Brian Leiter's Law School Reports

Brian Leiter
University of Chicago Law School

A Member of the Law Professor Blogs Network

Monday, May 25, 2015

Charleston Law School will enroll students this fall...

...while undertaking additional cost-cutting measures.  It appears the School enjoys some strong support in the local Charleston community.


May 25, 2015 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Lateral hires with tenure, 2014-15

MOVING TO FRONT--ORIGINALLY POSTED AUGUST 22, 2014

These are appointments with tenure that will begin in 2015; I will move this to the front at various intervals during the year; recent additions are bolded.  And the list finally includes the departure from Yale alluded to awhile back.

 

*Owen Anderson (oil & gas law, natural resources) from the University of Oklahoma, Norman to the University of Texas, Austin.

 

*Jennifer Bard (health law, constitutional law) from Texas Tech University to the University of Cincinnati (to become Dean). 

 

*Ann Bartow (intellectual property) from Pace University to the University of New Hampshire.

 

*Thomas Brennan (tax, empirical legal studies) from Northwestern University to Harvard University.

 

*Christopher Buccafusco (intellectual property, behavioral/experimental law & economics) from Chicago-Kent College of Law to Cardozo Law School.

 

*Aaron Bruhl (legislation, statutory interpretation, federal courts) from the University of Houston to the College of William & Mary.

 

*Irene Calboli (intellectual property, international trade, comparative law) from Marquette University to Texas A&M University.

 

*Joshua Cohen (political philosophy) resigned from Stanford University (where he taught in Law, Philosophy & Political Science) in October 2014 to join Apple University.  He will now also be part-time at the University of California, Berkeley.

 

*Matthew Diller (administrative law, social welfare law & policy) from Cardozo Law School to Fordham University (as Dean).

 

*Marcella David (international law, foreign relations law) from the University of Iowa to Florida A&M University (as Provost).

 

*William Dodge (international law, international transactions, international dispute resolution) from the University of California, Hastings to the University of California, Davis.

 

*Susan Fortney (legal ethics, legal professions, legal malpractice, bioethics, torts) from Hofstra University to Texas A&M University.

 

*Brian Galle (tax) from Boston College to Georgetown University.

 

*Nuno Garoupa (law & economics, comparative law) from the University of Illinois to Texas A&M University.

 

*Elizabeth Garrett (legislation, administrative law) from the University of Southern California to Cornell University (to become President).

 

*Andrew Guzman (international law and trade, law & economics) from the University of California, Berkeley to the University of Southern California (as Dean).

 

*C. Scott Hemphill (antitrust, intellectual property, law & economics) from Columbia University to New York University.

 

*Robert Jerry II (insurance law, dispute resolution, health law & finance) from the University of Florida, Gainesville to the University of Missouri, Columbia.

 

*Christian Johnson (tax) from the University of Utah to Widener University-Harrisburg (to become Dean).

 

*Sonia Katyal (intellectual property, civil rights, privacy, property, law & sexuality) from Fordham University to the University of California, Berkeley.

 

*Daniel Katz (empirical legal studies, computational legal studies, criminal procedure) from Michigan State University to Chicago-Kent College of Law.

 

*Paul Kirgis (alternative dispute resolution, evidence) from St. John's University to the University of Montana (to become Dean).

 

*Gillian Lester (employment law) from the University of California, Berkeley to Columbia University (as Dean in January 2015).

 

*Erik Luna (criminal law & procedure) from Washington & Lee University to Arizona State University.

 

*Glynn S. Lunney, Jr.  (intellectual property, law & economics) from Tulane University to Texas A&M University.

 

*Timothy Lytton (regulatory law and policy, administrative law, torts) from Albany Law School to Georgia State University.

 

*Andrei Marmor (legal philosophy) from the University of Southern California to Cornell University.

 

*Andrea Matwyshyn (law & technology, cyberlaw, privacy) from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania (untenured) to Northeastern University.

 

*Paul McGreal (constitutional law, law & religion, business ethics) from the University of Dayton to Creighton University (as Dean).

 

*Ajay Mehrotra (tax, legal history) from Indiana University, Bloomington to Northwestern University and the American Bar Foundation.

 

*Tim Meyer (international law--incl. international economic, environmental and energy law; law & economics) from the University of Georgia to Vanderbilt University. 


*Douglas NeJaime (family law, law & sexuality, constitutional law) from the University of California, Irvine to the University of California, Los Angeles.

 

*Paul Ohm (law & technology, computer law, privacy, intellectual property) from the University of Colorado, Boulder to Georgetown University.

 

*Dave Owen (environmental law, natural resources, water law, administrative law) from the University of Maine to the University of California, Hastings.

 

*Mary-Rose Papandrea (constitutional law, media law, national security law) from Boston College to the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill

 

*Dylan Penningroth (legal history) from Northwestern University (History Dept.) and American Bar Foundation to the University of California, Berkeley.

 

*Scott Pryor (bankruptcy, contracts, UCC) from Regent University to Campbell University.

 

*Srividhya Ragavan (intellectual property, international trade, contracts) from the University of Oklahoma, Norman to Texas A&M University.

 

*Laura Rosenbury (feminist legal theory, family law, employment discrimination) from Washington University, St. Louis to the University of Florida, Gainesville (to become Dean).

 

*James Salzman (environmental law) from Duke University to the University of California, Los Angeles (Law) and the University of California, Santa Barbara (Environmental Science & Management). 

 

*Michael Schill (property, real estate law, urban policy) from University of Chicago to the University of Oregon (as President).

 

*David Schwartz (patents, intellectual property, empirical legal studies) from Chicago-Kent College of Law to Northwestern University.

 

*Kenneth Simons (torts, criminal law, law & philosophy) from Boston University to the University of California, Irvine.

 

*Alexander Somek (EU law, comparative constitutional law, legal theory) from the University of Iowa to the University of Vienna.

 

*Alec Stone Sweet (comparative constitutional law and politics, international law & courts) from Yale University to the National University of Singapore.

 

*Alan O. Sykes, Jr. (international trade, law & economics) from New York University back to Stanford University.

 

*Eric Talley (corporate law, law & economics) from the University of California, Berkeley to Columbia University (in July 2015).

 

*Steve Vladeck (federal courts, national security law, constitutional law) from American University to the University of Texas, Austin (effective 2016).

 

*Melanie Wilson (criminal law, criminal procedure, evidence) from the University of Kansas to the University of Tennessee (as Dean).

 

*Peter Yu (intellectual property, communications law and policy, and comparative and international law) from Drake University to Texas A&M University.

 

*Kathryn Zeiler (torts, health law, law & economics, empirical legal studies) from Georgetown University to Boston University. 


May 21, 2015 in Faculty News | Permalink

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Lawsky's rookie hiring data for 2014-15

Here.  Prof. Lawsky counts only tenure-track hires, whether academic or clinical; she reports a total of 70 new hires this year, slightly down from last year.  (It's lower if one substracts the tenure-track clinical hires, though I have not counted carefully.)  The relatively small number of Yale JDs hired (only 6) is striking, though we don't know how many graduates of each school were on the market, though based on past years I would be surprised if there weren't several dozen Yale candidates seeking, meaning the vast majority failed to land positions.  21 of the 70 hires had Harvard JDs (though several of those were coming off Fellowships, like the Bigelow), while another 27 came from just five schools (Stanford, Yale, Chicago, Berkeley, and NYU).


May 20, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News, Rankings | Permalink

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A curious sign of the times: Charleston Law students, acting as "creditors," seek to put school into receivership

Story here.  Is this possible?


May 19, 2015 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Another sign of the times: financial crisis at Pace Law School (UPDATED)

According to a faculty member, the Law School ran nearly a five million dollar deficit this year, and the Dean has pledged to cut $2.1 million of that next year, with a combination of moves:  the elimination of all sabbaticals, all research stipends, a 5% salary cut for senior staff, and a 10% salary cut for all faculty.  To make matters worse, the Dean, according to one source, "forbade anyone from speaking to the press about this. The materials he passed out carried two watermarks, one large across the text, and another secret one (or so he said), with each faculty member's name so he will know who the leak is, he said."  Since everyone familiar with legal education knows that many law schools are struggling with financial problems, it's mysterious (and counter-productive) for a Dean to make such a threat.

Pace faculty are concerned that there has been no attempt to buy out faculty (as other schools have done) and fear a further salary cut is in the offing before long.  The elimination of sabbaticals also has a number of Pace faculty perplexed, since with a reduction in its class size, Pace has excess teaching capacity, so it's not like sabbaticals require hiring adjuncts or visitors, so they do not add to costs.

UPDATE:  Prof. Alexander Greenawalt (Pace) writes:

I have not polled my peers but I believe that most of my colleagues would agree that there are serious inaccuracies in the report you received.  Of course I’m not thrilled to have my salary cut, but the truth is that we are part of a university that is continuing to support us, and I still have a great job at a great law school.  The main thrust of the dean’s remarks was that he is implementing budget cuts that will reduce our deficit without compromising the quality of the education we provide our students.  On that score, I believe he succeeded.  We are not the first law school to experience a faculty salary cut, and I don’t think this is a sign that we are a sinking ship. 

 

As to the specific allegations, the document in question is an internal memorandum written by my some of my faculty colleagues identifying possible budget cuts, several of which have not been adopted.  I think it’s obvious that any law school would treat this as a confidential document.  I doubt that my colleagues who authored it wanted it made public, and I think the dean would have been well within his rights to limit our access to it, for example by making it available for review only in hard copy in the dean’s suite.   Instead he decided to distribute individual copies, while taking measures to discourage (without prohibiting) public disclosure.  I haven’t picked up my copy yet, so I can’t tell you what it looks like or what watermarks it might have.  Perhaps he should have handled this distribution differently, but my honest belief is that he was acting out of a desire to be transparent rather than punitive.

 

In particular, I want to emphasize that there were no threats of any kind.  David did not forbid communications with the press, and indeed when asked about this he was quite clear that we were free to do what we wanted.  He did ask that we not leak the document to the press, and I think that’s a reasonable request.  Certainly, he did not specify any consequences if we did.

 

Regarding sabbaticals, David [the Dean] was clear that they will still be available for important scholarly projects.

 

I can’t speak for my anonymous faculty colleague, and certainly I am not accusing that person of dishonesty, but obviously we have very different recollections!

I thank Prof. Greenawalt for contacting me about this.  My source stands by the original account.  I think some of these issues may be matters of interpretation.   I do not think Pace is a "sinking ship" at all; it has an unusually strong faculty for a regional law school, and, as I noted originally, is facing the same issues that most American law schools are now facing.


May 14, 2015 in Faculty News, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

New Deans at Suffolk and Cardozo Law Schools

Two new dean hires to announce today.  Andrew Perlman has been named the new dean of Suffolk Law and Melanie Leslie has been named the new dean of Cardozo Law.  


May 14, 2015 in Faculty News | Permalink

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

On legislative intent

I strongly recommend this review (and the book).


May 13, 2015 in Jurisprudence, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Should student loans be dischargeable in bankruptcy? (Michael Simkovic)

In the Wall Street Journal, Professor Adam Levitin of Georgetown argues yes for private student loans and no for federal student loans, since the latter have debt forgiveness options already built in.  More discussion at credit slips. Those  interested in student loan issues may also enjoy Risk Based Student LoansPhilip Schrag's work on Income Based Repayment (here and here), or Rafael Pardo's work on undue hardship discharge, and a related empirical study by Jason Iuliano.  Jake Brooks also has an interesting new article coming out on student loan debt forgiveness as a pseudo-income-tax for funding higher education.

The classic argument against discharge of student loans in bankruptcy is Thomas Jackson in the first edition of The Logic and Limits of Bankruptcy Law.  Jackson wrote:

As a general rule, college and graduate students have few current assets but large future income streams. Using bankruptcy is relatively painless to them, as they have few assets to lose, and obtaining a discharge offers a substantial benefit, as it frees up the future income stream from the substantial obligation of repaying a student loan.


May 12, 2015 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Of Academic Interest, Weblogs | Permalink

Law students are more likely than college students to retain competitive scholarships (Michael Simkovic)

Critics of competitive scholarships tied to GPA or class rank claim that these scholarships are especially troubling when used by law schools, because the mandatory grading curve means that more law students are likely to lose their scholarships than undergraduates.  However, as I noted in my last post, the data actually shows that law students are more likely to retain their competitive scholarships than are undergraduates.

Nevertheless, the newspapers have provided balanced coverage of competitive scholarships for undergraduate institutions  while lambasting law schools for the same practice. 

The remaining critiques of competitive scholarships are not strong.  According to one critique, if competitive scholarships are disproportionately used by law schools who admit students with low LSAT scores and GPA and are not used by the elite law schools, this suggests something suspicious about these scholarships.  Lower ranked law schools serve different student populations with spottier academic preparation who are at greater risk of failing the bar exam and may have worse study habits.  Some policies and practices that are helpful to motivate this population and encourage greater study effort may not be necessary for higher ranked law schools, whose students are already highly motivated and can pass the bar exam and learn challenging material without much effort. 

Another argument is that after law school critics and The New York Times attacked law school competitive scholarships, and the ABA responded by requiring disclosure of this practice, the number of law schools using competitive scholarships declined.  Critics claim that the disclosure caused law schools to stop using competitive scholarships, thereby proving the scholarships were unethical all along. 

But perhaps law schools were simply attempting to avoid criticism, whether merited or not.  In other words, perhaps the criticism caused both the mandatory disclosure and the reduction in the use of competitive scholarships.  If The New York Times quoted an impressive sounding source claiming that those who typically tie their left shoe before their right were liars and thieves, and the Justice Department disclosed an annual list of everyone who tied their left shoe first, we might find that the percent of people who tie their left shoe first would drop, notwithstanding the fact that which shoe you tie first has absolutely nothing to do with ethics.  Or, as Matt Bruckner suggests, perhaps some other factor, such as changes in relative market power or law school budgets help explain the shift in financial aid policy and neither the criticism nor the disclosure had much to do with it.  Without more sophisticated methods of causal inference, its premature to make strong causal claims. 


May 12, 2015 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Student Advice, Weblogs | Permalink

Corporate Practice Commentator: Top 10 Articles of 2014

The announcement in full:

The Top 10 Corporate and Securities Articles of 2014

 

The Corporate Practice Commentator is pleased to announce the results of its twenty-first annual poll to select the ten best corporate and securities articles.  Teachers in corporate and securities law were asked to select the best corporate and securities articles from a list of articles published and indexed in legal journals during 2014.   More than 525 articles were on this year’s list.  Because of the vagaries of publication, indexing, and mailing, some articles published in 2014 have a 2013 date, and not all articles containing a 2014 date were published and indexed in time to be included in this year’s list.

 

The articles, listed in alphabetical order of the initial author, are:

 

Bainbridge, Stephen M. (UCLA) and M. Todd Henderson (Chicago).  Boards-R-Us: Reconceptualizing Corporate Boards. 66 Stan. L. Rev. 1051-1119 (2014).

 

Fisch, Jill E. and Tess Wilkinson-Ryan (both Penn).  Why Do Retail Investors Make Costly Mistakes? An Experiment on Mutual Fund Choice. 162 U. Pa. L. Rev. 605-647 (2014).

 

Fried, Jesse M. (Harvard). Insider Trading via the Corporation. 162 U. Pa. L. Rev. 801-839 (2014).

 

Hamermesh, Lawrence A. (Widener-Delaware). Director Nominations. 39 Del. J. Corp. L. 117-159 (2014).

 

Hansmann, Henry (Yale) and Mariana Pargendler (Vargas Law School, Sao Paulo).  The Evolution of Shareholder Voting Rights: Separation of Ownership and Consumption. 123 Yale L.J. 948-1013 (2014).

 

Morley, John (Yale). The Separation of Funds and Managers: A Theory of Investment Fund Structure and Regulation. 123 Yale L.J. 1228-1287 (2014).

 

Roe, Mark J. (Harvard). Structural Corporate Degradation Due to Too-Big-to-Fail Finance. 162 U. Pa. L. Rev. 1419-1464 (2014).

 

Roe, Mark J. (Harvard) and Frederick Tung (BU). Breaking Bankruptcy Priority: How Rent-Seeking Upends the Creditors' Bargain. 99 Va. L. Rev. 1235-1290 (2013).

 

Strine Jr., Leo E. (CJ Delaware Supreme Court). Can We Do Better by Ordinary Investors? A Pragmatic Reaction to the Dueling Ideological Mythologists of Corporate Law. 114 Colum. L. Rev. 449-502 (2014).

 

Subramanian, Guhan (Harvard). Delaware's Choice. 39 Del. J. Corp. L. 1-53 (2014).


May 12, 2015 in Faculty News, Rankings | Permalink

Sign of the times: $3.8 million deficit at U Mass Law School

Story here.  The school still awaits ABA accreditation.  U Mass/Dartmouth is footing the bill for now.


May 12, 2015 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Monday, May 11, 2015

Visiting faculty at the top six law schools, 2015-16, 1st draft

As I've done in the past, I'm posting a list of the visiting professors (who hold university appointments elsewhere) at the top six law schools, the schools that are "top six" by almost all measures of faculty quality--which are also the schools that also typically have the most visiting professors on a regular basis. While many visiting stints are made with an eye to possible permanent appointment, not all are; some are so-called "podium" visits, which aim to fill an immediate teaching need at the school. By my calculation, for example, maybe 5% of the visits last year resulted in (or are in process of resulting in) offers of permanent employment--perhaps a slightly higher percentage of the non-podium visits resulted in such offers. Often visitors from local schools in the area are invited for podium visit purposes--though some "locals" may also be "look-see" visitors, i.e., under consideration for appointment. NYU also has a fair number of "enrichment" and "global" visitors, well-known senior folks who are keen to spend some time in New York, but who aren't necessarily interested in, or being considered for, lateral moves. (Columbia gets some of these folks too.) From the outside, of course, it's very hard to tell all these apart, so here, without further comment, are the visiting professors for 2014-15; please e-mail me about omissions or corrections (though I'm hopeful this is the final version).

Please note that not every visit, below, is for the entire academic year; indeed, my guess is at least half are not, meaning students can expect many of these faculty to *also* be teaching at their home institution. In the case of HLS, many of the visitors come in the Winter Term, i.e., just the month of January.

Please also note that this is supposed to be a list of visiting faculty who have gone through some kind of appointments process at the school at which they are visiting, whether a process for look-see visitors, "enrichment" visitors, or podium visitors.  These are supposed to be faculty who are teaching at the host school and who are being paid by the host school to teach.

Columbia Law School

Aharon Barak (Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya)

Noa Ben-Asher (Pace University)

Hanoch Dagan (Tel Aviv University)

David Enoch (Hebrew University, Jerusalem)

James Forman (Yale University)

David Gliksberg (Hebrew University, Jerusalem)

Sudhir Krishnaswamy (National Law School of India)

Jennifer Laurin (University of Texas, Austin)       

Dennis Patterson (European University Institute; Rutgers University, Camden; University of Swansea)

Scott Shapiro (Yale University)

Dan Simon (University of Southern California)

Julie Suk (Cardozo Law School/Yeshiva University)

Mila Versteeg (University of Virginia)

Rose Cuison Villazor (University of California, Davis)

Continue reading


May 11, 2015 in Faculty News | Permalink

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Competitive Scholarships, Mandatory Courses, and the Costs and Benefits of Disclosure (Michael Simkovic)

There is a wide range of views about the benefits, costs, and appropriate use of conditional merit scholarships—scholarships that under their terms, will only be retained after the first year of law school if students maintain a minimum GPA or minimum class rank (if there is a mandatory grading curve, a minimum GPA effectively is a class rank requirement).  These questions implicate both broad value judgments and also very specific empirical questions to which we many not have clear answers.  

1)   Is competition for grades a help or a hindrance to learning?

2)   Is competition, with greater rewards for winners than for losers, inherently moral or immoral?

  1. Does the answer depend on whether the outcome of the competition is driven by luck, skill, or effort?
  2. Does the answer depend on how large the differences in rewards are between winners and losers?

3)   Does disclosure alter student decision-making?  

  1. If so, how? 
  2. Is this a good thing or a bad thing?
  3. If it is a good thing do the benefits of disclosure outweigh the costs of providing disclosure?
  4. Are some ways of providing disclosure clearer and more meaningful than others?  Could too much disclosure be overwhelming?

Disclosures are sometimes very effective at improving market efficiency.  Sometimes disclosures appear to have no effect.  Sometimes they have the opposite of the intended or expected effect.  For example, disclosure of compensation of high level corporate executives of publicly traded companies may have contributed to an increase in executive pay (see also here.) 

In the case of conditional merit scholarships, the direct administrative costs of providing disclosure appear minimal.  The effects of such disclosure, if any, remain unknown.  I support access to greater information about conditional scholarship retention rates, not only for law schools but also for all educational institutions. 

Scholarship retention rates at many undergraduate institutions under government-backed programs appear to be lower than scholarship retention rates at most law schools.  Around half of Georgia Hope Scholarship recipients lost their scholarship after the first year.  Around 25 to 30 percent of Georgia Hope Scholarship recipients retained their scholarships for all four years of college.  Nevertheless, conditional merit scholarships can have positive effects on undergraduate enrollment  and academic performance.  A fascinating randomized experiment by Angrist, Lang and Oreopolous found that financial incentives improved grades for women but not for men.  A recent experiment also found evidence that merit scholarships tied to grades can increase student effort and academic performance at community colleges.

Unfortunately, there is some evidence that the use of merit scholarships tied to GPA by undergraduate institutions—where grade distributions and course workload vary widely by major—can reduce the likelihood that students complete their studies in science technology engineering and math (STEM) fields.  Students who major in STEM fields have a higher chance of losing their scholarships 

In other words, if students can shop for “easy As” rather than study harder to improve their performance, they can reduce their own future earning prospects.  The approach law schools take—merit scholarships tied to mandatory grading curves and a required curriculum—may be better for students in the long run.  Indeed, law students might benefit financially if additional courses, such as instruction in financial literacy, were mandatory.*

Greater disclosure of grading distributions may exacerbate grade shopping and grade inflation, which can undermine student effort and learning.  Some models suggest that grade inflation is contagious across institutions (see also here).  (It should be possible to disclose scholarship retention rates without disclosing grade distributions).

In some contexts, such as securities regulation or pharmaceuticals, disclosure requirements tend to be high.  In other areas, such as employment contracts, disclosure tends to be more limited.  We may not always get the balance right.  These questions have lead to a rich research literature in law, economics, and psychology (see Bainbridge, Lang, Mathios, Coffee, Kaplow, Easterbrook and Fischel, Romano, and Schwartz).  In all cases, whether and how disclosures alter behavior is an empirical question.  How the benefits compare to the costs are empirical questions mixed with subjective value judgments.

Given the current limited state of knowledge, and good faith and understandable disagreements about subjective value differences, strident views on one side or another, and moral condemnations of those entertaining different viewpoints, are not appropriate.  

Law professors have an obligation to teach students to think like lawyers, weigh evidence, and consider different arguments and different perspectives.  We should not shut down discussion with swaggering declarations of the moral superiority of our own views or ad-hominem attacks against those with whom we disagree.

A recent post (in the comments) by Brian Tamanaha (or someone posting under his name and with a similar rhetorical style**) highlights the unfortunate tendency by some toward moral posturing.  Tamanaha writes:

           
“[Those who condemn conditional scholarships are] speaking up for the integrity of legal academia. It is embarrassing that law professors would now rise up to defend employment reporting standards … criticized by outsiders (see New York Times "Bait and Switch" piece), practices which have since been repudiated and reformed by new ABA standards. I do not understand why Simkovic is re-raising these resolved issues, but it does not help us regain our collective credibility.

After reading these posts, I have begun to wonder whether a sense of professional responsibility is what separates the two sides in this discussion. It is not a coincidence that John Steele, [Bernard Burk], and others who strongly condemn these practices have taught legal ethics.” 

In other words, if you question Brian Tamanaha’s reasoning and conclusions—as I have—then you have no integrity and dubious ethics, are irresponsible and unprofessional, and are an embarrassment to the legal academy.

Bernard Burk, though declaring his disdain for ad-hominem attacks, accuses those with whom he disagrees of being “partisan.” He compares competition for grades and scholarships to physically beating students.  Burk compares law schools to gangsters and evil witches.  He claims that the positive effects of conditional scholarships on student motivation and learning “smells of post-hoc rationalization.”  (Most of the labor economics studies demonstrating positive effects of financial incentives on student performance were available before The New York Times and the law school critics targeted law school conditional scholarships; the critics overlooked the peer-reviewed literature).

Deborah Merritt, though generally providing an intelligent discussion of conditional scholarship issues, compares conditional scholarships in which adults who lose the competition for grades receive a free year of law school to the fictional “Hunger Games” in which children who lose a physical struggle are murdered.  (Paul Caron repeats this unfortunate comparison when summarizing the debate; so does Bernard Burk).

Paul Campos compares those who disagree with him about data disclosure standards to “Holocaust deniers.”

Law school critics have not persisted through the force of argument or evidence, but rather through their ability to make an honest discussion of the issues so unpleasant that very few who disagree with them wish to engage.  We should thank Professor Telman for his courage and for elevating the conversation from polemics to evidence-based inquiry.  As more professors and journalists raise substantive questions about law school critics’ narrative, it will become increasingly difficult for the critics to foreclose factual and ethical inquiry through ad-hominem attacks and hyperbole.

 

* A recent survey by John Coates, Jessie Fried, and Kathryn Spier at Harvard suggests that large law firm employers believe instruction in certain technically challenging business electives, especially accounting, corporate finance, and corporations, is particularly valuable on the job.  Data does not exist to evaluate whether enrollment in such courses actually boosts earnings or employment, or is even correlated with greater earnings or employment.  However, one working hypothesis is that such courses might be the law school equivalent of undergraduate STEM or economics majors.  A study of high school financial literacy mandates suggests positive long-term effects on enrollees’ financial well-being.  

** The first and only time I met Brian Tamanaha in person was at the 2013 Law & Society meeting in Boston where he spoke on a panel.  Professor Tamanaha shut down questions from the audience about whether his presentation of law school data was misleading by insisting that in our hearts surely we all knew he was right and that any question about whether he was wrong on the facts, and any attempt to rely on data rather than emotionally charged anecdotes, was a sign of flawed moral character. 


May 10, 2015 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Profession, Ludicrous Hyperbole Watch, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Science, Student Advice, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Why Does Education Increase Earnings? (Michael Simkovic)

One question in the labor economics literature is why education increases earnings.  The dominant view is Human Capital Theory—education increases earnings by increasing productivity of educated workers.  A minority view, signaling theory, holds that education increases earnings by revealing information about potential employees to employers and facilitating the employer-employee matching process, similar to marketing expenditures matching products with customers.  In other words, education indicates to employers which employees were the best all along.

On some level, the distinction is irrelevant—from the perspective of potential students it does not really matter how education increases earnings, only that it does.  Whether education makes workers more efficient individually or makes the economy in aggregate more efficient by moving workers to where they can do the most good does not change the fact that employers, employees, and the economy as a whole are better off with additional education as long as the marginal benefits of additional education exceed marginal costs.

Critics of higher education sometimes claim that there is over-investment in signaling and credentialing, a kind of arms race producing negative externalities in which the social returns to education are lower than the private returns.  This view, though popular with political movements seeking to reduce public support for education, does not hold much sway in the modern peer-reviewed labor economics literature.

A recent literature review by Professors Fabian Lange at Yale and Robert Topel at the University of Chicago explains the problems with the view that employers would expend valuable resources paying a premium for employees who had over-invested in education as a signal of ability: “Employer learning about productivity occurs fairly quickly after labor market entry, implying that the signaling effects of schooling are small.”

In other words, employers can quickly and efficiently sort employees on their own by observing their productivity on the job, retaining and promoting strong performers, and terminating weaker employees.  Employers do not need educational institutions to perform this task for them, nor are employers willing to pay premium wages for information they can more cheaply obtain themselves.

Suppose, for example, that the only value of a Harvard Law degree were as signal of ability to employers.  Harvard admits students based almost exclusively on standardized test scores and undergraduate grades, which are also observable to employers.  Almost everyone who is admitted to Harvard graduates.

A clever employer realizes it can save money by employing bachelor’s degree holders with admissions letters from Harvard, but who have not yet attended.  Harvard gets wise and refuses to confirm admissions.   Employers now look directly at LSATs and GPAs, and perhaps hire former admissions officers to consider softer factors.  The employer and employee can effectively split the cost savings of not getting the Harvard degree and also the value of the time that would be spent in schooling instead of working.*  If additional information is required, personality testing, assessments of physical and mental health, assessments of writing samples, background checks and the like can all be performed for a fraction of the cost and in a fraction of the time as a Harvard degree.   

In spite of potentially massive efficiency gains and financial reward for employers and employees, this is not what actually happens in the real world (with the exception of a stacked "experiment" by Peter Thiel).  Why not?  Because employers believe that the schooling itself is valuable and makes employees more productive.

Lange and Topel also explain how “sheepskin effects” (disproportionately higher earnings premiums for college completers than for college dropouts with a few years of college) have been misinterpreted as support for the signaling hypothesis, when they actually reflect selection effects and dynamic decision making about educational investments:

"Diploma effects are often presented as evidence for screening theories of schooling. We disagree. Instead we view diploma effects as evidence that individuals face uncertainty about their individual returns to schooling and that this uncertainty is revealed as individuals acquire schooling. Those least capable to profit from schooling drop out before the completion of degree years. Those graduating exhibit larger returns than those who dropped out at lower levels of schooling. This reasoning was informally developed by Chiswick (1973). Since then, a number of authors (Altonji (1993), Heckman, Lochner and Todd (2003), Keane and Wolpin (1997) and Eckstein and Wolpin (1999)) examined different aspects of sequential schooling choice under uncertainty. We build a simple model in this spirit with the intention to show how individual’s schooling decisions can generate (large) diploma effects if individuals learn about their returns while in school."

There are additional problems with signaling theory, which I explained in Risk Based Student Loans:  

“Signaling Theory implies that labor market outcomes should not depend on what students study, but only on how well they perform academically relative to other students with similar standardized test scores, or perhaps whether they demonstrate a strong work ethic by choosing a challenging major.   Differences in earnings by field of study appear to reflect the value of field-specific skill development rather than differences in ability levels. Even within engineering, there are large starting wage differences by specialty.

Human Capital Theory also helps explain higher average per-capita productivity and wages in states and nations with higher levels of educational attainment. If education only sorted workers according to ability, it would presumably only increase the variance of wages (i.e., income inequality), while leaving the mean unaltered.

Further, Human Capital Theory helps explain the willingness of many employers to pay for professional degree programs for successful employees.  Employers’ willingness to educate workers whom employers already know to be of high quality suggests that employers believe that professional education has skill-development value rather than mere sorting value.”

In The Knowledge Tax  I expand on this, explaining the evidence linking investment in education to more rapid economic growth rather than merely redistributing income from the less educated to the more educated.

* Note that in many states, including New York and California which collectively comprise 28 percent of the law market, a law degree is not legally required to sit for the bar exam.  Instead, “law office study”, or an apprenticeship under the supervision of an attorney, possibly following one year of law school, will suffice.


May 7, 2015 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Professional Advice, Science, Student Advice, Weblogs | Permalink

Sign of the times: for-profit Charleston School of Law may be on verge of closing down...

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A better grading system and double standards around occupational licensing

A better grading system

Professor Merritt argues that mandatory grading curves can be unfair when one class has stronger students than another.  I agree. 

Statistician Valen Johnson—whom I cite in my last post as an authority on grade inflation— has developed a clever solution to this problem which involves adjusting grading curves within each class based on the ability levels of the students.  A Johnson-inspired proposal was nearly adopted at Duke University in the late 1990s, but was blocked by departments that offered higher grades and attracted weaker students.

Most law schools try to balance their sections in term of student ability levels and overall quality of faculty.  Nevertheless, anomalies like a “smart section” (as Professor Merritt calls it) may occasionally occur.  Johnson’s proposal would be an excellent solution to this problem.

Occupational licensing

Professor Merritt asserts that there is some sort of problem with the market for lawyers and law graduates that makes competition and inequality uniquely bad in the context of law.  These assertions are implausible given the low barriers to entry for both law schools and lawyers, aggressive competition between law schools for students and between lawyers for clients, and widespread inequality outside of law school and legal practice.  Some form of regulation is the norm in many areas of employment and in many industries, and a licensing regime for lawyers and an accreditation system for law schools do not in any way make these occupations and institutions unique or unusual.  According to a recent study, nearly a third of U.S. workers are licensed, licensing is more common as education and skill levels increase, and licensing does not affect inequality among the licensed. 

As a general matter, deregulated market competition and greater inequality are a package deal.  Inequality can be reduced through regulation, taxation, and politicization of compensation through unionization or growth of public sector employment.

Professor Merritt’s critiques follow the standard playbook of law school critics—take something about law schools that is widespread and common out of context, claim that it is somehow unique to law schools when it is neither unique nor unusual, and then demonize it.

UPDATE:

Jeremy Telman responds.


May 5, 2015 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Rankings, Science, Student Advice, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

Scholarships, Grade Inflation, and Motivation (Michael Simkovic)

In her latest post, Deborah Merritt maintains that scholarships conditioned on maintaining a minimum GPA or class ranking are troubling when used by law schools, even though such conditions are routinely used by other educational institutions and state government programs.

According to Professor Merritt, the problem is that the mandatory curve in law school is such that not all students can keep their conditional scholarships.  But Professor Merritt presents no evidence that conditional scholarships retention rates are any higher for undergraduate or government programs than for law schools.  She infers nefarious motives on the part of law schools based only on the fact that law schools require students to compete for scholarship funds that are in limited supply.

Perhaps Professor Merritt believes that competition for scarce and valuable resources is inherently immoral.  She does not explain why this is so or whether these views apply outside the context of law school scholarships.  If only one out of ten associates hired at a law firm will make partner and earn $1 million per year, is it inherently immoral to ask associates to work hard and compete for the opportunity?  If only one actor will be selected for a part, is it immoral to ask more than one actor to try out?  Is any competition for promotions, clients, or recognition immoral?  If so, we are living in a wicked, wicked world.

Perhaps Professor Merritt believes it is inherently immoral to limit “A” grades to students whose academic performance is superior to most of their peers, since an “A” is simply a data point and can be replicated and distributed to everyone at zero marginal cost.  But liberally handing out “A” grades is costly for students and employers.  Labor economics studies suggest that grade inflation is associated with reduced effort by students and reduced learning.  Educators are not doing students or employers favors if they allow high grades to become a birthright rather than a marker of distinction that must be earned through hard work and exceptional performance.  

Statistician Valen Johnson and others have argued that many perverse incentives in undergraduate education could be ameliorated if mandatory grading curves were imposed across majors and grade inflation and grade shopping were stamped out.  If certain undergraduate majors have succumbed to the pressure to inflate grades in order to keep student-customers happy, that is quite troubling.  Employers will likely distrust grades from such programs, question how much students have learned, and harbor suspicions about the work ethic of students who would opt into programs known for awarding easy “A’s” for minimal effort.  Programs that have resisted the pressure to inflate grades and maintained more rigorous academic standards are more likely to retain the confidence of employers and to teach students knowledge and skills that are valued in the labor market.  Indeed, grades are notoriously lower in STEM fields than in the humanities, even though STEM majors spend more time studying and have higher standardized test scores. 

Professor Merritt suggests that law students do not require any incentives to work harder, since they are all already studying at full capacity.  Some students presumably are, but there are many law students who can and should focus more on their studies.  A roll call in most classes will reveal students whose attendance is well below 100 percent—so much so that the ABA now requires law schools to enforce minimum class attendance policies.  When students do attend class, a visit to the back of a classroom and a glance at computer screens will reveal some students who are not giving their undivided attention.  Cold calling will reveal students who have not done the required reading—although they do appear to be well informed about the latest sports and celebrity news.  Some students have family or employment obligations that understandably limit the amount of time they can devote to their studies.  But in the evening, while some student who are less constrained are studying, a stroll past the local bar will reveal others who are spending their time on less academic pursuits.  

Shortly after graduation, some students who did not show up for class enough, did not pay attention enough, did not prepare for class enough, did not review after class enough, and did not seek out their professors when they were confused will find that they have not passed the bar exam and will not be permitted to practice law until they learn how to work hard and study.  Others will find, rather less dramatically, that what they did not work hard enough to learn in law school could have made them more valuable to their employers.

Law schools can observe LSAT scores and undergraduate GPAs, but they cannot directly observe students’ work ethic and drive to succeed.  Just as law students want to attend the best law schools, law schools want to educate the best students who have the motivation to become leaders in law, business, and government. 

Recent studies suggests that motivation is a better predictor of academic performance and professional success than standardized test scores. 

Given the goal of attracting and retaining the best students, rewarding motivation and ability seems like a reasonable policy.  Anecdotes notwithstanding, the evidence suggests that most college and law students understand the terms of conditional scholarships well. 


May 5, 2015 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Science, Student Advice, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

Monday, May 4, 2015

Are Conditional Scholarships Good for Law Students? (Michael Simkovic)

Many critics have attacked law schools for offering merit scholarships that can only be retained if students meet minimum GPA requirements.  Jeremy Telman has a fascinating new post analyzing these scholarships in light of common practices in higher education and the peer-reviewed social science literature.  It’s a powerful counterpoint to a previously unanswered critique of law school ethics.

Professor Telman notes that similar conditional scholarships are widely used by undergraduate institutions, and even some state government programs.  Undergraduates behave as if they understand how conditional scholarships work, which suggests that most law students, who are older, wiser, and more sophisticated, probably understand the terms of these agreements as well.

Moreover, minimum GPA requirements can motivate students to study harder, pay closer attention, and learn more.  This seems particularly likely in the context of the first year of law school where mandatory grading curves and required curriculums remove the opportunity to shop for “easy A’s”.  (Professor Telman does, however, express concern about inadequate performance feedback to law students until the final exams at the end of their first semester). 

Professor Telman notes that law schools may struggle to predict at the time of admission which students will be the most successful.  Conditional scholarships help institutions gather additional information about students’ abilities and work ethic and ensure that limited merit scholarship resources go to the students who are most deserving.  Students who are deemed undeserving and lose their scholarships retain the option of transferring to another institution for their remaining years of law school.

Professor Telman doesn't object to additional disclosure about the percent of students retaining their scholarships, but he doubts it would have made much of a difference in prospective law students' matriculation decisions.

It’s a powerful argument.  Are conditional scholarships yet another example of critics applying a double standard to paint law schools in the worst possible light?


May 4, 2015 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Science, Student Advice, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

Most cited "private law" articles in the last 25 years...

Congratulations to our Bigelows and Public Law Fellows who secured tenure-track teaching positions

They are:

Zachary Clopton who will join the faculty at Cornell University.  He is currently the Public Law Fellow at the Law School.  He graduated magna cum laude in 2007 from Harvard Law School, and also earned a Masters in International Relations from Cambridge.  He clerked for Judge Wood on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and was an Associate at WilmerHale in the National Security group for two years, before serving as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the Civil Division of the Northern District of Illinois for three years.  His teaching and research interests include civil procedure, international business transactions, federal courts, conflicts, torts, and national security law.  

 

Genevieve Lakier who will join the faculty at the University of Chicago.  She is presently a Bigelow Fellow at the Law School.  She graduated cum laude from New York University School of Law in 2011, where she was a Furman Fellow and Editor-in-Chief of the NYU Review of Law and Social Change.  She also earned a PhD in Anthropology from the University of Chicago in 2014.  She clerked for both Judge Sand in the Southern District of New York and then Judge Daughtrey on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, before coming to Chicago.  Her teaching and research interests include constitutional law, criminal law and the criminal justice system, comparative law, administrative law, and law and society. 

  

John Rappaport who will join the faculty at the University of Chicago.  He is presently a Bigelow Fellow at the Law School.  He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard Law School in 2006, clerked for Judge Reinhardt on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, then worked for two years as a Deputy Federal Public Defender in Los Angeles, before clerking for Justice Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court.  He also spent two years as a litigation associate at Munger, Tolles & Olson in Los Angeles, and clerked for six months for Judge Watford on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit before coming to Chicago.  His teaching and research interests include all aspects of criminal procedure and the criminal justice system, as well as federal courts, constitutional law, evidence, and civil procedure.

You can see a list of past Bigelows and where they now teach here


May 4, 2015 in Faculty News | Permalink

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Law School "Transparency"'s odd campaign of disinformation

In the bad 'ole days when law schools were not very forthcoming about employment outcomes, LST was a useful counterweight.  But since Senators Boxer and Coburn prevailed on the ABA to mandate more detailed reporting a few years ago, LST has persisted in its misleading practice of treating JD/PhD students as "underemployed" and treating JD/MBAs or pure JDs in consulting and other renumerative professions as not part of the employment count for schools; so, too, the JD/Masters in Public Policy types who go into think tanks also don't count.  Notice that, by the odd LST methodology, Yale only has about 73% of its class employed, no doubt because there are many JD/PhD students as well as students in these other categories.  LST really ought to change with the times, instead of massaging the data in ways that are misleading.


May 3, 2015 in Legal Profession | Permalink

Friday, May 1, 2015

This year's rookie law teaching market (2014-15) looks to have been worse than last year

Sarah Lawsky (UC Irvine) is, as usual, gathering the data, and so far there are only 55 tenure-track academic hires, with, I gather two or three more expected.  15% of all the hires so far are either Chicago grads (5) or Chicago Fellows (3) who were on the market; only Harvard and Yale appear to have had a bigger share.

Last year, there were 64 tenure-track academic hires.  Before the crash in applications, 150-180 rookies would be hired into law teaching positions most years.


May 1, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News | Permalink

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Fortune's Best Graduate Degrees Based on Earnings, Job Satisfaction, and "Stress"

An interesting, and not implausible, list.  The JD comes in 6th, though most of the other options are unlikely to be pursued by an undergraduate humanities major--one reason, among others, why we have probably hit bottom in terms of the applicant pool and will probably see a slight uptick in the next couple of years.


April 30, 2015 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Student Advice | Permalink

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Geography Matters (Michael Simkovic)

A number of critics have argued against extrapolation from Professor Merritt’s study of the Ohio legal market to the national legal market.  In her response, Professor Merritt makes some good points, and also several key points with which I disagree. 

Professor Merritt suggests that an important contribution of her study is providing up-to-date information about national legal employment through the prism of Ohio. However, there is no shortage of up-to-date data that can provide a more accurate picture of national trends than a study specifically focused on Ohio.*  The primary value of Professor Merritt’s study is as an isolated snapshot of a single cohort in Ohio at a particular point in time.  Without additional information, it is hard to know how much, if at all, Professor Merritt’s findings should be generalized to other legal markets or other time periods.

There is no reason to believe that the single Ohio cohort tracked by Professor Merritt will better predict outcomes for those currently enrolling in law school than a national cohort.  The single Ohio cohort will likely be less predictive than a long-term national average across multiple cohortsIndeed, as Professor Merritt acknowledges, her study is not a study of going to law school in Ohio because of selection issues from law graduates leaving for larger markets, coming to Ohio from other markets, and from non-bar passage. **

Year-to-year changes in employment, earnings, and economic growth can vary widely from state to state.  Absent evidence of a history of correlated economic activity, a single state should not be used as a proxy for the U.S. as a whole or for other states.

There is no reason to believe that the trajectory of Ohio’s legal market from year to year will closely track national trends, particularly when the national legal market is heavily concentrated elsewhere.  Washington D.C. and the top 5 states by size of legal market*** collectively account for more than half of the national legal market

If Professor Merritt wishes to use Ohio as a proxy for the rest of the U.S., then she should supply evidence that Ohio tracks national trends, and she should compare Ohio to Ohio at different points in time and Ohio to the U.S. at the same point in time.

Second, Professor Merritt suggests that focusing on Ohio is just as reasonable as focusing on New York or California.  New York and California collectively constitute 28 percent of the national legal market.***  Ohio constitutes 2.5 percent of the national legal market.  Moreover, the New York legal market is unusually large relative to the New York economy, while Ohio has a legal market that is small relative to its economy. 

Third, Professor Merritt suggests that Ohio can be made nationally representative by deflating salaries elsewhere by cost of living differences.  Cost of living differences are not the reason corporations—who can send legal work anywhere— pay a premium for lawyers in the major legal markets such as New York, D.C., Los Angeles, Boston and Houston.  Rather, corporate clients believe that differences in quality of work justify higher billing rates for important matters.  New York, D.C. and other high-paying markets are importers of top legal talent from across the country. 

Differences in costs of living are not random, but rather reflect real differences in quality.  Cost of living indexes often focus on quantitative rather than qualitative factors.  For example, a restaurant meal in Manhattan may cost more than a restaurant meal in Buffalo, but the quality of the experience in the restaurant in Manhattan will on average be higher because the high prices restaurants in Manhattan can charge will attract the most talented restaurateurs.  Similarly, there may be differences in the quality of healthcare, legal services, education, policing, parks and recreation, environmental safety, transit, housing and other factors.  Money attracts talent.  Some amenities or opportunities may only be available in particular locations, and people are willing to pay for proximity to consumption, employment, and social opportunities. 

Many costs are not local, but rather national.  These include automobiles, items ordered online, higher education at major universities, and investments (stocks, bonds, etc.).  For law school graduates—who will typically be able to earn far more than they consume in a given year—it is financially better to work where both income and costs are proportionately higher because this will maximize the dollar value of savings.  Law graduates can always retire to a lower-cost location later in life if they wish.

One quantitative measure for differences in quality of life is differences in life expectancy.****   High cost, high income, high infrastructure states like New York, Connecticut, and Massachusetts generally rank well on this measure, while lower cost, lower income states rank less well.  This pattern can also be seen internationally and individually—higher income and higher life expectancy are correlated.*****  

There will indeed be some lucky individuals who find low-cost locales both more attractive and less expensive, and some unlucky individuals who find high cost locales unworthy of the price.  Costs of living reflect the aggregation by the market of many individual preferences, not any particular person’s idiosyncratic views.  Nevertheless, local prices can contain important information about quality of life that we should not assume away.

* There are numerous sources of up-to-date (2013 or even 2014) national information, including data from:

NALP and ABA data are for the most recent graduating class shortly after graduation.  SIPP earnings data includes earnings as recently as 2013, but only through the class of 2008.  ACS and CPS have young lawyers and young professional degree holders, but cannot specifically identify young law degree holders.  The Department of Education also has information on student loan default rates for recent cohorts.  Default rats remain much lower for former law students than for most other borrowers.

Another valuable source of information is After the JD III.  Professor Merritt notes that response rates for higher income individuals may be higher in After the JD, but the After the JD researchers, like the U.S. Census, weight their sample to take into account differences in response rates.

**The selection bias issues may be more severe than Merritt has acknowledged.   Looking at Ohio State’s 509 report for 2011, there were 24 students who took the NY bar vs. 136 who took the Ohio bar—a substantial percentage of the class taking a bar in a non-adjacent state.  The New York bar takers had much higher bar passage rates (11% above the state average for N.Y. vs. 1.3% above the state average for Ohio), which is consistent with positive selection out of state. In any given year, roughly 25 to 50 percent of Ohio State law school graduates who are employed 9 or 10 months after graduation are employed outside of Ohio.  For Case Western graduates, employment seems to be even less Ohio-centered than Ohio State.

*** Size of the legal market calculated using ACS data, multiplying number of lawyers by average total personal income per lawyer to get aggregate pay to all lawyers.  In other words, the measure is a dollar count, not a body count.

**** It is probably preferable to consider life expectancy within race (life expectancy varies by race, and racial demographics vary by geography).

***** After controlling for GDP per capita, societies with less income dispersion tend to have higher life expectancy.  Another issue is selection effects vs. causation.  For example, those with higher life expectancy to begin with may choose to pursue additional education and therefore have the opportunity to live in high cost, high income states.


April 29, 2015 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Rankings, Science, Student Advice, Travel, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

Northwestern Law to pick up one year of loan interest...

...for some graduates.  Interesting idea.


April 29, 2015 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

In Memoriam: Greg Lastowka

Professor Gregory Lastowka of Rutgers-Camden Law passed away last night, after a year-long battle with cancer.  He was 46.  Greg was a serious scholar - writing across areas of Cyberlaw and IP - but was also a particularly humane colleague.  He is missed.


April 28, 2015 in Memorial Notices | Permalink

Monday, April 27, 2015

New York Times relies on unrepresentative anecdotes and flawed study to provide slanted coverage of legal education (Michael Simkovic)

Just when you thought The New York Times was rounding the corner and starting to report responsibly about legal education based on hard data and serious labor economics studies, their reporting reverts to the unfortunate form it has taken for much of the last 5 years*—relying on unrepresentative anecdotes and citing fundamentally flawed working papers to paint legal education in a negative light.

Responsible press coverage would have put law graduate outcomes in context by noting that:

(1) law graduates continue to do better in terms of employment (both overall and full time) and earnings than similar bachelor’s degree holders, even in an economy that has generally been challenging for young workers

(2) law students, even from some of the lowest ranked and most widely criticized law schools, continue to have much lower student loan default rates than the national average across institutions according to standardized measurements reported by the Department of Education

(3) law graduate earnings and employment rates typically increase as they gain experience

(4) Data from After the JD shows that law graduates continue to pay down their student loans and approximately half of graduates from the class of 2001 paid them off completely within 12 years of graduation

Instead, The New York Times compares law graduate outcomes today to law graduate outcomes when the economy was booming.  But not all law graduates.  The Times focuses on law graduates who have been unusually unsuccessful in the job market or have unusually large amounts of debtFor example, The New York Times focused on a Columbia law school graduate working as an LSAT tutor** as if that were a typical outcome for graduates of elite law schools.  But according to the National Law Journal, two-thirds of recent Columbia graduates were employed at NLJ 250 law firms (very high paying, very attractive jobs),*** and the overwhelming majority of recent Columbia graduates appear to work in attractive positions.   (Columbia outcomes are much better than most, but the negative outcomes discussed in The New York Times are substantially below average for law graduates as a whole).

In Timing Law School, Frank McIntyre’s and I analyze long term outcomes for those who graduated into previous recessions, using nationally representative data and well-established econometric methods.  Our results suggest that law graduates continue to derive substantial benefits from their law degrees even when graduating into a recession.  The recent recession does not appear to be an exception. (See also here and here).  This analysis is not mentioned in the recent The New York Times article, even though it was cited in The New York Times less than a month ago (and alluded to in The Washington Post even more recently).

The implication of The New York Times’ story “Burdened With Debt, Law School Graduates Struggle in Job Market” is that there is some law specific problem, when the reality is that the recession continues to negatively affect all young and inexperienced workers and law graduates continue to do better than most.   Law school improves young workers’ chances of finding attractive employment opportunities and reduces the risk of defaulting on debt.  The benefits of law school exceed the costs for the overwhelming majority of law school graduates.

The New York Times relies heavily on a deeply flawed working paper by Professor Deborah Merritt of Ohio State.  Problems with this study were already explained by Professor Brian Galle:

“My problem is that instead DJM wants to offer us a dynamic analysis, comparing 2014 to 2011, and arguing that the resulting differential tells us that there has been a "structural shift" in the market for lawyers.  It might be that the data exist somewhere to conduct that kind of analysis, but if so they aren't in the paper.  Nearly all the analysis in the paper is built on the tend line between DJM's 2014 Ohio results and national-average survey results from NALP.  

Let me say that again.  Almost everything DJM says is built on a mathematical comparison between two different pools whose data were constructed using different methods.  I would not blame you if now stopped reading."

In other words, it is difficult to tell whether any differences identified by Professor Merritt are:

(1) Due to differences between Ohio and the U.S. as a whole

(2) Due to differences in methodology between Merritt, NALP, and After the JD

(3) Actually due to differences between 2011 and 2014 for the same group

After Professor Galle’s devastating critique, journalists should have been extremely skeptical of Merritt’s methodology and her conclusions.  Professor Merritt’s response to Galle’s critique, in the comments below his post, is not reassuring:

“Bottom line for me is that the comparison in law firm employment (62.1% for the Class of 2000 three years after graduation, 40.5% for the lawyers in my population) seems too stark to stem solely from different populations or different methods—particularly because other data show a more modest decline in law firm employment over time. But this is definitely an area in which we need much, much more research.”

Judging from this response and the quotes in The New York Times, Merritt appears to be doubling down on her inapposite comparisons rather than checking how much of her conclusions are due to potentially fatal methodological problems.  What Professor Merritt should have done is replicate her 2014 Ohio-only methodology in 2000/2001 or 2010/2011, compared the results for Ohio only at different points in time, and limited her claims to an analysis of the Ohio legal employment market.

There are additional problems with Professor Merritt’s study (or at least the March 11 version that I reviewed).**** 

  • Ohio is not a representative legal employment market, but rather a relatively low paying one where lawyers comprise a relatively small proportion of the workforce.  
  • A disproportionate share of the 8 or 9 law schools in Ohio (9 if you include Northern Kentucky) are low ranked or unranked, and this presumably is reflected in their employment outcomes. 
  • Merritt’s sample is subject to selection bias because of movement of the most capable law graduates out of Ohio and into higher paying legal markets.  Ohio law graduates who do not take the Ohio bar after obtaining jobs in Chicago, New York, Washington D.C., or other leading markets will not show up in Merritt’s sample.  
  • Whereas Merritt concludes that law graduate outcomes have not improved, the data may simply reflect the fact that Ohio is a less robust employment market than the U.S. as a whole. 
  • Merritt’s analysis of employment categories does not take into account increases in earnings within employment categories.  After the JD and follow-ups suggests that these within-category gains are substantial, as does overall increases in earnings from Census data. 
  • Merritt makes a biased assumption that anyone she could not reach is unemployed instead of gathering additional information about non-respondents and weighting the results to take into account response bias. Law schools may have been more aggressive in tracking down non-respondents than Professor Merritt was. 

For the benefit of those who are curious, I am making my full 8 page critique of Professor Merritt's working paper available here, but please keep in mind that it was written in mid March and Professor Merritt may have addressed some of these issues in more recent versions of her paper.  If that is the case, I trust that she’ll highlight any changes or improvements in a blog post response.

 

*    A few weeks ago I asked a research assistant (a third year law student) to search for stories in The New York Times and Wall Street Journal about law school.  Depending on whether the story would have made my research assistant more likely or less likely to want to go to law school when he was considering it or would have had no effect, he coded the stories as positive, negative, or neutral.  According to my research assistant, The New York Times reported 7 negative stories to 1 positive story in 2011 and 5 negative stories to 1 positive story in 2012.  In 2013, 2014, and 2015, The New York Times coverage was relatively balanced.  In aggregate over the five-year period The New York Times reported about 2 negative stories for every 1 positive story.  The Wall Street Journal’s coverage was even more slanted—about 3.75 negative stories for every positive story—and remained heavily biased toward negative stories throughout the five-year period.

**   Professor Stephen Diamond notes the LSAT tutor’s relatively high hourly wage, more lucrative opportunities the tutor claims he turned down, and how the tutor describes his own work ethic.

***  For the class of 2010, the figure at Columbia was roughly 52 percent 9 months after graduation, but activity in the lateral recruitment market suggests things may be looking up.

**** The comments that follow summarize a lengthy (8 page) critique I sent to Professor Merritt privately in mid March after reviewing the March 11 draft of her paper.  I have not had a chance to review Professor Merritt’s latest draft, and Professor Merritt may have responded to some of these issues in a revision.  

 

UPDATE:  Additional responses from Professors Galle and Merritt.


April 27, 2015 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Science, Student Advice, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

I call "bullshit" on this one...

...a story allegedly about a fearful closeted Christian law professor at an elite school?  The late William Stuntz at Harvard, Michael McConnell at Stanford, David Skeel at Penn, Stephen Bainbridge at UCLA all seem to have done rather well at elite schools, despite being quite openly religious.  (I'm sure there are others, but the preceding scholars have incorporated their religious commitments into at least some of their scholarly and popular writing.)  I invite the alleged subject of this article to contact me; I will also preserve his anonymity, but I'd like to pose some further questions about what it is about his institutional environment that would lead to the behavior described.  I'm afraid it just doesn't ring true to what I've seen at the institutions I've taught.  Yes, levels of religiosity among law professors are not high (though they are higher than among philosophy professors); but norms of collegiality and respect for differences have generally created environments in which no one would reasonably feel a need to go into the closet as described.  Maybe I've been lucky, but...


April 27, 2015 in Faculty News, Of Academic Interest | Permalink