August 15, 2017

Charlotte Law School officially closes

Local news item here.  We've now seen three law schools close:  in addition to Charlotte, also Whittier and Indiana Tech, all victims of the collapse in applications to law schools, which occurred in the wake of publicity about the recession in the market for new lawyers post-2008.  Back in 2013, I guesstimated we might see up to 10 law schools close,and I still think that's possible.  Of course, a sudden change to student loan rules could make that guesstimate look way too conservative, and it's hard to predict what Trump/DeVos will do on that front.  But barring that, I doubt we'll see more than ten law schools close, and almost all will be younger and/or for-profit institutions.


August 15, 2017 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

August 03, 2017

Bad behavior by the ABA Legal Education Council

Jerry Organ (St. Thomas) has the details.

UPDATE:  At least one of the changes--namely, to stop stigmatizing law-school funded positions--probably makes sense.  Here are comments that were forwarded to me that make the case aptly:

The goal of employment reporting is to provide accurate information, including to prospective students and the general public.   All who are employed by the ABA’s definition (full-time at a salary of at least $40,000) should be counted as employed, regardless of the source of funding.   To not count graduates on school-funded fellowships as employed (or to treat them differently) presents an inaccurate picture of a law school’s actual employment numbers.   I, of course, know that there was a time when some law schools tried to game the rankings by employing students at a very low salary.  But the ABA changed its definition to address this by requiring a salary of at least $40,000, which is approximately market rate for many public service jobs.  In light of this change in definition, it made total sense for the ABA to revise its reporting form as it did to treat all employment that meets its definition the same regardless of the source of funding.  Graduates who are working full-time as public defenders, as legal service lawyers, in non-profits, and for government agencies should be treated the same as those in private firms, regardless of how their salary is being paid. 

The ABA long has professed an important public service mission, including to help close the justice gap by helping to ensure representation for those who otherwise cannot afford it.   In light of this, it was completely appropriate and necessary for the ABA to change its reporting form as it did.  Treating school-funded positions differently penalizes schools that provide fellowships to students to launch their careers in public service and to help provide representation for those who most need it.  The reality is that school-funded fellowships often are essential for graduates who want to begin a career in public service.  My experience is that these fellowships work exactly as hoped with most of these graduates getting permanent offers at their organization or similar ones.  To pick a single example, Gideon’s Promise is a wonderful program where the law school provides a fellowship for one year for a graduate to work in a public defender office and then is guaranteed a job for the next two years in that office.  I would like to see the ABA encourage law schools to fund such positions, but at the very least the reporting should not penalize law schools that do so or create a disincentive for such funding.  


August 3, 2017 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

July 31, 2017

Focus group of California lawyers defends tight restrictions on entry into the legal profession (Michael Simkovic)

California is an extreme outlier in the extent to which it restricts entry into the legal profession compared to other U.S. jurisdictions.  Two examples of this include an unusually high minimum cut score on the bar exam and a refusal without exception to permit experienced licensed attorneys from other jurisdictions to be admitted without re-examination.

California lawyers are relatively highly paid, and relatively few in number considering the size of the workforce in California.  Restrictions on entry into the profession may help maintain this status quo.  There are serious questions about whether this protects consumers, or is economic protectionism.  Economic protectionism could benefit California lawyers, but it would likely also harm consumers of legal services by making legal services less available, more expensive and perhaps lower in quality because of reduced competition.  Protectionism would also reduce economic opportunity for those denied the option of practicing law in California, much as immigration restrictions deny economic opportunity to those excluded from high-income countries.

The Supreme Court of California, concerned about the anti-trust implications of a licensed profession establishing criteria for entry, instructed the California State Bar to prepare recommendations on revising the California bar cut score.

Stephen Diamond reports that the California State Bar recommended that its bar examination should either stay the same or be made even harder.  

The California Bar arrived at this conclusion by asking a panel of California lawyers how hard the bar exam should be.  To be more specific, panelists read essays, categorized them into good, medium and bad piles, and, with the assistance of a psychologist who specializes in standardized testing, used this categorization to back-out an extremely high recommended bar passage score.  

Finding that people with high multiple choice scores also tend to write better essays is about as surprising as finding that cars that Consumer Reports rates highly are also often highly rated by J.D. Power.  It's also about as relevant to the policy decision facing the California Supreme Court about minimum competence to practice law.

The relevant question for restricting entry into the legal profession is not whether good (and presumably expensive) lawyers are better than mediocre (and presumably more affordable) lawyers.  Rather, the relevant question is when consumers should be able to decide for themselves whether to spend more for higher quality services or to save money and accept services of lower quality.  Most people will agree that a new Lexus is likely a better, more reliable and safer car than a similar-sized used Toyota.  But this difference in quality does not mean that the government should banish used Toyotas from the roads and permit to drive only those who are willing and able to buy a new Lexus. 

Is there evidence that a bar examinee who would be permitted to practice law in Washington D.C. or New York or Boston or Chicago, but not in California, would routinely make such a mess of clients' affairs that California clients should not even have the option to hire such a lawyer?

Is there evidence that consumers of legal services cannot tell the difference between a good lawyer and a dangerously bad one?  

If these problems exist, could they be addressed by simply requiring lawyers to disclose information to prospective clients that would enable those clients to judge lawyer quality for themselves?  

The California Bar has not yet seriously addressed these questions in arriving at its recommendations.

The California Bar also reported that other states have sometimes recommended increases or decreases to their own bar examination cut score.  But these states are almost all starting with much lower bar cut scores than California's baseline.  It appears that few if any other states recommended bar examination cut scores as high as California's.


July 31, 2017 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Science, Weblogs | Permalink

July 24, 2017

How unemployment at graduation affects lawyer earnings over time

More factual analysis from McIntyre & Simkovic, forthcoming in Journal of Empirical Legal Studies:

We investigate whether economic conditions at labor market entry predict long-term differences in law graduate earnings. We find that unemployment levels at graduation continue to predict law earnings premiums within 4 years after graduation for earners at the high end and middle of the distribution. However, the relation fades as law graduates gain experience and the difference in lifetime earnings is moderate. This suggests that earnings figures from After the JD II and III -- which track law graduates who passed the bar exam in 2000 -- are likely generalizable to other law cohorts because these studies are outside the window when graduation conditions predict differences in subsequent earnings.

 

Outcomes data available prior to matriculation do not predict unemployment or starting salaries at graduation. Earnings premiums are not predicted by BLS projected job openings.

 

While changes in cohort size predict changes in the percent of law graduates practicing law, we find little evidence that changes in cohort size predict changes in earnings. This suggests that law graduates who switch to other occupations when law cohort sizes increase are not hurt financially by larger cohorts.

 

For medium to high earning graduates, successfully timing law school predicts a higher value of a law degree ex-post, but simulations show that no strategy for ex-ante timing is readily available.

 


July 24, 2017 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

July 18, 2017

June LSAT takers up nearly 20% last month compared to 2016

Is California’s bar examination minimum passing score anti-competitive? (Michael Simkovic)

Occupational licensing regimes can help markets function when those markets suffer from what Economist George Akerlof coined a “lemons” problem.  In a lemons market, it is too costly or difficult for consumers to distinguish goods or services of acceptable quality from those that are close to worthless or even harmful.  Licensing regimes can help solve this problem by assuring consumers of a minimal baseline level of quality.  Effectively, licensing removes the bottom of the market, increasing quality, consumer confidence, volume, and price.

But economists worry that licensing regimes could be abused.  For example, if members of a licensed occupation were to seize control of licensing, they might set unnecessarily high barriers to entry for their industry, above what is optimal for consumer protection.  This could create an artificial shortage, reduce competition, drive up prices and drive down quality of services.  Political leaders also worry that excessive state or local licensing regimes could deprive workers of valuable economic opportunities and reduce their geographic mobility.

The deans of almost all ABA approved California law schools have jointly expressed concerns that California’s minimum passing score (‘cut score’) on the nationally uniform, multiple choice, Multi-State Bar Exam bar examination is excessively high. 

These leaders of legal education note that California has a higher cut score than any state except Delaware, no justification has been provided for this unusually high cut score, and some parts of California may have a shortage of lawyers.  Moreover, although law graduates from California score better on the MBE than the national average, they are less likely to pass the bar exam because of California’s unusually high cut score.  The case for bringing California’s cut score into line with those of other leading legal jurisdictions such as New York has been most forcefully stated by UC-Hastings Dean David Faigman. 

Amid concerns about possible anti-trust lawsuits against the State Bar, the Supreme Court of California has agreed to supervise the state bar of California and may set a lower bar cut score.

High cut scores are not the only signs of possible anti-competitive protectionism in California. California is among the few states that, without exception, forces experienced attorneys licensed in other states to sit for reexamination prior to relicensing. The overwhelming majority of jurisdictions—including New York, Washington D.C., Illinois, Texas, and Massachusetts—permit experienced lawyers who are licensed in another state to obtain a license to practice law on motion, without the need for reexamination.  (Some impose additional requirements, such as graduation from an ABA-approved law school or reciprocity by the state of origin).

Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment Statistics[i] shows that California lawyers earn more, on average, than lawyers in any jurisdiction except Washington D.C. 


2016 BLS mean lawyer earnings by state

Top paying States for Lawyers:

State

Employment

Employment per thousand jobs

Location quotient[ii]

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage 

District of Columbia

31,470

44.81

10.16

$87.89

$182,810

California

76,840

4.81

1.09

$77.89

$162,010

New York

72,760

8.00

1.81

$77.53

$161,260

Massachusetts

17,440

5.04

1.14

$76.33

$158,760

Delaware

2,590

5.87

1.33

$75.77

$157,610

While this may be great for lawyers, it is not necessarily an unmitigated good.  It means that legal services likely cost clients more and may be less widely available. 

Continue reading


July 18, 2017 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

July 17, 2017

Some corrected data on trends in law school applications and LSAT scores

Here.  The problem is that the Blog Emperor relies too often on unreliable sources like "Law School Transparency" and the hopeless Matt Leichter.


July 17, 2017 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

July 05, 2017

Wall Street Journal trims legal coverage (Michael Simkovic)

The Wall Street Journal closed several of its blogs on Monday, including its Law Blog.  The WSJ has maintained its blogs with broader readership, such as those about economics and personal finance.  


July 5, 2017 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Weblogs | Permalink

June 12, 2017

Applicants down half of one percent in 2016-17 cycle...

...while the drop in high-end LSAT scores is steeper.

I'll be on a reduced blogging schedule for the summer (look for one or two items per week), but will update the lateral moves list periodically as well as start the new one in August.  (Mike Simkovic, who has posting privileges here as well, may be posting as well in the summer.)

Thanks for reading, and I wish everyone a productive and pleasant summer.


June 12, 2017 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink

May 05, 2017

Law school transfer market 2016

Striking data.  A lot, but not all, of this is motivated by attempts to game the USNEWS rankings.


May 5, 2017 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Rankings | Permalink