you feel obliged to give moral encouragement to "Hang in there. It's not so bad. Give it time. You'll be fine." This is little consolation, even if the damage is repaired over time by the efforts of the kids whose hopes were dashed.

Steven

I thought the point was clear. If a market correction is actually going to happen, your school is going to be among the first to go, because it is among the worst.

And that, to me, explains why a person would be motivated to present these arguments as you have. So the glass has a little more water in it than somebody (who?) thinks, but that doesn't mean we should call it half full. Attending your school is a dangerous and expensive risk that nobody should be encouraged to take.

Ben Barros

Steven, if you actually look at the data I present, you will realize why your argument is wrong. Your argument is lazy and frankly not worth responding to.

Up until now, the comments on all three threads have been constructive. Many have disagreed with me, some strongly. I will leave Steven's last two comments up, but will delete any subsequent comments that do not at least engage in the substance of the posts in a meaningful way. If you want to talk shit, find somewhere else on the internet do do it.

Ben Barros

I just deleted another comment by Steven. Steven, I meant what I said. Talk about the data, or take your crap elsewhere.

Ben Barros

And I just deleted another comment, by another person. I welcome pushback on any point that I have actually made in any of the three posts. Engage in what I actually said.

Embarrassed to be a law professor

You deleted my comment, which was pointing out that you (like Diamond, Katz, Mitchell before you) have made every assumption self-servingly in favor of the status quo. How is that not engaging with your what you actually said?

Ben Barros

See updated comment policy for this tread above. The prior threads were fine. I'm not sure why this post is attracting all the nonsense. If you disagree with something I said, explain why. Empty name calling does not advance the discussion.

MacK

Ben,

I am not going to argue that there are not some issues with BLS data - but it certainly seems to be a lot more reliable than the "statistics" that law schools published going back to the early 1990s - and Widener cannot be singled out for this sort of activity. I would treat the data from the BLS as fundamentally more trustworthy than that emanating from law schools, who combine a history of shameless dishonesty with a self interest in publishing rosy data that the BLS lacks.

I do think that as a professor at a low ranked law school that has had its share of recent controversies, you need to "think like a lawyer" about the credibility problem that you have when writing on this topic. As Mandy Rice Davies famously put it "well he would [say that], wouldn't he." Indeed, Anonymous Coward above misses the point when he complains about law professors pushing the view you are expressing here being attacked - you have entered a minefield where your motivations will be in question - how could they not? While in law school twenty years ago one ethics professor (and adjunct) I had provided us with data from various studies on conflict of interest - experiments that showed how interest consistently skewed decision making even when the subjects sought to make efforts to avoid being biased or being perceived as trivialising the consequences of the employment situation you describe.

The difficulty with the false data peddled by so many law schools is that the data was: (a) so transparently false; (b) so pervasively false (as in almost every school did it); and (c) false for so long, as to raise the question, why did law schools do this? What possible motive other than bilking law students can there have been. And to be blunt, why were so many lawyer-professors so untroubled by this activity. Why does Anonymous Coward not at least acknowledge the shameful deception before complaining about Campos and/or Tamahama - why don't you. This entire thread would have had considerably more credibility if you had at least started by even a nodding acknowledgement of the scandal that decades of false data presentation by law schools represents (even if you did not address Widener's own published data.)

I should add that my interest in this topic started about 4 years ago - and I had some correspondence with Campos at that time - long before ITLSS. It was sparked when I was researching salaries for lawyers for practical reasons (hiring) and found the BLS website and that it could give me salary data by major metro area. Out of curiosity I looked at the data for Washington DC - and then the reported average salary for each DC law school at 9 months. As Garrison Keiler might put it "all of our law graduates are above average" 9 months after graduation - everyone was averaging $160,000 - So who were these poor experienced schmucks on around $100,000 or less then? It was the BLS salary data that led to the first big clue of the fraud so many law schools were engaging in. It was also surprising to see how many low rank schools claimed higher average salaries than say Harvard and Yale.

Returning to your posting - Paul Campos' partner in apostasy Deborah Jones Merritt, pointed to an interesting aspect of the BLS data you just cited, the 728,000 lawyer jobs. This as addressed here http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.co.uk/2011/09/553000-missing-lawyers.html and I have posted on this too. In doing so I have to point out that there is some variation in the BLS data which is a counting issues - but somewhere around half the legal practitioners that should exist - as judges, lawyers, etc. just don't. There is a huge number of missing lawyers in the data - why?

Ben Barros

Embarrassed, if you actually read my posts and think about them, you will see that you are wrong. If you disagree with specific statements, identify them. Say why they are wrong. I didn't get the sense from your prior post that you had actually read my posts. If you are really a law professor, act like a scholar and engage what I actually said.

Embarrassed to be a law professor

How about these assumptions that you have made (or are strongly implied by your posts):

1) That JDs who get their first lawyer job more than 9 months post-graduation will have salary prospects that bear a reasonable relationship with the out-of-pocket and opportunity costs of attending law school.

2) That JD Advantage and Professional jobs will have salary prospects that bear a reasonable relationship with the out-of-pocket and opportunity costs of attending law school.

3) That the current situation is cyclical rather than structural.

4) That, even if the current situation is cyclical, the cycle will end relatively soon (notwithstanding the fiscal situation).

5) That the BLS predictions will prove to be quite pessimistic.

From where I sit, you'd have to go 5 for 5 to have these posts be at all meaningful. (And, for what it's worth, I'd bet against you on every one of these assumptions.)

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