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May 02, 2015


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Anon says:

"But the critics rave on about the cost (and it seems nominally to be high) and that is why the research that Mike and Frank did is so important. Until that research arrived on the scene it was anecdote v. anecdote and resembled that old Mad Magazine Spy v. Spy cartoon. Now the critics should retreat and come up with their own data. Surely they could get the funding for the research from their friends in DC."

These old saws get trotted out every time! The logic failure here is stunning.

First, the "get your own data" canard (this is sandbox stuff, really) is risible in the context of THIS "debate" on THIS thread about WHICH data to use: the more robust ABA disclosures or the "less granular" data that S prefers? S believes that "too much information" about employment prospects might confuse the undergraduate researchers whom he would prefer to rely on his "MILLLION DOLLAR" promise.

On this one, there is no M because S is really in a category all to himself with respect to this pure rubbish. (To be sure, shared by a few others, but very few and very visibly few) I keep asking, why even consider his views about this?

Second, Anon states: "[T]he whole point of the attack on law schools has been the cost." This is just a false premise that Anon trots out to support the hero theory to come: that S&M proved that the investment in law school to be justified, thus defeating the "attackers" and forcing them to go to "DC" for funding! (Really, this person is speaking about "raving"?)

But, the "whole point of the attack" (if one must call it that, that being the mindset of the author, who clearly feels besieged by the frothing mob) has not only to do with cost!

Arguments about cost relative to outcomes certainly has been validly raised, as has a point that federal loan money has caused obviously greedy operators to proliferate and escalate tuition far beyond the bounds of reason (all you JDs posing as economists might consider the reason that fourth tier law schools charge as much as they do in the "market" and given the employment prospects in THOSE schools: a subject that S&M chose mainly to ignore).

No, Anon, the "whole point" of the "attack" has not been solely related to "cost" ... and the fact that you utter this nonsense indicates that, again, you are not listening, but instead, you obviously are reacting to your feeling of being "attacked." This sort of response does not befit your exalted position and vastly superior intellect.


", Why isn't a 50% decline in applications with the consequential impact on faculty and staff pay and positions a "solution" to what you say ails legal education?"

You'd think it would, right? But here down the rabbit hole a certain number of schools have just dropped standards to chase student loan dollars further down the intellectual and socko-economic spectrum. All the while cost and debt burden more and more students with more and more debt. Perversely, as matriculant quality falls, the problem of poor entry level opportunities and insufferable debt may get worse. Welcome to the madness.


We see on S' favorite blog where the bit about "DC" came from.

The obtuse nature of all this is stunning! Law students who attend Yale surely are not unaware of the old saying: "He didn't go to law school, he went to Yale"!

Many such students do not expect to go straight into the practice of law. Whoopie! They are, all of them, the most brilliant humans on the planet! Why should they?

On the other hand, lesser mortals understand the point Bernie makes above: law students, by and large, go to law school to be trained to practice law and join the legal profession, and want to know, if they graduate from a particular law school, what their chances of getting a law job will be.

Funny how that works. Folks who aren't rich and famous and brilliant and all that need to work to pay off the 200K or so in debt and the three years not working and want to know if they will find a law related job after spending three years and all that money to train for one.

Weird, huh? Why didn't they all just go to Yale? Everybody there gets a job, and they don't care to be lowly lawyers anyway!

Derek Tokaz

"Factually, an appreciable portion of the people who use law-school employment statistics (including particularly prospective law students and their families) did and still do not understand government reporting conventions used in other contexts, and thought that the all-in “employed” percentage most law schools publicized before 2011 meant full-time, long-term jobs as a lawyer, when in fact it did not."

I don't think this is true. I doubt many people saw the "95% employed" number and thought that meant "95% LT FT BPR jobs."

However, I bet a lot of people see "95% employed" and think that means "95% have jobs." This is where the BLS definition becomes very important, because it differs from the common sense definition of employment. BLS says if you were employed for even an hour, you're employed. Most people wouldn't consider getting a one-off baby sitting gig as being employed. Defenders of the BLS stats would (and have) said that the number of people in these non-jobs is too small to worry about, but many schools have at least 5% of their employed grads in jobs that are both short term and part time, and several schools even pass the 10% mark. That's pretty significant in my eyes.

When considering law school, prospective students consider (or ought to consider) both their chances of getting the type of job they want, as well as how bad their situation will be if they don't get it. They might see only 15% get a biglaw job, but 95% are employed in some fashion, and think that even if they don't get the dream job they at least aren't exposed to a lot of risk. Using the BLS stat misleads students about their risk exposure.

Also, Bernie has missed another way of presenting jobs data that schools have used. Instead of just saying "X% employed" they'll say "Employed in law jobs." Of course, law jobs is a term without a clear definition. Prospective students could reasonable interpret that as meaning working as a lawyer. Schools on the other hand will include JD Advantage positions. I have a hard time imagining that whoever is picking the language is unaware of how someone would likely interpret the stat.


Bernie, you have written far too much on what is really a simple issue. Law schools should report accurately where their graduates work 10 months after graduation. Thankfully, this is required by the ABA. The mandatory disclosures are fine. It is up to prospective students to inform themselves what it means when a graduate is working in a firm of 2-10 attorneys, or in business and industry, etc. Any prospective who looks at anything other than the mandatory disclosures, such as the crap schools promote on their website and in fliers, is an idiot who deserves the debt. That person is looking to be persuaded for any reason to attend anyway.

If there is one change I could make to the system, I would have the ABA force prospectives to view the employment disclosures for each school that they apply to when they submit their online application, and click that they acknowledge the figures before they submit the application. Then there would be no doubt that every enrollee knew exactly what they were getting into.

Derek Tokaz


One could just as easily say that if you're a school that puts out these stats, you're a swindler who deserves to be stuck paying off your students' debt loads.



A new category, I think the university of Denver is using it is employed in "professional" jobs.

However, this reminds me of my aunt's aphorism about the client who says "I'll fight them to the last drop of blood" as in "notice the absence of the personal pronoun."

What "profession" do they mean?



I just don't think my outrage can stretch that far. People should expect school's to cast their employment stats in a positive light, no different than when someone is selling a security or a piece of real estate. Dispensing with any special status of higher education (which I suppport) goes both ways. They shouldn't be held to a higher standard.

Derek Tokaz


It's not a new category. That's one of the ones used by NALP and ABA, and there is a "Non-Professional" job category.


My point was just that there's fault to go around. Noting that one party made some bad choices doesn't necessarily end the discussion (unless you prefer a contributory negligence type rule).

As for whether they should be held to a higher standard than the rest of the market, the first answer is most definitely yes. But that's because we have legal standards and moral standards. We can certainly hold them to a higher moral standard than what the law requires of the market at large.

Now should law schools have a different legal standard than the rest of the market? That's a complicated question. For starters, the rest of the market doesn't even have the same standards. Real estate comes with certain required disclosures. Drugs have to disclose their side effects. Seafood has to disclose its nation of origin. Pringles can't call themselves "chips." So the "higher" standard could actually be pretty close to actual, existing standards elsewhere in the market, not making it higher at all.

Getting specifically to the standard you raise though, it would be denying law schools the right to engage in puffery. That, I believe, isn't something any field is denied, even when they do have to make certain other disclosures. Ought law schools to be denied puffery? ...Maybe. The argument would point to the huge subsidies law schools get (via student loans). As a society, we can bargain however we want, and I think we'd be in our rights to say if you want to milk the student loan cow there's going to be some conditions. Think you should get to play on the same terms as everyone else? Cool. Everyone else doesn't get access to student loans.



As a society, we can bargain however we want, and I think we'd be in our rights to say if you want to milk the student loan cow there's going to be some conditions. Think you should get to play on the same terms as everyone else? Cool. Everyone else doesn't get access to student loans.

That's exactly right.

And, as for puffery in the market, yes, but ...

An expert in a sale of goods (as long as we are speaking of education as a chattel) cannot tell a customer that he thinks a chattel is something he knows it is not without risking big time liability.

e.g., "Economists have proved that you will earn a MILLION DOLLARS MORE over your career with a law degree than if you just stick with your BA" ...

e.g., "In a couple of years, there will be a shortage of attorneys. Now is the best time in history to enroll in law school."

e.g., "Last year, only 10% of our graduates were unemployed nine months following graduation" (Using S's recommended method)



Derek: "However, I bet a lot of people see "95% employed" and think that means "95% have jobs." "

I don't; I'd love to see any hard stats on people looking at those figures and thinking that (for example) being a barrista was counted, and was the sort of job which they'd find acceptable.

Derek Tokaz


I'll try to explain how I got to that conclusion. A prospective student seeing a general employment rate for a law school likely does believe it includes some non-lawyers. After all, I doubt many prospective students believe every graduate who gets a job gets one practicing as a lawyer. They're probably aware of fields like academia, consulting, investment banking, various government positions, and have heard the "you can do anything with a law degree!" narrative. If a prospect would think that an investment banker was included in the "95% employed" number, then we know he doesn't think everyone is in an LT FT BPR job.

However, I do think a prospect would not think baristas were counted. Why the disconnect? If they know that some non-lawyer jobs are counted, why think baristas aren't included? After all, "95% employed" doesn't say anything about the quality of the jobs, it's not "95% in careers they're proud to mention at their high school reunion." They wouldn't think baristas are included because they wouldn't think that there are JD baristas to include!



You might want to mention that Federal Truth in Lending regulations apply to almost all lenders, including say car dealers, but has a carve out for educational lending. Used car salesmen are subject to tougher standards that law schools.

Steven J. Harper

I applaud Bernie's efforts seeking clarity where confusion reigns. But some of the comments ignore the elephant in the room. How can a discussion about the "law school market" for new graduates proceed without acknowledging that there is no single law school market? Rather, there are three submarkets -- National, Regional, and Problematic. The actual employment prospects (and starting salaries) for law grads depend entirely on a school's submarket. Ignoring that fact is worse than imprecise; it leads to sloppy analysis, misleading rhetoric, and flawed public policies.

I just published an article in the ABI Law Review (Winter 2015) on this subject: "Bankruptcy and Bad Behavior -- The Real Moral Hazard: Law Schools Exploiting Market Dysfunction" --


Most law professors have never had any real legal employment so I'm not sure why they would have any idea of the types of jobs that students have or want.


Derek:- thanks categories are

• Bar passage required
• Juris Doctor degree presents an advantage
• Professional position (job requires professional skills or training)
• Non-professional position
• Job type unknown

I have to say "requires professional skills or training" seems to me to be awfully broad - what does it mean? Does it mean a job requiring professional licensing, which covers everything from cosmetology to real estate depending on the state? Does it mean a quick training course, which has a pretty broad scope, ranging from using the coffee machine to more advanced skills? Does it mean any job the BLS has a professional category for? Any white collar position? Any managerial position no matter how low? It strikes me that this category is wide open to abuse - and given that I see Simkovic's argument that the BLS categories are usable as a manifesto for returning to the bad old days, I suspect it is being abused.

I would add a point - why is the debate about reporting, Simkovic's campaign to lower reporting standards happening now and indeed gaining some traction. Are things that bad at Seton Hall and Fordham, at Santa Clara? Is honest reporting proving that damaging? Until recently there was a consensus that law schools needed to be more honest in their reporting - and now, suddenly, ideas are being floated to lower the quality of the reporting? Simultaneously a large number of law school deans are complaining about the bar exam being too difficult? I mean if a certain person is going to run around claiming that there is a Cato/Koch led conspiracy, it is at least fair to ask the other question, why now?



I think you nailed it. Some deans are in survival mode.

I've said it before, and i'll say it again. Law school can be a useful way to train the future members of the bar to be great future guardians of the law. Alternatively, it can be a feather-bedding, indebting three year exercise in futility that harms students and erodes trust in law. Please, law faculty, choose wisely.


Anon: "Most law professors have never had any real legal employment so I'm not sure why they would have any idea of the types of jobs that students have or want."

It doesn't take having any legal experience - just check the percentages by the rank of the law school, and the trend is clear. Those students with choices want (a) lawyer jobs and (b) higher-paying ones.


Derek, in the end tou 're just posting words to cover for the fact. That law schools quite delibertely misled thei atudents, at 6-figure prices.

Just saying...

What fascinates me about these discussions is that regardless of the topic or angle of the original post, if it has to do with the state of legal ed, the comments are always the same, posted by the same people.

I am as big a critic of law schools, deans, profs and admins as the next person, having worked in that industry for 20 years, but this is getting boring....

No one can predict the future of legal ed and the critics are never going to convince the defenders that law schools have acted dishonestly and unethically, so it seems to me that this is becoming pointless.

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