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March 14, 2015


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Who is the "law school scam" crowd?

Anyone who is critical of the status quo? Anyone who doesn't despise Paul Campos?

Your "analysis" (such as it is) suffers because you throw around a slur in your conclusion, expecting that "everyone" will "know what I mean." You did a fairly good job, IMHO, of summarizing someone else's work, but then spoiled the whole read with your "analysis" at the end.


Now that she has the data, I would hope that Professor Merritt would post the specific 5 year outcomes for her own school, Ohio State.

A Prof

This is why some law professors who sympathize with law school critics are staying silent in public. Deborah Jones Merritt is one the most outspoken figures pointing to bad employment outcomes for law school graduates and recommending significant changes to how law school works. She posted extensively at Paul Campos's blog. And she just sank months into a detailed, ground-level survey establishing convincingly that things are hard for recent graduates, much harder than they used to be.

What does she get for it? A comment saying she should look more closely at Ohio State. Why? Is Ohio State more problematic than the other schools she studied? (If anything, it probably has better employment outcomes.) No. It's purely because Deborah Jones Merritt teaches there. The question comes with an implied accusation of hypocrisy: law professor, fix your own school before you cast stones. This is a mild version, but something similar and usually worse happens to everyone who engages.

Law school critics, think carefully about this. If you want more law professor allies, you need to stop making the conversation about individuals. When we speak up, we make ourselves instantly unpopular with our colleagues. If it also makes us targets for public criticism from the critics we substantially agree with, there's every incentive to stay silent. That makes meaningful reform harder.

I'm not asking for garlands and champagne. But hold your fire a bit. You are scaring away people who would otherwise be helping.

John Thompson

@A Prof/10:47 a.m.:

Being criticized by anonymous Internet commenters at a blog that almost no one outside of the industry reads? That is what is "holding back" some law professors who sympathize with law school critics? Whatever will law school critics do without the contributions of some law professors?

Professor Merritt is an adult. I am sure that she knew to expect little or no reward for pointing out how poorly the class of 2010's passers of the Ohio bar has done in the five years since graduating, except perhaps to convince others of the necessity for change. If it helps the rest of you get on board, I offer my sincere congratulations and undying love to cancel out one anonymous Internet commenter if you duplicate her efforts for the class of 2010 in your state.

JusticeFor All

This is a really good study, and as a member of the class of 2009, I would venture to say that the class of 2009 probably fared about the same as the class of 2010. It would be really interesting to see what types of loan balances these students are carrying. My experience with colleagues from the class of 2009 is that many of the solo practitioner or small firm attorneys (firms of 2-20 attorneys) earn anywhere from 20k to 60k a year and many of us haven't been able to earn enough to pay the interest that accrues each month on our law school loans. So while many of us graduated with 150-200k in education debt we now owe more than that because each month the accrued interest increases.


To A Prof:

If you read my comment as an attack on Professor Merritt, it was not meant as such. Everyone should post their own school's 5 year outcomes if they have them. She, apparently, has them. I have no idea if they are any different than the Ohio overall results or not.


You realize that the law school scam crowd stems from virtually every law school lying about employment outcomes for years.

I hope no one on the faculty or administration of a law school continues to support this practice.


Yes, we should applaud professors who take a sincere interest in analyzing students' employment outcomes, especially when so few seem to really care about that or even value the practice of law.


Maybe more professors should consider researching their school's five year employment outcomes. More data can only help.


A Prof, I am puzzled by your comment statement,

"Law school critics, think carefully about this. If you want more law professor allies, you need to stop making the conversation about individuals. When we speak up, we make ourselves instantly unpopular with our colleagues. If it also makes us targets for public criticism from the critics we substantially agree with, there's every incentive to stay silent. That makes meaningful reform harder."

What law school critic attacked Professor Merit? Both she, Brian Tamahama and Paul Campos have displayed considerable professional courage in criticising the status quo, which has been greater by attacks on their personal integrity, in many instances organised by individuals not very distant from this forum, some who post regularly here and who have, allegedly (but pretty convincingly) been abetted by people who cannot be named because of the infamously protective "spam filter."

One in particular, a rigorous denouncer of anonymous post game and sock puppets turns out to have a drawer filled with odd socks that specialised in the very attack you complain of, i.e., the Campos/Tamahama/Merritt is a hypocrite line. In short your objection may be very misdirected. Look closer to home....


Thank you prof Merritt. Fiat Lux!

Is there any faculty member that honestly believes that certain schools did NOT engage in a scam? Or puffery if the term scam is a little too bold for polite company.


I agree with almost all the comments above.

It simply isn't enough to say "the scammers will say this" and the "defenders" will say that. (Note the difference there.)

The data either proves something, proves nothing, or points to a conclusion that the author asserts. What is the point here? The first alternative means that the author should say forthrightly what the data shows, the second alternative means the data is meaningless, and the third alternative cries out for more than a few throw away lines about "this group of reviled person will say this" and "this group of credible law professors will say that" and "I just don't know what to make of all this work."

For example, did so many validly write incessantly on this site that there will be full employment for attorneys in about two years? Does the data support those claims, or, were those claims sort of, well, let's think for a while ... what would be the word? Just how appalling would it be if, after all the hoopla for literally years, persons in authority in legal academia engaged, so recently, in those sorts of almost per se irresponsible representations (while literally flying off the handle and sometimes using obscenities when responding to anyone who dared to point out the obvious).

Yes, let's applaud efforts to take publicly available information and summarize it. (Not sure how vigorously the applause needs to be here, but it is to a valid end, one supposed.)

But let's also hear some "knowledge generation" in the sense of advancing understanding by way of reasoned, expert analysis, not just statistics.

A mistake so many profs make on this site is posting incomprehensible (to most) fancy looking charts and graphs (as if staring at a series of little thumbnails with lost of dots will reveal a number or something, like the old tests for color recognition) - charts and graphs replete with a discussion involving the jargon of statistics, but to no real effect in advancing understanding of anyone about anything - which leaves the impression that an amateur is dabbling in a field of study not taught in any depth at Yale Law School, or any other law school for that matter, and beyond the ken of most JD law professors, especially those whose field of interest has NOTHING to do with such studies.


Not sure we need studies to demonstrate the obvious. What we instead need is lower tuition and law schools focusing their efforts on securing employment for their students post-graduation.

tony smith

Law professors need to take statistics. Her analysis is silly -- even if there has been a structural change.


you say potato, I say potato. I look at her "results" (it really is an extended blog post certainly not an academic paper) and it shows that most kids found jobs. Since she has no income data we don't know if they are doing better or worse than the kids who came earlier. But I fail to see the "ills" she speaks of. The percentage working as lawyers (i.e. excluding business jobs) appears exactly in line with longstanding national averages that reach back decades (ref. S&M II).


"Law professors need to take statistics. Her analysis is silly"

Unfortunately I am not well versed in statistics, as I suppose (perhaps unfairly) are most readers here.

Could you please explain why her analysis is silly from a statistical standpoint?




You are stating conclusions. Congratulations!

Unfortunately, you have no basis to so conclude, based on the post above, the referenced study and, especially, "S&M II" ...

You "fail to see the 'ills" she speaks of."



Ray Campbell

"it really is an extended blog post certainly not an academic paper"

Seriously? From scattered sources she built a database tracking the job outcomes for more than 1,000 new members of the Ohio bar over 4.5 years. That would be a heck of a blog post. It seems like a serious project to me, and one that often would be supported by grant money.

Is it that studying the profession of law itself - which includes looking at professional outcomes - is beneath the dignity of legal scholars? Are we being dismissive because her interpretation of the data runs counter to the "best time ever to go to law school" narrative or because looking at what people with law degrees do is appropriate for casual blogging but not serious scholarship?

Paul Campos

It's revealing that some people are still willing to push the "most kids found jobs" line. That's so 2011, when everybody was still reporting 96% employment nine months after graduation etc.

The national unemployment rate for 25-34 year olds, including everybody from high school dropouts to SCOTUS clerks, is 5.8%.

A particularly interesting stat from the paper is that 41% of the cohort that had jobs as lawyers with large law firms were staff attorneys rather than associates. It would be interesting to know if Ohio is unusual in this regard, or if this reflects what's happening with entry-level hiring in BIGLAW at the national level.


Professor Campos,
Dayton, Ohio is the back office with staff attorneys for Wilmer Hale. I don't know if other big law firms are there as well.

This must skew the stats for Ohio and any other state with back office locations, like West Virginia.

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