I jumped the gun a bit the other day, but now all the real data is on-line about summer employment. I'm particularly pleased to see how terrifically our 1Ls are doing with summer employment. I hope other law schools will follow suit in publishing comparable data.
In what would be fairly radical restructing of higher education in New Jersey, Governor Chris Christie has proposed that Rutgers-Camden be merged with Rowan University - the former Glassboro State College, in Glassboro, NJ. At the same time, the University of Medicine and Dentistry (UMDNJ) would be folded in as well. All of them would operate under the banner of Rowan University.
This would a signficant change for Rutgers-Camden, in particularly, since its research structure - in everything from the law school to the history department (home of a newly minted MacArthur fellow) - appears better developed than Rowan's. In addition, those individuals associated with Rutgers-Camden - students, faculty, alumni, and donors - will likely smart at the loss of the school's highly respected name. (It didn't take long to get a nice petition going.) On the other hand, there would no doubt be efficiencies in the merger and it would bring together a South Jersey med school and law school under a single banner.
Update: I misstated suggesting that UMDNJ would be rolled into Rowan. Actually, Rowan will open the Cooper Medical School of Rowan University this August.
Segal is the author of a series of New York Times articles on law schools over the last year, some of which were silly and incompetent, as we noted. He does much better, however, in this interview, largely focusing on real issues, including correctly discussing the role of U.S. News in so much of the mischief. I did laugh, though, when the interviewer opened up by noting that as a reporter, Segal doesn't cover law or law schools. One might have guessed as much!
UPDATED WITH CORRECTIONS: The original verison had some of the numbers wrong.
NYU, to its credit, posts very detailed job information, including about summer jobs held by rising 3Ls. For the Class of 2009--so the class interviewing in fall 2007 for summer 2008 jobs--88% of NYU students had firm jobs. That dropped a bit for the Class of 2010 (interviewing in fall 2008 for summer 2009 jobs--the effects of the economic collapse now being felt), to 80%. But then for the Class of 2011--so NYU students interviewing in fall 2009 for summer 2010 jobs--that plunged to just 55% getting summer associate jobs with private firms. This, of course, was the point where the firms, absorbing the effects of the economic downturn, had downsized their summer programs.
I was curious whether a similar pattern had emerged for Chicago students, so asked my CSO colleagues for data. For the Class of 2010 (interviewing in fall 2008 for summer 2009 jobs), not quite 91% secured summer jobs with private law firms. For the Class of of 2011, that dropped to about 70%, a slightly smaller drop than at NYU (a not quite 21% drop, versus 25%), and from a higher base line. For the Class of 2012, that number went back up to almost 80% in private firm jobs in the summer of 2011. (I don't know the comparable NYU figure.) What might explain the differences, given that student numerical credentials are comparable at the two schools, though Chicago enjoys a reputational advantage among practitioners. Perhaps the latter explains the differing outcomes, though anecdotal evidence suggests something else is at work. When the leading law firms reduce the size of their summer programs by a quarter to a third, they still typically want to have students from a diverse array of top law schools. But the cut-back in the size of the summer programs means that instead of 2 or 3 students from Chicago, they may only have 1 or 2. Of course, if all firms follow a similar strategy, the net effect is going to be very different for a law school like NYU with a large class (about 450) versus the net effect for a law school like Chicago with a small class (about 200). My guess is we'll see a similar pattern if we compare, say, summer job placement at Yale (about 200) to Harvard (about 550), or Cornell (about 200) to Georgetown (about 600). If that data is on-line somewhere, please send me the links. While large law schools can have some advantages (mostly in the array offerings), if the preceding hypothesis is correct, they may now be at a decided disadvantage in terms of job placement at leading law firms, all else being equal.
ANOTHER: The full and accurate U of C data are now on-line, and the final figures are actually a bit better than what I had reported here.
Kevin Heller, a law professor at the University of Melbourne in Australia, wrote to correct my claim about Australian legal education in my post from the other day. Professor Heller notes that Melbourne "has just finished transitioning to a [post-graduate] JD-only model....We realized that a JD is a much more competitive degree internationally, even in Europe (and especially in the US, Canada, and Asia), where a very significant percentage of our graduates want to work." He also added some useful context about what it really meant to say law used to be an undergraduate degree:
I would add...that the nature of [undergraduate] LLB legal education, at least in Australia and New Zealand, was always a bit more complicated than it's often made out to be. More than (I think) 80% of our LLB students did joint law/arts or law/business degrees. A double degree at Melbourne normally took at least five, and far more often six, years to complete. (Undergraduate degrees here on their own took about three years to complete, not the four that is standard in the U.S.) So although our LLB students started taking law courses earlier in their university education than our JDs will (usually the first LLB law course was second semester of their second undergraduate year, though many began law in year three, when they had one year left in their other degree), it normally took six years for them to complete their LLB and arts/commerce B.A. That is exactly how long our JD graduates will have spent in school, assuming they did their required undergraduate degree in three years. (We also have options for students to complete their JDs in 2.5 and 2 years, if they are willing to take summer and winter courses.)
That's, in essence, the proposal of Professor McGinnis (Northwestern) and his co-author; it is, of course, the reality in Britain and Australia, as well as almost all civil law jurisdicitions I'm aware of, where it seems to work perfectly well (though note that these jurisdiction do not employ the "Socratic method" to teach law, a method, such as it is, that might not work as well with undergraduates). That would, in all likelihood, increase the supply of lawyers, but would at least dramatically reduce the cost of becoming one. But as Dean Rodriguez (Northwestern) notes in reply,
“The high cost of graduate legal education,” (McGinnis and Mangas) write, “limits the supply of lawyers and leaders to higher legal fees.” Causal claim, certainly not proven. And not especially plausible. It is only in the last couple of years that law school applications have dipped; and law school spots have remained steady. For better or worse, the supply of new lawyers has held fairly steady. Legal fees, by contrast, are shrinking — which is the essential point, after all, behind growing calls for major reform in legal education and, at the very least, greater transparency by law schools with regard to employment opportunities. The causal connection between law student demand, space in law school, supply of lawyers, and legal fees is, to say the least, a complex one; we need not, and in response to McMangas, I won’t simply stipulate the connection.
There may well be, of course, other sensible reasons to reduce aggregate student debt. But the linchpin claim that widescale adoption of the European model is a panacea for high legal fees and limited access to legal work by middle and sub-middle class is not well supported in the op-ed.
Professor McGinnis and co-author reply to these concerns here.