GUEST POST—Don’t Go to Law School (Unless) (Flow Chart Edition)

(Connecticut attorney Samuel Browning obtained permission from Paul Campos to create a flow chart version of the book Don’t Go to Law School (Unless). Mr. Browning’s herculean effort is displayed here as a single graphic taken from his spreadsheet with only some proofreading on my part. I have not read the book, so any unclear points and errors are the author’s own.)

Browning--DGTLSU Flow Chart (2.0)

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Chronicle Publishes Law School Dean’s Argument From Authority

Via the ABA Journal, Katherine Mangan, “America’s Longest-Serving Law Dean Defends the Value of a Law Degree,” Chronicle of Higher Education.

The news is Rudy Hasl, the dean of Thomas Jefferson School of Law, whose former career services staff claimed under oath that she was told to juke graduate employment data, is stepping down after 32 years of law school deanery. To honor him, the Chronicle captures his parting thoughts because he’s a law school dean, which means anything he says should be taken with equal validity to what anyone who researches the issues says.

This has been a tumultuous period for law schools. It’s not that we haven’t gone through similar periods. It’s just that the trough is a little bit deeper and the issues are a little more difficult than they were in previous times when we reached those bottoming-out periods.

So the problems are quantitative, not qualitative. The fact that the applicant nosedive is occurring during a period of McJobbery for college graduates instead of high employment doesn’t faze the dean. However, we have to credit his gall for looking at employment data and saying, “BAH!”

I remind students that what law schools are providing is a set of skills that are valued in our society and that will ultimately lead to a meaningful employment opportunity. To try to measure that by what job you have on graduation, or even nine months later, doesn’t make sense.

In 2010, only 46.2 percent of TJSL’s graduates were employed long term; 19 percent were unknown. In 2011 that dropped to 37 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively, but don’t worry 31.4 percent of them were unemployed and seeking. While we should credit TJSL for doing a better job of finding its unemployed graduates for the purposes of the employment survey, it doesn’t look as though society values their skills much.

Whether legal education “leads to” a meaningful employment opportunity is a claim that’s difficult to substantiate. Those making it must demonstrate that (a) the graduate’s job requires a law degree, or (b) the substantive knowledge gained in law school is a substantial factor in the graduate’s employment. Contributions that supplemental knowledge like computer programming or chemical engineering adds to a job must be discounted as well. This does not bode well for law degree holders, which is not to say they’ll be unemployed forever (the economy has to recover someday, right?), just that many of them will find their earnings no higher than college graduates’. They’ll be IBR-ing away their law school loans while think tanks tell them that people in their positions should pay more because they’ve gotten a free lunch.

The good news for TJSL, though, is that under Dean Hasl’s stewardship the law school is solving the profession’s “diversity problem.”

The legal profession has been slow to respond to the increasing demand for diversity. Students of color made up 10 to 12 percent of the student body when I arrived here, at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, in 2005, and they’re a little over a third of our student body today. For me it’s an important social issue that we produce individuals who can work within their communities to provide service and develop leadership … I’m optimistic that we’re producing graduates who will be quite attractive to firms and have a great future ahead of them.

Tell that to all of TJSL’s unemployed graduates. They’re unlikely to ever work in firms, and in 2011 only 11 out of 236 graduates were employed full-time/long-term at law firms larger than 10 lawyers. A mere two of them were at firms larger than 50. Law school deans’ optimism is not valid grounds for future predictions, nor does it put food on graduates’ tables.

The we-need-more-minorities plea never fails to displease me. The idea that minorities are better off and can better serve their communities with mountains of law school debt is toxic garbage. Those interested in making the profession more accessible can do so by … making the profession more accessible: eliminating the three-year graduate education requirement, focusing licensing along practice lines rather than generalist lines. These policies would make it a lot easier for minorities, and everyone else, to become lawyers, and the only people who lose out are the handsomely compensated deans.

Speaking of which, Rudy Hasl did quite well for himself a-deaning. According to Guidestar, in 2011 TJSL paid him $366,514 in base compensation plus $51,332 in other compensation. If you think that’s too low for a law school dean, fret not, for TJSL also extended him a $977,179 loan for “housing assistance”—something I’ve never seen in my admittedly scant experience with Guidestar reports. Such a large loan for “housing assistance” suggests that he’s not living in the 21st century’s answer to Pruitt-Igoe (a fucking depressing documentary I wholeheartedly recommend).

Maybe instead of allowing Dean Hasl to dictate an editorial with unsubstantiated claims to readers, the Chronicle should ask him how he intends to repay such a generous loan while in retirement.

Top 10 Jobs Held by 4-Year College Grads That Don’t Require 4-Year College Degrees

Today’s SEO-pandering post is sponsored by Robert Samuelson, who wrote an editorial titled, “It’s Time U.S. Dropped the College-for-All Crusade.” I’m linking to the Japan Times syndicated piece because I’m fond of that publication. He writes:

“At last count, roughly 40 percent of Americans had some sort of college degree: about 30 percent a bachelor’s degree from a four-year institution; the rest associate degrees from community colleges.”

Samuelson’s misreading the numbers. There are two good sources of U.S. population by educational attainment: the Current Population Survey and the beleaguered American Community Survey (S1501), and their college-educated percentages total 39 percent and 36 percent, respectively. Out of the national population, the share of college-educated Americans is significantly less than 40 percent because both surveys exclude people under 25 and (for the sake of usefulness) include older, retired Americans:

Next, there are two sources of employment by education data, the Current Population Survey, again, and the BLS’s Employment Projections Program (XLS). The EPP, which we’ll stick with for its detail, distributes the employed population along these lines:

Comparing the CPS to itself, and the EPP to the ACS, here’re the employment-population ratios.

For some reason, the CPS found 20 million fewer employed Americans 25 and over than the EPP did in 2010: 122 million vs. 143 million. Note also that the Bachelor’s and higher crowd isn’t suffering from 30 percent unemployment, it’s just that growing proportions of Americans who are retiring happen to be college educated, and many more are out of the workforce for other reasons, e.g. homemakers.

As for the value of the sanctified four-year Bachelor’s degree? Using the EPP data above, here’re the types of jobs that employed BA/BS holders had by required qualifications:

“Postsecondary Non-BA/BS Jobs” includes jobs requiring an Associate’s degree (e.g. nurses (whom we’ll see plenty of today)), “some college no degree” (actors), or a “postsecondary non-degree award” (airplane pilots). So are only 40 percent of BA/BS holders in jobs at their qualification level or better? A few thoughts:

(1)  Yes.

(2)  This is 2010. There were a lot of underemployed people due to the housing bubble popping, to say nothing of those who are actually unemployed.

(3)  There are a lot of people over 24 years old, and many’ve lived unusual lives. Some of them might have gotten their return from their college degrees years ago and are simply doing jobs that are more comfortable for them. I doubt it’s many, but it’s some.

(4)  Some of these people might be students working part-time.

Still, 16 million out-of-position BA/BS’s is a lot, and this comes on top of the 31.6 million Americans who went to college yet have no degree whatsoever to show for it. That’s a pretty severe indictment of higher education right there.

Now to give you some SEOy fun: “Top 10 Non-BA/BS Jobs Held by BA/BS-Holders in 2010,” unsorted because I don’t want to bother resorting my spreadsheet:

These sum to about a third of those 16 million workers, and it largely discredits the would-you-like-fries-with-that liberal arts major jokes (“Combined Food Preparation and Serving Workers, Including Fast Food” is further down at 126,000). More likely, they’re working at Old Navy or they went to nursing school.

And what of those who hold Doctoral/Professional degrees, e.g. the juris doctor?

Doctoral and professional degrees are required for 25 job classes, the vast majority of which require a science or medical background. Here’s the list:

  • Computer and Information Research Scientists
  • Animal Scientists
  • Biochemists and Biophysicists
  • Biological Scientists, All Other
  • Medical Scientists, Except Epidemiologists
  • Astronomers
  • Physicists
  • Clinical, Counseling, and School Psychologists
  • Lawyers
  • Judicial Law Clerks
  • Judges, Magistrate Judges, and Magistrates
  • Postsecondary Teachers
  • Chiropractors
  • Dentists, General
  • Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons
  • Orthodontists
  • Prosthodontists
  • Dentists, All Other Specialists
  • Optometrists
  • Pharmacists
  • Physicians and Surgeons
  • Podiatrists
  • Physical Therapists
  • Veterinarians
  • Audiologists

If law degrees are versatile, it ain’t for jobs requiring doctoral or professional educations, as far as the BLS is concerned, and unless there’s a supplemental knowledge prerequisite for employment.

Of the 2.8 million doctoral and professional degree workers employed in jobs requiring their educations, 702,710 are lawyers (out of 728,200), 1,190 are judicial law clerks (29,800(!)), and 32,810 are judges (34,000). That’s 26 percent of the 2.8 million-person blue-blob in the last chart. Incidentally, the BLS managed to find 730 lawyers who never finished high school and another 730 who did but had no education beyond that. 24,030 lawyers have only a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree. These non-JD lawyers are probably mostly in California.

The good news is that most workers with doctorates and professional degrees don’t end up doing work that never required them to set foot outside of high school (the three percent “End of All Things” category in the chart above), but undoubtedly the non-blue chunk in the chart contains a good number of people with juris doctors. Here’s their Google-pandering top 10 list:

This amounts to 23 percent of that non-blue chunk. Some of these are more understandable than others, e.g. clergy.

So, I’m going to quit my job and this blog to start writing my network sit-com pitch now: Nurse, J.D.

Indiana Tech’s Proponents Continue to Make Fools of Themselves, Amuse Critics

The Master's "Client Incarnation" CLE is always well attended.

The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette decided to update us on my new least-favorite new law school (Wilkes-Barre, I miss you!), Indiana Tech School of Law. Readers will recall I dipped into the topic after J-Dog did simply because the university’s reasons for establishing another law school were too absurdly self-serving to pass up, particularly in this line:

However, absent dramatic change in the way law is currently practiced and given the dynamics of the national demand for legal education, the United States may need to import foreign lawyers or increase the outsourcing of legal work to foreign lawyers in their home countries to meet this country’s projected demand for legal services. (Page 9, pdf page 17, emphasis LSTB)

After one month that line still makes me both laugh and shake my head in embarrassment for those who published it.

This month, Devon Haynie sets up the pins yet lacks the will to knock ‘em down. As you can imagine, I felt his article is too neutral rather than unbiased, particularly the heading titled, “Backed by research,” which contained this nugget:

The [feasibility study] also concluded that Indiana had few lawyers compared with other states, which could put the state at an economic development disadvantage. Many Hoosier college graduates would like to go to law school in-state, the report argued, but can’t get into Indiana’s other law schools. As a result, the report found, many Hoosier students attend law schools out of state, never to return.

Last time I checked, demand for lawyers is based on supply and demand for legal services. Unless Indiana tries to limit the practice of law to only those who have degrees from Indiana law schools, the state can easily import lawyers from other states. Neutral indeed. The real “research” that backed this move:

[Indiana Tech President Arthur] Snyder ultimately made the recommendation to move forward with the law school, he said the decision was a result of months of discussion among the board of trustees’ executive committee about how to broaden the school’s academic offerings and strengthen its reputation.

Why are broader academic offerings and a stronger reputation necessary? No answers. Fortunately, after carefully considering all the arguments thrown at them, President Snyder and Chairman Robert Wagner developed strong rebuttals:

The economy may look bleak today, they say, but that won’t last forever. And not every graduate will be clamoring for the kind of legal jobs that are in short supply today. Increasingly, Wagner notes, law school graduates are taking jobs in business and other fields where law degrees are considered an asset.

The Bottleneck Argument and the Versatile JD? That’s all they could come up with? No LSTB, they do try harder:

The school, Snyder said, will pair students with attorney mentors, place them in internships at local law firms, and draw on other local resources to ensure students are prepared to practice as attorneys immediately after graduation.

This is a non sequitur. Practice-ready attorneys are nice, but no amount of training wills clients into being. Stagnant demand for legal services is the issue.

Once Snyder appoints a dean, which he hopes to do by September, he said he will have a better idea of how the school will distinguish itself. For now, he plans for the school to concentrate on leadership, with a chance for students to earn a dual degree in law and organizational leadership.

Organizational Leadership? This is new to me, but here’s a link to Indiana Tech’s undergraduate OL degree. It’s a business degree with added courses like “Employee Development,” and, “Managing Organizational Change.” Interesting stuff but it still doesn’t create jobs. Bill Henderson comments:

“I don’t think it’s fair to heap scorn on the people starting this thing at Indiana Tech,” he said. “It creates problems for the legal profession when you have too many law schools cranking out lawyers – that’s something we’re going to have to deal with. But there’s room for improvement in legal education … It is possible to create a really terrific law school that does a better job than others.”

Yet this is not what Indiana Tech’s proponents argue. The university isn’t claiming that it’s trying to butt-out other law schools at a shrinking trough; rather, it’s claiming the trough is big enough for everyone, or that it will be when the economy recovers, or that demand for legal services doesn’t affect national lawyer mobility, or that we’ll need to import foreign lawyers in the coming decades, or that it doesn’t matter because Indiana Tech’s specialized professional degree is a Swiss army knife, and that the university needs to expand its graduate school and gain prestige without any explanation. Such is the extent of Indiana Tech’s overreach. I would not heap such scorn on Arthur Snyder’s plan if he argued that Indiana Tech was going to employ a superior curriculum to crowd out the Notre Dame 2Ls in OCI. He would be reckless and unprincipled if he planned that, given how legal education works, but we could not call him absurdly unrealistic.

However, there is no superior curriculum. No new law school can crowd out Notre Dame, law schools cannot create demand for legal services no matter what supplemental knowledge graduates receive, and no one can create financial aid ex nihilo. Consequently, it is very fair to heap scorn on Indiana Tech.

"Financial Aid ex nihilo," another of the Master's popular lectures

Links Generation—Law School Deans Are Not Experts on the Legal Labor Market, and Taxpayers Fund Army Officers’ Legal Education

When you run out of Beatles albums, you move to the Who.

Two links have caught my eye.

(1) LeeAnn Maton, “Law School No ‘Magic Bullet’ Against Recession, but Financial Aid Can Help,” in Wallet Pop

[I]s investing in a law degree still worth the expense?  Actually, yes, according to three legal education experts who spoke to Money College about law school financial aid.  [emphasis explained below]

Really??  Please, please, please prove me wrong about the tuition bubble!  Who are these three experts?  Behold: Continue reading

Abbey Links–Dean Farmer of Rutgers on the “Real Value” of Legal Education

Responding to its recent article the New Jersey Star-Ledger granted Rutgers dean John Farmer Jr. space to write, “The Real Value of a Legal Education.”

Honestly, I couldn’t follow most of this piece.  Here’s my best stab.  Dean Farmer rhetorically asks, “What, exactly, is this enterprise of legal education about anyway?”  He answers:

But the real value of legal education is not, and never has been, primarily economic.  It’s not about money; it’s about freedom.  Legal education gives students what 99.9 percent of humanity yearns for but is denied: control over one’s own life.  It is a license to make of your life what you may, to live the American dream to its fullest…Lawyers express their individual freedom by helping other people protect theirs. There is no more honorable calling, and no better or more important education.

Continue reading

Links in the Vaseline–Law School Defenders

I know.  I know.  I forgot about the amusingly-named Talking Heads compilation album in my links titles.

David Lat at Above the Law tasks me with his post, “In Defense of Going to Law School,” in which he believes the case against law school is, “greatly exaggerated.”  He gives five reasons for attending law school that counter in his opinion, “the extreme law school stance.”  I should add here that the LSTB is not “extremely” anti-law school.  In particular, if you (a) have marketable supplemental knowledge, connections, or a good enough law school, or (b) know of a small market for attorneys (this week I heard that Russellville, Alabama has zero lawyers), or (c) believe that the non-monetary benefits outweigh the costs, then law school is fine, though I recommend waiting until the tuition bubble bursts and costs drop.  The Law School Tuition Bubble takes an empirical view on legal education’s costs vs. benefits, even if it means perishing in the flames of positivism.

I don’t wholly disagree with Lat’s five reasons (except the third one) or tone, but his comments touch on many points I’ve discussed.

Continue reading

Law School: You Get What You Put into It…Sort Of

Earlier, I distinguished the versatile juris doctor from the supplemental knowledge argument.  The two are not to be confused, and I’ll see to that in this post.

The versatile J.D. argument counterintuitively and often misleadingly asserts that a juris doctor will open employment doors beyond private or public legal practice, even though in reality that means either practicing law beforehand or performing jobs that really do not or should not require a three-year graduate-level law degree in the first place.  For example, in civil law countries, compliance or corporate general counsel are competently performed by people who have undergraduate degrees in law.

Supplemental knowledge means education and skills acquired before going to law school.  This is quite significant now because despite the recession, those with rare or unusual supplemental knowledge can make enormous salaries in niche positions, which I’m fine with because that’s just straight-up supply and demand.  People in these circumstances often proclaim (or are used to claim) that the juris doctor is a versatile degree.  In reality, your mileage may vary.

Allow me to illustrate:

Continue reading

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