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June 30, 2014

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terry malloy

Drop the mic and walk off stage, Prof. Burke.

Awesome.

Apply ointment to the burned area, Dean "apply now" Freedman.

anon

Imagine a medical school establishment that counts and touts, as positive employment outcomes for graduates of medical schools, the following:

nurse practitioners, claims administrators, human resource personnel, accountants, attorneys, Congressional staffers, learning disabilities specialists, daycare workers, paramedics, ...

Imagine an admission director boasting: "We are expanding our medical school curriculum to provide more training in these areas, as 50% of our graduates do not find employment that requires holding a medical license and the actual practice of medicine. In fact, surveys show that a significant number of those attending medical school these dasy would actually prefer non traditional ways of using their medical training."

Which should lead to a fairly obvious point. Report the number of FT, LT, JD required positions obtained, and the number of students unemployed, at some reasonable interval after graduation from law school. Period. Incoming classes of law students will be able to figure out that those who do not find employment as attorneys will attempt and often succeed in finding something else.

Municipal D1

These posts are great, albeit a little wordy.

The legal academy has greatly benefited from the conventional wisdom that a J.D. was a "good degree." Despite what the professors may wish, graduates from the last five years classes aren't simply going to disappear.

My point is-- the more JDs who end up becoming "Bob in Accounting," the more times their co-workers, spouses and acquaintances are going to hear "going to law school was the biggest mistake I ever made." That's the reality of the "JD Advantage."

Gentlemen, there's a whole generation out there being demolished by student loans. Reduce tuition, shed light on the inequitable practices of administrations (not professors, administrators) gaming the USNWR system, and advocate for bankruptcy protection. Or else Bob from Accounting will become your main challenge for the next twenty-five years. If you have twenty-five years.

Steven Freedman

@ bernie,

If I suggested a fifth category, would that result in another thousand words?

That's a lot of effort for a rather innocuous suggestion, one I think most people would agree with. Yes, the JD is not some magical document that grants people their every employment wish, or as you put it, "a smokin' bucketful of awesome". I'm not sure who you think is making that argument, but I think his name is straw man.

On the other hand, when students decide whether and where to attend law school, they evaluate the costs, benefits and risks related to the decision. By suggesting that graduates can capitalize on the non-law benefits of a JD, I'm merely saying that that's a part of the equation. I'm not saying law school is a risk-free endeavor or that "versatility" guarantees a successful outcome. In other words, there's no "smokin bowl of awesome" in my advice to prospective students.

Don't believe me? Check out our website or any publication we produce. "Versatility" is not a substantial, or even minor, part of our marketing. If other law schools have oversold versatility, they do so at their own peril as it's likely not very effective.

You say there is no empirical evidence to support the idea that a JD can be valuable outside of the legal field. The Simovic study is a pretty clear presentation of empirical evidence in support of that proposition. As for anecdotal evidence, on Tuesday I spoke with a May graduate who will be working at the Federal Reserve in a position that doesn't really require a JD. The person who hired him told him the JD was a big reason he was hired, because he thought that would bring some academic diversity into the Fed Reserve. He's thrilled and excited, it's a great career opportunity. Should I cry for him about his misfortune? Does he make your 60% on your PFT? Are there perhaps more like him?

As for your colorful description of the value of a law degree, stay classy North Carolina.

anon

Steve,
The "Simovic" does not analyze frequency with which graduates of law school obtain good jobs that do not require a JD. It has also been criticized for its reliance on historical data over a time period when the profession has been changing; it has also not yet been published to the best of my knowledge.

Anecdotes about graduates who got a good, non-JD, required job are not convincing since they say nothing about whether the vast majority of graduates had to take poor non-JD required jobs, that were classified as JD advantage by their law school, like paralegal and legal secretary.

Dean Rodriquez of Northwestern has suggested a way to solve the criticism with JD Advantage, every school should post the JD Advantage jobs their grads actually get. If the vast majority are professional jobs in areas like compliance I think everyone will agree you are justified in making a category for JD advantage. But I am suspicious that the we would actually find many of the paralegal type. I think Michigan already does this.

Moreover, it is not clear that three years of work experience would confer fewer benefits than 3 years of law school. For example, the SEC hires college graduates to inspect broker dealers. After a few years these grads can go into compliance jobs in the private sector. It would seem their experience is at least as valuable for a compliance function as 3 years of law schoo.

Jojo

Steve,

You are not saving face here. You're violating the first law of holes-when you find yourself standing in a hole, stop digging.

I don't think people should question your car choice or publish your salary. At the same time, you are dangerously close to being the law school Baghdad Bob. Let it go guy, you're not helping your cause; and I say this as someone who intensely dislikes your cause.

Doug Richmond

I have no doubt that some students who are unable to find what they consider to be suitable jobs practicing law--or perhaps any job practicing law--obtain legitimate JD Advantage jobs that they find satisfying, as with the Jayhawk's Federal Reserve position. But any prospective law student who sees a law degree as some form of risk insurance needs to have his or her vision adjusted. There is a greater chance of a law degree causing someone to be deemed over-qualified for a non-law position than opening doors to that job. As for the non-lawjobs that many people seem to think are natural positions for lawyers, such as compliance officers and HR roles, look around and you will see that corporate compliance offices contain far more forensic accountants than lawyers, and that HR departments are dominated by non-lawyers who have pursued professional designations (such as SPHR). The legitimate JD Advantage job certainly is no myth, but there are far, far fewer of them than any of us would like, and law students need to be aware of that. So do those people who tout such opportunities as one benefit of a legal education.

I Smoked 2 Bucketsful Of Awesome (a.k.a., more often, Concerned_Citizen)

"Or as some of my older Yiddish-speaking relatives were prone to remark in times of failure or disappointment, “It shouldn’t be a total loss.”

Bernie, I don't want to bust on your Bubbe, but that actually sounds like English to me.

More seriously, thanks for this series as I've enjoyed it and think it's important to keep putting out level-headed, thoughtful commentary on the issues facing legal education.

I also very much enjoyed your series on "what matters most" from a year or so ago.

I Smoked 2 Bucketsful Of Awesome (a.k.a., more often, Concerned_Citizen)

Doug Richmond - I have a slightly different take than yours but end up in the same place. I see many lawyers in regulatory compliance and trade compliance positions of large corporations.

But not one of them landed such a job without 8-10 years as a practicing attorney. So in that regard, none of the folks I know in compliance could count as JD-Advantage jobs.

I don't know any lawyers or JDs in HR. I do know quite a few lawyers who ended up as corporate procurement directors. But they have the same story as the compliance officers - they practiced law for several years first, then ended up in-house, either directly into procurement or via a lateral after having joined the company law dept originally.

I Smoked 2 Bucketsful Of Awesome (a.k.a., more often, Concerned_Citizen)

"If I suggested a fifth category, would that result in another thousand words? [and, re] "a smokin' bucketful of awesome". I'm not sure who you think is making that argument, but I think his name is straw man."

No need to get snotty, really.

"The Simovic study is a pretty clear presentation of empirical evidence in support of that proposition. "

The paper you mention is Michael Simkovic with Frank McIntyre. If one reads it carefully (which I did a year or so ago but haven't since, so apologies in advance for any mistakes below), it is anything but a "clear presentation" of evidence.

The authors themselves have a lengthy list of limitations but nonetheless conclude with their opinion that "a JD is often a good investment" (paraphrased/memory). Yet the paper's also peppered with questionable numeric assumptions which, if presented differently, and particularly due to money's time value, could have a significant impact on the final average guesstimates of law degree value selected by Simkovic/Frank. For example, their assumption is that the average law student will make (IIRC) in excess of $70K while attending law school. Is this an average LS student? Or that s/he will have something less than $100K in final debt. How realistic are these numbers?

anon

"Simovic"

"compar[ed] the earnings of individuals with law
degrees to the earnings of similar individuals with bachelor’s degrees."

Whatever "similar" means in this context ... more below.

Given this starting point, "Simovic" then renders this earth shattering observation:

"THE PRESENT VALUE OF A LAW DEGREE IS SEVERAL HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS MORE THAN THE COST FOR MOST GRADUATES."

Note: CAPS IN THE ORIGINAL, Steve. (p. 21. The paper was updated in March of this year.

Wow. That's impressive stuff!

It is somewhat obvious that any such study is completely unreliable as part of the sales pitch. Readers of this "study" who have litigated securities cases will know how these statements would be evaluated in that context, e.g., "studies" of the present value of an investment. How would "Simovic" fare, if used, for example, by a managing agent of an institution to sell an investment of 150K or so? (especially note the absence of safe harbor type language, for example, in the blogging here in the FL).

More troubling, when one digs into the assumptions and adjustments that the authors use to come up with their conclusion, the following appears:

- "We assume that law degree holders attend law school from age 23 to age 25."

- "We estimate lifetime earnings streams from the age of 23 to 65 for all law degree holders and similar bachelor’s, i.e., not just the population of full-time workers."

- "We ... control for the differences in observable characteristics by reweighting our control sample of bachelor’s to be comparable to our law degree holders. ... For example, a bachelor’s degree holder with a 15% chance of attending law school, based on their covariates, would receive three times the weight as someone with only a 5% chance of attending law school."

- "In order to reduce noisy estimates, we aggregate earnings over the three or four years a person is in the sample. This does create some blurring in the slope of the age profile, but also helps us better capture lifetime averages rather than idiosyncratic events that can distort the values at a particular age."

Starting to get the picture here? Whether any of these assumptions and adjustments is valid, in isolation, or not, this "study" strains credulity and causes one to question the weight that some defenders of the law school status quo put on it.

Defenders of the law school status quo will pull out "Simovic" at a moment's notice and shake it around like shamans to rebut any argument: including one about including loosely defined "JD Advantaged" jobs in employment stats - a subject to which it has little or no relevance.

Resorting to a "Simovic" should be synonymous with capitulation in an argument, e.g., "He kept arguing until the fact that JD Advantaged category is flawed was so obvious that anyone would concede the point: but instead of then conceding, he pulled a Simovic."

PS "Simovic" is risible in that it pretends to have "discovered" a law degree has historically conferred an earnings advantage over an undergraduate degree.

What sort of scholars rely on that sort of tripe to pitch to prospective students?

terry malloy

Dean Freedman, this is what happens when you say stupid things in front of people who know better.

"May I suggest a fourth category that justifies my heinous opportunism and predatory behavior?"

In Re your Federal Reserve outlier,I also heard of a man who, when he was seventeen, walked into jungle and when he was twenty-one walked out; and by God he was rich!

Barry

"But the key point here is that it’s not enough to say that a law degree has some salvage value. You need to compare that salvage value with how well off you might be if you did something else, or nothing. "

The trick is that *people* have salvage value. There was a comment on the defunct and incredibly good blog 'Invisible Adjunct' on the 'versatility' of a Ph.d. The author pointed out that if you have what it takes to get a Ph.d., you have what it takes to succeed in a wide variety of jobs.

Barry

"We ... control for the differences in observable characteristics by reweighting our control sample of bachelor’s to be comparable to our law degree holders. ... For example, a bachelor’s degree holder with a 15% chance of attending law school, based on their covariates, would receive three times the weight as someone with only a 5% chance of attending law school."

Speaking professionally here, this is a very, very strange thing. It'd be - I won't say 'good', but rather 'least bad' comparison, in a world where there were no other professional degrees.

Given that there is, did they compare to (say) MBA holders from peer schools? That's an obvious comparison, especially since they and so many other advocates of getting a JD talk up the 'versatility'.

Barry

Doug Richmond: "I have no doubt that some students who are unable to find what they consider to be suitable jobs practicing law--or perhaps any job practicing law--obtain legitimate JD Advantage jobs that they find satisfying, as with the Jayhawk's Federal Reserve position."

Please note that 'I have no doubt that...' is only a legitimate argument in the eyes of law professors defending the benefits of a JD :)

Also, the statistics clearly don't bear you out. One of the striking things about 'JD Advantage' jobs is that nobody offers a defense which can stand up to a slight breeze. They *claim* that certain jobs are obtained as a result of having a JD; they *never* back that.

Enrique

Are you serious???? This "blog" post contains 17 paragraphs (including two block quotations) and over FOUR THOUSAND WORDS. Can you give us the Tweet version?

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