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January 28, 2014


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Those of you seeking an explanation for the dramatic drop in law school applicants, you may want to read the Illinois State Bar Association's Report on the Impact of Law School Debt on the Delivery of Legal Services:


The focus of the report to which Jilly refers isn't the question of why the number of applicants to law schools is falling. It also happens to be very flawed in several respects:


Jilly: Great link!
What is so striking is that the thought behind so many of the comments posted on this blog - comments often reviled and ridiculed and insulted and disputed by so many of the law faculty members posting here and elsewhere - is reflected by this report. Just skimming the bullet points reveals themes, plainly and congently stated, which are often characterized and dimsissed here in the faculty lounge as the product of a demented "law school scam crowd" and worse.
The truth is likewise plain: many in the legal academy react emotionally and with great temper at the slightest hint that they have failed in even the most minor respects, even though these failures are obvious.
This report is must reading, but will it be thrown into the pile without much notice, or worse, denigrated by some here in the FL?
Profs in the legal academy are now required to do something that they truly do not like to do: LISTEN to points of view that differ from their own, and THINK differently about how to address the problems that have led to this impasse.

Tom Joad

The link to the Illinois bar finding makes no sense. Haven't they read S&M's report proving that law degrees are worth $1mm? Haven't they read Barros's survey that proves that all is well for recent graduates? Surely the Illinois Bar is mistaken. What do a bunch of practitioners know about law anyway?


The Illinois Bar Report is pretty spot in (with one major exception).*

However, there is nothing inconsistent between what S&M found and the Illinois Bar Report concluded. The empirical data and conclusions of S&M don't contradict the Illinois Bar Report's findings,and vice versa. If you don't see that, you might need to step back and consider what each does and does not say.

I don't remember S&M saying anything about whether graduates had a low enough debt level to take low paying jobs in public service, and the Illinois Bar Report does not say anything about the average career earning potential of those who get a JD. In fact, the Illinois Bar Report seems to argue that high loan debt forces students who might otherwise do more public service lawyering to pursue higher potential earning activities instead.

*The exception in my mind is section A under there recommendations. The third point of that section is fine, but the first two recommendations under A would likely have a negative effect on what the Illinois Bar is trying to do.



The report is not focused on the falling number of law school applicants, but the fact that law school graduates are drowning in debt, making them unable to survive on modest public interest salaries, is likely a deterrent to some prospective applicants, is it not?


A key point, just because law graduates seek "higher potential earning activities" instead of public interest work in order to satisfy their massive student loans, does not mean that they find it. Especially in a contracting market for high paying jobs:

You may be interested in the following report from Illinois' northern neighbor, Wisconsin, which further explains the falling law school applicant quandary: Challenges Facing New Lawyers. I linked to this report in the comments section to the last LSAC Applicant related post, but for those who have not seen it:

A few highlights:

- More than 4 out of 10 respondents would not go to law school again, given what they now know.

- 8 out of 10 respondents reported that their law school debt was more than expected.

- More than half the respondents reported that as a result of having law school debt they have delayed a major purchase, had their happiness impaired, made suboptimal career choices, delayed marriage or having children, requested a forbearance or deferment, or found it difficult to pay Bar dues or court fees.

- 79% reported that their earnings were less than they expected during law school and within that group, the average law practice compensation was $41,591. Additionally, 71% of respondents had less employment related benefits than expected.

Tom Joad

Wisconsin too? When will word of the good news reach the Midwest? Things are good for lawyers. When will the lawyers accept it? Our studies say so. Their experiences to the contrary and practitioner bar reports are mere anecdotes. These anti-intellectuals should embrace our findings. Our livelihoods depend on it.



I do not disagree with what you said or the basic findings of the Wisconsin study.

I merely pointed out that the findings of S&M are not inconsistent with the conclusions reached by the Illinois Bar, as a response to Tom Joad's implication that they are inconsistent. Nothing in the Above the Law article or the Wisconsin study lead to the conclusion that S&M is inconsistent with the Illinois Bar Report. They may draw S&M's conclusions into doubt, but that is something different.

Perhaps I was reading too much into what Tom Joad was trying to imply with the initial sarcasm.

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