August 03, 2013
Curious and misleading "defense" of Tamanaha by one of his colleagues at Wash U
I find it hard to believe that the author of this "defense" expects to be taken seriously given that he just makes so many things up. Prof. Rosenzweig writes, regarding Failing Law Schools [FLS], that, "Tamanaha has made an invaluable contribution to the academic literature and to the betterment of the world. The posting of the Simkovic & McIntyre paper should provide the opportunity to make this clear. That it has led to the exact opposite by some in the legal community has proven distressing." Prof. Rosenzweig is, remarkably, completely silent on how Tamanaha's own hostile and careless response to the Simkovic & McIntyre paper triggered the need for a systematic response by the authors to address Tamanaha's misrepresentations and mistakes. I assume Tamanaha responded as he did because he recognized that the Simkovic & McIntyre paper undermined his posture in FLS.
Even more strangely, Prof. Rosenzweig writes:
Let us recall what the state of the debate about the future of legal education looked like prior to the publication of FLS. Law “scam” blogs accusing law schools and law professors of exploiting students, a “cesspool” of threats and slurs, anonymous posts making scandalous and vicious personal attacks on individual law school faculty members, and public statements by law schools, faculty, and the ABA making it appear as if the entire legal community was oblivious to the crisis facing students graduating law school during that period....
Look at the state of the debate after the publication of FLS. Almost all public statements on the issue are now clearly attributed to their authors. Academics publicly publish data under their own names. I am assuming, since it is cited in the paper, that FLS in part led Simkovic and McIntyre to pursue their project in the first place. In other words, FLS has done precisely what the highest and best scholarship can and should do – it increased the amount of knowledge in the world at the time, led to a better and more informed debate, and began the process of replacing emotion and opinion with facts and analysis.
I must say this is pure fiction from top to bottom. It omits, for example, the active role that Tamanaha played in legitimating a number of deranged "scam" blogs that were, and are, still "'cesspools' of threats and slurs" with "anonymous posts making scandalous and vicious personal attacks on individual law school faculty members." (If anything, they've gotten worse since Tamanaha's book, and are even more visible.) He did this by referencing them favorably in his book and, more remarkably, by sometimes posting encouraging comments on some of them. For this alone, he would deserve condemnation by his professional colleagues, even before we get to the damage done to the debate through the carelessness of significant parts of Failing Law Schools (some of that has come out in the recent debate, but when the detailed review of the book, and its reckless allegations, by Simkovic & McIntyre goes on SSRN, this will be clear to all).
But I do agree with Rosenzweig, as I said previously, that FLS collects good anecdotes, has an interesting (and unflattering) history of the regulation of law schools, and sensibly recommends a lighter regulatory hand to permit more experimentation with models of legal education. Its anecdotal approach to systematic issues, however, has seriously distorted the discussion of those issues, as the Simkovic & McIntyre paper makes clear.
I note, finally, that Prof. Rosenzweig, like so many, doesn't know the meaning of ad hominem. Prof. Simkovic was the victim of many ad hominem smears after his paper came out; Prof. Tamanaha has been spared them entirely.
UPDATE: Paul Horwitz (Alabama) has found a nice example of the "state of the debate" after Tamanaha's intervention--this from a "scam" blog on which Tamanaha has posted encouraging comments, I should add.
July 21, 2013
The Economic Value of a Law Degree: Week 1 Summary
In The Economic Value of a Law Degree Frank McIntyre and I measure differences in annual earnings and hourly wages between those with law degrees and similar individuals who end their education with a bachelor’s degree. We account for unemployment and disability risk.
We also control for many demographic, academic, and socio-economic characteristics other than law school attendance that predict earnings. In a supplemental analysis using data from the National Education Longitudinal Study, we incorporate additional control variables and tests for ability sorting and selection.
The Economic Value of a Law Degree was covered by:
- Steven Davidoff at the New York Times Dealbook
- Dylan Matthews at the Washington Post
- Jordan Weissmann at the Atlantic Monthly
- Lauren Ingeno at Inside Higher Education
- Debra Cassens Weiss at the ABA Journal
- Christina Sterbenz at Business Insider
Our first blog post at Concurring Opinions ends with a presentation of annual earnings premiums at the mean and median, as well as at the high and low end of the distribution.
Questions and Critiques
The low and and high ends of the distribution
- Brian Tamanaha mischaracterized our research as only presenting means in a quote to Inside Higher Education.
- We pointed out the error.
- Dylan Matthews at the Washington Post reported that Professor Tamanaha’s description of our research was “false.”
- Brian Tamanaha posted and emailed several new questions and comments, which we will begin to respond to this week.
Representativeness of the data
- We responded to questions about the representativeness of the U.S. Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation (“SIPP”).
- Paul Campos, Jack Graves, Brian Tamanaha (in a comment below the post), and Derek Tokaz (in a comment below the post) misunderstood net present value and double-counted opportunity costs. Campos, Graves, and Tokaz arrived at median after-tax, after-tuition net present values for a law degree that are too low by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
- Tamanaha erroneously included undergraduate debt as a cost of attending law school.
- Stephen Diamond explained Net Present Value and Opportunity Cost and performed the correct calculation, and noted that the median after-tax, after-tuition net present value of the law degree was approximately $330,000 as of the start of law school.
- Adam Levitin, Jordan Weissmann, and Deborah Merritt ask how much we can learn about the future from data about the past. We will respond the week after next.
- John Steele at Legal Ethics Forum reports that according to NALP, median full time starting salaries increased dramatically between 1996 to 2011. He forgets to take inflation into account. In real terms, median starting salaries exhibited a pattern of cyclicality.
- Adam Levitin asks whether law school is underpriced.
Confusion at Above the Law
- Above the Law subsequently posted a correction.
- Above the Law mischaracterizes our research again, overlooking our careful controls for ability sorting and selection, described at length in Part II and Appendix A of The Economic Value of a Law Degree.
July 05, 2013
Comedy gold: Paul Campos offering advice to untenured law faculty...
...at another blog (yes, that Paul Campos). A commenter sums up the absurdity of the advice aptly: "Making a pain in the ass of yourself does not sound like a great way to hold onto your job when the axe comes down."
Campos is prompted to dispense his wisdom by the recent events at Vermont and Seton Hall (though in keeping with his pathological dishonesty in all matters Leiter-related, he complains that law blogs that cover faculty comings-and-going ignored these events). Up next: Campos will offer advice to tenured faculty on how to do well on their annual reviews.
June 28, 2013
Penetrating legal analysis of the Travon Martin/George Zimmerman case...
Fortunately, no mention of black helicopters.
Obama and the Democrats would actually prefer an acquittal [of Zimmerman, who shot Martin] here. That’s because the whole point of the ginned-up Zimmerman affair was to inflame racial sentiment to boost black turnout in 2012. With any luck, they can turn an acquittal into another racial rallying cry, which will help in 2014. It’s not about Zimmerman; he’s just one of those eggs you have to break to make an Obama omelet.
May 09, 2013
"Unsubstantiated assertion" and "platitudinous self-congratulation"
Professor Silver’s response [to Tamanaha] contains a number of unsubstantiated assertions. This Essay addresses three of them....These claims illustrate how, in my view, the crisis of the American law school is in large part a product of the tendency of law school faculty to indulge in platitudinous self-congratulation...
when juxtaposed in the very same piece with this bit of unsubstantiated self-congratulation:
These facts [about the bad job market for new lawyers and the high cost of law school], which are central to Tamanaha’s argument that the economics of American legal education are broken, did not become generally known through a perfect storm of market correction but rather via the efforts of a committed cadre of reformers....
I guess those who fancy themselves part of a "cadre" can't be expected to substantiate their self-congratulation.
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 20, 2013
Paul Campos admits he doesn't "even [know] what it means" to think like a lawyer
This probably explains a lot. Fortunately, Fred Schauer has recently written a book that could help him with his questions, like, "What does it mean to teach people to think like lawyers? How is thinking like a lawyer different from ordinary thinking?"
(Thanks to Nick Smith for the pointer.)
UPDATE: A senior legal academic, who has been involved extensively with legal education reform, writes: "Keep up the Campos bashing. I think that some of the law school critics have done a good service. Even when I don't agree with everything, it was necessary for legal educators to give up a bit of complacency. I've never met Campos, but he is disgraceful." It's hard to disagree with any of that, but I don't really plan to keep up the "bashing," since, as we saw a few weeks back, by Campos's own admission, there really isn't much content to his routine.
December 28, 2012
The case against law schools
Several readers called my attention to the fact that Paul Campos has finally offered a "shorter Paul Campos," i.e., an 'executive summary' of what he's apparrently been blogging about to the tune of hundreds of posts and hundreds of thousands of words for the past 15 months, during which time other law professors might have chosen to do some actual work. It provides a useful occasion to sort the wheat from the chaff, or the substance from the utter nonsense, emanating from Campos and others in cyberspace. So here we go with Campos's "executive summary":
It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it. -- Upton Sinclair --
This is why your law school charges what it charges. This is why your professors believe sincerely in the “value proposition” of what they have to offer. This is why nothing ever changes, until it does.
The famous Upton Sinclair quote has many applications, but it doesn't explain the things that Campos suggests it does. Law schools charge what they charge because the market can bear it. Now that the market can not bear it, law schools are effectively cutting tuition by offering discounts and more financial aid. I assume some professors believe that they are providing value because they are, through their teaching and scholarly work. Some professors, like Campos, obviously aren't, and perhaps they are motivated by a kind of self-interested self-deception to believe otherwise. The last sentence--"This is why nothing ever changes, until it does"--is a non-sequitur on the preceding points.
If something cannot go on forever, it will stop. -- Herbert Stein --
When the price of something increases and its value decreases, at some point people will not pay for that thing any longer.
That's true, which is why, as just noted, law schools are now effectively cutting tuition, and why, as we have noted before, many law schools will contract and some may even close.
Debts that can’t be repaid won’t be. -- Michael Hudson --
That someone lends you money does not mean there is a reasonable probability that you will be able to repay that money. It only means that someone is making money from loaning you money.
This is almost right: the key fact is that the loans for higher education are backed by the federal government. Under those conditions, the observation holds.
Your odds of finishing in the top ten percent of your class are ten percent.
Working harder than everybody else is not a plan if everybody else has the same plan.
This would only be true if class rank were assigned randomly. In fact, your odds of finishing in the top ten percent of the class may be much higher or much lower depending on your academic peer group at the school you attend. Someone who gets into Yale, but decides to go to Colorado is going to finish in the top ten percent of the class if they do the work. It is fair to say that having the same plan as everyone else is not a good plan if those against whom you are competing have a similar skill set coming in.
There is no such thing as international law.
Or environmental law. Or human rights law. Or sports law. Basic rule: If some form of legal practice sounds interesting to non-lawyers, it does not exist.
This is obviously silly, since, in fact, lawyers work in all these areas. Perhaps what is meant is that one should not go to a law school simply because it advertises a specialty in one of those areas, and without regard for its overall reputation, and that is probably correct, but then that's what he should have said.
The only reason to go to law school is to be a lawyer.
A law degree is not versatile. Non-legal employers don’t like to hire lawyers, because for among other reasons they believe, correctly, that law school has not prepared people to do something other than practice law. (It hasn't done that either but whatever).
Certainly the best reason to go to law school is to become a lawyer, but it's not the only reason. What the facts are about the versatility of a law degree is a worthy question, but Campos has no information on this score. I've known JDs both here and at Texas who went into consulting firms by choice, not by necessity, and where the JD was an essential credential, though they weren't doing primarily legal work. What we need to know is whether this is common or uncommon.
Three years is a long time when you’re 22.
This means that if you can’t get a real job as a lawyer then law school costs far too much even if it’s “free.”
Hard to argue with that, but the key factor is whether or not the law school in question delivers good employment outcomes for its graduates. Some do, and some do not.
People who aren’t lawyers don’t know much about being lawyers.
This group includes your professors.
True to form, Campos returns to projecting his own failings on to his colleagues. Reading Campos, you would not know that many law professors actually practice law (at Texas, close to half the faculty was engaged in some kind of legal practice for some portion of the year, the percentage is smaller here, but that's because of the institutional culture, not competence), and that even those who do not practice typically know an enormous amount about the practice of law because of their work with continuing legal education and their ties to their former students. To be sure, Campos, who earned tenure with such gems as "That Obscure Object of Desire: Hermeneutics and the Autonomous Legal Text," probably hasn't a clue what lawyers do.
Spent money is gone.
It’s never too soon to fold a busted hand.
Useless advice, unless one has a clear notion of what counts as "a busted hand." It's one thing to drop out after a semester, but someone who has gone through two years of law school probably ought to get a degree for his or her efforts. But no generic form of advice on this score can be meaningful.
Having no good options does not make law school a good option.
But isn’t it pretty to think so?
I suppose this is just a variation of "Don't go to law school unless you want to be a lawyer."
It's hard to believe that all of Campos's blog blather amounts to so little, but it's his executive summary.
Two or three times over the last year I've gotten an e-mail from a reader of Campos who thinks that the poster boy for post-tenure review is actually doing something worthwhile. This is representative (I omit the sender's name):
I read your criticisms of Prof. Campos. Do you really think law school is still worth it, especially at any school lower than Top-25?
I suggest you read the following:
There are real people and lives at stake.
Thank you for reading.
I replied as follows, which will make a suitable conclusion to this post:
Dear Mr. [name omitted],
Before you write to someone, you really should read what they have written so you understand their position, rather than imputing a fictional one to them. Try this to start:
I’m glad Paul Campos--who is a notorious charlatan and self-promoter who cares not one whit about you or anyone else--shifted gears from where he started in August 2011, when he ranted about lazy professors [like him] and lousy scholars [like him]; now he actually posts some useful information about the job market, but that was partly because I (and others) called him out on his nonsense at the start. The real question is, if he actually cared, why it took him so long to post the kind of information that I, Bill Henderson, and, of course, Brian Tamanaha had been writing about for years. And too bad he still posts a great deal of misinformation and careless analyses.
In answer to your question, a cut-off like the one you suggest would be absurd, though it’s indicative of the misinformation Campos circulates that readers come away with such an impression. There are “top 25” schools it would be imprudent to pay full fare for, and there are law schools outside the top 25—say, regional flagships in most states—which are worth the full in-state rate in terms of professional outcomes.
As to the anecdote about the unemployed lawyer: there are millions of such stories, and not just in law. We live in a dysfunctional economic system, that disposes people like trash. That’s not a story about law schools or law as a profession, but it is typical of Campos that he presents it as one, but he’s too stupid to do otherwise.
UPDATE (12/31): A colleague from a law school in New York writes:
You’ve been saying it in different ways for years, but for me it didn’t fully penetrate until today: Law school pathology is a symptom of what’s wrong with the U.S. economy, not some up-from-nowhere tuition-grabbing scheme that malefactors foist on innocents. These days, feeling so horrified by the Beltway fiscal-cliff noise that so recklessly ignores unemployment, I think Campos is no better than our swine in Congress. He’s a courtier-jester who flatters neoliberal ideology and, by extension, the rich. If he’s not—if he really believes there’s a nefarious plot afoot—then the only honorable course for him would be to stop cashing his cushy paycheck from this evil enterprise. Also renounce tenure for himself.
December 15, 2012
Another one for the Volokh hall of shame
Eugene's response to the mass murder in Connecticut. Response of the first commenter: "This is just a gussied up, fancy law professor version of 'give everybody a gun!' The idea that adding more guns to elementary schools will, in the aggregate, reduce shootings seems plainly insane." This is also apt. Earlier winners from the hall of shame.
ADDENDUM: More morally deranged law professors in the updates here.
November 26, 2012
Todd Zywicki is obviously still smarting...
...from being whacked last Spring. How else to explain why he would post a link to a not very substantive, but critical, review of my book from an obscure blog? I guess he thinks it harms me! (If so, I guess my re-linking it is a failure of prudence on my part!)
The review itself elicits a pretty good response in the first comment from another libertarian reader of the website, who concludes, "Leiter’s book is one that is worthy of a real response. A review of his book, especially in a high quality site like this one, should be written by somebody with the professional and intellectual competence to do this." I can agree with all that! The reviewer, Mr. Anderson, is, for the record, co-author of a rather notoriously silly (Thomist-inspired) paper on the metaphysics of marriage, that I noted on my philosophy blog here in 2011. (It's a special feature of this kind of silly metaphysics that you can perform it on artifacts!)
For those actually interested in Thomism, pages 86-91 of my book are given over to the Thomist argument for the specialness of "religion." I rely on John Finnis's version of those arguments, viewing him, correctly, as a serious representative of the position. I argue that his argument's aren't very persuasive or sound. What the reviewer's counter-arguments are to my position remains, as of this writing, top secret.
(As if to prove the old adage, "There's no such thing as bad publicity," since Zywicki linked the review, the book went from a rank of around 250,000 on Amazon to the top 50,000.)
ADDENDUM: For those interested, there has been some adult discussion of themes from the book at the Talking Philosophy blog.