Lowering Law School Tuition Mainly Benefits Students, Taxpayers

Gotta be quick, but Brooklyn Law School dean Nicholas Allard writes in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Lowering Law-School Tuition Benefits Everyone, Not Just the Students,” which deserves comment.

The fact is that the financial model of law schools is broken. Unless the schools do what they can to make legal education more affordable, they will price themselves out of business, contribute to the high cost of legal services that most people need, and widen the gap in access to justice.

The first sentence is true, but the rest is questionable. Many people will not go to law school at any price, but some schools will survive if they slash tuition. However, tuition has little to do with the cost of legal services and access to justice (not the justice of rents to legal educators).

Allard appears to believe that high tuition leads to high debt, which leads to lawyers not taking public interest jobs that pay less then courtroom janitors. It’s odd because two paragraphs later, he mentions Public Service Loan Forgiveness and Pay-As-You-Earn, which falsify his thesis. If highly indebted graduates want to serve the poor, they should be able to under the current loan-repayment framework. Sure, the proposed caps on PSLF would be bad for debtors and are based on the belief that they over-borrowed rather than the schools over-pricing, the government over-lending, or the jobs-underpaying, but graduates do not often pass up public interest in favor of biglaw. Not everyone gets such a choice.

It is a shameful canard that student loans and indebtedness are the cause of high tuition. They are not; they are the symptom. Tuitions at law schools are soaring … because of the way law schools spend money in pursuit of rankings rather than investing in students, education, professional training, and scholarship.

Not sure what Allard means here, but I think it’s the closest I’ve seen to a law school dean rejecting the Bennett hypothesis. Without excessive federal lending, law schools couldn’t raise their costs. It’s the means of the tuition bubble, not the motive and opportunity—if you fancy looking at this like a murder mystery.

With political currents eroding America’s historic and successful support for higher education, we can’t expect anyone else to help. We must do what we can to break this cycle ourselves. By making law school expensive for motivated, talented women and men, we are shortchanging ourselves. In this country, lawyers have played the central role as guardians of our democratic republic and architects of economic opportunity and prosperity. They will be needed even more in the future.

Political support for legal education has not been a success. It’s created too many law schools, too many law school graduates, and too much unpayable student debt. For example, the NALP just reported that the percent of 2013 graduates employed at all in February 2014 had fallen—negligibly—to 84.5 percent, even though late last year Dean Allard predicted, “[T]he employment rates reported in 2014 will be substantially higher than in 2013.” (More on the NALP report another time.)

Look, good on Brooklyn Law School for unilaterally cutting its tuition next year. It may not be a voluntary rather than demonstrative act like if an elite law school did it to buck the U.S. News rankings, but we can have competent lawyers without student loans and expensive law schools.

On a 25-year fixed repayment the average 2013 Brooklyn Law grad would have to cough up over $750 a month to make his or her student loan payments on $110,000 in debt. Even under the old IBR system, that would require an income of $121,600 per year from day one to escape loan cancelation after 25 years. Since many BLS grads don’t make that kind of income, many will undoubtedly take PAYE and the government will have to write-down the losses. Thus, Allard is right: The beneficiaries of lower law school tuition aren’t just law students but everyone else. Although, it is a “shameful canard” to imply that the federal loan program is a blessing for everyone but law schools and a handful of lucky law students.

After the JD Wave 0

Last month I wrote an article for the The Am Law Daily about the After the JD project, a longitudinal study that measures employment outcomes for people who passed the bar exam in 2000. I thought it might be interesting to offer, as an appendix, the Official Guide‘s employment outcomes for Y2K law grads (they’re in the ’03 edition). Obviously, this isn’t a perfect fit as some people who passed the bar in 2000 graduated earlier, but the overlap should be fairly significant.

Back in those days, though, the Official Guide wasn’t the treasure trove of knowledge that the ABA’s employment questionnaire reports are now, and it’s certainly not as detailed as the After the JD’s information is. However, for those interested in getting a sense of the legal market many of the After the JD cohort entered into by law school, look no further.

To conserve blog space, the tables will follow the jump.

Continue reading

Record 14 Law Schools Didn’t Report 2013 Graduate Debt to U.S. News

Record, that is, going back to 2009. If you have data from earlier, lemme know.

Each year, accompanying the U.S. News rankings is the online magazine’s list of law schools by graduate debt. The law schools are required to report this information to the ABA, but the ABA inexplicably doesn’t release it to the public, even though it’s one of the most useful things people studying law schools would like to know about. Instead, the ABA takes an unweighted average of the numbers and posts it in this pdf. Thus, for some reason, we must rely on U.S. News, and of course, law schools can decline to transmit their graduates’ average debt numbers.

On average, about four law schools (excluding Widener University’s Harrisburg campus, the three Puerto Rico law schools, and Belmont because I don’t think it’s had any graduates yet) don’t report average graduate debt levels. The previous record was six in 2010. This year, as many as fourteen chose not to. Here’s the list and their last reported average graduate debt levels:

Arizona Summit (formerly Phoenix) – $162,627 [UPDATE: Per the comments below, Arizona Summit Law School’s Web site posts its 2012-13 graduates’ average amount borrowed as $184,825.]

Southwestern – $147,976

Atlanta’s John Marshall – $142,515

Cornell – $140,000

Touro – $137,781

Campbell – $130,428

Santa Clara – $129,621

Loyola (La.) – $124,335

Thomas M. Cooley – $122,395

Appalachian – $114,740

La Verne – $112,628

Texas Southern – $99,992

Florida A&M (two years in a row) – $96,934

Rutgers-Camden – $93,990

Most of the non-reporters are private law schools and five are free-standing privates. Four are in California. All of them tend to have higher debt levels than the norm, so any weighted-average law school debt figure will skew downward. This is important because the unweighted average law school debt level appears to have declined, but that’s attributable to non-reporting—not reduced average costs or less Grad PLUS borrowing. Last year these schools graduated 3,724 students, eight percent of the total.

Other law schools deserve dishonorable mention for misreporting:

  • Barry University didn’t report its average graduate debt level last year, but two years ago it was $137,680; this year it’s only $47,799, suggesting it reported its third-year students’ annual debt and not graduate debt like it was supposed to. There was a flap about this last year, so it’s surprising anyone would make this mistake again. (Why U.S. News doesn’t notice is another matter.)
  • Southern University Law Center’s graduate debt spiked from $21,911 last year to $80,542 this year, indicating it’d been misreporting in previous years. Credit for the correction, discredit for misreporting in previous years.

Honorable mentions:

  • University of District of Columbia reported its average graduate debt for the first time in three years.
  • University of Indiana-Indianapolis reported its average graduate debt for the first time in four years.
  • No law school that reported its average graduate debt omitted the percent of graduates who had student loan debt. This had occurred in previous years but not this year.

I don’t know why law schools neglect to report their average graduate debt levels. If I were paranoid, I’d say that it makes high-debt/poor-outcome schools look unappealing, and since there’s no punishment for not reporting, they don’t. I do think it’s bad for law schools to not report average debt levels, and the high number of non-reports this year doesn’t make law schools look particularly transparent in general.

[UPDATE: Forgot to mention that the numbers thrown around here are average amounts borrowed and not average indebtedness, which would include accrued interest.]

Which Law Schools Saw the Biggest Full-Time Enrollment Drops in 2013?

…Is the question of the day. The bigger question is, enrollment drop since when? Most of the time media outlets will report law schools’ cumulative percent declines since the overall enrollment peak in 2010, but those aren’t necessarily descriptive. It might be more valuable to measure enrollment declines since previous trough years. For the mean average law school, those would be 2007 and 1999.

Full-Time Law School Enrollment (ex P.R.)

(Source: Official Guide, 2013 data here (PDF), author’s calculations)

You might also want to ask, why not include part-time or post-J.D. students? There are a bunch of reasons, and laziness isn’t one of them. One, full-time programs are the bread and butter of law schools. Two, we care more about the younger crowd, who tend to be full-timers and are more likely to pay full tuition. Three, in any given year part-timers are not even 20 percent of all J.D. students. Nowadays, their share is even less… I could go on but I won’t.

If you remove the 23 law schools that were accredited since 1999 (!), the two average trough years remain the same, and the most-recent trough year for all law students moves from 2006 to 2007, which makes this analysis cleaner. Yay!

So, here’s a table of cumulative law school enrollment declines that’s sorted by the average of law schools’ 1999 and 2007 declines (not shown). Why that average? Because we want to see which law schools are really breaking from their enrollment trends. Schools like Quinnipiac, for example, have seen large enrollment drops since 1999, but not so much in 2007, meaning they shrank significantly in the previous decade and not more recently. I’ve also included the commonly used cumulative decline since 2010, as well as a ranking for that on the rightmost column.

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# LAW SCHOOL 1999 DECLINE 2007 DECLINE 2010 DECLINE 2010 RANK
1. Catholic -47.7% -43.7% -39.1% 5.
2. Tulsa -42.5% -43.8% -31.0% 15.
3. Seton Hall -42.6% -33.9% -32.2% 14.
4. Iowa -38.1% -35.1% -28.4% 21.
5. Case Western Reserve -32.6% -38.3% -33.0% 10.
6. Hamline -30.8% -37.4% -32.9% 12.
7. Western New England -25.9% -40.8% -39.3% 4.
8. Cleveland State -31.8% -34.8% -27.6% 23.
9. Wayne State -35.9% -30.6% -30.7% 17.
10. Golden Gate -20.9% -37.5% -45.5% 1.
11. New Hampshire -24.5% -32.3% -35.3% 8.
12. Kansas -32.1% -24.6% -25.6% 27.
13. Dayton -28.8% -24.1% -38.5% 6.
14. Widener -29.6% -21.3% -30.9% 16.
15. Capital -21.1% -29.0% -32.9% 11.
16. McGeorge -29.3% -20.3% -32.3% 13.
17. Samford -30.2% -17.4% -16.7% 62.
18. Florida, University of -20.1% -26.8% -9.6% 100.
19. Regent -20.3% -24.7% -19.6% 48.
20. Texas -25.9% -19.1% -9.4% 102.
21. Thomas M. Cooley -16.6% -27.9% -44.1% 3.
22. Temple -23.8% -20.3% -24.6% 32.
23. Wisconsin -20.3% -22.8% -17.5% 56.
24. Quinnipiac -49.8% 7.2% -25.9% 26.
25. Toledo -24.1% -18.4% -22.2% 42.
26. Missouri (Columbia) -27.7% -14.5% -13.1% 84.
27. Washburn -17.5% -23.8% -25.3% 28.
28. Ohio Northern -17.2% -24.1% -24.6% 31.
29. Boston University -24.2% -17.1% -17.7% 55.
30. Lewis and Clark -16.7% -23.8% -22.7% 39.
31. Gonzaga -10.8% -29.5% -23.1% 36.
32. Houston -18.8% -21.1% -11.7% 91.
33. New York Law School -9.9% -28.8% -44.4% 2.
34. Widener (Harrisburg) -8.1% -30.5% -38.3% 7.
35. Vermont -13.2% -24.0% -30.5% 18.
36. Southern Methodist -28.0% -6.8% -4.6% 140.
37. Albany -15.2% -19.2% -23.2% 34.
38. Villanova -15.9% -18.3% -22.4% 40.
39. Duquesne -8.0% -26.2% -23.6% 33.
40. Tulane -26.8% -7.3% -9.4% 103.
41. Memphis -19.5% -14.2% -16.9% 60.
42. California Western -9.1% -23.0% -26.1% 25.
43. Brooklyn -8.3% -23.4% -29.7% 20.
44. Oregon -13.8% -17.4% -17.1% 58.
45. Pittsburgh -13.9% -17.4% -20.2% 47.
46. Oklahoma -20.6% -9.4% -14.0% 78.
47. Texas Southern -20.3% -8.6% -6.7% 127.
48. Syracuse -20.7% -8.2% -4.7% 137.
49. Seattle -6.8% -21.9% -18.3% 53.
50. George Mason -0.5% -27.8% -28.1% 22.
51. SUNY Buffalo -8.2% -18.6% -12.4% 86.
52. Penn State -9.4% -17.1% -23.0% 37.
53. Rutgers (Camden) -16.2% -9.8% -11.7% 92.
54. St. Mary’s -16.4% -9.4% -6.2% 129.
55. San Francisco -7.6% -17.1% -21.7% 45.
56. Ohio State -10.0% -14.2% -17.2% 57.
57. St. Louis 1.6% -25.5% -30.1% 19.
58. West Virginia -8.9% -14.2% -7.3% 123.
59. Arizona -11.8% -10.8% -13.9% 81.
60. Willamette -12.3% -9.6% -15.8% 67.
61. Creighton -6.6% -15.3% -16.8% 61.
62. Alabama -15.9% -5.5% -8.6% 110.
63. California-Hastings -5.9% -14.3% -16.5% 64.
64. Illinois -12.0% -7.5% -15.2% 71.
65. South Carolina -12.6% -6.9% -9.1% 105.
66. Brigham Young -8.8% -9.8% -7.0% 125.
67. Boston College -12.1% -6.4% -8.5% 112.
68. Florida State -4.1% -14.3% -15.9% 66.
69. Akron -12.6% -5.2% 4.7% 179.
70. Connecticut 0.2% -16.9% -8.6% 111.
71. Missouri (Kansas City) -7.0% -9.2% -7.6% 117.
72. California-Davis -2.3% -13.5% -15.3% 70.
73. Denver -1.3% -14.4% -4.7% 138.
74. Utah -4.1% -10.8% -11.9% 90.
75. Virginia -3.9% -10.8% -5.2% 134.
76. Tennessee -8.7% -5.8% -8.3% 113.
77. Santa Clara 0.2% -14.3% -16.7% 63.
78. Pepperdine -9.2% -4.9% -9.7% 98.
79. Southern Illinois -10.5% -3.4% -10.5% 97.
80. Mississippi -2.9% -10.8% -10.7% 96.
81. St. John’s -2.9% -10.3% -12.2% 88.
82. Notre Dame -5.5% -7.6% -7.8% 115.
83. DePaul -8.3% -3.4% -15.6% 68.
84. William Mitchell 10.4% -21.9% -17.1% 59.
85. City University -2.8% -8.3% -13.7% 83.
86. Richmond -4.0% -6.4% 0.7% 171.
87. Northeastern -1.6% -8.8% -9.5% 101.
88. Michigan -1.6% -8.5% -7.4% 122.
89. Cincinnati -7.0% -3.1% -15.4% 69.
90. Arkansas (Fayetteville) -0.5% -9.1% -5.1% 135.
91. Wyoming -6.0% -3.1% -4.3% 141.
92. District of Columbia 12.5% -20.3% -26.2% 24.
93. Indiana (Indianapolis) 2.7% -10.2% -2.4% 154.
94. Minnesota 2.3% -9.1% -4.1% 143.
95. San Diego 3.1% -9.4% -16.2% 65.
96. Georgia -3.0% -3.3% -11.7% 93.
97. Hofstra -0.2% -5.6% -13.1% 85.
98. Nova Southeastern 0.0% -5.7% -18.8% 52.
99. Kentucky 0.0% -5.6% -4.1% 145.
100. Hawaii 1.7% -7.0% -19.0% 51.
101. Nebraska 0.0% -4.8% -8.3% 114.
102. Vanderbilt 1.1% -5.8% -3.4% 150.
103. Loyola Marymount (CA) -1.7% -2.8% -3.8% 146.
104. Louisiana State -8.2% 3.7% -5.0% 136.
105. Drake 8.0% -12.3% -19.5% 49.
106. Pace 6.7% -10.3% -22.1% 43.
107. Rutgers (Newark) 3.2% -6.3% -14.3% 77.
108. California-Los Angeles 1.9% -4.9% -2.4% 153.
109. George Washington 5.9% -8.9% -8.7% 109.
110. New Mexico -1.7% -0.9% -2.0% 157.
111. Illinois Institute of Technology -3.9% 1.6% -2.8% 151.
112. Howard 2.8% -4.9% -14.0% 79.
113. Oklahoma City 14.0% -15.6% -25.0% 29.
114. Maine -0.8% -0.4% -9.0% 107.
115. Maryland 4.2% -5.2% -12.4% 87.
116. Washington University 13.6% -14.2% -23.1% 35.
117. Southern California -1.0% 0.7% -7.5% 118.
118. Loyola (LA) 16.9% -17.0% -14.7% 75.
119. California-Berkeley 1.1% -1.2% -6.8% 126.
120. Texas Tech 7.6% -7.5% -4.6% 139.
121. Stetson 8.7% -8.4% -19.1% 50.
122. Colorado 4.7% -3.0% -5.9% 131.
123. Mississippi College 18.6% -16.9% -18.1% 54.
124. Montana 6.4% -2.0% -2.7% 152.
125. Pennsylvania 4.2% 0.5% -2.0% 156.
126. Harvard 5.2% 0.4% 0.5% 169.
127. South Dakota 12.5% -6.8% 2.0% 174.
128. Duke -2.0% 7.9% -2.3% 155.
129. Northern Illinois 11.9% -5.8% -9.0% 106.
130. New York University 6.8% -0.4% -0.9% 163.
131. Mercer 7.2% -0.7% 1.4% 173.
132. Miami 15.6% -8.8% -14.4% 76.
133. Baltimore 8.1% -0.9% -10.8% 95.
134. Columbia 6.9% 1.0% -7.1% 124.
135. Indiana (Bloomington) 4.9% 3.1% -1.2% 161.
136. Suffolk 5.4% 2.9% -3.6% 148.
137. North Carolina 5.4% 3.0% -7.5% 119.
138. New England 14.2% -5.5% -15.1% 72.
139. Chicago 8.3% 0.8% -3.5% 149.
140. South Texas 10.4% -0.2% -7.4% 120.
141. Idaho 7.5% 2.9% -9.2% 104.
142. Cardozo 7.4% 3.7% -4.1% 144.
143. Washington 8.9% 2.5% -1.6% 159.
144. Southwestern 13.4% -1.7% -7.4% 121.
145. Stanford 5.3% 6.7% 0.5% 170.
146. Wake Forest 6.4% 6.6% -1.0% 162.
147. Arizona State 17.9% -4.7% -7.7% 116.
148. Cornell 10.6% 3.6% -1.8% 158.
149. Whittier 5.7% 8.9% -14.7% 74.
150. Yale 8.5% 6.7% -0.6% 167.
151. Northwestern 17.4% -1.0% -6.6% 128.
152. William and Mary 15.8% 1.0% -0.8% 165.
153. Arkansas (Little Rock) 17.8% -0.3% -13.9% 80.
154. Georgia State 18.7% -0.8% 2.6% 176.
155. Washington and Lee 14.8% 6.1% 2.9% 177.
156. Fordham 29.0% -6.9% -8.9% 108.
157. Valparaiso 26.0% -1.2% -9.6% 99.
158. Western State 16.7% 8.1% -11.9% 89.
159. North Dakota 28.2% -3.2% -5.9% 132.
160. Touro 37.3% -11.7% -24.6% 30.
161. John Marshall (Chicago) 34.9% -9.1% -13.8% 82.
162. St. Thomas (FL) 27.9% -0.3% -15.0% 73.
163. Georgetown 25.3% 5.5% 4.2% 178.
164. Thomas Jefferson 43.5% -5.7% -20.2% 46.
165. Marquette 30.6% 9.6% -0.7% 166.
166. Loyola (IL) 31.0% 9.7% -1.6% 160.
167. American 42.0% -0.5% -0.2% 168.
168. Louisville 30.6% 12.4% -4.2% 142.
169. Emory 31.7% 14.4% 2.4% 175.
170. Michigan State 38.8% 9.1% -5.6% 133.
171. Roger Williams 81.0% -24.5% -22.2% 41.
172. Texas Wesleyan 59.0% 5.9% -3.7% 147.
173. Campbell 42.1% 24.5% -6.2% 130.
174. Southern University 52.1% 27.9% -0.8% 164.
175. Northern Kentucky 80.4% 9.2% -11.5% 94.
176. Detroit Mercy 115.5% -24.5% -22.0% 44.
177. North Carolina Central 94.5% 3.8% 1.0% 172.
178. Chapman 326.3% -11.0% -22.7% 38.
179. Florida Coastal 367.9% -9.9% -34.1% 9.
TOTAL -1.0% -10.0% -13.5%
MEAN AVERAGE 4.0% -10.0% -13.8%
MEDIAN AVERAGE -1.6% -8.6% -11.9%

Some observations:

  • Florida Coastal is the real oddball because it’s been league average since 2007 but is way higher than 1999 when it began its expansion phase. Nevertheless, it’s in the top-10 for cumulative full-time enrollment declines since 2010. I’m fine with this result as the goal of this exercise is to find which “established” schools had the most consistent enrollment declines, and newer schools, especially freestanders and for-profits, aren’t very typical. Nor, for that matter, are schools that rely heavily on part-time students.
  • A bunch of the schools at the top of the list never really benefited from the 2010 peak, which shouldn’t be too surprising if you think about it.
  • Elite law schools tend to be at the bottom of both rankings columns, showing that they have much more control over their student bodies than non-elite schools.
  • I’m a little surprised to see Iowa and Wisconsin so high up the list. Texas’ case is a little different, I think, because it may’ve tried to become more selective over the years.
  • Can’t say the same about Case Western or Seton Hall, given what some of their faculty have been saying publicly, but that’s just synthesis via cynicism.
  • Also can’t say the same thing about Boston University; it consistently has a low acceptance rate and a low matriculation yield, implying that it’s everyone’s safety school. There are a few schools in U.S. News‘ 10-30 that are fairly similar (Southern California, Boston College, George Washington, Georgetown, Duke, etc.), but they appear to be doing better than BU.
  • Another way I may do this exercise in the future is to sort the schools by statistical area. It might help illuminate which local schools are more popular than others, regardless of what the rankings say.
  • As many as 11 law schools have seen a positive cumulative enrollment changes since 2010.
  • 83 schools have positive cumulative enrollments since 1999, but don’t worry, almost all of them have larger full-time faculties and the ones that don’t may’ve submitted erroneous faculty data to the Official Guide.

That’s all I’ve got. Peace.

Brilliant People Still Applying to Law School

…Or at least “people who can crush standardized tests” are still applying to law school.

[Mini-Update: For those who’ve read Jerry Organ’s recent writing on the subject, I don’t imply that he’s one of the people arguing that the “wrong people” are applying to law school because he didn’t argue that. Two, the reason he found a greater high-end LSAT decline than I did is that he estimated the applicant profiles into 2013 and I didn’t. His projections may prove correct, but at the very least the initial decline started in the upper-middle LSAT band and has accelerated to the high end.]

I’m not going to go out of my way to cite them, but I’ve seen it asserted that the “wrong people” are choosing not to apply to law school. By “wrong people” they mean those with high GPAs and LSAT scores, aka those who keep civilization from fragmenting into warring states. Focusing only on LSAT scores—as they’re most comparable—the story is a little more complicated. Sure, the collapse in applicants has skewed towards the high end of the LSAT spectrum, but for the most part, the decline has been in the middle.

Here’s 2012 compared to 2010.

No. Applicants by LSAT Score

And here’s the percent decline in each bracket.

Percent Change Number of Applicants by LSAT Score Bracket

So yes, there’s been a big drop at the high end, but overall the decline has been distributed normally as the first chart implies. Here’s the apportionment:

Percent Fewer Applicants Share of Total Decline by Lsat Score

(n=-20,479 applicants)

Pretty much a bell curve. Importantly, more than 60 percent would’ve gotten an LSAT score below 160. The 165+ range doesn’t account for 15 percent of the total decline. Lesson: Those concerned that the best and brightest aren’t interested in law school can rest easy; no warring states! It’s the upper-middle brackets, 150-164 (64 percent!), that are driving the applicant drop.

(Source: LSAC National Decision Profiles)

And for some fun, here’s the decline in law schools’ full-time matriculants’ LSAT scores by their 2014 edition U.S. News rankings.

2010-2012 LSAT Score Decline by U.S. News Category (2014 Edition)

(Slight whoopsie: the middle set of bars should be 51-100. Also, not published (“NP”) includes the unranked University of La Verne, not that it makes much of a difference.)

Looking at this makes me wonder aloud: How far can these numbers drop before employers start worrying about credential dilution at some higher-ranked schools? Or does the sheepskin outweigh the entering credentials?

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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LSTB Is on Holiday

I’m taking a rare vacation, which may hamper blogging. In the meantime, outgoing Illinois State Bar Association president John E. Thies has written a letter to the editor at The Am Law Daily criticizing my article on state bar association proposals, “State Bar Proposals Fail to Address Law Students’ Woes.”

The good news is I have little quarrel with Thies as even he recognizes at the end of his letter. We agree on some of the means to reform but not the reasons, which is important but not important enough to dedicate an enormous number of mental clock cycles in rejoinder, and since I didn’t make any material misstatements of fact in my article I’ll spare The Am Law Daily any corrections. (They can thank me later.)

(1)  My argument was indirect, but I think my examples illustrated that the Special Committee claimed debt created a price floor. In fact, its report said “EXCESSIVE LAW SCHOOL DEBT DECREASES THE QUANTITY AND QUALITY OF LEGAL SERVICES AVAILABLE TO THE PUBLIC.” That sure sounds like a price floor to me. Then in his third paragraph, Thies agrees with me that the “public’s ability to pay” is keeping lawyer earnings down, which makes the rest of his letter confusing. Is he agreeing with me or not?

(2)  As for Thies’ examples of attorneys’ employment choices due to debt. They should have access to IBR/ICR (more on that below), and in some situations it sounded like the employers wanted experienced lawyers, not recent graduates.

(3)  Thus, Thies presents an economic theory stating that low-skill lawyers are discouraged from the profession by debt, creating a long-term shortage of high-skill lawyers. It sounds to me that when demand is slack for lawyers, new graduates don’t get hired. Indeed, this has been going on for a while as the profession is graying. As Thies and I agreed (I think), poor people are poor. This causes lawyer unemployment.

(4)  Regarding IBR and interest capitalization, 20 U.S.C. 1098e(b)(3) says that so long as the debtor has a “partial financial hardship” interest does not capitalize onto principal, which applies to the lawyers Thies mentions. Once someone no longer has a PFH, then the interest gets capitalized, but that’s when IBR essentially turns into a 10-year repayment plan. If anything, Thies’ lawyers would be better off staying at lower-paying jobs to prevent interest capitalization. (I guess the trick is to defer compensation until after the loans are canceled. Talk about bad incentives.)

The Department of Education prints this too. Only Illinois’ three public law schools’ graduates had less than $100,000 in disbursed debt on average at graduation as of 2012. Even U of Illinois’ was $95,830. These debtors will have to fork out $8,500 per year on a 25-year repayment plan unless it’s a graduated plan. Good luck to them if they can afford it, but they’ll almost certainly choose IBR since they’re either unemployed or it costs them less in the long run thanks to cancelation.

(5)  My fear isn’t of the John E. Thieses of the world but of the kinds of people who will be whispering the Philip Schrag (or worse Simkovic and McIntyre) argument into legislators’ ears that we’re wrong about student loan debt so keep shoveling the law schools money. (Better yet, pay the law schools up front and the government will recoup the costs by income taxes.)

(6)  It’s asking a bit much of the Special Committee, but why do graduates from NIU and SIU have less debt yet poorer outcomes than other Illinois law school grads? If that’s so, then it’s time to consider shutting them down because they’re unnecessary. And if U of Illinois is going to charge $38,500 (2012) for in-state students and defraud the ABA just to maintain its place in the U.S. News rankings, then it’s abandoned its public mission and should be shut down too.

Now for some ROCK AND ROLL!!!!!

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Okay it’s soul, but the video is genius.

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