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May 04, 2014


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Good post.

Reminds us again of the adage oft repeated by Twain.

There is a distinction between the use (misuse) of an accurate stat and a false claim, however. The "five law schools have shut down in the past two years" claim was, if I recall correctly, either not true, or true only if one included some non accredited Cal law schools.

The use of arguably accurate stats to mislead (intentionally or negligently) is a bit different, IMHO. The use of carefully selected "true" facts to create false impressions is the stock in trade of some legal blogs. The WSJ's is not the one that first comes to mind.

BTW, I don't have in mind this site, which generally airs all points of view and thus comes closer to accuracy than those that don't.

Terri S

"Why is is"? Pot meet kettle.

Former Editor

I suspect that part of the reason we get inaccurate reports from non-legally specialized media sources is the way that the ABA data is reported. There are no particularly useful summaries once you get past the "all law schools" statistics, so the reporter or blogger has to do much of that number crunching themselves. I can say from personal experience that digging into the ABA data in a meaningful way can be pretty time consuming, even before you start getting into the kinds of employment outcomes each category can cover (e.g., the debate about just what JD Advantage means and whether it generally reflects positive employment outcomes). And someone like me has a background in this issue and a pretty solid idea of what sorts of things are important (or we think are important) in the data. My understanding is that reporters tend to be working on pretty tight publication deadlines. It's not really surprising that combining a somewhat difficult to use data set with a rushed analysis yields somewhat off ways of presenting the data.

terry malloy

David Simon's analysis and commentary on the decline of journalism explains part of this.

Monopoly -> Corpratization -> Internet -> Decline

The farm-teams and proving grounds that produced great journalism are gone, replaced with the journalistic equivalent of 'fast fashion.'

Sad really.


First, if there's any group less competent at arithmetic than lawyers, it's reporters :)

Second, one thing which the MSM has a big problem with is questioning the perceived mythos of society, such as about law school.

Combine those two, and you have a story tailor-made for press failure.


When there's a subject that you know a great deal about and wonder how a journalist could miss so much of the nuance on that topic, just remember that they're probably not doing any better on subjects for which you're completely dependent upon their coverage for knowledge.

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