Thursday, August 8, 2013
Michael Simkovic at Seton Hall is now well-known to readers of this blog, but due to the notorious situation at Seton Hall (where all untenured faculty have been told they may be let go at the end of this academic year due to budgetary concerns), he is on the teaching market for the first time. (Seton Hall hired him directly out of practice.) His references include Douglas Baird (Chicago), Steven Davidoff (Berkeley), Jesse Fried (Harvard), David Skeel (Penn), and a certain U.S. Senator who may be a bit hard to reach these days; his Seton Hall colleagues Patrick Hobbs (the Dean), Stephen Lubben, and Charlie Sullivan are also available as references. I have heard unsolicited from well-known senior scholars in his field that Prof. Simkovic is doing good work (and not just on the economics of legal education), so this is a unique opportunity to hire an up-and-coming scholar with an established track record.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
In an earlier post, I noted my basic agreement with the majority of the thematic recommendations of the Task Force. Here I will make a few more critical comments on aspects of the WP, though it may be that, at the end of the day, they will not matter much.
1. It is important that the Task Force's recommendations be based on real evidence, not cyber-chatter and cyber-hysteria. That means, in particular, that the final Task Force report should take account of two important developments since the Task Force began its work.
First, the Simkovic & McIntyre paper provides substantial evidence that the JD degree confers substantial economic benefits on its holders as compared to those who only have a BA. Despite several weeks of cyber-ranting, it's pretty clear that their results are sound. Even so, the Task Force's objective of making legal education available at lower cost remains obviously desirable: first, because more individuals would reap more financial benefits from the JD (the "private good" of legal education as the WP calls it), and, second, more lawyers would likely be available to those in need of legal representation. The "public good" and "private good" aspects of legal training would both benefit. But the Task Force should not lose sight of the reality that as a "private good" legal education has done very well. (This should be incorporated into the WP's discussion, e.g., of "return on investment" [p. 10].)
Second, the federal government's "Income-Based Repayment" program for student loans means that the burden of student loans for education, including legal education, is not what it was just a few years ago. That fact--and it is now a fact--does not mean that it would not be good for society as a whole, and for individuals, it it were possible to get a legal education at a lower cost: IBR is not loan-forgiveness, and so, once again, both the private and public good aspects of legal education would be well-served by lowering the costs of legal education, even in an IBR world.
Tuesday, August 6, 2013
I sometimes post comments from colleagues elsewhere, but without attribution (I always ask them what they would prefer). I imagine the reason is obvious to most readers, but perhaps I should make it explicit, especially for the benefit of those who don't pay much attention to cyberspace.
The basic fact is that anyone these days who speaks in favor of legal scholarship and law schools, or against "scam" blogs and charlatans like Campos, is immediately subjected to a torrent of cyber-abuse, defamation, and harassment. (Anyone skeptical can simply do some searches to see the cyber-response to the sober and scholarly analysis of the economic value of a law degree co-authored by Seton Hall professor Michael Simkovic.) Cyber-vilifcation is meaningless in the end--it is the ranting of the powerless and the deranged--but it is, undestandably, shocking to most adults. Many of my correspondents would prefer not to become targets of this abuse. I have been in cyberspace too long for it to matter anymore, and because I have been out front on many of the issues that generate the most cyber-harassment, the abuse and attempted defamation is both predictable and not very credible. But this also puts me in a position to provide a forum for other academics to comment, a forum in which I can vouch for who the commenters are but at the same time insulate them from the disgusting abuse of cyber-miscreants.
Monday, August 5, 2013
At law school café (reposted on Tax Prof) Deborah Merritt asks several questions about The Economic Value of a Law Degree related to sample size and uncertainty. We thank Professor Merritt for her comments and hope they helped clarify the annual results for those who were having trouble interpreting Figures 5 and 6. In the paper we are careful to display the large confidence intervals for Figure 6, which looks at young law graduates over time, and we avoid drawing any strong conclusions from them. Also, as we'll discuss below, one can readily reject that Figure 5's ups and downs are just noise.
This post includes brief discussions of some of the interesting points raised.
The estimates in the paper don't depend on cyclical law school premia
We want to be clear that our underlying results do not rely on cyclicality. SIPP annual estimates do not show a recent post-recession decline in the overall law graduate earnings premium that needs to be explained. The recent decline in earnings for law graduates in our sample is matched by a decline in earnings for bachelor’s degree holders, and the law graduates retained their relative advantage. But as one can see in Figure 6, the small sample for young lawyers makes it hard to be sure about the recent outcomes for that group in isolation. Whether the premium cycles up and down or stays flat, over a lifetime every law grad will see many such transitions over their life, averaging out over time.
Sunday, August 4, 2013
Sections VII and VIII contain the key recommendations of the Task Force. Section VII is billed as "themes addressed to all parties," of which there are eight key ones (excluding the final recommendation that the Task Force's work be "institutionalized" within the ABA). Three strike me as excellent and overdue, namely:
*"There should be greater heterogeneity in law schools" (p. 23-24). That's certainly a theme I've mentioned in the past. There's heterogeneity not just in colleges and universities (of which there are many more), but also even in medical schools (a fact captured even by U.S. News, which ranks "research" schools separately from "teaching" schools [though the latter also do research]).
*"There should be greater heterogeneity in programs that deliver law-related education" (p. 25). This is part of a general and sensible theme in the WP, namely, that there need to be systems of certification for certain kinds of legal professionals "who are qualified to provide limited law-related services without the oversight of a lawyer" (p. 25).
*"The regulation and licensing of law-related services should support mobility and diversity of legal services" (p. 28). Again, there's no point in heterogeneity of law schools and law-related programs, if there isn't a change in regulation and licensing of those providing different kinds of legal services.
One other recommendation strikes me as sensible, but already widely recognized, namely that, "there should be clear recognition that law schools exist to teach people to provide law-related services" (p. 26). No evidence is adduced of who exactly doesn't recognize this. The Task Force should not visit the sins of, say, Yale Law School on the academy as the whole!
Two of the recommendations strikes me as sensible but largely empty as formulated:
*First, it would be great for the "financing of law-related education" to be "re-engineered," but the Task Force, by its own admission, does not really have any concrete proposals. It is true, for example, that the "current system of lending distances law schools from market considerations" and also facilitates "unfettered pursuit of status" (p. 23). But it doesn't completely eliminate market forces: schools still compete for students, for faculty, and for jobs for their graduates. Does the Task Force want to recommend no student lending for legal education? That would seem inconsistent with the idea that legal training is a public good (a theme I'll come back to in another post, but which the WP emphasizes). Here's a more tangible proposal the Task Force might adopt. Recall that it was Bush Senior's Justice Department that ended "collusion" among Ivy League schools on the nature and size of financial aid awards, which used to be overwhelmingly need-based. Perhaps it is time for the ABA to push to reverse that, to permit a bit of "collusion." There may still be perverse competition in "merit" awards by schools on the cusp of moving "up" to another peer cluster, but there would be far less of it within clusters of schools of similar stature, and thus fewer cases of the students with the weakest credentials (relative to others at a particular school) paying the most (a phenomenon Brian Tamanaha correctly diagnosed a number of years ago, and which the WP also notes).
*Second, it would surely be terrific for there to be "greater innovation in law schools and in programs that deliver law-related education" (p. 27), but that will only take place through some ABA deregulation that creates room for those innovative experiments. So this just seems like pointless exhortation, and otiose with respect to the real issue: the loosening of regulatory strictures on both the educational and licensing side of things.
Finally, two recommendations strike me as unclear or misguided.
*The suggestion that law schools need to emphasize "delivery of value to students" (pp. 25-26) is just mumbo-jumbo "management-speak," and nothing else. Law schools are well aware that they are "in the business of delivering legal education services," but they are also academic institutions, not the corner grocery. Regulatory loosening will create "competition" (the supposed panacea of all market enthusiasts), and then we will see what happens. But in an otherwise thoughtful WP, this section stands out as slightly ridiculous.
*It's hard to argue with the abstract proposition that "there should be constructive change in faculty culture and faculty work" (p. 28) But what the Task Force really seems to have in mind is that faculty should teach more and write less. The WP makes the dubious assertion that it is "entrenched [faculty] culture and structure that has led...to declining classroom teaching loads and a high level of focus on publishing and research" (p. 28). In fact, it is market competiton for faculty that has produced these trends, and if some of the changes recommended elsewhere in the report occur, perhaps this competition will abate. The WP seems largely enamored of "markets," and they should be clear that it is market forces that have reduced teaching loads. In that regard, the WP is right to recognize that "some, perhaps many, law schools will continue to operate under the current model" with respect to what the WP calls "faculty culture" (p. 28).
The "specific recommendations" of Section VIII pertain to implementation of the Section VII themes. Most seem pretty sensible (thoughsome fall into the category of mere 'exhortation'), and largely contribute to the strongest themes from Section VII. I'll just mention one where the Task Force should be cautious:
*If the Task Force would like to empower Deans who want to implement the WP's goals, then it will be a serious mistake to remove the requirement that Deans be tenured faculty. A Dean without tenure will be a Dean who can get very little done.
I do commend the Task Force for specifically noting (p. 34) the perverse effect that the use of "expenditures" data in the U.S. News rankings has had--the ABA should issue a strong statement condemning that practice. And a bold move would be for the ABA to produce its own metrics of law school quality, that would help loosen the grip that U.S. News has on many law school applicants.
In one or two follow-up posts, I'll have some more specific, critical comments about portions of the WP. But, as I said originally, this is a serious and thoughtful document, for which the Task Force deserves thanks.
UPDATE: Part II of my commentary.
Saturday, August 3, 2013
I find it hard to believe that the author of this "defense" expects to be taken seriously given that he just makes so many things up. Prof. Rosenzweig writes, regarding Failing Law Schools [FLS], that, "Tamanaha has made an invaluable contribution to the academic literature and to the betterment of the world. The posting of the Simkovic & McIntyre paper should provide the opportunity to make this clear. That it has led to the exact opposite by some in the legal community has proven distressing." Prof. Rosenzweig is, remarkably, completely silent on how Tamanaha's own hostile and careless response to the Simkovic & McIntyre paper triggered the need for a systematic response by the authors to address Tamanaha's misrepresentations and mistakes. I assume Tamanaha responded as he did because he recognized that the Simkovic & McIntyre paper undermined his posture in FLS.
Even more strangely, Prof. Rosenzweig writes:
Let us recall what the state of the debate about the future of legal education looked like prior to the publication of FLS. Law “scam” blogs accusing law schools and law professors of exploiting students, a “cesspool” of threats and slurs, anonymous posts making scandalous and vicious personal attacks on individual law school faculty members, and public statements by law schools, faculty, and the ABA making it appear as if the entire legal community was oblivious to the crisis facing students graduating law school during that period....
Look at the state of the debate after the publication of FLS. Almost all public statements on the issue are now clearly attributed to their authors. Academics publicly publish data under their own names. I am assuming, since it is cited in the paper, that FLS in part led Simkovic and McIntyre to pursue their project in the first place. In other words, FLS has done precisely what the highest and best scholarship can and should do – it increased the amount of knowledge in the world at the time, led to a better and more informed debate, and began the process of replacing emotion and opinion with facts and analysis.
I must say this is pure fiction from top to bottom. It omits, for example, the active role that Tamanaha played in legitimating a number of deranged "scam" blogs that were, and are, still "'cesspools' of threats and slurs" with "anonymous posts making scandalous and vicious personal attacks on individual law school faculty members." (If anything, they've gotten worse since Tamanaha's book, and are even more visible.) He did this by referencing them favorably in his book and, more remarkably, by sometimes posting encouraging comments on some of them. For this alone, he would deserve condemnation by his professional colleagues, even before we get to the damage done to the debate through the carelessness of significant parts of Failing Law Schools (some of that has come out in the recent debate, but when the detailed review of the book, and its reckless allegations, by Simkovic & McIntyre goes on SSRN, this will be clear to all).
But I do agree with Rosenzweig, as I said previously, that FLS collects good anecdotes, has an interesting (and unflattering) history of the regulation of law schools, and sensibly recommends a lighter regulatory hand to permit more experimentation with models of legal education. Its anecdotal approach to systematic issues, however, has seriously distorted the discussion of those issues, as the Simkovic & McIntyre paper makes clear.
I note, finally, that Prof. Rosenzweig, like so many, doesn't know the meaning of ad hominem. Prof. Simkovic was the victim of many ad hominem smears after his paper came out; Prof. Tamanaha has been spared them entirely.
UPDATE: Paul Horwitz (Alabama) has found a nice example of the "state of the debate" after Tamanaha's intervention--this from a "scam" blog on which Tamanaha has posted encouraging comments, I should add.
Friday, August 2, 2013
A Dean at another law school writes:
It is fair to say this was not a very good move on LST's part, and shatters whatever remaining credibility they had. (They've been in a bit of a downward spiral.) Now that the ABA (finally) mandates detailed reporting of employment outcomes, it's not really clear that LST serves a useful purpose any longer, and I will be astonished if any school actually ponies up for this nonsense "certification." (By the way, it is perhaps telling of what's happened to LST that the law professor who sent me the information about the certification shakedown did not want to write about it himself/herself for fear that LST would then go after that professor's school!)
Re the McEntee post: Yes, in fact, Kyle has sent out the following note to a number of deans:
...We're introducing a certification program for law schools.
The program has two purposes. First, we want to increase the quality and consistency of consumer information. Second, we want to help the schools that are transparent (as defined by us of course) signal that transparency. Law schools across the board are facing declining trust, even the good actors. I'm of the opinion that this is bad for the profession in the long run, and that a program like this can help instill a sense of trust where trust is deserved.
The short of what we'll do: Schools that meet our two reviews become "LST Certified," which entitles them to use a certification mark to signal their commitment to transparency. The mark provides assurance to prospective students, students, and the public that your school does things the right way. The fee for the first year is $1925. There will be audits for compliance throughout the year -- sometimes at a defined time, sometimes randomly.
One review is for Standard 509 compliance. The other review is for LST Best Practices. The latter requires that schools produce various consumer information (employment data, financial aid, etc) on their websites. Sometimes the Best Practices require a certain form; usually we just check that certain data or statements are present. Importantly, we require schools to centralize all consumer information for easy access and require that schools indicate info about definitions and methodologies used.
---end of quote from letter--
This is, of course, absolutely outrageous. One dean colleague said it smacks to him as a violation of the Hobbs Act (which prohibits extortion and such). This is, any way you slice it, an extraordinary effort at shaking down law schools by promising some version of “certification” at a price – this from a group which decries, among other things, the high costs of law schools. It is one thing for the deans to call Kyle out. I’d like to see where the scambloggers are in all this.