UPDATE: And in other breaking news, a failed legal academic who refers to legal education tout court as a "scam" complains when someone points out that it is absurd to say getting a law degree is worthless. One can't make this kind of stuff up, as they say.
...but they don't disclose how many responded. Here's the top five according to NJ, some (Tamanaha, Henderson, Chemerinsky etc.) are not surprising. But I trust that Jack Crittenden, the editor, will disclose the actual number of respondents and their breakdown (how many law school deans really replied to the e-mail survey, for example?). I e-mailed him a couple of days ago, but have not yet gotten a response.
UPDATE: Mr. Crittenden reports his "recollection" is that they had "around a 40% response rate," which would be about 140 responses. I've inquired how many of those were actually Deans and faculty, as opposed to bloggers, journalists, etc.
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 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.
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.
UPDATE: Oddly, the original post seems to have been pulled, though it was quite measured--a cache version is here.
ANOTHER: A colleague elsewhere sends me this curious LST item: a "complaint" against Rutgers-Camden with the ABA alleging the school disseminated "false and misleading" information to prospective students. In fact, almost all the material they complain about is, in fact, accurate, LST huffing-and-puffing notwithstanding, but readers can look it over themselves. (The one exception might be the use of the word "many" in connection with high-end salaries, though given prior year salary reports, even that may be defensible.) LST's real complaint, instead, is that Rutgers-Camden did not go out of its way to present its employment data in as unfavorable a light as possible--and that is true.
Rutgers, for example, told prospective students:"[O]f those employed nine months after graduation, 90% were employed in the legal field." LST objects:
"[I]t excludes non-employed graduates from the calculation to provide a false sense of success. There were 242 graduates in Rutgers – Camden’s 2011 graduating class. Of these, 199 were employed. Rutgers – Camden uses 199 as the denominator with no indication that it has excluded 17.8% of the class from the calculation. While the statement does disclose that it is 'of those employed,' the number of unemployed graduates is so large that the statement requires context to avoid misrepresenting what it means." This is a rather complicated admission that the statement is, in fact, accurate: of those who are employed, 90% are employed in the legal field. If it said 90% of all graduates were employed in the legal field, then it would be a false statement of fact. (LST also disputes how Rutgers defined legal field, but that too amounts to chastising Rutgers for not adopting as unfavorable an interpretation as possible of employment outcomes, not any false statements of fact.)
Should the ABA sanction a school for accurately reporting employment outcomes, but not doing so in a way that highlights the weakness of the results? I guess that is the question really presented here.
AND ONE MORE: Kyle McEntee from LST sends me the following e-mail, which I quote in its entirety:
In your post on the Camden complaint you missed the part where the school admits that zero graduates made in excess of 130k despite stating that many of their top graduates in 2011 made that much.
I expect more than such shallow analysis from somebody who has been on the ball more often than not regarding law school marketing tactics.
Here is the non-shallow LST analysis to which Mr. McEntee alludes:
Camden claims that many of its “top students” have accepted positions with firms paying “in excess of $130,000.” To be sure, “many” is ambiguous. It might reasonably mean 40% of the class, or even perhaps 20%. With the “top” qualifier, it might not even strain credibility to claim that 10% of the class constitutes “many” top students. Based on records LST received from Rutgers – Camden through an open records request, the school knew that zero class of 2011 graduates employed in private practice reported a salary in excess of $130,000, with one making exactly $130,000. In the Faculty Report to LST, Rutgers – Camden indicates that several other graduates had high-paying law firm jobs waiting for them after their clerkship. But crediting these jobs is speculative until the outcomes are actually achieved, especially in today’s legal hiring climate. Even if credited for the two speculative jobs in excess of $130,000, two graduates is not “many.”
Alas, it is now LST that is giving a misleading account of the information it got from Rutgers-Camden (and which it includes in its report). Here is what Rutgers actually reported to LST, as quoted in the LST complaint:
The salary of $130,000 was the high end of the range of reported salaries for the class of 2011, and one person reported earning that salary. In addition, three other graduates, who are currently judicial law clerks, have accepted positions for the year following their clerkships with salaries of $160,000 $135,000 and $130,000.
The following are additional detail on graduates at the high end of the salary range for the past five years. Graduates submit data from which the law school identifies the highest reported salary and calculates the 75th percentile level. The data below include information at nine months after graduation and do not include positions that graduates have accepted beginning after judicial clerkships. In 2011, the highest salary was $130,000 and the 75th percentile (7 graduates) was $110,000 or above. In 2010, the highest salary was $160,000 and the 75th percentile (7 graduates) was $117,500 or above. In 2009, the highest salary was $160,000 and the 75th percentile (15 graduates) was $145,000 or above.
In 2008, the highest salary was $160,000 and the 75th percentile (16 graduates) was $145,000 or above. In 2007, the highest salary was $160,000 and the 75th percentile (14 graduates) was $125,000 or above.
In other words: (1) when LST says that "zero class of 2011 graduates employed in private practice reported a salary in excess of $130,000" that is literally true, but misleading, since two 2011 graduates employed as judicial clerks had accepted private sector jobs with salaries above 130K (and when Mr. McEntree writes to me that Rutgers "admits that zero graduates made in excess of 130k," he is misstating his own report); and (2) LST omits reference to the fact that "many" recent graduates of Rutgers-Camden, in fact, earned more than 130K. As I noted at the start, there are grounds for saying the use of "many" is misleading when applied only to the class of 2011, but it is not mistaken to say that "many," though a distinct minority, of recent graduates of Rutgers are earning more than 130K. (The recruitment letter from Rutgers to which LST objects is a bit ambiguous on this score, in a way that is arguably misleading--but that was the point I made in the first paragraph of "ANOTHER", above.)
It is true that I have written for many years about law school puffery and fraud in employment statistics (for example, here, here, here, and here). One or two of these incidents may have risen to the level of being worthy of ABA investigation. But I do not see that what Rutgers has done falls into that category, and the LST "analysis" in this case does, indeed, support Professor Burk's worry in the post to which I linked initially.
And on that note, a Happy New Year to all readers!
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.