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April 20, 2015

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[M][@][c][K]

And we know that few people read the wiki talk pages or indeed check the IP addresses of who edits the pages to discover places like Fordham, the Univeristity of Texas - followed by a change to Chicago, etc.

Seriously,shouldn't the Wikipedia page be honest? Should prospective law students have to go to the talk pages? Why would you suggest that....oh!

anon

FE wrote above "Let's not go down the path of looking to identify the anonymous commentators here."

I second that. Let's not name someone who prefers to use a pseudonym.

Here in the FL, many anonymous comments decry anonymous comments. Such is life.

But, let's not be "outing" people. That reminds me of a certain very vicious and inexcusable move a few years ago.

[M][@][c][K]

Who BDG is evidently something well known at Prawfs and I thought it was Brian Galle - but his middle initial is not on the blogger list.

Anon at 9:21 - if you are who it has been suggested you are - you may not want to raise that issue - you know why. Your prior actions have been - well let's put it this way, I don't have to announce "my wife is a lawyer" to have legal credibility....

[M][@][c][K]

Voodoo94

I don't think anyone should be making comparisons to the late Dan Markel. Prawfsblawg is a forum, like this one, that names those running threads as bloggers. BDG as a handle runs into the problem that Brian Galle does not use his middle initial in his profile - which made me uncertain as to whether it was him.

I do find it pretty shocking at this point in the debate, that anyone would be saying that 22 year old potential law students should be googling for underlying methodology. The caveat emptor argument is disgraceful and does reflect on any institution that it emanates from - BC applicants should know that this view is held there to the extent that it would openly asserted as a principle by Galle.

anon

Everyone has a "principled" reason for wanting to expose the identity of a person posting an anonymous comment with which one so passionately disagrees.

However, we have seen the damage done by this sort of self-justification. Until the FL posts a comment policy regarding anonymity, let's all resolve to respect the anonymity of those who wish to post in that fashion, and, to, as requested in this thread, address the arguments and points raised by addressing the arguments or points raised, and not by attacking the person making those arguments or points.

Some comments are clearly not serious or genuine or are designed to provoke just for the sake of provocation. It is probably ok to say so, because saying an argument is frivolous would seem in bounds.

I'm not making the rules here, but just expressing a pov on this issue.

anon

And, btw, if there is proof that a named author has engaged in efforts to stifle debate or discussion that is critical of that author's pov, I think it is fair to at least inquire about the circumstances and give the author an opportunity to respond.

Unfortunately, there isn't really a good way to do this in blog comments on another's thread and S posts in a way (that I've seen) that doesn't allow a direct discussion with him.

All in all, his work doesn't really prove much, and doesn't merit, IMHO, all the attention it has received. This attention is mainly because discussion supposedly about S's work has been used as a proxy for a bigger and broader debate.

The proof? Look at these threads. No one really cares to debate S's work, or blog posts, because the anodyne nature of the sort of watered down conclusions and observations of the obvious just aren't really all that interesting or important.

[M][@][c][K]

There is a basic issue here - BDG - is a named person. Who he is was not a secret - but it was unclear that it was Brian Galle, though it certainly looked that way. Considering the caveat emptor argument being made, and how appalled people are, I wanted to know wig fulminations were fairly directed. I would point out that BDG was highly critical of anonymous and pseudonymous commenting in his own thread, so we can assume, unless he is a hypocrit, that he expects readers to know who BDG is.

[M][@][c][K]

Returning to the debate at issue - how should data be presented.

I'm going to look at it from a litigation perspective - how would a judge or arbitrator react if I presented data that was in anyway misleading. I've recently seen this in action in an arbitration, where my opponent made a habit of making statements of fact, which though literally true (or could be read so as to be true) were very misleading. In effect the statements gave an impression that was contrary to reality. They got caught, again and again - and it destroyed their case, since the tribunal reached the point where it would believe nothing they said. Hilariously, they coached a witness to give one such circumlocution when answering a scripted question, which was then shown on cross to be misleading and contrary to his own witness statement (made for another purpose.)

The reality is that a judge or arbitrator would hand me my neatly severed head if I was lucky. No good litigator I know wants to be seen by the court or tribunal to be shading the data, or to have to hunt around for a standard created by another party to be able to argue - well they do it too. If you are going to present it you make very sure that any issues with its interpretation are presented by you rather than caught by opposing counsel.

I think the fact that Simkovic had secure sponsorship from interested parties, NALP and Access is important, because it indicates the likely use that the study would be put to. It was inevitably going to be presented as fact by law school admissions departments, I.e., the marketers, as well as the deans of certain schools - and presented to an audience of 22 year old recent college graduates. To suggest that the ultimate audience for "the Million Dollar Law Degree" was only going to be labor economists and law professors is to be delusional.

Given what has transpired, the false data peddled by so many law schools, the ABA's belated efforts to clean up data reporting, there may not be a legal duty of care to someone writing an article in this space, but there is a moral one, and a fair question of professional one too. Simkovic's refusal to accept the idea that he has some obligations to potential law students is sad.

Jojo

M@cc,

It is crazy that law schools blend employment and unemployment data so casually and defend the data as technically true because BLS! That's such a bad argument that it wouldn't even make the brief in litigation.

America's unemployment rate is 5.5 percent. I guess I'd accept a glossy marketing pitch touting employment rates if they assume full labor force participation (unlike BLS data) and if they compared to the overall rate of the USA. "Ten months out, 93 percent of our graduates are employed! That's only 2 points worse than America overall."

twbb

@JoJo:
It's a little funny that the BLS is the absolute gold standard for everything, except when it projects an oversupply of lawyers, in which case it doesn't know what it's doing...

@[M][@][c][K]:
Definitely a huge credibility gap. I've seen the same sort of weird behavior in Federal court, where experienced attorneys from prestigious law firms would try to get the most misleading statements past the judge and just crash and burn because of it. As far as I'm concerned, the NALP -- which makes the incredible claim that the median salary for first year associates at firms of any size is $130,000 -- doesn't have much saved in the credibility bank.

For the sake of my blood pressure, I haven't really jumped into the details of Simkovic's argument, but now that I have I am a little surprised at some of his defenses of the NALP figures, which really highlights the credibility issues you mention. I didn't agree with his overall conclusion before, but I assumed he was trying to at least do economics.

For example, Merritt and McEntee criticized the NALP figures for (quite reasonably) having a nonresponse bias. His response is a lot of handwaving and dodgy arguments (from his April 11 response on Leiter's blog):

(I know I'm jumping into the debate late, and a lot of this stuff has been discussed, but I think my blood pressure will only get worse if I don't put my two cents in.)

1. "Nonresponse is not the same thing as nonresponse bias. Law school critics do not seem to understand this distinction. A problem only arises if the individuals who respond are systematically different from those who do not respond along the dimensions being measured."

This just seems dishonest strawmanning. The argument is clearly that response rates differ based on salary (or firm size, which functions as a proxy for salary).

2. "Law school critics claim that law school graduates who do not respond to questions about income are likely to have lower incomes than those who do respond. This claim is not consistent with the evidence."

Ok, this is just handwaving. How is it not consistent with the evidence? Response rates for large firms are higher than response rates for small firms. Large firm salaries are higher than small firms. The NALP itself tells us that.

3. "To the contrary, high-income individuals often value privacy and are reluctant to share details about their finances.***"

Meaningless handwaving and I'm starting to wonder that maybe McIntyre really doesn't want his name on these arguments, because other economists would find this stuff dodgy. "Often value privacy"? How often? Is it true for all high-income individuals or by field? How about by age? Career status? Where's your support for this claim?

4. "*** After the JD researchers noted that young law graduates working in large urban markets—presumably a relatively high-income group—were particularly reluctant to respond to the survey."

THAT'S your sole citation to support number 3 above? To "presum[e]" young law graduates working in large urban markets are a high-income group without any further evidence? You don't get to legitimately do that. A professional labor economist wouldn't offer that presumption without support, and I'm certainly not going to take it from a non-economist. In any event, hordes of temporary, low-paid document reviewers would probably disagree with you.

Furthermore, as Deborah Merritt has pointed out, law schools have access to first year salaries for the largest, best-paying firms, and a strong motivation to count as many high salaries and as few low salaries as possible. Unless I missed something, Simkovic has never addressed that.

5. "Other biases such as systematic under-reporting of incomes by highly educated individuals,*** under-reporting of bonuses and outside income, and the like should be taken into account.****

Again, handwaving. "[S]ystematic under-reporting of incomes by highly educated individuals," even if true, is irrelevant here since just about your entire study population has a JD. If "under-reporting of bonuses and outside income, and the like" should be taken into account then it's your job to do so.

6. "To the extent that these biases cut in opposite directions, they can offset each other."

And, they could not. You're the one trying to prove your hypothesis. You don't do that by recounting the rich possibilities inherent in the world.

7. "If Professor Merritt’s view is that differences between NALP, ABA, and U.S. Census Bureau data collection and reporting conventions make law school-collected data more difficult to compare to other data sources and make law school data less useful, then I am glad to see Professor Merritt coming around to a point I have made repeatedly."

Her point was that law school-collected data underestimates employment and overestimates median salaries, not some vague, overarching difficulty in comparing them. She is not supporting your argument in any way. Furthermore, if you agree that the data collections and reporting conventions introduce these difficulties, then why do you rely on this data so much? This reminds me of a contract case I was on once where we argued something to the effect that the opposing side breached the contract and made it impossible for us to perform. Their response was to characterize that argument as our admission that we "breached the contract." Speaking as a litigator, if you're going to try to reframe your opponents argument to make it seem like they support you in some way, you've got to do a better job than this.

Barry

twbb: "It's a little funny that the BLS is the absolute gold standard for everything, except when it projects an oversupply of lawyers, in which case it doesn't know what it's doing..."

Incorrect. Please try again.

Barry

"twbb: "It's a little funny that the BLS is the absolute gold standard for everything, except when it projects an oversupply of lawyers, in which case it doesn't know what it's doing..."

Incorrect. Please try again."

I apologize; I didn't read with my actual brain turned on, and thought that you meant the opposite.

[M][@][c][K]

twbb:

vis-à-vis "After the JD researchers noted that young law graduates working in large urban markets—presumably a relatively high-income group—were particularly reluctant to respond to the survey" and ""It's a little funny that the BLS is the absolute gold standard for everything, except when it projects an oversupply of lawyers, in which case it doesn't know what it's doing..."

A long time ago I started to correspond with Paul Campos, before he was so well known about law school reporting of incomes in the Washington DC market. One of the topics was about the discrepancy of the salaries that all of the DC law schools were claiming along with the employment rate as compared to the BLS data for average lawyer salaries in D.C.

At that time pretty well every DC area law school - so Georgetown, GW, AU, Howard, Catholic, George Mason, UVa and I think Baltimore and UMD were claiming 90%+ employment and a median of $160k, but the BLS showed a DC median of around $100k (I forget the exact number) for all private practice attorneys, including those with years of experience. The point I made was that this could not possibly make sense - how could the median for 1st year associates conceivably be higher than the median for experienced attorneys? Campos as I recalled told me that this was curiously pretty well the case in every large urban market - the law schools in those markets all claimed their median matched the reputed BigLaw salaries being paid and substantial exceeded the BLS median for all private practice lawyers and indeed all attorneys. Someone was not telling the truth.

Now consider for a moment the impact that telling your graduates that if they are not making $160k p.a., they are are well below average, when the reality is that this number is grossly exaggerated? Lawyers and law students are very competitive - the schools were telling them in effect that they were losers.

With respect to the point about federal court - it may be a little dated, but there was a patent litigator in San Jose - who had to appear frequently before the NDCa - who once was cuttingly described as "being like Joe Isuzu without the sincerity." He did bear a certain resemblance to a tall David Leisure (I've heard this again by the way in reference to Rick Perry.) It became a problem - his tendency to get caught. I tend not to be before the same court very often, but you become aware over time that credibility matters.

There used to be a joke that "a diplomat is someone sent abroad to lie for his country." My father used to answer (and often referenced BN) that a diplomat in fact "starts his career with one lie, and he guards that lie, and polishes it, and feeds it with small and large truths - and it becomes a bigger and bigger lie, every more important, and the chances are he retires with the lie unused, because it was too valuable to spend except for something very very important."

Law schools need to realise that they have done huge damage to their reputations with the games they played on employment data for the 15-20+ years up to 2010-12. There is not way to escape it - they lied to their customers, to the people who were effectively their clients. Law schools that taught ethics to generations of students - that made the classes mandatory, were simultaneously lying to those students. The law schools won the law suits not because the courts did not think they lied, but by invoking caveat emptor. Interestingly if you read the Wikipedia page, law schools have edited it so as to say "In 2011, several law schools were sued for fraud and for misleading job placement statistics. Most of these suits have been dismissed on the merits." The implication of this statement is that it was found that the statistics were not misleading or indeed false - in short the law schools are making statements that are literally true, but (yet again) intentionally misleading.

There has been no mea culpa from law schools. Instead various jackasses (and that is the kindest word for at least one or two) belligerently deny that there was any deception at all, that any of the data was "cooked," see for example the discussion of Santa Clara over at Prawfs (which has a fine example of the misleading statement from someone who cannot seem to work the Wayback Machine, but presents himself as a techie.) It is time for the broad legal education community to get ahead of this mess - to recognise that their schools were dishonest and to denounce what was unethical and immoral behaviour. Trying to say - "ah well, the BLS definitions...." or "well we managed to get the cases dismissed" is not good enough. Law schools need to get their credibility back - but you they only do that by being rigorously honest, not by trying the shade there data some more and claim that nothing untoward happened.

twbb

[M][@][c][K]:

Good points, all. The sheer advocacy is what really surprised me. We shouldn't have to point out errors; if it was properly done, Simkovic should have done that himself. Self-criticism is an important part of proper social science research, and I just don't see it here.

"Law schools need to realise that they have done huge damage to their reputations with the games they played on employment data for the 15-20+ years up to 2010-12."

I think that many don't realize that they will have to face the consequences of that, and those likely consequences are not going to be gentle, gradual budgetary adjustments over the next decade that only impacts the next crop of law professors and administrators.

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