How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the ‘JD Advantage’ Category

…Pretty much sums up my response to the National Association for Law Placement’s analysis of the class of 2013’s employment outcomes.

Quoth Executive Director James Leipold:

As the legal services market continues to change at a rapid pace following the dramatic downsizing during the recession, the variety and diversity of jobs that law grads take now is greater than ever. In general, the picture that emerges is one of slow growth, and growth that is a blend of continued shrinkage and downsizing in some areas offset by growth in other areas.

Although the NALP changed its terminology from “JD Preferred” to “JD Advantage” starting with the class of 2011, this year marks the record percentage of JD Advantage jobs.

Percent Employed by Status (NALP)

The good news is that the percent not working (aka the unemployment rate) has fallen to 12.9 percent. The record was 14.6 percent in 1993. I’m confident that record will not be breached, so there’s some good news. Indeed, I think it’s disturbing that the early ’90s recession mauled law practice so badly.

As for the JD Advantageers (seriously, slap a jetpack on them and shoot them into the sky), though, I did a quick correlation analysis for the 2001-2013 period. JD Advantage has a surprising -0.94 correlation with Bar Passage Required and an unfortunate 0.85 correlation with Not Working. This bodes ill for the merits of JD Advantage generally.

As for the correlation between JD Advantage and employer types, again, private practice correlates at -0.94. (Wow.) Business and Industry weighs in at 0.97, but Public Interest comes in at 0.91, which is either good or means that Public Interest has been watered down with people who couldn’t find work in firms.

(I forgot to mention that Business and Industry hit a record 18.4 percent of employer types this year.)

So yeah, strong positive correlations with unemployment is usually something you don’t want when making sense of employment categories. Thus, when Leipold says that the picture is one of “slow growth that is a blend of continued shrinkage and downsizing in some areas offset by growth in other areas,” I caution against seeing growing proportions of JD Advantage outcomes as plausibly representing a positive future for law school graduates.

Leipold, lamentably, disagrees:

It is not true that there are too many lawyers — indeed even today most Americans do not have adequate access to affordable legal services — but the traditional market for large numbers of law graduates by large law firms seeking equity-track new associates is not likely to ever return to what it was in 2006 or 2007, and thus aggregate earning opportunities for the class as a whole are not likely to return to what they were before the recession.

Not too many lawyers? Tell that to the JD Advantage cadre.

NYT Op-Ed Authors Ignore Bloat in Legal Education

…Is up on The American Lawyer.

Memo to law students who think their underemployed, indebted classmates are Lucky Duckies: THIS is how you write about legal education.

‘After the JD’ Offers Weak Evidence of JD’s Value

…Is up on The Am Law Daily.

And now ladies and gentlemen, the band called Death.

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This band’s interesting story is the subject of a documentary titled, A Band Called Death, that’s on Netflix.

‘Economic Value’ Paper a Mistrial at Best, Part 2 of 2

[This is the second part of my response to the Simkovic and McIntyre article, "The Economic Value of a Law Degree" ("Economic Value") and the authors' response on The Am Law Daily. The first part of this response can be found here.]

Criticism 4:

“And [Leichter] largely ignores our extensive discussion of ability sorting in Section II.I. of The Economic Value of a Law Degree, while claiming that we did not consider these issues.”

False: I never discussed ability sorting in my article, so I ignored the “extensive discussion” in Section II.I. because it was irrelevant to my argument. Simkovic and McIntyre never demonstrated that legal education causes higher earnings.

It’s a pity none of the few—”though by no means all”—of the misrepresentations Simkovic and McIntyre charged me with were meritorious. Oh well.

Criticism 5:

“Studies by labor economists have found that increased earnings from education generally extend across multiple occupations.”

False: Simkovic and McIntyre never demonstrated that legal education causes higher earnings.

Also, applying the results of “studies by labor economists” about increased earnings for people with various types of education to legal education is an ecological fallacy. The authors must demonstrate that legal education alone is versatile.

Criticism 6:

“Any ability biases remaining after our controls may be offset by an equally important source of bias that Harper, Leichter, and many other critics have ignored: less educated, lower income households systematically over-report earnings and more educated, higher income ones under-report. Less-educated survey respondents tend to forget periods of unemployment, while more- educated households tend to forget end-of-year bonuses and SIPP caps maximum reported earnings to preserve confidentiality. This has been documented in SIPP surveys and it biases our results downward, making them too low, since the comparison group of bachelor’s recipients is systematically lower income than the law graduates.”

False: I ignore the bias because it’s not relevant to my argument: Simkovic and McIntyre never demonstrated that legal education causes higher earnings.

(Implied) Criticism 7:

“What does all this say about law school reform? On the one hand, untested reforms should not be rushed through primarily based on a sense of desperation or crisis, or a belief that changes couldn’t possibly make things any worse. On the other hand, the high returns to law school do not suggest that legal education can’t be improved—some reforms may be beneficial, and should be considered on their merits. Our preference, as always, would be to test proffered theories empirically as best as possible and we look forward to future work that does.”

False: “Economic Value” says nothing about law school reform whatsoever. If anything, it gives us a good reason to eliminate the subsidies to legal education because those subsidies make law school more expensive. Without unlimited, nondischargeable government loans law schools would have to reduce their tuition costs to remain solvent, which would increase the “premium” Simkovic and McIntyre believe they’ve discovered.

Bonus! Criticism 8:

“Leicther’s [sic] description of our take on BLS projections is lifted from context, since we note that even BLS economists are skeptical of these sorts of projections.”

The “context” is in footnote 10 where Simkovic and McIntyre write:

“BLS and other labor economists have cautioned against using occupational employment projections to guide educational investment.”

False: I frequently write about BLS employment projections, so these statements raised an eyebrow because the BLS has featured them prominently in its Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) for many years. The OOH pretty clearly targets a non-academic audience on the desirability of various careers, and nowhere does it caution readers to not rely on the 10-year projections, e.g. in the FAQs page. That’s not to say it encourages blind reliance, but it would take a substantial showing to persuade me that the BLS puts in so much effort in a project it doesn’t really believe in.

Here’s a taste of what the 1996-97 edition said about lawyers:

“Even though jobs for lawyers are expected to increase rapidly, competition for job openings should continue to be keen because of the large numbers graduating from law school each year. During the 1970s, the annual number of law school graduates more than doubled, outpacing the rapid growth of jobs. Growth in the yearly number of law school graduates tapered off during the 1980s, but again increased in the early 1990s. The high number of graduates will strain the economy’s capacity to absorb them. Although graduates with superior academic records from well-regarded law schools will continue to enjoy good opportunities, most graduates will encounter competition for jobs. As in the past, some graduates may have to accept positions in areas outside their field of interest or for which they feel they are overqualified. They may have to enter jobs for which legal training is an asset but not normally a requirement. For example, banks, insurance firms, real estate companies, government agencies, and other organizations seek law graduates to fill many administrative, managerial, and business positions.” [Emphasis added]

It’s curious that the BLS would publicly characterize the job outlook for lawyers with such lucid direness yet be “skeptical” of such projections. Looking more closely at footnote 10 explains why: Simkovic and McIntyre use a see-cite to just two articles to infer a general consensus within labor economics that the employment projections are unreliable. Neither article supports that inference:

  • The first quote, from an article by Horrigan, merely says that it’s difficult to predict how employers will respond to labor shortages in specific occupations. In both his abstract and conclusion he writes, “These projections form the basis for providing career advice to individuals entering the job market, changing careers, or making further educational and training choices.” This statement, appearing prominently twice, directly contradicts the inference Simkovic and McIntyre are claiming to draw from the quotation. Talk about taking things out of context!
  • This leaves the article by Neumark, Johnson, and Cuellar Mejia, which asks whether the retiring baby-boomer cohort will lead to a skills shortage. The quoted passage only says that the authors didn’t find higher underemployment of highly educated workers in their particular analysis of BLS projections and other data. In no way can their findings be imputed to all of labor economics. In fact, Neumark et al. address “conflicting evidence” produced by Harrington and Sum, who found significant evidence of “mal-employment” of highly educated people working in low-skill occupations and earning a scant premium as a result.

At best Simkovic and McIntyre can say that three labor economists in one paper disagreed with aspects of the BLS projections and that there’s disagreement among labor economists on the topic of mal-employment of highly educated workers. We still don’t know whether there is a consensus on the reliability of BLS projections or upon which side that consensus falls. Additionally, even if there is such a consensus, it isn’t necessarily correct. The labor economists Simkovic and McIntyre cite in their paper and others (including David Card from the previous post) tend to prefer human capital theories of higher education over signaling theories, and they rarely point out that elasticity of labor demand is a significant independent variable in occupational wages. In short, it’s reasonable to believe that they are either biased or that their human capital theory is wrong. Such things happen in academics.

Finally, again the authors demonstrate that they don’t really believe their own theory. They should be saying that the projections don’t matter because law degrees increase human capital for all occupations, not because they’re unreliable.

Wait, I take it back! People shouldn’t rely on the BLS’ lawyer employment projections after all…

BLS OOH Lawyer Employment Projections

(Source: OOH, BLS Monthly Labor Review)

…Because they regularly overestimate the number of lawyer jobs that will be created. Oh, but if law school graduates can’t get professional, demand inelastic jobs, then I guess we can’t say applying to law school is rational.

Conclusion

This isn’t meant to be an exhaustive response to “Economic Value” and its authors’ subsequent comments; it could go on and on and on forever, but I’d really like to stop here. Although through its errors their paper has indirectly taught me much about signaling theory and the factors that influence an occupation’s wages, I hope Simkovic and McIntyre leave legal education to more diligent researchers. It would be a tragedy if someone applied to law school based on “Economic Value,” and shame on anyone who uses the paper to induce anyone to do so. But one reason I’ve extended this topic much longer than it deserved is that I have a degree in the social sciences, and “Economic Value” is an excellent example of how not to conduct social science research. To sum up, here’s a list of the authors’ research offenses both in the paper and subsequently:

(1)  Not informing readers of alternative theories discussed in their own citations (“sheepskin effect” – In other papers this one might be minor, but it makes a difference in this case because the audience is not labor economists and readers are unlikely to read the article’s citations as I have.)

(2)  Not falsifying the alternative theories discussed in their own citations before conducting their calculations (“sheepskin effect” – Scientific method, shmientific method.)

(3)  Failing to acknowledge how limitations in their theory impair their methodology’s applicability to the real world (omitting elasticity of labor demand from their calculations by insisting occupations are not “pretreatment covariates”)

(4)  Avoiding discussion of potential intermediate causes (how can human capital theory possibly explain why those 25-year-old law grads in figure 4 go from earning $20,000 to $80,000 in a few years? – This might be attributable to simple oversight and it’s come up late, but given some of the errors here (esp. #5) on balance I think not.)

(5)  Not discussing the demographic content of the data they found for readers (who were the 1,382 law grads in the SIPP data? how many were in each age bracket (25-34, 35-44, 45-54, 55-64)? what jobs did the 25-34-year-olds have? what’s the frequency distribution of non-lawyer jobs? – This one is really egregious, even if it doesn’t have a material effect on the study’s outcome. Omitting a discussion of the data is a hallmark of bad social science research.)

(6)  Falsely charging critics with misrepresentations (at this point, this one’s minor)

(7)  Misrepresenting their critics’ claims (e.g. “distributional data” in Criticism 3)

(8)  Evading critics’ meritorious claims (non sequitur, path dependency, credential inflation—and these are just mine)

(9)  Misusing see-cites to misrepresent a consensus in a discipline readers may know little about (reliability of BLS employment projections)

(10)  Claiming their findings are applicable to real-world policy issues when they are not (legal education reform – Other papers might be able to get away with this, but not “Economic Value.”)

(11)  Omitting independent causal variables from their calculations, but conveniently using them to prove other points (elasticity of labor demand isn’t a “pretreatment covariate,” but it is evidence that lawyers aren’t going to suffer reduced earnings or be structurally unemployed in the future due to off-shoring/automation)

Any remaining advocates of the “law degree premium” or the bottleneck/backlog argument are invited to tell us what demand-inelastic, professional jobs law school graduates will eventually obtain. When will they realize their “premia”? Will it pay off their debts? Will they be able to have families, go on vacations, and save for retirement?

Law school optimists need to answer these questions. Unemployed law grads can’t wait.

‘Economic Value’ Paper a Mistrial at Best

Part 1 of 2

I’m responding to Simkovic and McIntyre not because their Am Law Daily article contains even one valid criticism of my original article but for two separate reasons. First, although most of the weaknesses of “The Economic Value of a Law Degree” (“Economic Value”) were uncovered promptly after its publication, surprisingly there are still a few substantive matters I haven’t seen raised elsewhere. Second, I expect “Economic Value” or its authors are going to pop up again sooner or later, and my life would be a lot easier if there were a reference post to link to detailing its flaws. Bonus, I’m a masochist, so while I can’t promise this will be the last time I write on this topic, I promise I will try to try.

We begin.

Criticism 1:

In a column published on July 25, 2013, Am Law Daily contributor Matt Leichter repeated many misrepresentations of our research that originally appeared on Above the Law—even after Above the Law posted corrections to its article and after we refuted many of these misrepresentations.”

False: All the representations I used from the Above the Law article survived the correction: The authors of “Economic Value” did not account for graduates after 2008 (page 13), include tuition costs in their lifetime value calculations (Table 7), or distinguish among graduates from different law schools (pages 49-50).

Secondly, nothing in the ATL post was relevant to my argument that “Economic Value” did not show that legal education causes higher earnings and was a non sequitur for legal education reform, nor was it meant to be. It was meant to show that the “Internet promptly erupted” when “Economic Value” first appeared.

The authors’ lack of basic reading comprehension skills is disappointing.

Criticism 2:

“Here are a few—though, by no means all—of Leichter’s misrepresentations. He claims, for instance, that we ‘assume law school pays off equally for non-lawyers’ when we do not make assumptions; rather, we measure the earnings premium regardless of occupation.”

False: Simkovic and McIntyre’s human capital theory requires them to assume that law school pays off equally for non-lawyers. Their theory states that the knowledge and skills imparted in law school improve graduates’ workplace performance as reflected by their higher earnings, even if they don’t work as lawyers. Importantly, people attempting to learn legal doctrines and skills outside of law school would be hopelessly confused without law professors’ guidance. Thus, insisting that one is “measuring a premium” is not a theory that explains why legal education causes higher earnings.

Without explanation, the authors reject signaling theory, an alternative that appears in an article by David Card cited in footnote 4 (PDF) of “Economic Value.” Card’s article displays a chart, though outdated, showing that professional school graduates make significantly more money than the trend predicts. Card identifies this phenomenon as the “sheepskin effect,” which means the additional earnings degree-holders obtain over what they would have earned with just an additional year of schooling.[i] Given that most states require a law degree to practice law, the sheepskin effect, which doubles here as a “licensed professional effect,” is probably very pronounced. The utility of the 58,000th minute of law school that the ABA mandates is very high indeed.

Card Chart

At this point, we should declare “Economic Value” a mistrial. The authors overeagerly tested the data without thinking through the theory discussed in their own citations. A “premium” cannot be measured until someone compares the earnings of law school graduates to the earnings of those who’ve completed all or nearly all the required law school coursework but didn’t graduate. If the earnings of both groups are the same, then the authors have a basis for claiming that law school increases people’s earnings based on the human capital theory.[ii] This study still wouldn’t necessarily invalidate all alternative theories, like law schools putting zorpqaq in their water fountains that makes people more productive, but it’d be a significant improvement. If the data on dropouts aren’t available, then for the sake of the highly indebted students we should assume that law school does not build much human capital.

But a mistrial is too generous for “Economic Value” because it still omits independent variables that increase lawyers’ earnings over non-lawyers’. Skipping ahead in their response, Simkovic and McIntyre contradict themselves on why graduates’ occupations matter:

“The literature on two forces often cited as major threats to lawyer earnings—outsourcing and automation—finds that jobs that require judgment and decision making have been less susceptible to these pressures than those that can be reduced to simple, repetitive, rule-based tasks. Several economists have argued that the tasks performed by educated professionals such as doctors and lawyers are harder to outsource or automated [sic] than jobs performed by those with less education.”

In other words, an occupation’s wages are determined not by education but by mundane market forces like the demand for the goods and services produced by the occupation and the supply of workers capable of meeting that demand. Demand for lawyers tends to be more inelastic than in other occupations because lawyers require “judgment” and “decision making,” which increase their wages. Adding the fact that wealthy people and corporations tend to spend heavily on legal services to signal their resources establishes a pretty clear explanation for why Simkovic’s and McIntyre’s law school graduates had higher incomes than similar college graduates. Education likely had little to do with it. A barista-barrister will not be paid a higher wage than a barista-bachelor for learning the material covered in law school.

Consequently, elasticity of labor demand in occupations also explains why it matters that so many law school graduates don’t work as lawyers, an observation Simkovic adamantly argues is inappropriate to investigate because “occupation is an outcome variable, not a pretreatment covariate.” But this is just econometrician-speak for “But if you reject our theory then we can’t use our sophisticated mathematical methodology!” Too bad: It’s not my problem that Simkovic and McIntyre adopted a theory that doesn’t account for all the variables that affect occupational wages (like the elasticity of labor demand)—variables the authors only acknowledge opportunistically to dismiss mass law graduate unemployment as a cyclical rather than structural phenomenon (e.g. page 36). If they really believed their theory, Simkovic and McIntyre would write that “judgment” and “decision making” don’t matter at all because legal education alone boosts law graduates’ incomes equally. The authors themselves cannot escape the implications stemming from most lawyers having gone to law school and many law school graduates working as lawyers and other professionals.

I should add that although “Economic Value” states in footnote 10 that “exploratory results” show that the non-lawyer law graduates in their data still earn more than similar college graduates, this is probably yet another composition fallacy that lumps together the earnings of 55-year-old Fortune 500 CEOs with 25-year-old bartenders who don’t have much workplace autonomy and whose law degrees are effectively worthless. I hope the next time researchers use the SIPP data, they tell us who the people in the datasets are instead of water-boarding them with econometric tools.

Criticism 3:

“[Leichter] claims that we ignore distributional data when we report it.”

False: I claimed Simkovic and McIntyre omitted dispersal of incomes, not “distributional data,” which the authors describe as the “relative advantage” law school graduates have over similar college graduates (page 32). The relative advantage means that at any given percentile, law school graduates will earn more than similar college graduates (unless they both earned nothing). This is no surprise given that lawyers earn more than non-lawyers and lawyers rarely lack law degrees, biasing law grads’ incomes upward due to reasons other than education. The authors’ methodology mathematically trivializes law graduate underemployment by design, which is why I wrote, “Their argument boils down to a circular claim: Law school pays off because it’s impossible for law school to not pay off.”

If the authors included dispersal of incomes (and occupation information), we would have been able to see why, for example, the mid-20s law school graduates in the bottom of figure 4 had such paltry earnings.

Figure 4

How often do law school graduates go from earning less than $20,000 annually to nearly $80,000 a few years later? This is why absolute incomes matter and why we need to know their dispersal.

To Be Continued…


[i] A subtlety in Card’s chart: Male professional school graduates aged 40-45 in 1990 had fewer than 18 years of education on average yet showed a significant earnings boost above the trend nonetheless. Nowadays, professional school graduates probably have 19 or more years of formal education. This alone should raise suspicions that the sheepskin effect is boosting professional school graduates’ earnings, not education. Corollary: Shortening formal professional education requirements will not substantially impair the delivery of professional services.

Also, Card’s chart significantly understates the sheepskin effect’s impact on bachelor’s degrees. For example, one study found a 27.8 percent bonus to earnings over just the additional year of schooling, and even a negative effect on the 17th year, which would usually coincide with the first year of law school.

[ii] Additionally, they can test the earnings of law school dropouts—say, anyone who’s completed at least a year—against those of demographically similar college graduates on the hypothesis that if legal education generates a premium, then the dropouts earnings ought to be noticeably higher than the college graduates’.

The Economic Value of the 58,000th Minute of Law School

…Is totally what I would’ve titled my Am Law Daily article on “The Economic Value of a Law Degree” if I didn’t have to waste words explaining it. Instead you’re getting:

Paper on Law Degree’s Value a Non Sequitur

There are two things, among many others, I wanted to add to the article that didn’t make it to the final cut:

(1) On page 44, it says,

Thus, on average and ignoring obvious behavioral changes, the federal government would hypothetically profit from legal education even if it provided legal education free at the point of service.

This is about the moment that I opened to the possibility that “Economic Value” was a hoax like Alan Sokal’s famous “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” because it’s the exact kind of absurd policy proposal that a satirist would put into an article claiming law school is worth the money. Just hedging my bets. (Please be a hoax. Please be hoax. Please be hoax.)

(2) Otherwise, “Economic Value” is the “Reinhart and Rogoff” of legal education. I’m surprised I haven’t seen the parallel made elsewhere, and we really should have seen it coming. Sure, it’s probably not going to contain any MS Excel errors or strange weightings, but it’s causal theory is equally nonsensical and should not be taken any more seriously than “Growth in a Time of Debt” is taken today. If anything it should be less so given that we can find graduates and drop outs who did not benefit from law school even as we can find countries that struggle with debt and low growth.

The Cost of Law School Does NOT Influence the Cost of Legal Services

John O. McGinnis and Russell D. Mangas, “An Undergraduate Option for Legal Education,” courtesy of TaxProf Blog.

I dealt with McGinnis’ and Mangas’ argument way back in January 2012 on the Am Law Daily, back in those halcyon days when it was just a Typepad blog. Now, the authors have sharpened their argument first laid out in The Wall Street Journal many moons ago into a full-fledged journal article.

I don’t want to spill too many more electrons on this because I fully endorse their proposal to make law an undergraduate major. It would certainly save students time and money, and for McGinnis, a law professor, to support that signals his willingness to argue against his own interests. This is good, as is the article by another law professor, Douglas A. Kahn of the University of Michigan, who argued the same thing in The National Law Journal a couple weeks ago. Credit where it’s due.

However, three things annoy me about McGinnis’ and Mangas’ article:

(1)  Unlike professional economists, McGinnis’ and Mangas’ actually discuss the impact of marginal cost theory on wages (instead of comparing lawyers’ earnings to those of people with the same number of years of education), yet they frustratingly veer off into nonsense territory by supporting the “higher education theory of wages,” which basically marries the versatile juris doctor theory to the labor theory of value—both discredited. For example:

With educational debts that they cannot discharge [lawyers] may exit the legal profession for other more lucrative work open to the well-educated if their fees continue to fall beyond that which allow them to comfortably service the heavy debts often necessitated by graduate school education. (14)

But demand for lawyers is not the same thing as demand for JDs. There is no evidence of a causal connection between more education and higher wages, it’s only correlational, and plenty of people who have JDs work in jobs that do not require them, making law school a waste. I covered what happens to doctoral and professional degree holders last year. We don’t know what happens to JDs specifically, but overall, given that the legal profession has been saturated for decades, it’s likely that they are not using their degrees for their jobs unless they obtain further education to become audiologists, for instance.

(2)  McGinnis and Mangas ignore juris doctor oversupply and assume that the marginal cost of hiring a new lawyer must include the cost of sending someone through law school at current prices.

If [the marginal cost of providing legal services] is measured even farther back, when the future attorney has just received his undergraduate degree, it will include the cost of a graduate law degree and the opportunity cost of not working for three years … As this example illustrates, over a long enough time period, marginal cost includes all costs incurred to provide the service. At that point marginal cost equals total cost. (15)

If a law firm that needs a new lawyer, the marginal cost is the time and effort spent finding a licensed attorney. This is not an expensive process as there are many people who are licensed but aren’t practicing or who are practicing but aren’t paid much. Moreover, the marginal cost certainly stops at finding someone who has a JD. Why? Because there are hundreds of thousands of people who already have law degrees (and probably paid less for them). The expanding firm doesn’t need to pay to send someone through law school, college, high school, nursery school, etc. because the eligible workers are already there. Heck, the firm could find someone who’s given up after failing the bar exam and send them to take the test again after doping them with Adderall. You can see how many “Idle Attorneys” there are in each state here.

Consequently, the market value of a JD, independent of other factors like prestige and experience, is nearly zero. This is the reason to reduce the number of years of legal education. The current system places all risk on the would-be lawyer while the schools and the employers bear none of it, even though there’s little demand for new juris doctors.

(3)  Thus, McGinnis and Mangas assume that education costs are passed forward to clients, ignoring all evidence the contrary.

I won’t quote from the section on pages 18-19 which attempts to augment Herwig Schlunk’s calculation of the net present value of legal education with the potential savings of cheaper legal education to clients, but it falsely assumes that student debt logically cannot impoverish debtors, as though wealthy employers are spearheading the student debt movement. If this were true, then an unemployed person could buy real estate in midtown Manhattan and instead of renting it out demand a high-paying job from a grudging employer to pay off the mortgage.

That should sound silly to you, but throughout McGinnis’ and Mangas’ article runs what should be an equally silly incredulity about law school graduates’ long-term outcomes. Like, if you were to present them with the facts, they’d say, “But that would mean law school has been a bad investment for decades, and we all know that law graduates are trained professionals who always have access to good jobs (except during recessions).”

I could say more about this, like why firms aren’t jumping on graduates from the cheap Puerto Rican law schools, or public law school versus elite private law school graduates, or cheaply trained California lawyers, etc., but I think I’ve remade the point: Those who think cheaper lawyer training will lead to cheaper legal services will be disappointed when that doesn’t come about, not that cheaper training is a bad idea.

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