Thursday, July 28, 2016

Some questions for Professor Benjamin H. Barton about his use of IRS data to estimate solo practitioner incomes (Michael Simkovic)

After Tuesday's post explaining why IRS schedule C data dramatically underestimates incomes for solo practitioners and other sole proprietors, Professor Benjamin H. Barton emailed to indicate that his views remained unchanged and he did not intend to respond beyond his previous comments on Professor Stephen Diamond's blog.  Barton's comments did not address many of the issues I raised. 

On Wednesday, I asked Professor Barton to consider the following questions:

1) Do you think that 20 million or so U.S. small business owners are living below the poverty threshold for a 2 person household?

2) Do you think the IRS is wrong about its own data and schedule C does not in fact understate net income?  Why do you think that you understand IRS data, IRS enforcement capabilities, and the level of tax evasion better than the IRS?

3) Do you think that everyone who files schedule C has no other sources of income?

4) Do you think that Treasury and JCT estimates of tax expenditures are way off and exclusions and deductions from tax concepts of income are negligible?

5) If apples to apples comparisons using schedule C data show that legal services sole proprietorships are more profitable than 97 percent of sole proprietorships, is that something you should mention?  Would you at least agree that using schedule C data for legal services and census data for everyone else is a methodological error?

Professor Barton has not yet responded.


Aug. 11, 2016. Professor Barton responded without specifically answering the questions above, but generally conceded that IRS data is problematic.

Aug. 15, 2016.  I replied to Barton.

July 28, 2016 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Science, Weblogs | Permalink

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

How much do lawyers working in solo practice actually earn? (Michael Simkovic)

In 2015, Professor Benjamin Barton of the University of Tennessee estimated for, and Business Insider that attorneys working in solo practice earn an average of slightly less than $50,000 per year.  Barton made similar estimates in his book, “Glass Half Full.”  Professor Stephen Diamond of Santa Clara argues that solo incomes are quite a bit higher. (Barton responded in the comments section).

There is little doubt that solo practitioners typically earn substantially less than lawyers working in large Wall Street Law firms.  However, a closer reading of the Internal Revenue Service data on which Barton relies and Census data both suggest that solo practitioner average (mean) annual earnings are likely closer to $100,000.  


    I. Average (Mean) Incomes of Lawyers: Census Income Data vs. IRS Schedule C Net Income Data

According to the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, average (mean) total personal income for lawyers who are “self employed, not incorporated” (a proxy for those in small legal practice) was around $140,000 in 2012 and 2013.  For those who were self-employed, incorporated (a proxy for those who are owners of larger legal practices) average total personal income was around $180,000 to $190,000.  These average figures include those working part time.  Restricting the sample to those working full-time increases average earnings for “self employed, not incorporated” lawyers to around $160,000 to $165,000 and for the “self-employed, incorporated” lawyers to $185,000 to $200,000.

Barton based his earnings estimates on average “net income” data from the Internal Revenue Services Statistics of Income for Non-farm Sole Proprietorships  for “Legal Services (NAICS Code 5411)”.  This data is based on Schedule C of form 1040, which is used to calculate one of several sources of income on an individual tax return (“Business Income or Loss”). 

Looking at the same IRS schedule-C net-income data for all non-farm sole proprietorships and applying Barton’s reasoning suggests that in 2013, 24 million American small business owners earned an average (mean) income of $12,500.  This is barely above the poverty threshold for a 1 person household, and considerably lower than average (mean) earned income figures for all Americans reported by the U.S. Census’s American Community Survey (around $47,000 including only those who are employed in some capacity, and $22,000 averaging in everyone—children, the retired, and those not in the work force).


    A. IRS Schedule C Data Is Biased Downward:

What explains the large discrepancy between low IRS sole proprietor net income data and higher Census earnings data—for lawyers and for everyone else?  There are several problems with IRS sole proprietor data that are likely to lead to dramatic underestimation of individual earnings. 

Continue reading

July 26, 2016 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Science | Permalink

Annals of "bullshit" rankings

Rankings are fun, sure, but it's good to figure out wheter the metric means something (anything!) lest one produce nonsense.  Case in point:  ranking law reviews by Google Scholar h-indices.  The problem (we've encountered it in philosophy in the past, but now everyone there knows Google  Scholar is worthless for measuring journal impact) is that there is no control for the volume of publishing by each journal, so any journal that publishes more pages and articles per year will do better than a peer journal with the same actual impact that publishes fewer articles and pages.

UPDATE:  In the case of philosophy, Synthese was the number 1 journal in "impact" according to the nonsense Google number--this was obviously ludicrous, as everyone in academic philosophy knew.  But Synthese also publishes five to ten times as many articles per year as the actual leading journals in the field.  One philosopher adjusted the results for volume of publication, and lo and behold, Synthese rank fell dramatically.

July 26, 2016 in Rankings | Permalink

Monday, July 25, 2016

Most-Cited lists: what's coming

Two more subject-matter areas:  Family Law and Legal Ethics/Legal Profession/Professional Responsibility.  And then a list of schools by the per capita rate at which their tenured faculty made one of the many most-cited lists.   I should have these lists out by mid-August at the latest.

July 25, 2016 in Faculty News, Rankings | Permalink

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Lateral hires with tenure or on tenure-track, 2015-16


These are non-clinical appointments that will take effect in 2016 (except where noted); I will move the list to the front at various intervals as new additions come in.   Recent additions are in bold. Last year's list is here.   


*Edward Afield (tax) from Ava Maria School of Law to Georgia State University.


*Lisa Alexander (corporate, contracts, housing & urban development law) from the University of Wisconsin, Madison to Texas A&M University.


*Mark Alexander (constitutional law, law & politics) from Seton Hall University to Villanova University (to become Dean).


*James Anaya (international human rights) from the University of Arizona to the University of Colorado, Boulder (to become Dean).


*RonNell Anderson (constitutional law, First Amendment, media law) from Brigham Young University to the University of Utah.


*Margo Bagley (patents, international patent law) from the University of Virginia to Emory University.


*Craig Boise (tax, international tax, corporate tax) from Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Cleveland State University to Syracuse University (to become Dean).


*Zack Buck (health law) from Mercer University to the University of Tennessee, Knoxville (untenured lateral).


*Michael Cahill (criminal law) from Brooklyn Law School to Rutgers University (as Co-Dean).


*Dale Carpenter (constitutional law) from the University of Minnesota to Southern Methodist University.


*James Coleman (energy law) from the University of Calgary to Southern Methodist University (untenured lateral).


*Nicolas Cornell (contracts, law & philosophy) from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania to the University of Michigan (law) (untenured lateral) (starting in fall 2017).


*Eric Dannenmaier (environmental law) from Indiana University, Indianapolis to Northern Illinois University (to become Dean). 

Continue reading

July 24, 2016 in Faculty News | Permalink

Friday, July 22, 2016

Revenge porn law introduced in Congress

An important milestone; law professor Mary Anne Franks (Miami), the primary author of the bill, is quoted in the article.

(Thanks to Jason Walta for the pointer.)

UPDATE:  An op-ed by Prof. Franks about the law.  If there is, in fact, a successful First Amendment challenge to the law, it would just be a further indication of how wrong U.S. free speech doctrine is in important respects.

July 22, 2016 in Law in Cyberspace, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Ten Most-Cited Antitrust Faculty, 2010-2014 (inclusive)

  Once again, this draws on the data from the 2015 Sisk study:    





Age in 2016


Herbert Hovenkamp

University of Iowa




Daniel Crane

University of Michigan




William Kovacic

George Washington University




Joshua Wright

George Mason University




Michael Carrier

Rutgers University (Camden)




Christopher Leslie

University of California, Irvine




Daniel Rubinfeld

New York University




C. Scott Hemphill

New York University




Spencer Waller

Loyola University, Chicago




Timothy Muris

George Mason University




Runners-up for the top ten


Jonathan Baker

American University




Fred McChesney

University of Miami




William Page

University of Florida




Other highly-cited scholars who work partly in this area


Mark Lemley

Stanford University




Louis Kaplow

Harvard University




Einer Elhauge

Harvard University




George Priest

Yale University




Keith Hylton

Boston University




July 21, 2016 in Faculty News, Rankings | Permalink

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Obligations of law faculty to disclose research supported by those with a stake in the findings?

Prof. Jeff Sovern (St. John's) writes:

I have been wondering about the extent of law professors’ ethical obligations to disclose when their research has been supported by a grant from a group with a stake in the findings, and because you are the de facto moderator of the law professor village square, I wondered if you would consider posting the item below to your blog and seeking comment. I apologize for its length.


A grant that results in the publication of a law review article or similar publication should be acknowledged in the article, but what about later work in the same general area that espouses a policy position consistent with what the grantor would have wanted? That issue is germane to a 2013 article in The Nation, The Scholars Who Shill for Wall Street which criticized academics (notably, George Mason’s Todd Zywicki) for failing to disclose in papers, congressional testimony, speeches, op-eds, etc. compensated work for the financial industry.  The AALS has been rather vague on this subject, but here’s what it said in its Statement of Good Practices by Law Professors in the Discharge of Their Ethical and Professional Responsibilities: “Sponsored or remunerated research should always be acknowledged with full disclosure of the interests of the parties. If views expressed in an article were also espoused in the course of representation of a client or in consulting, this should be acknowledged.” It’s not at all clear to me that the conduct described in The Nation article violated that policy.


My own concern is more personal.  My law school (St. John’s) accepted a grant from an organization with ties to a particular industry.  My co-authors and I conducted a survey financed by this grant (we had to purchase a software license, compensate those who completed the survey, and so on) and published a law review article about our findings.  We had complete control over the survey and what we wrote about our findings and the grantor did not comment on them; in all respects, its behavior was exemplary.  We acknowledged the funder in the article.  Later, I wrote some op-eds about our work, and acknowledged the grantor again.  Still later, I wrote op-eds about the broader subject, giving no more than a sentence to our research, or not mentioning it at all. Do I have an obligation in the later op-eds to mention the grantor?  Would readers want to know that my law school accepted money from the grantor which supported my research?  If your answer is no, do you see anything wrong with the conduct described in The Nation article?  If you answer is yes, would it be different if the funder were not associated with a particular industry or point of view?


Perhaps the AALS would consider updating and elaborating on its statement.  It might be a good project for professors specializing in professional responsibility. When the AALS re-evaluates a school for membership every seven years, does it inquire into compliance with this aspect of its Statement of Good Practices?  Should it? 

Good questions, I've opened it for comments.  (Submit your comment only once, comments are moderated, and may take awhile to appear.)

July 20, 2016 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Hiring committees can announce themselves...

...and their curricular priorities here.

July 19, 2016 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Monday, July 18, 2016

A first sign of trouble with the new Elsevier-owned SSRN