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April 10, 2014

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Ellen

Biglaw firms have been complaining for years about the poor research and writing skills of new associates, among other things. I doubt that they will take kindly (or continue to pay top dollar) to lower caliber graduates with even poorer skills than the recent crop. One likely result will be that firms stop recruiting at the schools that have lowered admission criteria significantly. They will also outsource to India, use new technologies to replace attorneys, hire more laterals and returning moms.

Of course, any employer will expect that new grads pass the bar. I have seen very little discussion on this aspect of lower admission standards. Certainly in places like NY this is going to be a big issue and I think the schools that are lowering their standards know it.

Anon123

Hiring laterals will result in pushing the problem to lower tier firms. It is still going to be tough for a class of 13 person who has had marginal employment for 3 to 4 years to get hired. Government jobs will likely be available for those lower down the law school tier. The biggest impediment may be that many law grads may have trouble passing the bar. Many of those jobs will not help pay off law school debt very quickly, and I agree with posters who say students should be very leary of IBER programs. Will all this cause law school enrollment to increase? Hard to say, but many of the jobs that students are now pursuing, like nurse practitioner, may still be more attractive.

Lisa McElroy

I am a law professor. Were a 1L to make many of the commenters' statements, I'd spend some time in class asking others to critique their logic and persuasiveness.

For example:

"Steven, please stop this. You are hurting young people in a real and tangible way." Mr. Freedman, please stop selling. Those individuals you advised in 2008 and 2009 (you know, the ones about whom you just said 'oops') are real people. They were actually hurt by this." "I sincerely beg you to stop with these article. Don't make things worse," How is Steve hurting young people? How is he making things worse? How did he hurt anyone back in 2008? Steve says throughout that his numbers are estimates and fair guesses. He is speaking to "young people" who, in three years, will be expected to do complex analysis and problem solving for clients with life-altering problems. If these "young people" cannot evaluate for themselves the information Steve offers and accept it without question, then they are ill-prepared for law school. Nothing Steve is doing hurts them in any way. In fact, by offering information and hypotheses, he helps them add to the pool of criteria they are weighing in deciding whether or not to attend law school.

Then there is JoJo. "That leaves an oversupply of only 7,100 if the jobs don't increase. In other words, 1 in 4 graduates who attend law school and borrow $200,000 in money still won't have any sort of FT, LT job in law. Those aren't good numbers, they are bad numbers. They are just less bad than the current numbers. You realize that there is a difference between "good" and "less bad"? JoJo also gave us yesterday the example of the "Harvard educated" lawyer who is looking for work.

OK. So. JoJo. Is your claim that every member of a JD class should get a job, no matter how poorly she did in school, no matter how unprofessional her conduct is, no matter how ill-suited she is for the profession (something potential employers can glean through interviews and recommendations)? When I read about that "Harvard educated" lawyer, I thought a couple of things. I thought that lawyer probably had no ability whatsoever to work with others, or had screwed up some major case, or had been disciplined by the bar. He's not going to put that stuff in a Craigslist ad. But sometimes, just maybe, people are unemployed because they didn't work hard in law school or in a previous job. In other words, it's not the law schools' fault.

How about this comment? "What you casually state here as a 'fair guess' may be cherry picked and touted as a 'fact' elsewhere." First, I don't see anything casual here. Steve clearly put some time and analysis into these numbers. Second, how on earth is it his fault if someone we don't know about might twist what he said in some other outlet? So, we should all stop saying what we think because of the potential for exploitation? I don't think that's right.

One last comment. "The FL should issue some sort of disclaimer before posting a conceded 'pitch' accompanied by a 'look at the number of full-time, long-term JD required and JD advantage positions available to students in 2017 and 2018.'" It did. That's why Steve used words like "prediction" and "estimates."

I believe wholeheartedly that there are many things to critique about law schools. Let's be sure, however, that we play fair. If critiques are this thin, they're not going to stand up to rigorous analysis, and they effect will be the opposite of what you want.

Nathan A

"If these "young people" cannot evaluate for themselves the information Steve offers and accept it without question, then they are ill-prepared for law school."

I think most of the people who left comments would agree with this. I believe what they take issue with is law schools enrolling students who are clearly "ill prepared for law school."

----

"But sometimes, just maybe, people are unemployed because they didn't work hard in law school or in a previous job. In other words, it's not the law schools' fault."

Look I doubt anyone seriously believes that everyone should be entitled to a job. Sure, some people are probably unemployed for good reason. Do you honestly believe that one of the significant factors contributing to law graduates' poor unemployment outcomes is that so many of them too lazy to secure a job? Really? Its easy to pick apart JoJo's comments, but its clear that his/her point was that there will continue to a huge gap between the supply of new graduates and the number of jobs available to them. 7k sounds like a huge gap to me. I think people are right to be worried about it.

---------

It would be nice if people engaged with the substantive qualms people have even if they stumble over their points in anonymous comments section.

no name

Responding to Prof. McElroy: "OK. So. JoJo. Is your claim that every member of a JD class should get a job, no matter how poorly she did in school, no matter how unprofessional her conduct is, no matter how ill-suited she is for the profession (something potential employers can glean through interviews and recommendations)?"

I very much agree with you - not everyone is well suited for the profession, not everyone deserves a job (I went to a good school but honestly would only think about hiring 2 people I graduated with to do legal work for me, and they were both older, more mature students).

But if all that is true, what do you have to say about the dilution of admission standards? That more people than ever are now being admitted to law schools instead of being turned away by admission committees like they probably should be? It really does seem as though law schools are willing to enroll anyone with a pulse and access to unlimited student loans. And that's deplorable.

Lisa McElroy

I don't understand why it is deplorable. The students enrolling in law schools have the information about job placement, bar passage, etc. Presumably, they have decided that they will fall on the positive side of the statistics. They make the choice to accept the offer of admission. The law school makes a commitment to educate them to the best of its ability. If the law school is so terrible and lacks judgment in admitting students, why would a student then choose to go there? It's all in the student's control.

What's more, I know from experience that it can be impossible to tell ahead of time which students are going to succeed and which will not. I've had students with high entering numbers procrastinate and end up in the bottom half of the class. I've had students with very low entering numbers knock my socks off because they worked hard and took advantage of the school's resources. Some bright students are very capable in some other discipline, but their minds just don't do the legal analysis thing very well. That's why applicants need to take some responsibility to make sure that law school is a good idea for them, regardless of whether the law school thinks so.

Anon123

No name, I wouldn't say that law schools in general are willing to enroll anyone, I would say that some are. To me, the solution is the federal government must immediately restrict student loans to schools with an acceptable bar passage rate and employment rate -- or at least the former. I agree with other posters, I do not see a government job, or a job in a very small firm as a failure, but I do see a low bar passage rate as a severe problem.

JM

Steven, since you spotlighted my comment and labeled it "absurd," I will explain myself further.

First, I think jobs in firms of 2-10 lawyers are great for young lawyers. In fact, I work in one. And contrary to most lawyers, I love my job. However, these jobs do not support the debt level that most grads are required to take to pay for school in 2014. Luckily, I worked at a AMLaw 50 firm first, and paid off all of my debt in under two years.

So let's get one things straight, the fact that jobs in firms of 2-10 attorneys no longer count as good outcomes is your fault. The insatiable greed of legal acadamia has made them untenable. Take the blame for once.

Second, I will count every single government job that is a legitimate permanent hire. Even if the salary is under $40,000, as it was for my friend and classmate. However, I will not count volunteer internships as full-time, long-term, bar passage required legal employment. And I will not count them as a good employment outcome. If a given school reports 10 attorneys working in Government, I assume that no more than 5 have a real job.

I'll close with this. All of your problems will be solved if you reduce tuition to the level it was 40 years ago (inflation adjusted). How's that? No more criticism, no more guilt over employment outcomes, no more sorry carsalesmanship and excuse making that denigrates what should be an honorable profession.

JM

Lisa McElroy,

So law schools can go into full blown promotional mode and then rely on the theory of caveat emptor? Your reputation will be adjusted accordingly.

Concerned Citizen

Professor McElroy, do you really see this series as being a case of "information Steve offers" to be evaluated?

Or is it a slick sales pitch?

Consider how he opens the series:

"Why 2017-2018 Will Be a Fantastic Time to Graduate from Law School".

A fantastic time. Titles and lead lines have a purpose. They stick in the mind, particularly after the details following become clouded by the events (whatever they may be) of the next few days. But the lead line, the sound bite, it sticks.

Madison Avenue is well aware of this. Hucksters like Ann Coulter are well aware of this.

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