August 06, 2013
On why I post comments from colleagues "anonymously" sometimes
I sometimes post comments from colleagues elsewhere, but without attribution (I always ask them what they would prefer). I imagine the reason is obvious to most readers, but perhaps I should make it explicit, especially for the benefit of those who don't pay much attention to cyberspace.
The basic fact is that anyone these days who speaks in favor of legal scholarship and law schools, or against "scam" blogs and charlatans like Campos, is immediately subjected to a torrent of cyber-abuse, defamation, and harassment. (Anyone skeptical can simply do some searches to see the cyber-response to the sober and scholarly analysis of the economic value of a law degree co-authored by Seton Hall professor Michael Simkovic.) Cyber-vilifcation is meaningless in the end--it is the ranting of the powerless and the deranged--but it is, undestandably, shocking to most adults. Many of my correspondents would prefer not to become targets of this abuse. I have been in cyberspace too long for it to matter anymore, and because I have been out front on many of the issues that generate the most cyber-harassment, the abuse and attempted defamation is both predictable and not very credible. But this also puts me in a position to provide a forum for other academics to comment, a forum in which I can vouch for who the commenters are but at the same time insulate them from the disgusting abuse of cyber-miscreants.
August 02, 2013
More on the Law School Transparency "shakedown" of law schools
A Dean at another law school writes:
It is fair to say this was not a very good move on LST's part, and shatters whatever remaining credibility they had. (They've been in a bit of a downward spiral.) Now that the ABA (finally) mandates detailed reporting of employment outcomes, it's not really clear that LST serves a useful purpose any longer, and I will be astonished if any school actually ponies up for this nonsense "certification." (By the way, it is perhaps telling of what's happened to LST that the law professor who sent me the information about the certification shakedown did not want to write about it himself/herself for fear that LST would then go after that professor's school!)
Re the McEntee post: Yes, in fact, Kyle has sent out the following note to a number of deans:
...We're introducing a certification program for law schools.
The program has two purposes. First, we want to increase the quality and consistency of consumer information. Second, we want to help the schools that are transparent (as defined by us of course) signal that transparency. Law schools across the board are facing declining trust, even the good actors. I'm of the opinion that this is bad for the profession in the long run, and that a program like this can help instill a sense of trust where trust is deserved.
The short of what we'll do: Schools that meet our two reviews become "LST Certified," which entitles them to use a certification mark to signal their commitment to transparency. The mark provides assurance to prospective students, students, and the public that your school does things the right way. The fee for the first year is $1925. There will be audits for compliance throughout the year -- sometimes at a defined time, sometimes randomly.
One review is for Standard 509 compliance. The other review is for LST Best Practices. The latter requires that schools produce various consumer information (employment data, financial aid, etc) on their websites. Sometimes the Best Practices require a certain form; usually we just check that certain data or statements are present. Importantly, we require schools to centralize all consumer information for easy access and require that schools indicate info about definitions and methodologies used.
---end of quote from letter--
This is, of course, absolutely outrageous. One dean colleague said it smacks to him as a violation of the Hobbs Act (which prohibits extortion and such). This is, any way you slice it, an extraordinary effort at shaking down law schools by promising some version of “certification” at a price – this from a group which decries, among other things, the high costs of law schools. It is one thing for the deans to call Kyle out. I’d like to see where the scambloggers are in all this.
May 17, 2013
"Why Tolerate Religion?" at the Center for Inquiry in Washington, DCThe video.
April 24, 2013
Kerr & Lessig on the Need to Reform CFAA
Read this and then send it to your elected representatives!
March 02, 2013
We Get Mail: Thomas R. Grover, Esq. Edition
(NOTE: For those interested in the jihad by pathological liar Paul Campos, scroll down to the March 8 update and thereafter.)
For criticizing Mr. Campos last week, I received the following insolent e-mail:
You’re a “Law and ______” Professor, not a lawyer. How would you know how to ‘think like a lawyer’?
Thomas R. Grover, Esq.
Goodsell & Olsen, LLP
10155 W. Twain Ave., Ste. 100
Las Vegas, NV 89147
Tel: (702) 869-6261
Fax: (702 869-8243
Cell: (702) 900-3003
Mr. Grover is a law graduate of the University of Nebraska, one of those law schools that students should still be considering, even in the current market, and notwithstanding Mr. Grover. But it is odd that he thinks that being a lawyer and a philosopher involves a contraction, rather than an expansion, of knowledge and competence. In any case, I replied to Mr. Grover as follows:
Dear Mr. Grover,
Are you actually an attorney at the firm in question? If so, why do you not appear on the website? Do your supervisors know that you are using the firm’s e-mail to send impertinent and juvenile messages to other professionals?
“Thinking like a lawyer” refers to a style of reasoning and analysis that is exemplified in the law section of appellate briefs and in judicial opinions; I assume you must be familiar with both genres. It encompasses, for example, the use of analogical reasoning to distinguish precedents or propose extensions or developments of existing doctrine, but also involves techniques of statutory and constitutional construction, the use of arguments from authority, facility with the law/fact distinctions, and so on. Again, merely looking at the chapter headings of Schauer’s book Thinking Like a Lawyer would illuminate this apparently opaque topic for you. Alternatively, you might read Edward Levi’s classic book An Introduction to Legal Reasoning; Mr. Levi was the former Dean of my Law School, as well as former Attorney General of the United States.
Of course, there are more skills involved in being a lawyer than thinking like a lawyer. There is industry-specific knowledge, know-how with respect to how local courts or regulatory agencies approach statutory language, rhetorical talent, as well as a range of psychological and interpersonal skills that are important. For example, most good lawyers I know, among my family and friends, exhibit maturity and professional judgment, that would prevent them from sending insolent e-mails from their’s firm account to other professionals. I will be sure to send a copy of this entire correspondence to the name partners of your firm.*
I do think we law professors, and especially those with blogs, have been far too tolerant of malicious and unprofessional conduct by usually anonymous or pseudonymous lawyers and students. Mr. Grover deserves credit for signing his name to his stupidity, and, of course, his intervention is a relatively mild example of juvenile nonsense emanating from putative lawyers. I've generally let most of this garbage pass in silence, but in the coming weeks I'm going to be posting a bit more about some alleged legal professionals whose on-line conduct deserves to be aired in public. I especially welcome more information on a sick individual using the pseudonym "dybbuk," who is, among other pathetic characteristics, obsessed with the appearance of female law faculty, and who fantasizes on-line about spanking them with wet slippers (though that is only the tip of the iceberg of his malevolent conduct towards and harassment of individuals behind the cloak of pseudonymity). He is a Washington & Lee law graduate from the 1990s, and an appellate public defender, and we will have more to say about him soon. But I welcome any further details from readers.
[*I did not, needless to say, send this correspondence to them. I hope Mr. Grover has a distinguished legal career, and that he, and others like him out there, will stop sending foolish e-mails in the future.]
UPDATE: Some good news, namely, dybbuk's most egregious piece of libel and harassment (not of me) has been removed from the web. Meanwhile, the poster boy for the Dunning-Kruger Effect, David Bernstein, thinks this is all about civility and manners as opposed to stupidity and insolence--and, more seriously, in the case of some of the others, libel and malicious harassment. I'm sure Bernstein will do a great job moderating comments on his intervention to insure his commitment to civility! For my own views on civility, see this short essay.
3/5 UPDATE FOR THE VARIOUS VISITORS FROM RIGHT-WING CRAZY BLOGS: You will enjoy my book!
MARCH 8 UPDATE: It wont' surprise any readers to learn that Paul Campos is angry with me--after all, his malicious and dishonest conduct has made him a pariah in his own profession. I certainly did my part to call attention to his malfeasance, but I underestimated the extent to which he would turn into a pathological liar in order to seek his vengeance. Over the last week (I have been abroad at a conference, with only intermittent internet access and so may not even have seen everything), Campos has completely lost it, descending into an amazing paranoid abyss of libel, accusing me, falsely, of, inter alia, cyber-stalking, posting pseudonymously on "Top Law Schools," even posting "hundreds" (!) of comments on his absurd blog (while the others may just be reckless false allegations, the last one he has to know is false, since he has access to the ISP information), and so on. He has not, at least of this writing, accused me of genocide or torturing puppies. And he has apparently inspired one of his followers to hack someone`s email account. Classy! Apart from his general animosity towards me, I can only surmise that he's lost it because I did pursue the identity, successfully, of one of his cyber-friends ("dybbuk") who Campos conveniently neglects to mention had the habit of bullying, insulting and defaming junior faculty and students (including one of mine), and I did succeed in getting his worst bit of libel deleted and he has now fallen silent. Oddly, Campos, who is now waging a jihad against Faculty Lounge, doesn't realize why no one will return his e-mails, and it's the same reason almost no one signed his petition for law school transparency: his colleagues consider him a creep and untrustworthy, and so they just steer clear. Indeed, "dybbuk's" identity was volunteered by different people Campos pissed all over during his little scam jihad, so, ironically, he has only himself to blame for the mess his cyber-friend is currently in.
AND A FINAL WORD: Crazy Campos’s jihad against Dan Filler has come to an end, not with Campos apologizing, but with his continuing to cast aspersions on Filler and others at TFL, even though, as I noted last Friday, he’s been barking up the wrong tree all along (he apparently has little sense of the depth and breadth of enmity towards him and his crew, and it extends well beyond those who blog--I will, in any case, not name my sources, who did the morally correct thing in exposing scoundrels and creeps, but who do not deserve to be harassed and defamed by those who want to harass and defame with impunity). There also turns out to be quite a bit of backstory about what’s been going on at Colorado, that will perhaps come out in time, and which may explain Campos’s slightly insane and obsessive behavior in the last week. Anyway, I’ll give the final word about this freak show to a colleague elsewhere, who wrote to me last week regarding the pseudonymous and anonymous trolls: “I, for one, hope that you put the fear of god into them. I've been unable to avoid the consistent spamming our normal blogs have taken over the last year from the likes of these schmoes ('MacK' and the others main perpetrators), one can only hope that they're cowering in a corner thinking back on the foolishness of repeatedly attempting to defame and intimidate honest and well-meaning educators. It's one of the worst symptoms of the right-wing anti-intellectualism that seems to get frothier in this country each election cycle. As for our friend in the rocky mountain state, I really think he's either run into some well-deserved, serious career problem (other than lacking all talent as a scholar) or has gone wholly round the bend.” As some readers pointed out, even Campos's many false allegations may have the salutary effect of making the bottom-feeders in cyberspace (including Campos's dozen-or-so trolls) a bit more cautious going forward.
February 28, 2013
Paul Campos's final bit of revisionist history
Several readers have written to alert me to the fact that apparently even Paul Campos has realized that his blog didn't have much content, apart from insulting and deriding Deans, faculty and anyone else who contested his claims. But, true to form, he can't say goodbye without just making things up out of whole cloth. He writes:
I started [the blog] because I had something to say, and this seemed a good way of saying it. For a few days I wrote anonymously – something I had never done before – more as a stylistic experiment than anything else. But naturally people in legal academia instantly became more concerned with Who Was Saying These Outrageous Things than in whether those things might actually be true.
that legal academia is operating on the basis of an unsustainable economic model, which requires most law students to borrow more money to get law degrees than it makes sense for them to borrow, given their career prospects, and that for many years law schools worked hard, wittingly or unwittingly, to hide this increasingly inconvenient truth from both themselves and their potential matriculants.
The key fact to remember about Paul Campos is that, in 2005, he went on Fox TV and called for a University of Colorado colleague, Ward Churchill, to be fired for his offensive political speech--not for alleged academic misconduct (allegations which came later), but simply for his political speech. Campos (who even directed at one time Colorado's center for constitutional law), in other words, realized he could get the media spotlight on himself by calling for a blatant violation of the First Amendment. (It's a standing problem of his.) That was the first clear sign that this was an individual without a core, intellectual or moral. Everything I've ever learned about Campos since (including much I've never written about) has confirmed that diagnosis.
Meanwhile, in the real world, I hope the ABA Task Force will consider some sensible changes to the status quo in legal education.
ADDENDUM: A colleague elsewhere writes: "I like how the lists of people he thanks includes everyone who proposed solutions and reforms to legal education, as though they were also supporters of his. I know for a fact that some people on those lists think Campos is a disgrace."
ANOTHER: Paul Horwitz (Alabama), ever the good, even-handed Canadian, comes to Campos's defense, and what a defense it is:
Campos seems to me to be essentially a journalist moonlighting as a law professor, and perhaps without some of the professional norms I would expect from a full-time journalist....
Many of his fans loved his writing style. I found it repetitive (how many times do you need to use the same quote from Upton Sinclair before it gets old?), self-indulgent, evasive and squirrelly, preening, and finally tedious. His analysis of the useful data he provided was often correct, in my view. But he seemed rarely content to make a basic point that would have been sufficiently devastating in itself, if the opportunity presented itself to make a far more tendentious de-haut-en-bas observation about some "big truth" that everyone but himself lacked the courage and acuity to recognize. A vivid style is one element of good writing; but so is self-restraint. Campos was much stronger on the former than the latter....
In short, there were plenty of reasons to find aspects of his blog objectionable, and his suggestion in his final post that everyone who objected to what he wrote did so either because they were angry at his intrepid truth-telling or because of personal animus seems to me badly exaggerated and self-serving. The latter seems especially silly because, judged by his writing, Campos certainly has no objection to responding to others in a personal rather than a substantive way and drawing broad conclusions about the motives of others.
The prosecution rests after that defense!
February 26, 2013
Applications to law school
These are sensible points, and they do extend beyond "the top X." Many state law schools are still reasonably priced, and have had, over the long haul, good professional outcomes for their graduates. Many regional law schools, private and public, have strong market niches and, due to the competition for students, are discounting sticker price substantially. Prospective students should, indeed, "get advice relevant to their situation," and that advice will mostly not be found on blogs or chat rooms, alas.
I would encourage you to write a blogpost aimed at some misinformation that media stories about the law school value proposition are purveying to the most qualified potential law school applicants. The perverse thing is that the largest percentage application decline has been among the strongest applicants (by GPA/LSAT). For students of at least the top X law schools (and I've done no science to identify the "X", but I suspect it's at least "10") employment opportunities remain strong, and given recent law firm hiring patterns, advancement opportunities for this generation of law firm associates should be very positive. The question for those students should be, as always, do you want to be a lawyer, and, second, do you value the education that LS can offer for other things you might want to do.
I appreciate that a general message of caution for law school applicants is wise, but I think people should also get advice relevant to their situation.
January 07, 2013
Why most faculty steer clear of engaging the irrationality of the "scam" bloggers
Santa Clara Professor Stephen Diamond's story is instructive, as he was pilloried for trying to reason with the crazies. He writes of the "scam" bloggers:
[T]hey seem to feel that the credit crisis that engulfed the global economy beginning more than four years ago was somehow hidden from aspiring law students.They have set out to set the record straight to make sure that naive college graduates do not fall for the law school “scam” as they put it.The last paragraph encapsulates the juvenile irrationality of these folks quite well, and it is the theory that has underlay the lawsuits against law schools, which have been uniformly dismissed by the courts outside California. With the legal strategy apparently having failed, "Law School Transparency," which made common cause with the plaintiffs' lawyers in those cases, has now switched gears to filing frivolous complaints against law schools with the ABA. Since LST is to be commended for providing lots of useful information to prospective students, one hopes they will rethink what seems to be their current course of action.
The actual facts, of course, about the impact of the economic downturn on the legal industry are readily available to anyone with an internet connection. Even without considering actual legal employment it would be readily obvious from newspaper headlines that taking the time and spending the money to earn an advanced degree would not automatically earn you a job down the road.
It turns out that recent college graduates did not waste much time figuring that out and indeed law school applications have fallen off. This is entirely consistent with the pattern in the wake of previous downturns, including the real estate crash of the early 90s and the collapse of the dotcom bubble in 2000. Law school applications tend to increase soon after the economy improves and continue to grow as the economy plateaus. As the economy declines – which by the way capitalism has done in a series of up and down cycles that reach back to the 19th century – students often continue to go to law school as a way to add a degree with the view that the economy will improve by the time they graduate. Relatively low cost debt and generous government backed loan repayment programs have made this approach to graduate education more affordable.
The challenge in this current downturn, of course, is that it was more severe and more prolonged than in prior cycles. That gave rise to an unexpected drying up of the job market in a pattern that was very familiar to many of the clients of law firms but that law firms themselves had not often experienced. Even very top tier law school graduates faced an unprecedented situation. However, there are signs that a bottom has been reached. Housing prices appear to have stabilized and are even rising in certain markets. Employment generally has improved and there is good anecdotal information that law firms are hiring more robustly.
That has not stopped the “law school is a scam” crowd, however, who claim that this was all the fault of the law schools who somehow bamboozled tens of thousands of college graduates into going to law school. The problem with their analysis is that they ignore the role of the macroeconomy and rely on irrelevant figures in their attempt to build their case.
November 08, 2012
Blogging a faculty meeting?
Paul Campos, of self-promotion fame, has now written what purports to be a description of both the content and then the vote of a faculty meeting at his school, the University of Colorado at Boulder, concerning the expansion of its LLM program. Campos was the lone dissenter, so he claims, arguing that it was not clear there were jobs for those who would get this LLM. He claims that none of his colleagues responded to his objections, and that everyone, but him, then voted for the expansion of the LLM program anyway. (His omission of any detailed discussion of the reasons for the proposal no doubt contributes to the unfavorable impression he gives of his colleagues.)
I have to say I've never before seen anyone blog the substance of a faculty meeting or disclose a vote, let alone do so in a way that is meant to insult and humiliate his colleagues. I wonder whether such actions do not violate university rules, but perhaps not. I guess time will tell.
UPDATE: James Grimmelman (New York Law School) asks, "Might it not also be the case that his colleagues were reluctant to discuss the proposal at the faculty meeting out of a concern that whatever they said would be published on Professor Campos's blog?" That's plausible, but would also suggest that he is now disrupting the ability of the school to operate, which would have serious consequences. And maybe those consequences are starting to materialize? Certainly, the latest item on the Campos blog suggests he has jumped the shark:
Recently I've been nominated for a couple of law school dean positions. I've even toyed with the idea of formally applying. Although unlike Mitt Romney and Donald Trump I can't claim to enjoy firing people per se, I do think I'd positively relish the opportunity to give the ziggy to the significant percentage of employees at the typical law school who deserve to have their sinecures terminated with extreme prejudice.
October 31, 2012
Anon Business Law Professor Takes on "Scam" Bloggers
I just happened upon this exchange in the comments at TaxProf blog from late August, but it is quite something. At some point, Deborah Jones Merritt, an actual scholar at Ohio State (though perhaps not one with terrific judgment) joined the Campos blog. Blog Emperor Caron, being an equal opportunity linker (i.e., he has no standards!), has linked to several of her items, but now a reader of his blog has taken to replying. Here's the first volley from the anonymous professor in reply to a Merritt piece to which Caron had linked:
Various other anonymous commenters "respond" to this heresy (heresy, at least, if you get all your "information" from the likes of Campos), and then the anonymous professor posts in reply:
Again with the nonsense.
Is DJM simply incapable of honestly looking at the data and understanding what it means? There is no crisis in law. We're doing better than most fields in a recession, just not as well as we were back in 2007.
The *unemployment rate* for lawyers and law grads is much lower than the unemployment rate for workers with only a bachelor's degree and for recent college graduates in liberal arts fields. And the median and mean income for lawyers are much higher.
Because unemployment rates for those who have attended law school are lower than unemployment rates for comparable individuals who have not, the data suggest that attending law school reduces the risk of unemployment. The argument that attending law school causes unemployment or increases the risk of unemployment is implausible.
Default rates for law grads are lower than overall student loan default rats. The same debt repayment options that apply to law grads apply to other educational programs, so the default rate data should be comparable. IBR and extended repayment can't explain the low student loan default rates of law grads *relative* to those of students in other programs. If anything, the default rates for law students should be higher, because they are less likely than undergraduates to enter deferment by continuing their education.
DJM has yet to respond to this in any intelligible way. Same for Tamanaha. To his credit, Campos has actually acknowledged that law school is many people's best option because the economy is even worse elsewhere.
Census Bureau data on unemployment rates for those with professional degrees--not just those working as professionals--shows that the unemployment rates are much lower than for bachelors degrees and labor force participation rates are higher.
There is no crisis, but if we really want to give our students an advantage, we can increase the value of a law degree further by replacing the DJMs of the world with tax or other business law faculty--people who can teach things that high paying employers value.
Here's what I think may be happening.
DJM may genuinely feel guilty because *her* students--the ones who study poverty law--go on to make next to nothing, while she earns $200K+ per year.
However, business law faculty routinely see their former students go on to make more money than the business law professors. Almost all of us know we are paid less than people who do similar work outside academe, while the DJM's are paid far more than they would make anywhere else.
Same for Tamanaha and Campos. They know *their* students are struggling. They know that *they* are not capable of helping them. The only solution they can see is to cut the price.
The rest of us see our students succeed, make plenty of money, think there is no crisis, and think we're in fact underpaid. The data is on our side, but the scam bloggers are no doubt overwhelmed by their own personal experiences.
So lets make everyone happy. DJM & Co. can take pay cuts. We can use the money to increase resources for business law faculty and career placement.
The value of the law degree goes up, student employment prospects improve, costs stay the same, and everyone can get paid around what they think they are worth.
DJM can stop compulsively blogging out of a sense of guilt or a pathological desire for attention. She can spend some time educating those students she claims to care so much about and finding them jobs in poverty law, while explaining IBR to them.
This data actually confirms everything I said.
It shows that at graduation or shortly thereafter ~85% were employed and only ~9% were unemployed. These statistics compare very favorably to recent college graduates with liberal arts degrees, who in turn have lower unemployment rates and higher incomes than high school graduates of the same age.
And 2011 was one of the worst years in the last decade for law graduates.
Employment at or shortly after graduation in one single year for one class-2011--in a time of recession--doesn't suggest that a law degree ins't valuable. To the contrary, it suggests that those with law degrees do better than those without, even in a rough economy.
If you look at the census bureau data, which tracks people over a lifetime, and over many years, it's clear that lawyers (and those with law degrees) have been doing very well for a very long time.
Professor Merritt then replies to the Anon professor as follows:
Anon, The ABA employment data are for 9 months after graduation, not "at graduation or shortly thereafter." Nine months after graduation, 9% of law graduates had no job at all--not even babysitting. Only 55% had a full-time job requiring bar admission that would last at least a year. That category includes all judicial clerkships and one-year fellowships; those are considered "one-year" jobs even if they last less than a year.
Other law graduates held part-time jobs, temp jobs, or jobs that did not require a law degree. For many of the latter jobs, there is little hard evidence that the JD conferred any advantage in obtaining the job.
Also, your estimate of starting at $60,000-80,000 is way too high. The median reported salary in 2011 was $60,000--but only 52% of students reported salaries.
The 52% is not a random sample; it is a voluntary sample compounded by selective additions by the law schools. It is very well accepted that, for these particular figures, almost all unreported salaries fall below the median. That's because part-time and short-term jobs aren't counted at all for salary purposes (and they are very unlikely to pay more than the median); graduates are more likely to report high salaries than low ones; and career services offices can fill in unreported salaries if they are available from another source (true of higher-paid firm jobs, not other jobs).
So $60,000 is the best possible number you could give for an average graduate, not "$60-80,000." And almost everyone would agree that, with only 52% reporting, that $60,000 is more like the 75th percentile than the median.
Do you teach securities law? What result if a company reported in its prospectus that a relevant number was "around $60k-80K per year" when the actual number was $60K--and even that was the product of skewed accounting? And what result if a company said a product would be available "on May 15 or shortly thereafter" and the company knew the product would not be available until the following Feb 15 (nine months later)?
By the way, I have also taught patent law and statistics for lawyers; happy to talk numbers with you any time. But I'm going to do the rest of my talking over on [the Campos blog]--more people read those posts than these comments.
Anon professor then responds to Professor Merritt:
$60K is the median. $80K is the mean. $60K to $80K is therefore an appropriate range for the "typical" outcome since either mean or median can be used as a measure of central tendency. This is Statistics 101. Come on DJM. You've taught statistics for lawyers.
"It is very well accepted . . ."
How do you know the selection bias runs in a particular direction? Have you tracked down a representative sample of people who law schools couldn't track down and determined definitively that those who are working but did not report earn less than those who reported? The exact same selection bias issues apply to the salaries of undergraduate liberal arts majors, so none of this affects the wage premium (the difference in wages) between those with law degrees and those without.
The issue isn't how much people make. It's how much *more* people make with a law degree than they would have made without the law degree.
And if you're concerned about the law schools playing games with the data, just use the Census and BLS data for long term outcomes, which show those with law degrees doing very well.
Another pseudonymous poster then interjects (with the classic "condescension from below" tone that is the lifeblood of the Internet):
Anon, I'm going to explain to you as simply as possible. Less than 55% of the c/o 2011 had legal jobs nine months after graduation. You keep harping about "business law" like it is some magic field that is going to save everyone from unemployment as long as they are smart enough to see how valuable it is. I've asked you repeatedly to give me information on this supposed boon in hiring in "business law" and despite supposedly being an expert in the field, you've failed.
The Anon professor replies:
Wrong. 55% is *full time* *permanent* jobs that *required* a JD, which excludes many great non-permanent jobs (clerkships), and many great jobs that don't require a JD (business, politics / government), etc. ~85% had jobs, and only 2% were in "nonprofessional" jobs. Only 9% were unemployed.
Professor Merritt then re-enters the fray:
Anon, the "mean" you are referring to is $78,653, not $80,000. I'm not a tax or business professor, but I don't think the IRS or SEC are amused when someone engages in that type of rounding. "I had $78,653 in business expenses--I'll deduct a round $80,000!"
But that's a minor point. Even NALP doesn't use the $78,653 figure (other than reporting it among other raw numbers), because they acknowledge that the selection bias is so severe. NALP calculates an adjusted mean to account for some of the bias. For the class of 2011, the adjusted mean is $73,984. See the graph on this page: http://www.nalp.org/salarydistrib.
And when you're looking at that graph, you'll see why it's statistically incorrect to say that the "average graduate" has an outcome between the median and the mean. That's true for some distributions, but not all: You've got to look at the shape of the distribution. (That's Statistics 202--things are a little more complicated than they teach in that 101 course.) For a bimodal distribution, neither the mean nor the median is particularly informative--and it's particularly misleading to look at the area between them.
People knowledgeable about the business of law have understood that bimodal distribution--and written about it--since Bill Henderson first published on the issue a few years ago. You either are unfamiliar with that work or are deliberately ignoring it. If you hold yourself out as an expert on these issues, as you seem to do here, I'd be careful about that.
I have looked at *all* the grads from my school with unreported salaries--not just a random sample. You can do the same with the grads for your school; I think you will find it very instructive. Unless you are from Cooley, which loses track of a truly alarming number of graduates, your law school knows the employment status and (if employed) job title, employer, and PT/FT status for almost every grad. Ask your dean's office to give you a list of the jobs and employers of students who didn't report salaries. They can leave the students' names off; those aren't necessary. But be sure they include the unemployed students and the ones with part-time jobs. Go down the list and figure out how many of those jobs could possibly pay more than $60,000. I think you will see the bias. This isn't speculative selection bias--this is a bias that NALP and others have tested very concretely. Again, people who are writing and analyzing this area are familiar with that.
If you have an economic interest in encouraging people to attend law school (e.g., if you draw your salary from a law school), I would be careful about making uninformed or misleading statements publicly--while claiming expertise in the area. The identity of "anonymous" internet users is discoverable in litigation. I'm certainly not going to sue you--I just enjoy correcting your errors now and then. But a prospective student who relied upon your representations here and later learned the truth might feel differently.
She then follows up with:
Anon, you just keep getting these facts wrong. The ABA and NALP specifically define clerkships as full-time, "permanent" jobs that require bar admission. Yes, those definitions are somewhat squirrelly, since there are clerks who take the bar exam after their clerkships, and clerkships are not "permanent" in the everyday sense of the term. But the definitions are heavily influenced by law
It's bad enough that we use Humpty-Dumpty language in defining these categories--don't make it worse by misrepresenting what the categories mean. The 55% (56% by some computations) *includes* all clerkships. If you don't know the facts, don't represent them publicly.
Anon business law professor is unfazed (an advantage of being anonymous, you needn't be fazed ever!) and fires back, pretty effectively I should add:
Now you're just quibbling because you know you've lost the argument. And trying to intimidate me with litigation threats to boot. You're a real piece of work, DJM.
Your entire argument--that college grads are worse off with law school than without, that the debt burden is unsustainable--is wrong, and it doesn't make one bit of difference whether the mean starting salary in 2011 is $73,984, $78,653 or $80,000. Being overly precise is misleading. We know estimates from samples are never that precise (You've heard of a confidence interval? Or is that statistics 303?) Not to mention the fact that the numbers were higher in 2010 and 2009, etc., and a multi-year average is more reliable than a single data point if you're trying to forecast, especially in labor markets with cobweb cycles.
In fact, even if we use the $60K median--and I am rounding--a law degree more than pays for itself relative to the median for a liberal arts degree. And we can pick almost any point in the distribution--the 25th percentile of law graduates vs. the 25th percentile of liberal arts graduates with no grad school, the 10th percentile of each--and the law degree will still pay for itself, especially with IBR.
You keep talking about selection bias in law school data while ignoring other data sources and ignoring the fact that undergraduate salary surveys presumably have *THE SAME SELECTION BIAS* issues, so they cancel each other out and we can safely use the unadjusted reported figures to calculate the wage premium. Can you prove that there is no selection bias in reported undergraduate salaries? Do you think this is an issue unique to law schools?
Of course you are also placing undue emphasis on the starting salary and the distribution of starting salaries for a single, exceptionally bad year (2011)--while ignoring all of the historic data on both starting salaries and lifetime income streams. Have you checked salary distributions 5 or 10 or 20 or
30 years out? Or do you think you can evaluate a law degree that will last 50-55 years (at current life expectancy for 25 year olds) based on a single year of data for a single cohort?
According to a recent Kaplan Survey, many, many college grads who go to law school never intend to practice law--they want to go into business or politics, and that's what they end up doing. But if you want to compare apples to apples, lets look at the percent of undergraduate liberal arts majors who are employed in a job that is closely related to what they studied. It's a lot lower than the percent of law graduates who end up in JD required or JD preferred jobs. As for your claim that "The ABA and NALP specifically define clerkships as full-time, "permanent" jobs that require bar admission"--even you admit they are often not going to be coded that way, so my argument remains correct, whatever the official definitions may say. But please, go ahead and link to the official definitions where you claim it says that, and point out exactly where.
And as for your references to securities law--
You do know that most investments--bank loans, commodities, real estate, partnership interests--are not regulated as securities, right? And that there are specific reasons why the scope of securities regulation is limited? And that a non-transferable law degree available only to "sophisticated" college graduates looks a whole lot more like the kinds of investment that don't fall under securities regulation than those that do? And that no court on earth is going to find that a law degree is a security? And that no court on earth is going to find that a law student "reasonably relied" on an anonymous blog post about general industry trends on a message board intended for tax professors (not for law students), or that anything I've said is substantially misleading?
I'm glad you're trying to track down data for Ohio State grads, but keep in mind, you're at one school, and it's not a strong performer. NLJ 250 does a great job tracking law grads who end up at big firms and *your school* (Ohio State) doesn't seem to be be doing nearly as well as would be expected based on US News and SSRN rankings.
So when you're on your disclosure kick, I hope you'll point out the NLJ250 top 50 law schools to your Ohio State students, let them know that Ohio State is over-rated by U.S. News, and suggest your students consider transferring to one of the top 50 NLJ 250 schools.
I hope you'll also let them know that there is very little money in criminal law and they'd be better off financially if they dropped your class and studied a business law subject.
If you really care about your students, don't you want them to have the best chance in life? Even if it means they go to a school other than Ohio State and study something other than what you have to teach?
Overall, I call the anon business law professor the winner of this debate, even if some of what he says is dubious. He, in effect, admits that it might be a mistake to borrow a huge sum to go to certain law schools, and he overstates the correlation between the courses one takes and employment outcomes; the correlation is much stronger between the academic reputation of the school (which is a function of the scholarly reputation of the faculty in all areas, not just business law) and the employment outcomes, as he, in effect, notes with respect to Ohio State. On the other hand, the anon professor is surely right to point out the weirdness of drawing dramatic conclusions from a limited data set, in the middle of a recession, and of failing to draw meaningful comparisons between JD outcomes and other professional outcomes for those who forego a JD.
UPDATE: Professor Merritt, I guess bothered by my verdict on who won this particular debate, now has a much-too-lenghty post, which mostly changes the topic, but at least argues on firmer ground than she did with the Anon Business Law Prof. The most pertinent statistic adduced is the BLS projection about the number of openings for new lawyers, and the gross mismatch of that with the projected number of new law graduates. That's the point she should have pressed originally, in the exchange above, but did not. The rest of her new post is mostly bloviation, aimed at an unknown target. I started writing years ago about Professor Henderson's work suggesting that the changes in the legal market are systemic, rather than merely cyclical, and that still seems to me correct, though how correct (i.e., the scope of the change) is still very unclear. That also doesn't change the fact that recent job statistics aren't very meaningful metrics for drawing melodramatic conclusions. The real question, as Anon Business Law Prof emphasized, is still what the options are: for some students, considering some law schools, they are better off not getting the JD; for other students, and other law schools, the opposite conclusion should be drawn. But in the general hysteria (and infantile moralizing about individual acts of charity [take a salary cut!] and institutional self-sacrifice [lower tuition!}) that dominates these discussions, these realities are systematically obscured.