September 05, 2016
As noted previously, this was the smallest FAR--382 applicants--in decades. Two other striking data points: more than 100 of those 382 applicants have a PhD; and only three are former Supreme Court clerks (two of those three are our candidates!). How might those data points be connected? Here's an hypothesis: the now astronomical big firm signing bonuses for SCOTUS clerks--$300,000 in some cases--are keeping them in practice in greater numbers; by contrast, JD/PhDs are training for academia, and so are making up a bigger and bigger share of the candidates.
September 01, 2016
This is based on the first FAR, and includes SJDs and LLMs, as well as JDs:
Harvard University (35)
Georgetown University (31)
Yale University (26)
New York University (25)
University of Michigan (18)
Columbia University (16)
Northwestern University (14)
Stanford University (12)
University of California, Berkeley (12)
University of Pennsylvania (9)
George Washington University (8)
Cornell University (6)
University of Texas, Austin (5)
University of Virginia (5)
Duke University (4)
University of Wisconsin, Madison (4)
Emory University (3)
University of California, Los Angeles (3)
University of Chicago (3)
University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (3)
As I noted, this is an unusually small contingent for Chicago this year (we usually have 6-10 candidates), but we do work closely with the vast majority of our alums to time their entry to the teaching market when they can put their best feet forward. Based on past success rates, I fear some schools may have too many graduates on the market.
August 31, 2016
An article surveying the back-and-forth. If the ABA's accreditation power were revoked, then, as I understand it, law students would not be able to access federal loans for education at ABA-approved schools. This would be so disruptive for thousands of students that it's hard to imagine the Dept. of Education taking that step. I suppose they are looking for signs that, e.g., the ABA will enforce its own bar passage requirements for accreditation.
August 19, 2016
"There's a new book out about the student loan crisis [Student Debt: Rhetoric and Realities of Higher Education], or what author Sandy Baum suggests is a "bogus crisis." Baum, a financial aid expert and senior fellow at the Urban Institute, claims it has been [sensationalized and exaggerated] by the media in search of a spicy story and fueled by politicians pushing "debt free college" proposals. . . . "
"People who earn bachelor's degrees, by and large, do fine.
The problem is that we have a lot of people actually borrowing small amounts of money, going to college, not completing [a degree] or completing credentials that don't have labor market value. They tend to be older. They tend to come from disadvantaged or middle-income families and they're struggling. [But] not because they owe a lot of money. . . .
Its not realistic to say we're going to pay people to go to college [for free]. Someone has to pay. We can have everyone pay much higher taxes. But short of that, it's not clear how we would pay. . . .
There are some people who borrowed under fraudulent, deceptive situations and their debt should be forgiven. There are people for whom education did not work out through no fault of their own and their debt should be forgiven. . . . We don't give people very much advice and guidance about where [and] when to go to college, how to pay for it, what to study. . . .
[[There are facts that] get little or no attention because they don't fit the "crisis" narrative:
- A third of college students who earn a four-year degree graduate with no debt at all. Zero.
- A fourth graduate with debt of no more than $20,000.
- Low-income households hold only 11 percent of all outstanding [student] debt.
- Almost half of the $1.3 trillion in student loan debt is held by 25 percent of graduates who are actually making a pretty high income.]
This is an investment that pays off really well. The median earnings for young bachelor's degree recipients is about $20,000 a year higher than the median earnings for high school graduates.
Student debt is really creating a lot of opportunities for people. People wouldn't be able to go to college otherwise."
Baum notes that many graduates with high debt levels (>$100,000) have advanced degrees, high expected incomes, and low default rates.
"The highest debt levels are for those earning professional degrees . . . Despite high debt levels, default rates among graduate borrowers are very low." However, Baum expresses some concern about those pursuing expensive master's degrees in fields "that rarely lead to the kind of earnings that doctors, lawyers, and MBAs can expect."
Baum's findings are broadly consistent with recent research by Beth Akers and Matthew Chingos, reviewed by David Leonhardt for the New York Times. Akers and Chingos have a new book coming out this fall.
August 16, 2016
August 15, 2016
“Glass Half Full” author concedes problems with estimates of solo practitioner incomes and headcounts (updated 8/18)
Professor Benjamin H. Barton recently responded to critiques of his estimates of solo practitioner incomes. Barton does not answer the specific questions that I posed about his use of IRS data, but he generally concedes that the IRS data is problematic.
- Barton wrote:
“Is it possible that the IRS data undersells the earnings of solo practitioners? Yes, for the reasons I state above and for some of the reasons that you and Professor Diamond point out.”
- Barton wrote:
“Do I think that the IRS data are off by a factor of 3.5 or even 2? No.”
I encourage Professor Barton to present a revised estimate that he thinks is more accurate. Several studies that he cites for support suggest that his solo income estimates are off by a factor of approximately 2 to 3 (see below for details).
- Barton defends his use of IRS data on three grounds, each of which is problematic:
a. “The IRS data on lawyer earnings is the longest running data I could find and thus the best dataset for a discussion of long term trends.”
Professor Barton overlooked the U.S. Census Bureau’s Decennial Census, which has data on Lawyer’s incomes since 1950 (which reports 1949 incomes).[i] The IRS data presented by Barton starts 18 years later, in 1967.
When considering long term trends in occupational incomes, it’s important to consider changes in the race and sex of members of the occupation. Across occupations, women and minorities generally earn less than white men. Race and sex variables are available in Census Household data, but not public-use IRS data.
b. The IRS data “separates lawyer earnings into solo practitioners and law firm partners”
Professor Barton acknowledges that his data misses incorporated self-employed lawyers, and that this group likely has higher incomes than those that he captures.[ii]
This means that Professor Barton’s IRS data is much less useful for identifying small and solo practitioners in 2013 than it was in 1970. This is because the proportion of solo and small attorneys who incorporated has likely increased dramatically. In 1970, 5 percent of full-time self-employed lawyers were incorporated. By 2014, the share increased to more than 50 percent.[iii]. Barton is missing many solo and small time practitioners. If trends toward incorporation continue, his data will become less useful every passing year. The IRS data has different biases at different points in time, making trends potentially unreliable.
August 10, 2016
An ominous development for the new law school at UNT. Initially, a public law school in Dallas seemed like a good idea--a "first," until Texas A&M acquired Texas Wesleyan, also in Dallas/Ft. Worth. A&M has made a big investment in the school and the faculty, and A&M is a much stronger school "brand" in Texas than UNT.
August 05, 2016
The latest data from LSAC here. For 2015-16, LSATs taken were up a bit more than 4% from the prior year, while applications were up about 1%. So what does this latest data on June test-takers mean? Probably that this year will be like last in terms of volume of applications. Stability in the applicant pool is, of course, enough for schools to plan their budgets into the future and do faculty hiring.
August 03, 2016
Professor Choudhry continues to pursue a grievance with Berkeley's Committee on Privilege and Tenure
His letter, supplied by his lawyers, is here: Download 2016-08-01 -- Ltr to Paxson
I do wonder when some other Berkeley faculty are going to start speaking up about this case. Nothing in the public record suggests that anything that has transpired comes close to grounds for revoking tenure, and the fact that this issue was only raised after political pressure from the President of the UC System casts a pall over the fairness of these proceedings. The Privilege and Tenure Committee of a great university ought to stand up to this political bullying.
UPDATE: A reader points out that Berkley Law Prof. Eric Rakowski did speak out about this several months ago. Kudos to Prof. Rakowski, I hope his colleagues will follow suit; members of the law faculty, in particular, ought to be at the forefront of defending the values of fair process in a matter like this.
August 02, 2016
The other day I remarked on what should have been obvious, namely, that Google Scholar rankings of law reviews by impact are nonsense, providing prospective authors with no meaningful information about the relative impact of publishing an article in comparable law reviews. (Did you know that it's better to publish in the Fordham Law Review for impact than in the Duke Law Journal?) The reason is simple: the Google Scholar rankings do not adjust for the volume of output--law reviews that turn out more issues and articles each year will rank higher than otherwise comparable law reviews (with actual comparable impact) simply because of the volume of output.
When Google Scholar rankings of philosophy journals first came out, a journal called Synthese came out #1. Synthese is a good journal, but it was obviously nonsense that the average impact of an article there was greater than any of the actual top journals in philosophy. The key fact about Synthese is that it publishes five to ten times as many articles per year than the top philosophy journals. When another philosopher adjusted the Google Scholar results for volume of publication, Synthese dropped from #1 to #24.
Alas, various law professors have dug in their heels trying to explain that this nonsense Google Scholar ranking of law reviews is not, in fact, affected by volume of output. I was initially astonished, but now see that many naïve enthusiasts apparently do not not understand the metrics and do not realize how sloppy Google Scholar is in terms of what it picks up.
Let's start with the formula Google Scholar uses in its journal rankings:
The h-index of a publication is the largest number h such that at least h articles in that publication were cited at least h times each. For example, a publication with five articles cited by, respectively, 17, 9, 6, 3, and 2, has the h-index of 3.
The h-core of a publication is a set of top cited h articles from the publication. These are the articles that the h-index is based on. For example, the publication above has the h-core with three articles, those cited by 17, 9, and 6.
The h-median of a publication is the median of the citation counts in its h-core. For example, the h-median of the publication above is 9. The h-median is a measure of the distribution of citations to the articles in the h-core.
Finally, the h5-index, h5-core, and h5-median of a publication are, respectively, the h-index, h-core, and h-median of only those of its articles that were published in the last five complete calendar years.
Obviously, any journal that publishes more articles per year has more chances of publishing highly-cited articles, which then affects both the h-core result and the h-median result. But that's only part of the problem, though that problem is real and obvious enough. The much more serious problem is that Google Scholar picks up a lot of "noise," i.e., citations that aren't really citations. So, for example, Google Scholar records as a citation any reference to the contents of the law review in an index of legal periodicals. Any journal that publishes more issues will appear more often in such indices obviously. Google Scholar picks up self-references in a journal to the articles it has published in a given year. Google Scholar even picks up SSRN "working paper series" postings in which all other articles by someone on a faculty are also listed at the end as from that school. (Google Scholar gradually purges some of these fake cites, but it takes a long time.) Volume of publication inflates a journal's "impact" ranking because Google Scholar is not as discerning as some law professors think.