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May 07, 2013

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Ben Barros

John, thanks for the pointer. The cost caveats in particular are important.

Just wanted to quickly note that I'm still thinking about MacK's last set of comments, which raise some interesting issues. Also, I couldn't agree more with Paul Campos and BH that we have a data problem, and that we could use some qualitative data in addition to better quantitative data. I've been thinking about how to get at that better data, and more importantly, about who might be in the best position to develop that data. I have no relevant training in this area, and am very aware of my own limitations.

MacK

Ben:

I will add one additional point. It is feasible that the very selective law schools are poorer value for many of their student intake than lower ranked schools (though it is had to see how that statement could extend to Cooley.) That is to say that when a law school is very very selective - taking near perfect GPAs and sky high LSAT scores, highly credentialed applicants - it may actually offer a very small delta in income terms to those students. In effect it is taking in students that would have enjoyed high incomes and rewarding work anyway, without going to law schools. It may also be the case that, as Paul Campos has pointed out, that the JD stigma makes the delta negative.

The selectivity of law schools is thus two edged on long term outcomes - in that the more selective a law school is, the more opportunities its intake would have had even if they did not go to law school.

BH

Well, of course, every decision could be a mistake for someone. This person should not really have been a doctor. They would have been happier being a high school basketball coach. That person would have made more money using his or her math skills in a financial institution than doing something else. The choices one makes forecloses other choices. Such is the nature of life. There is no perfect world. But some people do want to go to law school. I did, with absolutely no intention of practicing the rest of my life. I knew the school I went to would open other doors. And it did. "Don't go to HYS, there may be something else out there you want to do." Well, maybe so and maybe no. If there is, by all means do it. But if a person wants to go to law school and gets into a great one, and has nothing else that he or she wants to do, why fret over their decision to go to a school that offers excellent opportunities--somebody else's decision about his or her life?

MacK

BH -

I don't disagree with you. However, I do believe in properly informed choices. The most miserable and horrible people I have to deal with are those who went to law à défaut de mieux. Still if people are going to law as a lifestyle and economic choice they ought to know what that decision really means.

I personally enjoy practicing law and it is for me reasonably financially rewarding - but that is not typical in my experience.

BH

Yes, of course, informed choices are desirable. Students today have more information, and chances to receive it, than ever. I liked practice, but not enough to keep doing it when there was something else I wanted to do more. Family and friends who are still in the profession are, in the main, satisfied. I know lawyers all along the spectrum of happiness to unhappiness.

John Thompson

Dear prospective law student: your mileage may vary.

Granted, we understand a lot about what makes your mileage vary, our prices bear little to no relationship to your ultimate mileage, and we will share very little of our information with you before you sign on the dotted line. But you should trust us anyway. Why? Because we are lawyers. Lawyers *and* educators. We hold ourselves to high ethical standards. How do you know that? Well, we just told you, didn't we?

So if you have nothing better to do and you get into a great law school, by all means go. What do "better" and "great" mean in this sentence? Haha, you got me, you cute little skeptic, you. I don't know, but I am sure that it cannot be quantified or broken down into ugly little statements about returns and investments. Just commit yourself to a little high-interest debt not dischargeable in bankruptcy, and we can get started with making you Immovably Upper Middle Class!

BH

No one should ever go to law school (any law school, "great" or not) because they have "nothing better to do". Whoever would suggest such a thing? Sorry it was not clear. The clauses go together-- if the person WANTS to go to law school, gets into a great law school, and has nothing else she wants to do... That's not the same as going simply because you have "nothing better to do".

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