December 05, 2013
Yes, they are real jobs (and more). (Professor Merritt, in response to Professor Young's earlier posting, pointed to one survey that showed that more than 40% of those with JD Advantage jobs were seeking other jobs--but without knowing how many of those with JD-required jobs are also seeking other jobs, it's impossible to know what this means, if anything, about the jobs.)
November 25, 2013
Salon must really be desperate to post this content-free piece, which takes as its question, "How...can we explain the fact that young people are still going to law school in droves?" when, in fact, applications to law school are down nearly 40%, and most law schools in the United States are experiencing varying degrees of financial stress as a result (not "raking in cash"). But never mind the facts, little Mr. Winterhalter wants to deliver his sermon: "Why aren’t law schools ashamed of themselves?" Well, because most of them didn't do anything shameful, that's why. Almost all the graduates of accredited law schools passed the bar exam, and the only actual evidence on offer makes clear that the JD was a winning financial proposition for the vast majority. There's no shame in teaching the vast majority of students to pass the bar and enabling them to enjoy substantial financial returns on their education. (There should be shame in being an opportunistic liar like Mr. Winterhalter, who calculated, obviously correctly, that he could capitalize on the current hysteria to get a fact-free smear piece into Salon! I will let pass in silence his juvenile discussion of economic analysis of law.)
It is time for a little reality-check, even in cyberspace. In 2008, the global capitalist system suffered a severe recession or depression, which soon spread to the legal sector, exacerbating trends affecting reduced demand for lawyers. Law schools did not cause that economic catastrophe. Beginning in 2011, Senators Boxer and Coburn began challenging the ABA about the accuracy of employment data reported by ABA-accredited law schools. This data was almost certainly massaged, due to the malign and longstanding influence of U.S. News (as I noted a decade ago!). Annoyed U.S. Senators, unsurprisingly, caught the attention of the ABA, and soon enough, the ABA mandated improved employment data reporting, thus making clear how poorly graduates of some law schools were faring during the recession. Around the same time, David Segal, a journalist who had never before covered law, began writing a series of front-page stories in The New York Times about the collapse of the job market for new lawyers, as well as producing unrelated hatchet jobs on legal education.
In the wake of all this, applications to and enrollments in law schools, unsurprisingly, entered a steep decline. Law schools began reducing tuition and cutting faculty. But in cyberspace, a different set of events, only partly related to the preceding, began to unfold. The global recession took its toll on recent law graduates, like so many others. Some of the victims took to the Internet, enacting Nietzsche's observation more than a century ago that,
Every sufferer instinctively looks for a cause of its distress, more exactly, for a culprit, even more precisely for a guilty culprit who is receptive to dsitress--in short, for a living being upon whom he can release his emotions, actually or in effigy, on some pretext or other; because the release of emotions is the greatest attempt at relief, or should I say, anaestheticizing on the part of the sufferer. [Cf. Barash & Lipton, Payback (Oxford, 2011) for empirical evidence in support of the Nietzschean hypothesis.]
There was, undboutedly, considerable suffering by lawyers and new law graduates--jobs lost, careers thwarted, huge debts looming and undischargeable in bankruptcy. In cyberspace, some of those suffering--as well as some muddle-headed law professors and opportunistic charlatans-- identified a "guilty culprit": it was law schools. Thus was born the bizarre meme that law school was a 'scam.' (Mr. Winterhalter is a late arrival to the meme.) Although U.S. law schools had for decades successfully trained most graduates to pass the bar and become lawyers, this no longer mattered. Massaging employment data to game U.S. News rankings was now portrayed as a concerted and sinister attempt to fraudulently induce students to come to law school who otherwise never would have dreamed of doing so. Indeed, lawsuits by victims of this alleged "scam" were soon filed around the country, but courts have uniformly repudiated their theory about the culprits, noting the obvious "elephant in the room," i.e., the global recession of 2008. The law professors who taught the plaintiffs apparently well enough to pass the bar were clearly not responsible for lack of jobs--how could they be? Some law schools still face possible liability, and perhaps rightly so: there are 200 accredited law schools in the country, and some may have acted unethically and perhaps illegally. But law schools are not culpable for the economic catastrophe of the last five years, and the vast, vast majority did not defraud or scam anyone. This much is obvious to the courts, indeed, to anyone awake.
The sensible response to an economic catastrophe, both inside and outside the legal profession, has turned into an utterly irrational attempt by the misguided or the malevolent to find "guilty culprits" to blame for miserable circumstances. Mr. Winterhalter is just the latest manifestation of this irrational response, but cyber-ranting like his still proliferates in which law schools, judges, lawyers, law faculty, and anyone who resists the herd mentality of the deranged scam-bloggers are disparaged, demeaned and defamed without regard for the facts and without any actual evidence of wrongdoing.
November 21, 2013
We are on track for there to be more new jobs for lawyers than there are new law school graduates...
...by 2016 or 2017. Hopefully this will help some of those currently unemployed, but it is also probably quite good news for those starting law school now or next year. (I commend Professor Young for taking the time to run the numbers, which in the current toxic cyber-environment where facts are never welcome [recall the irrational reception in cyberspace of the Simkovic & McIntyre study, even though it completely altered the terms of debate in the real world], requires considerable courage. I also commend to the attention of readers Professor Young's profiles of graduates of the Appalachian School of Law, a nice snapshot of the important role legal education plays in communities throughout the nation.)
UPDATE: Deborah Merritt (Ohio State) takes issue with some of the numbers. For reasons that are unclear, she also discounts "JD Advantage" jobs. Whereas Professor Young generally made optimistic assumptions given the available data, Professor Merritt makes pessimistic assumptions on the same data, though far as I can see, the available evidence is neutral as between them.
November 09, 2013
Michigan's Undergraduate Career Services Center compiles a useful list of testimonials by students happy to have gone to law school...
November 07, 2013
This is illuminating. Of crucial significance about the recent drop (on all three fronts) is that there are more ABA-approved law schools now than there were just a dozen years ago.
UPDATE: Here's a list of ABA-approved law schools by year of approval--we've seen an increase of roughly 10% in the total number of law schools in just the last dozen years.
October 03, 2013
This is an empirical study of one year of it (2007-08) by Tracey George (Vanderbilt) and Albert Yoon (Toronto). It confirms mostly what I would have expected. This may be particularly noteworthy:
Among the metrics of comparison they look at are publications, fellowships, PhDs, school graduated from, clerkships and so on. They do err, I think, in taking U.S. News a bit too seriously in viewing one metric as "graduation from Yale, Harvard, Stanford," even though the evidence suggests that while Yale is in a class by itself for teaching placement, the other two are not. I've urged Professor Yoon to include some data on Chicago, Columbia, and Michigan, at least. (Of course, this was only one year, and it is possible that the data for this one year do support the grouping. In any case, hopefully the final version of the paper will include more evidence in support of the grouping.)
Despite the ink spilled on race and gender in legal academic hiring, we find, with limited exceptions, these factors have little effect. After controlling for credentials, gender and race do not improve a candidate's chance of getting a screening interview. The only stage where we find that race and gender have statistically significant effects are at the intermediate call-back interview stage where women and non-whites are statistically significant more likely to be invited for a job talk interview. But, women and non-whites are no more likely than similarly situated men and whites to get a job offer or, if they get an offer, for the offer to come from a more elite school.