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August 15, 2013


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One caveat: The 75% number is not based on research. It may be a lower figure would be appropriate, or that the measurement should apply only to those grads who sought such jobs. It is a "starter" not a fully-researched precise figure.


@anon-- I agree about the quality of the current exchange. One thing: I think your quote came from someone else. I don't believe I said that. I do not believe it. I did say that law schools have never trained students to be practice-ready. They were created and have existed to expose students to the disparate areas of law that have sprung up since the days of apprenticeship. I do think there are things that can be done, and my point is that many law schools provide opportunities for students to experience the practice of law far greater than when I went to law school. I actually think it's the case that there are lower-tier schools that emphasize practice, and have professors who have extensive backgrounds in practice, but employers are not beating down the doors to get to those students.

I am sorry if I misunderstood the thrust of your comments about law schools and experience. I just don't find the current crop of law professors markedly different in their attitudes about practice than they were in the dark ages when I went to law school. But, as I said, we mostly have anecdotes. My profs had the same credentials, by and large, as most of the people coming in today. Many of them were as you describe-- young, sheltered, etc when they came into teaching. It has not been my experience that profs, then or now, are uniformly disdainful of practice. Some of my professors had no problem with practice, consulted with firms on the side, and encouraged students who wanted to go into private practice. There was, I'll admit, a larger contingent that wanted us to go the public interest/public service route. But even they were often involved with clients and legal entities outside of the academy. That is probably the same breakdown today.

@JT-- I don't understand the problem with limiting the size of law classes in today's climate. That's a good outcome, right? What I meant by saying there was no virtue in commenting online was that those who do it are no more virtuous than those who do not. That was my lack of clarity. I know people who are actively involved in thinking of ways to reform law school, who are doing it at their schools, and are not commenting online. They just are not people who want to surf the net and comment. For me that's not a problem.

And finally: "The Internet is where your future classes of prospective students live, and they can look past the habitual use of swearing or name-calling to derive a point about legal education - so you might as well try to do the same."

As for law students living on the Internets-- they do, but I don't believe they live on legal blogs. Since around 2008, I have raised the issues talked about on legal blogs and scam blogs at schools where I have taught and visited and, I promise you, when I mention the names of these sites most of the time I'm met with blank stares. In a class of say 50 people, if I go beyond Above the Law, only 1 or 2 people would have heard of them. In the main, they see ATL as a form of entertainment. They certainly are not using it as some sort of instructive text. Sure, the Internet can drive memes and stories into the mainstream media, where they are introduced to larger audiences and can have an effect. That can happen regardless of the inherent merit of the particular topic. As for what I "might as well try to do", I AM already on the Internet talking about legal education. That is why we are able to have this little tete a tete.

Mark Yablon

I have read dozens of papers on law school admissions and jobs available for new attorneys. But for an accurate analysis, one must also synthesize number of people leaving the bar and why. So if 60,000 attorneys each year die, retire, quit or what have you and 40,000 new attorneys enter the legal profession, that would show hope for turning the supply and demand numbers in the right direction, assuming no growth in bar required jobs.


You are correct. The quote was from another comment, responding to yours. I regret that error.
I largely agree with your point that faculty hiring has always to some extent included the young and mostly inexperienced. Not as much as today, however.
I do think there are some marked differences in faculty hiring priorities of late.
If I am correct about when you attended law school, the growth of the "law and" movement, the now almost obsession with hiring Ph.D.s (in anything!), the political priorities, etc. that all have contributed to this changing environment arose after your time in law school.
True, a top tier law school degree (preferably, of course, Yale), law review, a Supreme Court clerkship and prior publications all counted then and count now as validators.
But the reality is that, even at the T10 schools, hiring of late has not really adhered to those old guidelines as much as one might suspect. And, down the chain, even fewer hires have all of these credentials. Instead, some of the other priorities I have mentioned have seemingly assumed equal if not greater importance.
And what is consistently increased, in my view, is disdain for the practice of law in faculty hiring practices. “Too much time in practice” is simply anathema to the "modern" faculty hiring committee even at lower ranked law schools.
Witness the energy devoted to the growth of titles in the ranks of law professors. Many of these are created to reinforce the status of those with little or no connection to the practice of law and to distinguish the status of those that have such experience (e.g., "Professor from Practice" "Clinical Professor" etc.)
My experience has been that in the main, not uniformly but generally, the law school academy often expresses disrespect the profession for which they are purportedly preparing their students.
Again, my point is not that all law schools should return to the age-old practice of training attorneys that prevailed prior to the Langdell model. Rather, I repeat this:
This pitiful state of inculcation in the mores of the practice of law, in my view, is directly attributable to the hiring practices in the law academy. Filling the ranks of law faculties with immature, inexperienced, mostly sheltered individuals with a lifetime of top notch schooling in subjects other than law and a couple of years of low-level work in Big Law behind them (not much training) is guaranteed to produce new associate professors who not only don’t know how to practice law, but also have no idea why one would practice law. They simply can’t convey what they don’t know and so obviously don’t care about.
My contention is that if the law faculties are clueless about the practice of law, then they cannot impart the values and traditions and skills necessary to both practice and love the law. Law schools are suffering now because of the absence of a real world appreciation of the changing dynamics in the legal profession and the failure to plan for and keep up with a changing market. Isolated from the reality of practice and disdainful of it, this failure is completely understandable.



When you talk to your students about blogs, do you also bring up forums such as Top Law Schools and Reddit?

TLS has over 90,000 registered users. Of course, many of those will be old accounts, abandoned once someone has finished the admissions process and isn't too concerned with the normal chatter there, but it's still quite a large number.

r/lawschool has nearly 10,000 subscribers and many times more than that in unique visitors each month.

I very rarely go on TLS, but I'm on the reddit sub quite a bit, and it is probably a good gauge of what students across a wide variety of schools are thinking. They think it's cute when cats sleep on top of their text books and notes, they hate reading dissents, they hate agreeing with Scalia, they think career services is a joke, and they expect law schools to lie to them about employment prospects.


@ Anon--No worries about the quote. This has been a long thread. In any event, I understand your position. We will have to agree to disagree about the role the current method of hiring law professors is playing in the current crisis. I suspect that if jobs were more plentiful, the urgency to reform would be more muted. One thing I will say about the new crop of JD-PhD people, they actually have some experience teaching before they step into law school classrooms, which neither I, nor the vast majority of my cohort, had. It can be left to study whether an affinity for practice (which can be hard to measure, particularly among people who loved practice so much that they left it...) outweighs the benefit of actually having struggled through the process of learning to teach before one attempts to do that in the setting of a law school. More anecdotes. Two of the best --as judged by students-- young professors I know are JD-PhDs. One, who is a great mentor to students and has been awarded for exemplary teaching, did not practice at all. The other has a bit more practice experience, but not much to speak of. They are committed to their disciplines and are gifted and effective teachers despite lacking years and years of practice experience. The other side note is that a good number of my colleagues have wives, husbands/partners/family members who are lawyers. That is becoming more and more true as lawyers tend to marry/pair off with other lawyers. They do not necessarily disdain the professions of people to whom they are connected.

John Thompson

@Anonymous JOnes/1:52 p.m.:

"You're letting profiteers ruin a system that you care about, and you're standing united with them."

The first stage of this was denial that anything at all was wrong with law school. The second stage of this was that only a handful of schools "at the bottom" were the problem (with a corollary to that being any student worthy of becoming an attorney should have realized what he was getting into).

The difference between the "for-profits" and the "traditional" law schools is more one of scope than kind. For instance, my alma mater is a middle-ranked public school in the mid-Atlantic region. Between the fall of 2008 and today, resident tuition has gone up by over 50% and non-resident tuition has gone up by over 20%. While I would imagine that few today are paying sticker price as residents or non-residents, at least some probably are. More probably imagine they're getting a sweet deal because they have a "scholarship" which lowers their effective tuition rate to only 100-125% of what it would have been if the school's tuition increases mirrored the CPI. And of course, there are the games with mandatory curves and section placement that make it impossible for a substantial number of these students to hold on to their "merit-based" scholarships. From my conversations with graduates of other schools, I believe that my school is typical.

Naturally, this increase in tuition and fees bears no relationship to the power that most of these schools have to place graduates in any kind of legal job relative to their competitors, let alone the "good" jobs. The statistics from 2010, 2011 and 2012 were pretty clear about this - with about 30 exceptions on either end of the spectrum, the majority of ABA-accredited law schools placed about 55% of their students in full-time, bar-required jobs. Most of these jobs came nowhere near allowing a new graduate to enjoy a typical middle-class lifestyle while still repaying his loans. If you were a professor at a mid-ranked law school like Maryland, why would you want to call out underperforming market competitors like Catholic or American when your placement statistics are only marginally better and your costs are only marginally lower?


@BL1Y--I have mentioned Top Law Schools by name, but not Reddit by name. As you suggest, it's hard to know what to make of registrations. And the topics on those sites are not all about the state of legal education. I have asked about how much they are following stories about the crisis on the Internet and, as I said, the responses of the overwhelming majority suggest that they are not "living on the Internet" following these discussions. It could just be my classes, and the school where I teach and the places I've visited. They talk to me about their job searches, clinic placements, politics, letters of recommendation, impending marriages, work experiences, and plans. It's not as though they are reluctant to talk about serious issues.


Ah yes, the "my spouse is a lawyer" ... I too have heard this all too often. However, is possible to love one's spouse without loving (or even respecting) his/her employment?
Second, popularity with students is sort of irrelevant to the issues being discussed.
Upon what are you basing your conclusion that your junior colleagues are "gifted and effective teachers despite lacking years and years of practice experience"?
On another thread, this issue was touched upon. Evals are not the best measure, and student perceptions of teaching effectiveness change over time. If truth be told, evals often have to do with level of difficulty of the course, the number of students, the time of day the class is offered, the level of the students (first year, etc.), the extent of choice involved in a decision exercised by the student to take the course, etc.
Every faculty has the young new faculty member who everyone fawns over. He/she is "loved by the students" and "gifted and effective" despite the fact than nearly no member of the faculty has ever attended a class that person taught and despite the fact the nearly no member of the faculty has reviwed that professor's syllabus, final exams or papers submitted, and evals. It is all hearsay, usually, and all this praise is heaped on persons based basically on often carefully constructed rumor started by that person's supporters (often based on identity, as I've seen it done).
The most telling thing about your anecdotes? Little or no experience in practice. QED.
Those folks may be popular, they may be entertaining, and perhaps they are gifted and effective teachers of the law.
But they won't be able to help a law school faculty out of touch with the reality of the legal market and the culture of practice, because they don't really know anything about it from deep personal experience (spouses notwithstanding).
I won't repeat what I have been saying over and over except to this extent:
My contention is that if the law faculties are clueless about the practice of law, then they cannot impart the values and traditions and skills necessary to both practice and love the law. Law schools are suffering now because of the absence of a real world appreciation of the changing dynamics in the legal profession and the failure to plan for and keep up with a changing market. Isolated from the reality of practice and disdainful of it, this failure is completely understandable.
YOu suggest that absent a bad market, these issues wouldn't seem so important. I suggest that these issues are important because they contributed to an inept response by law faculties in general to market conditions that were changing for a long time before 2008.
How will young, popular, freshly minted Ph.D.s (who TA'd in some other field) impart the culture of the practice of law and help to guide their faculty toward better responses to the current challenges in the legal market?
Not very well, I would suggest.
Finally, there is that sort of aside that I have also heard oft repeated: If practitioners are so great, and if they know and love the law so much, why would any of them want to leave practice to teach at a law school?
With respect I submit that this question (as I've rephrased it) sort of gets at the issue I've been underscoring. It presupposes an either/or that simply doesn't exist (prof or lawyer). This gambit is in my view often used as a means to marginalize the talent and potential scholarly and teaching contributions of so many people that it bespeaks, sorry, of a sort of ignorance and doesn't require any response.
CHS: let me hasten to say, I am not saying that your comments or your overall opinion and judgments are ignorant.


"@BL1Y--I have mentioned Top Law Schools by name, but not Reddit by name. As you suggest, it's hard to know what to make of registrations. And the topics on those sites are not all about the state of legal education. I have asked about how much they are following stories about the crisis on the Internet and, as I said, the responses of the overwhelming majority suggest that they are not "living on the Internet" following these discussions."

They may be following them at the time it matters- while studying for the LSAT and picking between schools. It's been TLS and other online forums that have spread the notion of scholarship negotiation, that schools outside of HYS do not average LSAT scores, information provided by LST and Law School Numbers, what scholarship stipulations mean, and many other pieces of common wisdom that have helped students make better choices.

And remember the 1% principle- for every 1 commenter, there are 99 lurkers. The layout of the forum itself shows that many threads get thousands of views but might have only a couple dozen posts. Information like "hey, X Law School told me they are out of scholarship money, but are actually still giving money to people" could hit a law school's pocket to the tune of a few hundred thousand if seen by enough applicants.


Alas, Anon, we are just not going to agree on this. No. Having had a father, mother, sister, or other significant other does not mean that the professor loves the practice of love. It does suggest that those who have those connections are not necessarily utterly clueless about what law practice entails. Most of my colleagues have had some experience practicing law. Some of them continue as consultants or as attorneys with clients. You seem to be suggesting something beyond knowing what the practice of law entails, a sort of esprit de corps that law professors should be passing down to students-- "the values, and traditions and skill necessary to practice and love the law." I don't think every practitioner would measure or define any of these terms in the same way, or think you have to "love the law" in order to practice. Perhaps you mean, "love the practice of law". In any event, these are feelings that people will--or will not--develop as they practice. I practiced longer than most of my colleagues. There were things about it I loved and other things… not so much. I have never sensed that the majority of my professors or colleagues actively disdain the practice of law.

Effective by whom? By the same people who measure effectiveness in pedagogy in all fields--students, colleagues, and outside observers who come in to assess the school. It is not a perfect system. But tell me what you think would be a workable alternative? Not wishful thinking, but a workable plan that could actually happen on an ongoing basis without incurring some type of cost.

I understand what you are suggesting: people from practice will come in and tell law schools how to teach because they know what the market demands and what practice is all about. I'm not sure I would place my reliance on the people who set up and are running the current law firm model of business. Americans tend to think that employers, people run businesses, know best. I think the last decade should have disabused us of that notion forever. But schools I know of are using practitioners in creative ways, and there should be more of it. You are right. It is not an either/or proposition.


BoredJD -- You also have to consider that a very large percentage of 0Ls are coming straight out of undergrad and are taking LSAT prep classes and going through the admissions process with a bunch of their peers, and peers talk. Ideas that started out on this or that blog or forum can work their way down to people who've never even heard of the site.


"I understand what you are suggesting: people from practice will come in and tell law schools how to teach because they know what the market demands and what practice is all about."
Not at all! That's way to dogmatic for my taste!
Rather, I think that the changing market for legal services is something that was missed by folks who haven't the affinity that I believe is crucial.
No, not all in practice love the law or practice. But, I would submit that many, especially those with a scholarly bent as well, are far more valuable additions to faculty hiring than is presently recognized.
And yes, we do disagree about whether more practice savvy faculties could have done better, despite my complete, 100% agreement that American business, as in Wall Street, is no model to be emulated. (Remember, however, where most of those folks were trained and compare with the admitted "mistakes" in reporting over the years in the law academy and the exploitation of the student loan bubble.)
As for "I have never sensed that the majority of my ... colleagues actively disdain the practice of law" I can only say that we have had very different experiences.
As for rating the effectiveness of profs, that's another kettle of fish. In another thread, I would be happy to supply concrete proposals, but, reading my last comment, you'll get a sense of some of them. Rumors based on nothing more than hearsay aren't reliable, I think you'd agree.
Let's see the class (on video would be ok) and the report of an objective, randomly chosen senior evaluator, let's see the exam or paper assignment and let's see the product of the students upon which they were graded, let's measure the relative difficulty of the material, the size of the class, whether the class is required or elective, the level of the students (first year, or not), etc., before blessing some prof with the label "gifted and effective teacher."
Would there be a cost to this? Yes, but is the reason all this information isn't available soley because of "cost"?


One more point: I have repeatedly referred to management of the law school, not solely to teaching. The ability to teach, I agree, is not necessarily dependent upon practice experience, though the inexperience and lack of affinity for the practice of law in a law faculty is relevant to the culture of the law academy and, I repeat, its ability to navigate times like these.

Incredulous Guest who thinks you are Scamming Us

There are over half a million licensed lawyers not earning living, based on a million and a quarter licensed attorneys and somewhere north of 728,000 attorney jobs. See links below for the backup data.

Where the arguments made here that the job market for new attorneys will improve go wrong - even if the class sizes were down to 20,000 level where first years all got jobs, you would still have the 500,000 licensed attorneys who are currently not fully occupied seeking work.

Until the oversupply of attorneys is worked off, the job market will not be good. People may get first year jobs, but many will find themselves out of work after that first job because there is such an oversupply of attorneys.

The important thing to realize is the short term nature of almost all the jobs first year lawyers get. Associate positions are subject to up or out in both small and large law firms. Clerkships end. Where are all of these first years going after a few years with that 500,000 lawyer oversupply?

As a practioner, I see (and have seen for more than a decade) many unemployed and underemployed attorneys from top law schools with top records and from big law backgrounds. Big law (and small law) is producing an oversupply of attorneys that cannot and will not be absorbed. Many attorneys are losing jobs after that first, second or third job and not getting them back. That is where the 500,000 attorney oversupply number comes from. It is worse than that actually because the 728,000 number of attorneys working includes temps and part time work.

So the job market for new attorneys is not getting better any time surely in the next decade or two because the oversupply of attorneys is never going to be worked off in that time frame, no matter how much the new law school classes shrink.



While I think the number of lawyers not currently in practice will put some strain on the legal market, and those who want to practice but cannot is a problem in its own right, I think you overstate the case.

Many of those 500,000 are not competing for jobs in legal practice. Either they have found jobs outside of law they are perfectly content with, or they would prefer practice but know it's no longer a realistic option for them.

I believe the main stress on the market is going to be the large number of underemployed recent graduates, many of whom are (as you note) in temp positions, because they will be applying to many of the same jobs 3Ls are trying to grab.


@ Incredulous Guest:

I think you need to slow down a little when you say: " based on a million and a quarter licensed attorneys and somewhere north of 728,000 attorney jobs." It is very far from clear where the ABA's data


Source: ABA Market Research Department, 4/2012

The ABA ascribes it to its market research department - but how they arrives at that number if far from clear. It is also unclear whether they dealt with the double counting that arrises from lawyers being admitted in multiple jurisdictions.

We know that the BLS occupational survey data is somewhat more reliable - but you need to take account of those who are not counted as lawyers, but in fact are typically trained as lawyers - such as circa 12,000 law professors, judges, mediators and hearing officers (not all of whom are legally trained, but many are) - which gets the number of law jobs up to around 760,000.

However, depending on how you count it (and allow for mortality) there are somewhere between 1.3 and 1.5 million JD holders extant in the potential US workforce. So you are correct to say that there are a lot of missing lawyers - between 500,000 and 700,000 (it is a tough thing to calculate)


Incredulous guest: "I think the supply demand curve has shifted so much against lawyers, that maybe people should be taught other areas - such as compliance, in law schools and should be able to intern in compliance through the law school (there are clearly different skill sets needed, depending on the area of compliance), or should be taught human resources or labor relations or the like and be able to intern in these areas through the law school. You can't teach too many people these things because there is a limited demand for each area. However, right now, some areas are in demand and some are not, and the law schools would better serve people by actually helping experienced lawyers who are not working learn about the in demand areas and intern in those areas through the law school. "

The core problem is that there's no way that people (even if they could get jobs in those fields) would be able to afford $200K law school expenses.

The core problem is the shift in the supply and demand curves; they are going to cross at salaries much lower than previous.


Anon @ 6:40 PM:

"So inevitably, I believe, the debates about the reason that so many lawyers are unemployed while the public remains underserved go to the way that law students are trained and the way they are encouraged to think about the law and the practice of law."

No, the reason is that these people can't afford to pay a lawyer, and lawyers can't stay in business at the rates that they can afford.


As things are currently, I agree. Same way with medicine.
However, the fact remains that the vast majority of people are underserved, and you seem to agree with that. Wouldn't that suggest a different model (not LegalZoom ...)!
The fee structure, debt loads, etc. drives the quest for high-paying law jobs, which are dwindling, and out of reach for so many law school grads.
In a market, if that is your point, wouldn't the price of legal services necessarily decrease? To some extent, these prices have decreased, to levels below the compensation of plumbers, in many cases.
If "lawyers can't stay in business at the rates [the vast majority] can afford" than is the situation, as you imply, hopeless?
I contend that law school faculties should have been thinking about these issues long before 2008. Some were told to start thinking about these changes, and ignored those warnings.
My point is that more practice savvy law faculties wouldn't have been so oblivious to these warnings and would have been in a better position to start moving toward newer models of legal education toward the delivery of legal services for the public good (which, by the way, is not limited to "public interest" work as so many law faculties sort of crudely assume.)

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