April 01, 2016

In law firms, lawyers and paralegals prosper while secretarial jobs disappear (Michael Simkovic)

This post contains figures illustrating data reported by the author in a New York Times Dealbook post.  Lawyers v Secretaries

 

Educated v Unskilled


April 1, 2016 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Science, Student Advice, Weblogs | Permalink

March 16, 2016

Statistician Hans Rosling: The Press Does Not Understand the World (Michael Simkovic)

Statistician and data visualization expert Hans Rosling recently took the media to task for misleading readers and viewers using unrepresentative anecdotes and ignoring contradictory data.

Rosling says "You can't trust the news outlets if you want to understand the world.  You have to be educated and then research basic facts."

While journalists often depict the developing world as full of "wars, conflicts, chaos" Rosling says "That is wrong.  [The press] is completely wrong.. . . You can chose to only show my shoe, which is very ugly, but that is only a small part of me. . . . News outlets only care about a small part but [they] call it the world."

Rosling complains that the slow but steady march of progress is not considered news.

Rosling is famous for his data visualizations, especially this video briefly illustrating 200 years of global progress toward health and prosperity.  It's optimism for the data-driven set (and is a big hit in my business law classes).

  


March 16, 2016 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Science, Television, Weblogs | Permalink

March 05, 2016

Which College Majors Benefit Most and Least from Law School? (Michael Simkovic)

That’s the question Frank McIntyre and I try to answer in Value of a law degree by College Major. Economics seems to be the “best” major for aspiring law students, with both high base earnings with a bachelor’s degree and a large boost to earning with a law degree. History and philosophy/religion get a similarly large boost from a law degree but start at a lower undergraduate base and, among those with law degrees, typically end up earning substantially less than economics majors.

The abstract and a figure are below:

We estimate the increase in earnings from a law degree relative to a bachelor’s degree for graduates who majored in different fields in college. Students with humanities and social sciences majors comprise approximately 47 percent of law degree holders compared to 23 percent of terminal bachelor’s. Law degree earnings premiums are highest for humanities and social sciences majors and lowest for STEM majors. On the other hand, among those with law degrees, overall earnings are highest for STEM and Business Majors. This effect is fairly small at the low end of the earnings distribution, but quite large at the top end. The median annual law degree earnings premium ranges from approximately $29,000 for STEM majors to $45,000 for humanities majors.

These results raise an intriguing question: should law schools offer larger scholarships to those whose majors suggest they will likely benefit less from their law degrees? Conversely, should law schools charge more to those who will likely benefit the most?

Figure 3: ACS Mean Earnings for Professional Degree Holders (Narrow) by Selected Field of Study* (2014 USD Thousands)

 

ACSdegfig 3 revised

  • Includes degree fields with more than 700 professional degree holders in sample.

COMMENT FROM BRIAN LEITER:   The lumping of philosophy majors together with religion invariably pulls down the performance of philosophy majors!


March 5, 2016 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Science, Student Advice | Permalink

February 22, 2016

Law firm support and freedom of speech in law schools

The New York Times and American Lawyer have both reported on the decision of the distinguished New York law firm Milbank Tweed to pull funding for speakers invited by student groups at Harvard Law School after one group invited a speaker of which, apparently, the firm disapproves.  This sets a very unfortunate precedent, and I would encourage other law professors to join me as a signatory to this open letter.   Law schools depend on generous support from alumni, whether as individuals or as partnerships or otherwise, but that support should be offered in a way consistent with the academic and pedagogical mission of a law school and be viewpoint-neutral.


February 22, 2016 in Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

February 09, 2016

Law School Bloggers' Latest Unscientific Fad: BLS Job Openings Projections (Michael Simkovic)

The latest unscientific fad among law school watchers is comparing job openings projections for lawyers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics* with the number of students expected to graduate from law school.  Frank McIntyre and I tested this method of predicting earnings premiums--the financial benefits of a law degree--using all of the available historical projections from the BLS going back decades.  This method of prediction does not perform any better than random chance.**   Labor economists--including those working at the BLS--have explicitly stated that BLS projections should not be used to try to value particular courses of study.  Instead, higher education should be valued based on earnings premiums.

Bloggers who report changes in BLS projections and compare projected job openings to the number of students entering law school might as well advise prospective law students to make important life decisions by flipping a coin.

Many law graduates won't practice law.  Many engineering graduates won't become engineers.  Many students in every field end up working jobs that are not directly related to what they studied.  They still typically benefit financially from their degrees by using them in other occupations where additional education boosts earnings and likelihood of employment.

And if one's goal really is to practice law even if practicing law is not more lucrative than other opportunities opened by a law degree, then studying law may not be a guarantee, but it still dramatically improves the odds.

 

 *  BLS job opening projections--which are essentially worthless as predictors for higher education--should not be confused with BLS occupational employment statistics, which provide useful data about earnings and employment in many occupations, including for lawyers.  

** There isn’t even strong evidence that changes in the ratio between BLS projected lawyer job openings and law class size predict changes in the percent of law graduates who will practice law, although the estimates are too noisy to be definitive. Historically, the ratio of BLS projected openings to law graduates (or first year enrollments 3 years prior) has systematically under-predicted by a wide margin the proportion of law graduates practicing law shortly after graduation, although it is clear that a large minority of law graduates do not practice law. 

 

BLS projected openings vs. NALP

(For more on the limitations of initial outcome data, see here, here, here, and here).


February 9, 2016 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Law in Cyberspace, Legal Profession, Ludicrous Hyperbole Watch, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Science, Student Advice, Web/Tech, Weblogs | Permalink

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.

Continue reading


February 2, 2016 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Science, Student Advice | Permalink

February 01, 2016

Rostron & Levit's submitting to law review guide is updated once again!

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 list
Scholastica 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!
 
 


February 1, 2016 in Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink

November 24, 2015

Thankful for the Financial Times (Michael Simkovic)

This Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for the Financial Times.  

While some leading business and financial newspapers have adulterated their coverage to appeal to a mass audience or reduce costs, the Financial Times continues to produce high quality, fact-based reporting about serious business, financial, and economic issues.  The FT's target audience continues to be legal and financial professionals who are prepared to pay a premium for reliable information.  The FT includes a minimum of hyperbole and fluff.  It also offers a more global perspective than most U.S. papers, while still providing strong coverage of important U.S. issues.  

For the last 5 years, I've routinely recommended the FT to students in my business law classes, who are generally more familiar with U.S. papers.  The FT is available on Lexis (with a few days delay), but is well worth the cost of a subscription.  

If you're not a regular reader of the FT, but have been following U.S. newspapers' higher education coverage, you can get a sense of the differences between the FT and U.S. newspapers' approach across subject areas by reading this article about fees at public UK universities exceeding those at U.S. universities.  The article is entirely focused on costs and benefits of education and how those costs and benefits are distributed between students, government, and employers.  There are no unrepresentative anecdotes, no histrionics, only summaries of data.  When advocacy groups are cited, their interests are noted.  This is what journalism can and should be.

Pearson recently sold the FT to Nikkei.  Hopefully the new owners maintain the FT's high quality. 


November 24, 2015 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Student Advice, Weblogs | Permalink

November 16, 2015

Against student-edited law reviews, once again

Lawyer/philosopher Ken Levy (Louisiana State) comments.

My impression is that many of the student-edited law reviews are now seeking faculty input into acceptance decisions, though not generally at the initial screening stage.  What are the impressions of others?  (I do not submit very often to student-edited law reviews, so my sample size is small.)


November 16, 2015 in Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice | Permalink | Comments (2)

November 03, 2015

Failed the Bar Exam? Try Again (Michael Simkovic)

Noah Feldman recently argued that law schools are not helping students with low standardized test scores by denying those students the opportunity to attend law school simply because those students might find it challenging to pass the bar exam.*  According to Feldman, denying people an opportunity to try to improve their situation in life is “paternalism that verges on infantilization.” Moreover, “A standardized test score, taken alone, shouldn't determine your future.”

Feldman’s perspective is bolstered by an important feature of bar exams:  People who fail an exam can study harder and then retake it.

Standardized test scores might predict the likelihood of passing the bar exam on a single try.  But a more important question is arguably whether an applicant can eventually pass a bar exam.  Delays in bar passage can have short-term financial costs, entail logistical challenges and stress, and in rare instances where employers require recent hires to practice law without supervision, even result in the loss of a job.  But most law graduates won’t lose their jobs for retaking the bar exam, and an individual who passes after multiple attempts will have the same license for the rest of his life as one who passes on the first try.** 

Many law schools maintain exclusive admissions, not necessarily for the benefit of the students to whom they deny admission, but rather for the benefit of prospective employers and clients—in other words, to maintain a brand that suggests certain qualities above and beyond the ability to pass a bar exam.  Different law schools have different brands. 

The probability of eventually passing the bar exam is a function of how many times an applicant is willing to try.***  A bar exam taker with only a 50 percent chance of passing on any one try has an 88 percent chance of passing the bar exam if he is willing to retake the bar exam up to two times, and a 94 percent chance of passing if he is willing to retake it up to 3 times.

Probability of Eventually Passing the Bar Exam as a Function of Number of Tries

         
 

Probability of Passing on Each Try

 

90%

70%

50%

30%

Number of Tries

Cumulative Probability of Passing

1

90%

70%

50%

30%

2

99%

91%

75%

51%

3

100%

97%

88%

66%

4

100%

99%

94%

76%

5

100%

100%

97%

83%


These model-driven calculations seem to map well to the real world.  For example, Florida Coastal—which admits many students with very low LSAT scores—reports that although its first time bar passage rate is much lower, 93 percent of its graduates eventually pass the bar exam. 

How motivated is a particular law school applicant?  This is something an applicant is likely to know better than a law school admissions officer.  For those with grit and determination, failure is often temporary.  And anecdotally, law graduates have failed bar exams and gone on to have successful careers.

It would be strange if newspapers claimed that those who fail a road test on the first try are doomed to never obtain a drivers license, will never be able to hold down a job, and should never have enrolled in high school in the first place.  But in the world of legal education, members of the press too often make comparably misinformed claims about law students and the bar exam. 

Continue reading


November 3, 2015 in Guest Blogger: Michael Simkovic, Legal Profession, Of Academic Interest, Professional Advice, Weblogs | Permalink