Thursday, August 18, 2016

Only 382 resumes in the first (and most important) FAR distribution...

...which is down at least fifty or more 28 from last year (I can't find the number, if someone has it, please shoot me an e-mail).  That's good news for the job seekers, as I think early indications are that, like last year, we will see at least 80 new tenure-track academic hires as we did last year (up from roughly 65 each of 2014-15 and 2013-14).

UPDATE:  Thanks to Roger Ford (New Hampshire) for flagging this useful chart courtesy of Sarah Lawsky (Northwestern), which shows the drop off from 2015-16 is not as great as I remembered (I was probably confusing it with 2014-15).

ANOTHER:  58% of the candidates took their law degree from one of the sixteen law schools that produce the most law teachers (i.e., Yale, Harvard, Chicago, Stanford, Columbia, Michigan, NYU, Berkeley, Virginia, Penn, Northwestern, Cornell, Georgetown, Duke, Texas, UCLA); almost 20% earned a degree from the first four (Yale, Harvard, Chicago, Stanford).

August 18, 2016 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News | Permalink

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Must be a slow news day

New York Times journalist Elizabeth Olson recently reported that the law school graduating class of 2015--which was very close to the size of the class of 1996--had about the same number of private sector jobs 9 months after graduation as the class of 1996.  That's a pretty good outcome considering that the economy-wide employment population ratio in February 2016 was 3.6 points lower than in February 1997.  Olson puts a negative spin on the non-story.

UPDATE:  Casey Sullivan at Bloomberg provides more balanced coverage, noting the smaller class size at the outset of his story and focusing on overall earnings rather than job counts in one segment of the market.

For previous coverage, see 

Smaller or Larger Law Class Sizes Don’t Predict Changes in Financial Benefits of Law School, Feb. 2, 2016


Timing Law School (forthcoming in JELS)


August 17, 2016 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Ludicrous Hyperbole Watch, Weblogs | Permalink

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Berkeley Chancellor Dirks to resign after just three years

I have no inside knowledge or informed opinion about whether this is a good development, but I do wonder whether it is not symptomatic of the political meddling of Napolitano.

(Thanks to Rick Hasen for the pointer.)

August 16, 2016 in Of Academic Interest | Permalink

Philosophy of law in the Encyclopaedia Britannica

This is the first new essay commissioned on the subject in more than fifty years (the last one was by Julius Stone, also a legal realist!).  I had the privilege of co-authoring the new essay with a former student, the legal philosopher Michael Sevel (not a legal realist, but like Stone, at the University of Sydney!).  Alas, you need to access it from an institution that subscribes to read this essay in full.

UPDATE:  After I posted a similar announcement at my philosophy blog, an editor at EB wrote:  "in fact anyone can read the entire article for free if he/she comes to it through a Google search. I believe we are fourth or fifth in the hit list returned by searching on 'philosophy of law'. Clicking on the link should provide access to the full article. (Obviously, searching on "philosophy of law Britannica" would make it even easier.) Likewise any other article in Britannica."  Useful information, I didn't realize that!

August 16, 2016 in Jurisprudence | Permalink

Monday, 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. 

  1. 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.”  

I applaud Professor Barton’s honesty.  I encourage him to acknowledge the problems with the IRS data in future editions of “Glass Half Full” and to correct his CNN and Business Insider posts.

  1. 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).

  1. 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. 

Continue reading

August 15, 2016 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Science, Weblogs | Permalink

Friday, August 12, 2016

Coming next week...

...a ranking of schools by the percentage of their tenured faculty that made it on to the most-cited faculty lists we've been publishing (based on the Sisk data).

August 12, 2016 in Faculty News, Rankings | Permalink

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The first AALS placement bulletin of the 2016-2017 hiring season

I am struck by how many schools are interested in some aspect of criminal law/procedure and also in evidence.  Health law is also in demand this year.   I'm encouraged to see a number of schools back in the market for tenure-track faculty who had been out for awhile.  More next week.

August 11, 2016 in Advice for Academic Job Seekers, Faculty News | Permalink

Benjamin H. Barton Responds to Critics of Solo Practitioner Income Estimates: "IRS and Census Data Not that Far Apart Upon Closer Inspection"

The following is a response from Professor Benjamin H. Barton to critiques and questions about his use of IRS data to estimate solo practitioner incomes. It has not been edited or altered from the form in which Professor Barton submitted it.

IRS and Census Data Not that Far Apart Upon Closer Inspection

On July 25th Professor Stephen Diamond criticized my use of IRS income statistics to discuss the earnings of solo practitioners on his blog.  I responded to Professor Diamond in the comments.  On July 26, 2016 Professor Michael Simkovic published a number of critiques here.  Two days later Professor Simkovic followed up with a second post asking me a series of questions and challenging me to respond to both of his posts.  Here I accept Professor Simkovic’s invitation.

Below I explain more about the IRS data and how I use it, but I will not bury the lede.  The data that Professors Simkovic and Diamond use to criticize my work, ACS data for lawyers who are in the category of “self-employed, not incorporated,” is not appropriate data for defining the earnings of solo practitioners.  That Census category likely includes two very different types of self-employed lawyers – solo practitioners (the lowest paid lawyers in private practice) and law firm partners (the highest paid lawyers in private practice).  The Census Department does not make it easy to figure out exactly which lawyers are counted in the category of “self-employed, not incorporated,” but combining this definition with this one and looking at the ACS form itself it seems pretty clear that partners in law firms are included in this category.[i]

Because the ACS data includes an indeterminate number of partners and solos, the average earnings in that category ($165-200,000) are a misleading proxy for the earnings of American solo practitioners.  If there was a data category of “professional baseball players” that included minor league (low paid) and major league (highly paid) baseball players, and there was no way to tell how many of each were in the sample, you could not use the average earnings of “all professional baseball players” as a proxy for minor league salaries, since some members of the sample earn much, much more than other members of the sample.

The ACS data is inappropriate, but is the IRS data better?  I use the IRS data in my book, Glass Half Full – The Decline and Rebirth of the Legal Profession (Oxford 2015) and in later work to talk about several trends in the market for legal services.  Here is an updated version of a chart I first created for the book:

Barton Graph

Continue reading

August 11, 2016 in Legal Profession, Weblogs | Permalink

A few problems with coverage of the solo practitioner income debates

Some news sources claim that I think solo practitioners are "tax cheats."  The estimate that small business owners underreport their revenue and over-claim on expenses comes from the Internal Revenue Service and the Government Accountability Office, not my imagination.  It’s inappropriate to say that I’m claiming that solo attorneys are tax cheats.  I'm simply explaining the IRS's position on biases in IRS data--something that anyone who uses this data should be sure to note.

At least one source has claimed that ACS income data include business revenue rather than business net income or profits, citing Professor Barton as its source.  This claim is incorrect.  

The Census defines Self-employment income as follows:

"self-employment income includes net money income (gross receipts minus expenses) from one’s own business, professional enterprise, or partnership. Gross receipts include the value of all goods sold and services rendered. Expenses include costs of goods purchased, rent, heat, light, power, depreciation charges, wages and salaries paid, business taxes (not personal income taxes), etc.”  See pg. 80

Perhaps the journalist misunderstood Professor Barton.  I've requested corrections.


Aug. 15, 2016.  Thanks to the folks at Thomson Reuters for posting corrections.  Professor Barton responded, and I replied.

August 11, 2016 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession | Permalink

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

U of North Texas law school in Dallas denied provisional accreditation by ABA

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 10, 2016 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest | Permalink