February 03, 2016
February 02, 2016
Smaller or Larger Law Class Sizes Don’t Predict Changes in Financial Benefits of Law School (Michael Simkovic)
One of the most surprising and controversial findings from Timing Law School was that changes in law school graduating class size do not predict changes in the boost to earnings from a law degree.* Many law professors, administrators, and critics believe that shrinking the supply of law graduates must surely improve their outcomes, because if supply goes down, then price—that is, earnings of law graduates—should go up.
In a new version of Timing Law School, Frank McIntyre and I explore our counterintuitive results more thoroughly. (The new analysis and discussion appear primarily in Part III.C. “Interpreting zero correlation for cohort size and earnings premium” on page 18-22 of the Feb. 1, 2016 draft and in Table 10 on the final page).
Our results of no relationship between class size and earnings premiums were robust to many alternative definitions of cohort size that incorporated changes in the number of law graduates over several years. This raises questions about whether our findings are merely predictive, or should be given a causal interpretation.
We considered several interpretations that could reconcile our results with a supply and demand model and with the data. The most plausible interpretation seemed to be that when law class sizes change, law graduates switch between practicing law and other employment opportunities that are equally financially rewarding. While changes in the number of law graduates might have an impact on the market for entry-level lawyers, such changes are much less likely to have a discernible impact on the much larger market for highly educated labor.
Although law graduates who practice law on average earn more than those who do not, at the margin, those who switch between practicing law and other options seem to have law and non-law opportunities that are similarly lucrative. We found that the proportion of recent law graduates who practice law does decline as class size increases, but earnings premiums remain stable. This is consistent with the broader literature on underemployment, and supports the view of law school as a flexible degree that provides benefits that extend to many occupations. (See here and here).
A related explanation is that relatively recent law school graduates may be reasonably good substitutes for each other for several years, blunting the impact of changes in class size on earnings.
Interpretations that depend on law students and law schools perfectly adjusting class size in anticipation of demand for law graduates or future unemployment seem implausible given the unrealistic degree of foresight this would require. Offsetting changes in the quality of students entering law school—an explanation we proposed in an earlier version of the paper—seems able to explain at most a very small supply effect. Although credentials of entering classes appear to decline with class sizes, these changes in credentials are relatively small even amid dramatic changes in class size, and probably do not predict very large changes in earnings. Imprecision in our estimates is another possibility, although for graduates with more than a few years of experience, our estimates are fairly precise.
Even if there are effects of law class size on law earnings premiums, they are probably not very large and not very long lasting.
* The finding is consistent with mixed results for cohort size in other econometric studies of cohort effects, but nevertheless was contrary to many readers’ intuitions.
February 01, 2016
The current version is here. They write:
Dear Colleagues,We just updated our charts about law journal submissions, expedites, and rankings from different sources for the Spring 2016 submission season covering the 204 main journals of each law school.A couple of the highlight from this round of revisions are:First, again the chart includes as much information as possible about what law reviews are not accepting submissions right now and what dates they say they'll resume accepting submissions. Most of this is not specific dates, because the journals tend to post only imprecise statements about how the journal is not currently accepting submissions but will start doing so at some point in spring.Second, there continues to be a greater movement toward the number of journals using and preferring Scholastica instead of ExpressO or accepting emails submissions: 29 (compared to 22 six months ago) journals prefer or strongly prefer Scholastica, 11 more list it as one of the alternative acceptable avenues of submission, and 18 (compared to 10 six months ago) now listScholastica as the exclusive method of submission.Third, several law reviews have changed their names: McGeorge Law Review is now Pacific Law Review, Thomas M. Cooley Law Review is now WMU-Cooley Law Review, and William Mitchell Law Review is now Mitchell Hamline Law Review.The first chart contains information about each journal’s preferences about methods for submitting articles (e.g., e-mail, ExpressO, Scholastica, or regular mail), as well as special formatting requirements and how to request an expedited review. The second chart contains rankings information from U.S. News and World Report as well as data from Washington & Lee’s law review website.We’d welcome you to forward the link to anyone whom you think might find it useful. We appreciate any feedback you might have.Happy writing!
January 27, 2016
January 25, 2016
January 23, 2016
...I'm curious what folks have to say about the eminent psychologist Richard Nisbett's take on multiple regression analysis:
I hope that in the future, if I’m successful in communicating with people about this, that there’ll be a kind of upfront warning in New York Times articles: These data are based on multiple regression analysis. This would be a sign that you probably shouldn’t read the article because you’re quite likely to get non-information or misinformation.
Do read the whole interview. Thoughts from readers?
January 22, 2016
"As of 01/15/16, there are 157,319 2016 applications submitted by 25,260 applicants for the 2016–2017 academic year. Applicants are up 2.0% and applications are down 0.3% from 2015–2016." Applicants have consistently been up in the 1-3% range all season, and I still wouldn't be surprised if we finished the year up 3-5%.
January 20, 2016
It is alleged I am one, so too Prof. Simkovic (who surely should be, having been single-handedly responsible for bringing facts and serious data analysis to thinking about the financial aspects of legal education). Whatever the merits of this list, I am pleased to see many esteemed friends and colleagues on it! And thanks to those readers who took the time to vote in the survey.
January 18, 2016
Ian Ayres (Yale) argues that the U.S. News rankings have actually helped low-ranked schools during the decline in applicants over the last few years
He sets out his theory here. Briefly: highly ranked schools have enrolled fewer students during the decline, rather than taking the more students with weaker credentials, in order to maintain their rank in U.S. News; the result was more students with good (but not top-flight) credentials available for lower-ranked schools. To which I say: maybe. The decline in enrollments at top schools has been small, and many have seen declines in their student credentials anyway. But it's an intriguing possibility!