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April 12, 2014

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anon

We should all regret that you begin your response to the many comments to date with a somewhat irrelevant attack. User names are not the issue here, and many believe that anonymity is required for somewhat obvious reasons. In any event, anonymity is allowed here in the FL. Demeaning those who post anonymously is just sort of a cheap shot and off-point in my view. Still, a “below the belt” attack seems to be thought to be a good way to begin a discussion in some circles, so, if you do likewise it is no “big deal,” one supposes.

Second, you rightly recognize your audience here is not just students deciding whether to attend law school. As an admissions director, however, you may miss the impression that starting your discussion here in the FL with sales talk like “Enroll Today! Why 2017-2018 Will Be a Fantastic Time to Graduate from Law School” may have created. For many here, those sentences reflected an insensitivity to very real and deep issues that have been discussed in the FL regarding what many believe to be a crisis and a cross-roads in the history of US legal education. Many here believe that your words should be taken seriously. This is a measure of respect.

You haven’t yet posted your “look at the number of full-time, long-term JD required and JD advantage positions available to students in 2017 and 2018.” You are urged to be serious and careful in your approach to this subject, and to present this “look” seriously and carefully.

Stating “facts” about future changes in the market for attorneys is simply not possible. Of all the persons posting here in the FL, you especially should agree with this simple statement. You appear to state that “in 2008 and 2009 … [you] advised students [you] thought the legal employment market would recover by 2011-2012.” You say that in the past you “made [dramatically erroneous] statements in good faith” about the future of the legal employment market, but that you can be excused for these errors because you did not “understand how deep a downturn the economy was going to take and how much longer it would take to recover.”

Now, it appears that you intend to take a “look at the number of full-time, long-term JD required and JD advantage positions available to students in 2017 and 2018.” One is compelled to express concern here. With all due respect, you still don’t seem to appreciate the point made by many of the comments to date. This concern is based on whether you have reflected on the errors of the past, even if those errors were made “in good faith.”

You state above, in light of these concerns, that you will present “data on the coming changes to the employment market.” Again, with respect, you can’t. Such “data” doesn’t exist. All you can do now is share data on present conditions, and opine about coming changes. It might be helpful if you stop at each assertion to consider how a broker selling an investment would be judged when making a statement similar to your intended statement.

One hopes it is not your position that there is no material difference between an
“estimate/fair guess/prediction/prognostication/crystal ball gaze.” Concerns about a somewhat cavalier attitude while building up to your “look at the number of full-time, long-term JD required and JD advantage positions available to students in 2017 and 2018” appear to be more justified in light of a statement like this. You seem to promise data about future events and dismiss concerns about words like “guess” as completely unjustified and irrelevant.

Perhaps, one should just applaud your temerity and simply read your posts as a cruel joke. We know you are not joking, however. You are serious, as you are an admissions director at a reputable school of law. This subject undoubtedly means a lot to you, given falling enrollment numbers and your job to try to turn that around. And, this subject means a lot to many readers of the FL as well.

Accordingly, we await your predications and opinions with the hope that “you will take the import of your statements seriously and seriously consider what you say and how you say it,” and the hope that you do know the difference between being flippant and being clever.

Former Editor

"don’t borrow that much money . . . You do not have to borrow that much to attend a decent law school."

While I generally agree with this idea (my usual advice to prospective law students is to go to the best connected school that costs you the least money), I think it misses the pool of students most at risk of catastrophic consequences. There are a few thousand students who pay full ride at a low ranked school (read: typically not decent) precisely because they couldn't get into the cheaper programs or get scholarships in meaningful amounts.

Would you agree that for a student in that situation, the general market employment outcomes probably don't matter?

Brian Tamanaha

Steve,

I wrote: "your prediction will bear out only if most people thinking about law school do not take your advice."

Your response to me is don't worry, few people will take your advice. So evidently you agree about the contradiction I pointed out with the soundness of this advice.

The problem is that you are not the only person saying: it's a great time to go to law school because the oversupply of grads is falling. And the cumulative effect is what matters. Remember that pre-law counselors are the ones in contact with prospective students, and they will begin to repeat this line if they hear it often enough.

What I don't understand is why legal educators think it is right to push so hard: "Enroll today! It's the best time in a generation." Let's wait and see. If the job market is indeed good in three years, that would be great for our graduates, who will have an easier time landing desirable jobs (compared to the devastatingly bad employment results for the class of 2013 published by the ABA a few days ago). The news will then get out that the market has turned around, and more people will apply (including those who delayed, meanwhile working to save money to pay for law school). If we wait a few years before trying to ramp up enrollment again, the current oversupply of law grads will have time to clear and stagnant wages of lawyers in the low end might rise, making the enormous debt they carry more manageable.

To wait and see is the prudent course for legal educators to take. As you noted in your original post, we have been saying "go to law school, things will be great when you get out" every year since 2008, yet we have been wrong every time (This was predictable even back then: see my post "The Irresponsibility of Law Schools"). You admit that we were wrong before but you insist that you are right this time.

You will be proven wrong, however, if lots of people apply to law school believing in this advice (from you and others), thereby reinforcing the substantial oversupply that you are confidently predicting will disappear.

Brian

terry malloy

To Prof. Tamanaha's point, the shrill sales pitch is the ugly part of all this.

When you make this sales pitch, are you doing so to help prospective students? There is an unseemly Willie Loman tinge of desperation to it.

Also, you were mistaken in 2008 & 2009. What leads you to believe that you are more correct today?

It appears your previous terrible failures to predict the future, with dire consequences to those who took your advice, has made you more sure in your predictions. What a curious result.

I forgot, those were "good faith" mistakes. Wouldn't those lead you to believe that you might not be the oracle that you had previously believed?

Nathan A

"Finally, I love how the critics say that borrowing $200,000 or $250,000 to attend law school is a terrible decision. My response - then don’t borrow that much money." I think its the sentiment behind comments like this (and Lisa McElroy's comments) that drive a lot of people nuts. This is how every heated conversation about legal education goes ....

LEGAL ED INDUSTRY - There's hope around the corner
SCAM BLOGGERS - No!!!! Look at all these people with $200k in debt and no job!
LEGAL ED INDUSTRY - Well, these critiques don't apply to my school!

I get that a lot of the critiques directed a low ranked law schools don't apply to KU Law. But I wish you wouldn't let that be your escape hatch. You argue that now is a good time to enroll in law school. You're not arguing that now is a good time or enroll in KU Law. So lets broaden the conversation to your peers. Do you think it is a good decision for someone enrolling at Thomas Jefferson (or any one of the other schools that couple high debt loads with poor career prospects) to take out $200k in loans to pay for their education?

Its cases like this that infuriate people. Schools with lousy placement records selling students on the idea of taking out $200k in loans. Aside from Paul Campos and Brian Tamanaha, no one in the legal academy seems to be interested in calling out these charlatans.

- So when you say things will improve next year without even a small mention about students being snookered into $200k debts by lousy law schools, it pisses people off.

- When you deflect responsibility by saying that specific critiques don't apply to KU and that students should know better, it pisses people off. Why are students the only ones who bear responsibility (and they do)? Why don't your colleagues in other schools also bear some responsibility? Why is so easy for people like you Ms. McElroy to blame students, but not your peers?

- I guess I have a final question. Have you ever really talked to any of the graduates who loaded up $200k in debt and essentially ruined a couple of decades of their lives? Just a conversation. Maybe then you and Ms. McElroy wouldn't be so quick to dismiss them as imbeciles who couldn't do cost benefit analysis at age 22.

Steven Freedman (KU Law)

@ Nathan - If the "scam" argument is restricted to expensive, low ranked law schools, then you and your colleagues need to do a better job articulating that. Just one example, when I used to post on Top Law Schools, the JD Underground people who jumped on my thread placed KU Law in the same category as any other "scam" law school. Accusing us of lying about statistics, drowning our students in debt, and otherwise destroying everyone who was foolish enough to attend an affordable, high quality law school. Why we even have our own entry in TTT comparing us in vivid detail to a dirty toilet.

It's a viewpoint so divorced from the reality here that it not surprisingly calls into question the motives of the people behind these posts. Are they truly interested in analyzing what's going on? In providing helpful advice to prospective students? Or are they shackled to an agenda of nihilism and obnoxiousness that discounts all positive information and promotes everything negative? One of the posters here provided an excellent example when he/she stated that KU Law shouldn't get credit when our students land government jobs because we must be lying about our stats. Note that he/she was talking about KU Law, not a low ranked, expensive school that you suggest is the real target of the critics. Of course, that's far from the only example I can find, there is a seemingly endless sea of absurdity and obnoxiousness out there among the scambloggers (did I mention the toilet thing?).

To answer your question, I don't think I know anyone who borrowed $200,000 to go to law school (I met Elie Mystal once and he seemed miserable. Does that count?) That's probably because the law school I attended was affordable and the two law schools I've worked at were also affordable (not sure what it is today, but Drexel's tuition the first year was $28,500 with 75% of students receiving full-rides).

Now I'm not in the business of putting down other law schools, but let me make myself clear - I'm a big fan of affordable, high quality legal education. It's what I did for myself (thanks Temple!), and it's what I encourage others to do now (Rock Chalk Jayhawk!).

I have met some students who I've recruited (or went to law school with) for whom law school did not work out very well. It happens. It's frustrating, it's sad, and in some cases, it breaks my heart. Although most of the students and classmates I've stayed in touch with have successfully advanced in their careers, the downside has occurred too frequently to just put the blame on personal circumstance. It's not just about law school, but the recent grad employment market has been rough for many law grads. This is partly due to the Great Recession, partly due to the supply/demand imbalance I noted in my intro post.

That's why I'm excited about what the market is going to look like in 2017. Law graduate employment will almost certainly improve dramatically. Don't believe me now? Come back to me after I've finished the series.

MacK

It has become commonplace to compare law school admission deans to car salesmen – and in some respects they are in a similar role, offering a product to buyers most of whom lack the funds to make the purchase, and also (via the financial aid office) originating the loan that pays for the purchase. There are of course some key differences, in particular that Federal truth-in-lending law does not apply to educational loans (by now an astonishing admission) and in a few cases the successful argument by law schools that their students are not “consumers.” In short, a buyer of a car, even a used car, typically has better protections than a putative law student. In this context, using the language you , chose for your first two posts, i.e., “Enroll Today! Why 2017-2018 Will Be a Fantastic Time to Graduate from Law School” and unsupportable claims like “the gap will almost entirely disappear by 2017-2018” that your posts would come in for quite savage criticism.

The University of Kansas may have avoided some of the more egregious practices of many law schools but it still places only about 60% of its graduates into legal jobs, and their debt levels are $142,000 (in state) to $196,000 (no-resident.) Inter alia, no professor should discuss the debt issue without disclosing whether they personally incurred debt, and how much, to attend law school.

The situation was rendered much worse by the posting of Lisa McElroy, who as many here and elsewhere have noted, is advancing a caveat emptor view of applying to law school. In doing so Ms. McElroy appeared oblivious to the deep anger that there is in the legal profession, that law partners, judges and others are expressing, at the conduct of law schools. Law schools are in a special situation, perhaps to a degree also inhabited by medical schools – the law and regulation of lawyers specifically provided that lawyers have a very high level of fiduciary duty towards their clients and indeed certain third parties (as officers of the court for example.) Moreover, lawyers are covered by extraordinarily strict conflict of interest laws especially when it comes to handling and investing client money. This is why every law school has a mandatory course in legal ethics.

Yet, insisting that they should be allowed to behave in ways that would make a used car salesman – or indeed a pimp blush – and for the former would probably violate all sorts of consumer protection laws and consumer credit laws. You have deans of law schools engaging in chicanery vis-à-vis their students that would get a lawyer disbarred – and the state bars are not investigating? The ABA is silent – the very institution that required legal ethics courses for law students? State bars have not investigated the deans that have engaged in these practices.

Moreover, for the most part law school deans and professors, even those at top tier law schools have remained silent as all this has taken place. With few exceptions the conduct of many law schools has been addressed with an embarrassed silence. However, there are a few loud defenders of the behavior of law schools – all notably thin-skinned.

So this takes us to your new thesis, your argument that the “the gap will almost entirely disappear by 2017-2018.” Last week, the ABA released data on law school employment reporting - 57% of graduates of the class of 2013 were employed in long-term, full-time positions where bar passage was required, compared with 56.2% for the class of 2012, a gain of 0.8%. Your argument is graduate legal employment will rise by 75% in 3 years, one year after it rose by by a mere 0.8% This is notwithstanding projections that still show some 33-35,000 law graduates for around 18-22,000 jobs, as well as the dramatically collapsing quality of many law school matriculants.

Now few sensible observers would suggest that a falling number of law school graduates will, for the well-qualified and high-quality graduates improve their employment prospects in the profession. However, given plunging admission criteria, many of the classes of 2017-18 will not be well-qualified or high-quality. Indeed, I suspect that on campus interviews will be rare at those law schools who have dropped their admission criteria dramatically. So frankly, for many law graduates the situation will be as bad, if not worse in 3 years than it is today.

I find it interesting that you chose to reference Elie Mystal of Above the Law, which is effectively a legal tabloid and gossip column and the Third Tier Reality website as if they form the core of law school critics, while dodging references to the highly respect Law School Transparency and Kyle McEntee, or for that matter Outside the Law School Scam which eschews the images of toilets and turds. Many of those who criticize law schools conduct also criticize the toilet humor of Third Tier Reality – but recognize that those behind such sites are well justified in their anger. This also perhaps underlies the anger at your blasé dismissal of the consequences of your advice in 2008 and 2009 and the catastrophic consequences it had for those who accepted it.

terry malloy

Current Drexel Cost of attendance: $61,475 ($40,230 tuition)

http://drexel.edu/law/admissions/financing/Costs%20of%20Attendance/

How hard was that?

To your anticipated immediate response about how most get scholarships and don't pay that price. . . whatever helps you sleep at night.

Someone pays sticker, as I did at my school, and those generally have the least likelihood of a good outcome.

That person is getting scammed. And to my moral compass, one scammed is one too many.

I wouldn't tout pay-day lending as a business model because some customers are able to use it appropriately.

Nathan A

@ Steve. I appreciate your taking the time to respond. Before I go any further, I should mention I carry $0 of law school debt. So I've never had any reason to be particularly bitter about law school and have never been on JD Underground or anything similar. So I have no idea what heapings of abuse you or KU have taken. As you'll notice from my original post, I was just interested in how changes in the legal market over the next couple of years would play out. However, Lisa McElroy's horrendously tone deaf (and possibly morally bankrupt) comments motivated me to say something on behalf of law school critics.

Like you, I was never burdened by law school debt. But given what law schools charge today, its almost impossible for me to not bump into a law graduate with six figure debt. Just because I've been lucky doesn't mean I don't think the current system of legal education can't be a lot better.

At least from the outside, the way law schools have responded to the recent downturn indicates that they're primarily concerned with hitting revenue targets rather than making changes to benefit students. The biggest problem facing law graduates is, without doubt, the low demand for their services. The most reasonable response to the recent downturn would have been to either innovate on cost or shrink supply. Don't get me wrong, some law schools have clearly made moves on one or both of these fronts and they should be commended. To date, the most popular forms of innovation have been to drop admissions standards and to add "practice-ready" offerings. Neither of these changes addresses the real problem facing students/graduates - servicing debt when there's low demand for your services. This behavior is more consistent with an organization seeking to hit a revenue target.

The point I'm trying to get at is that it is going be hard for people to not just see you as just a part of legal education industry complex that is trying to bring $X million worth students in order to pay everyone's salaries.

"Now I'm not in the business of putting down other law schools." I understand why you have to/want to say this. Not sure what I would do in your shoes. But when you say that now is good time to go to law school, that happens to include many of your peers who have less than reputable business practices/motives. Hell, I'm sure many of them will quote your writing to convince students to sign up for law school.

If you're going to afford your less than reputable peers the courtesy of not calling them out, I hope you can extend the same courtesy to recent graduates by not calling them out (for taking on debt or being too lazy to get a job as Lisa McElroy suggested). It would be worth remembering that only a tiny fraction of the poor souls from recent graduating classes are represented in the online hectoring you've received. More importantly, its those peers who you refuse to call out that bear a good amount of responsibility for landing students in lousy situations, thereby spawning the scam bloggers you so resent.

terry malloy

Point of order:

Did you moderate my 8am comment clarifying the current Drexel cost of attendance, linking to Drexel's public website?

A fact of which you admitted ignorance, but quoted a long out of date number.

If so, can you explain why?

MacK

Indeed, did you moderate out mine? I am going to suggest that Paul Campos over at Lawyers Guns & Money allow comments selectively edited from this thread be posted over there - so as to keep the thread honest.

John Thompson

The U.S. economy is in its fifth year of recovery after the recession of 2008, yet the market for newly barred JDs remains slack if one goes by the number that NALP finds to be in full-time/bar-required positions within nine months of graduating. Most schools average somewhere between 35% and 50% unemployed or employed in positions that are not full-time and bar-required; the University of Kansas is on the good side of that average, with only 39.9% last year unable to find such work within nine months.

Even if law school output drops as you think it will, the quality of employment outcomes for the majority of America's newly barred JDs will probably not be significantly better.

1. If a resident student borrows the full cost of attendance at Kansas starting this year, he will owe approximately $105k at the end of three years before interest. The non-resident student will owe about $150k. Since 2009, Kansas' tuition and fees have risen about 7% per year for both resident and non-resident students, so these figures will be even higher by 2017 or 2018. You are right that Kansas is more affordable than many law schools, but that does not mean that a Kansas JD is inexpensive in absolute terms or relative to the job options which a typical Kansas graduate may have.

2. Salaries for the 50% of the last three Kansas classes reporting them have been much more static than Kansas' tuition, particularly on the low end. The 25th to 50th percentile range of reported salaries falls between $45,000 and $55,000, and due to sampling/reporting bias, the midpoint of that range is probably more representative of the class' salaries than the median or certainly the 75th percentile. With so many still unemployed or underemployed after graduating and passing a bar, there is little pressure on employers to increase wages with so much excess capacity in the entry-level attorney market. But according to Simkovic and McIntyre, we're all millionaires the minute we get our JD. I suppose all that income growth happens later, perhaps after our first Chapter 7.

3. More and more experienced attorneys are competing for putatively entry-level attorney jobs, further limiting the opportunities of new graduates in places like government offices or even document review.

4. The good old days were likely not as good as we thought they were, even if they were better than now. The way in which the ABA and NALP measured employment outcomes until 2009 served mainly to mask unemployment and underemployment among JDs (e.g., counting 25% of a school's non-responding graduates as employed under the theory that they were too busy working to respond to a NALP questionnaire, for purposes of the overall employment rate only; not making explicit how many of a class' graduates made up the "median starting salary" figure). It might be that a national FT/BR employment average around 75% is actually a really good year for most law schools. Which is okay, until you consider that one of four law graduates borrowed a lot of money never to become an attorney.

And in spite of all this, law school remains massively overpriced relative to its graduates' employment outcomes almost everywhere, and law schools make a point of telling prospective students none of the above when courting them and encouraging them to borrow money for tuition and living expenses. If you were attorneys serving clients and recommended a course of action as expensive and failure-prone as attending law school, you would be risking your license to practice law.

anon

Freedman:

Of course you can understand the skepticism of the commenters on this site regarding your sales pitch. After all, you have a vested interest in making sure people sign up for law school because of your placement in the "profession." On another note, if a person goes to any law school and is unable to repay their debt because they are under or unemployed, it does not matter how much they borrowed. If a debt cannot be paid, it cannot be paid.

Finally, I chuckled a little when I read your jab at "anon" commenters posting. After all, on Nando's TTR site featuring your dump of a law school (51K a year for out of staters, really?), aren't you the second commenter who wrote the following:

"Anonymous April 17, 2012 at 10:13 AM

What do you have agains this school? Did you go here and not get a job or something? Well, that's you not the school.

This school has a national reputation. People from all over have heard of this school. This guy's just mad. You can go here and find a job anywhere in the country. And a good job at that. This guy's all sour grapes.

Rock chalk Jayhawk!"


After all, you are the only person I know who uses the idiotic term, "Rock Chalk Jayhawk." Of course, maybe you only have something against "anon" commenters and not "anonymous" commenters.


Steven Freedman (KU Law)

@ Mack - 84% of KU Law students found legal jobs. You can verify this at at http://employmentsummary.abaquestionnaire.org. What you meant to say was that a website (LST) scored KU as a 60% on its scoring system. Huge difference.

Steven Freedman (KU Law)

@ Terry and Mack - Don't worry, you can put down the Paul Campos bat phone. Your e-mails got stuck in the spam filter, presumably either because you included links, or in the case of Mack's, because it was extremely long. The computer filters both types of posts automatically and we have to manually let them in, which I just did.

@anon - No. I have never posted on that site, nor do I ever plan on doing so.

A Practitioner

Steve: please, please, please tell us you know the difference between the 84% employment score you quote and the much lower 60% LST score--and why, as a 0L, the LST is much more informative and therefore more important.

Kyle McEntee

Quick question about the 84% figure. Does that include any paralegals this year? Last year it did. I don't know about 2010 or 2011 graduates because KU has not published its NALP Report for those years. If that changes, please let me know so I can add the data to our database.

KU is not alone in qualifying jobs (like paralegals) as JD Advantage. Some schools (like American, among others) even count firm admins as JD Advantage. In other words, the definition is so squishy that a job qualifies even if one could get the job with a GED. The category is broken and schools certainly do not report the non-lawyer jobs consistently.

Like many other schools, I see absolutely nothing on KU's website right now that indicates what these JD Advantage jobs are and why we should think that these are positive outcomes that justify glib dismissal of the concerns expressed in the FL comments. What we do know is that nobody goes to law school to be a firm admin or firm paralegal, and those jobs qualify as JD Advantage. We also know that those in JD Advantage jobs are *substantially* more likely to be searching for other employment than those in jobs that require bar passage.

When schools are more transparent about JD Advantage outcomes, stop focusing on the jobs largely available only to graduates of the most elite law schools, and stop putting pressure on NALP to put a more positive spin on the job market -- you will see the aggression die down.

Until then, don't expect the pressure to stop. Not from commenters, and not from LST.

Steven Freedman (KU Law)

@ Mack K & Practioner A - I completely reject as false the statement that 60% of KU Law grads found legal employment last year. It's not true as it understates the correct number (84%). Not only that, but the "score" that the statement is based on doesn't even to purport to represent what you state it does.

Nowhere does Kyle (or LST) claim that the LST score represents the number of students finding legal employment. In their own words, "[t]he Score Reports are user-friendly tools for sorting law school employment outcomes, projected costs, and admissions stats." That's it.

BoredJD

Steve, people on TLS, JDU, and other sites find your postings offensive because you will not stop selling. Just stop selling. Let's have an honest conversation about jobs and debt. Like you said, prospective students aren't going to see this, so we can be a bit more honest among friends.

Whatever Drexel cost when you were there, it's too expensive now. KU is better, relatively. It's still in the mid 100s for instate students and high 100s for OOS. The salaries do not support that kind of debt repayment. The school cannot survive if the only people willing to attend will do so only with sizeable tuition discounts. In a nutshell, thats your dilemma, if too many people demand tuition discounts, then the school cannot meet its budget.

As you say, you were wrong in 2008. The old anonymous scambloggers were right. Why should law students trust you now, instead of, as Brian says, waiting it out? Even if reasonable minds can disagree, your burden is the higher one.

Kyle McEntee

Nowhere, Steve?

Here is what we say in the methodology section http://www.LSTScoreReports.com/methodology/ :

"We want our Employment Score to have value for the majority of prospective law students, so we start with the conventional assumption that the bulk of people attend law school aiming to pursue a career practicing law. As such, the Employment Score reflects employment outcomes that proxy a successful start to a legal career. This is not a measurement of whether the graduate is in a position to repay his or her debt, or whether the outcomes justify the cost of attendance. Further, it is not measurement of the preferability of job outcomes. The score is about practicing law and becoming a member of the profession, and doing so in more than a nominal sense."

It then goes on to explain our exclusions/inclusions.

The methodology (in a slightly different form) was published in the Journal of Legal Metrics.

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