Following up on my post last week about international students in US law schools, this week I turn to the question of the value of US legal education for students who earned a first degree in law outside of the United States (called “international law graduates” or “international students” in these posts). In the remainder of this post and the two that will follow, I write with Ethan Michelson, Robert Nelson, Nancy Reichman, Rebecca Sandefur and Joyce Sterling.
In two recent blog posts (“U.S. LLM Programs Probably Benefit International Students (Part 1): Students Who Stay in the U.S.” (November 29, 2016) and “U.S. LLM Programs Probably Benefit International Students (Part 2): Students who return home” (December 1, 2016), Michael Simkovic explored the economic value gained by international students who earn a US LLM degree through an analysis of data generated by the US Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS). The value of US legal education and the careers of law graduates (including domestic and international) are important topics to which we and others have invested considerable time. We welcome Simkovic’s interest in the international law student population. But while we applaud his goal of enhancing our understanding of international students’ gains, his analysis ironically brings into higher relief the difficulty of using existing data sources to study this population. We offer these comments to clarify the pressing need for new information to allow analysis of the value of a US law degree for international students.
If we were to approach this question from scratch and apart from this reply, we would not limit the analysis of the ‘value’ arising from an educational experience to income differentials related to earning a specific credential, as value has other dimensions including, among other things, personal development, opportunities to contribute to society, and as a signal of a shared experience that facilitates professional relationships and which therefore may be particularly relevant for LLM graduates. Earlier research on international students found value from the LLM in these various forms.1
Tomorrow’s post will address the challenges of studying the population of international law graduates.
1 Regarding value for international students, see, e.g., Carole Silver, “The Case of the Foreign Lawyer: Internationalizing the U.S. Legal Profession,” 25 Fordham Journal of International Law 1039-1084 (2002); Carole Silver, “The Variable Value of US Legal Education in the Global Legal Services Market,” 24 Georgetown Journal of Legal Ethics 1 (2010); Carole Silver, “States Side Story: ‘I like to be in America:’ Career Paths of International LLM Students,” 80 Fordham Law Review 2383 (2012). Work on value of the JD apart from international students includes, among others, Ronit Dinovitzer et al., After the JD: First Results of a National Study of Legal Careers (2004); Ronit Dinovitzer et al., After the JD II: Second Results from a National Study of Legal Careers (2009); Gabriele Plickert et al, After the JD III: Third Results from a National Study of Legal Careers (2014); Ronit Dinovitzer, Bryant G. Garth and Joyce S. Sterling, “Buyers’ Remorse? An Empirical Assessment of the Desirability of a Lawyer Career,” 63 J. Legal Ed. 211 (2013); Ronit Dinovitzer, Nancy Reichman and Joyce Sterling, “The Differential Valuation of Women's Work: A New Look at the Gender Gap in Lawyers' Incomes,” 88 Social Forces 819 (2009); and Simkovic’s work with Frank McIntyre, “The Economic Value of a Law Degree,” 43 J. Legal Studies 249 (2014).