Why Are There No Puerto Rican Scamblogs?

[UPDATE: You can read the Am Law Daily version of this article here.]

Probably because students are still too busy protesting an $800 fee hike from earlier this year (Tamar Lewin, “In Puerto Rico, Protests End Short Peace at University,” in The New York Times). The university chose to compensate a $200 million budget cut with the new fee rather than a tuition hike, which led the students to take over buildings, frequently with professors’ support.

As at many public universities elsewhere in the United States, students here worry that the new fiscal realities will restrict who can attend.

This is definitely not a problem with Puerto Rico’s law schools, which are over-enrolled relative to the island’s market. When gathering and analyzing data on legal education, Puerto Rico is second only to D.C. in distorting my averages and standard deviations. So outside the mainstream is the Commonwealth that none of its three ABA law schools send their data to U.S. News. I’ve seen them, and I can tell you their tuition is much lower than elsewhere, probably due to their refusal to play the rankings game as well as the island’s low purchasing power parity per capita GDP relative to the rest of the U.S.

Here’s one datum that surprised me. Since the Bureau of Labor Statistics connects us to the number of employed attorneys by state in 2008, and the ABA gives us the numbers of attorneys “active and resident” in American jurisdictions for 2008 and 2009, I can give you a statistic I dub, “idle attorneys,” which is the proportion of “active and resident” attorneys not “employed” as lawyers. Idle attorneys could very well be gainfully employed, but the high percentages and variance between the states suggest that their legal educations weren’t that useful unless they are the few who sit on the bench or are working for the government in some other capacity, e.g. as legislators. I’ve also calculated the number of idle attorneys per 100,000 residents.


# STATE (# ABA Schools) Idle Attys Idle/100k ←#
1 Puerto Rico (3) 66.44% 209 5
2 Oregon (3) 56.10% 168 8
3 Massachusetts (7)* 49.18% 319 3
4 Missouri (4) 49.03% 186 6
5 Connecticut (3) 47.72% 259 4
6 Ohio (9) 45.80% 146 11
7 Kentucky (3) 45.18% 125 17
8 Alaska (0) 44.23% 153 9
9 New York (15) 42.78% 331 2
10 Tennessee (3)* 42.63% 104 25
11 Michigan (5) 40.77% 131 14
12 Alabama (3)* 40.22% 114 22
13 Arkansas (2) 39.82% 79 34
14 Texas (9) 39.22% 119 19
15 Wyoming (1) 38.84% 112 24
16 Pennsylvania (8) 38.35% 141 12
17 Illinois (9) 37.84% 180 7
18 Iowa (2) 37.63% 87 32
19 Louisiana (4) 36.52% 139 13
20 West Virginia (1) 36.34% 92 30
21 California (20)* 36.05% 146 10
22 Oklahoma (3) 34.45% 117 21
23 Montana (1) 34.25% 101 26
24 Kansas (2) 33.67% 95 29
25 Nebraska (2) 33.55% 96 28
26 Washington (3) 33.38% 113 23
27 Rhode Island (1) 33.17% 128 15
28 New Mexico (1) 32.60% 86 33
29 Maryland (2) 31.89% 118 20
30 Minnesota (4) 30.32% 127 16
31 New Hampshire (1) 28.98% 73 35
32 Indiana (4) 28.19% 60 39
33 Wisconsin (2) 28.09% 72 36
34 Hawaii (1) 28.02% 90 31
35 New Jersey (3) 27.25% 124 18
36 South Carolina (2) 25.90% 52 40
37 Colorado (2) 25.43% 97 27
38 North Carolina (7) 24.55% 50 41
39 Georgia (5) 23.24% 65 37
40 Maine (1) 22.09% 60 38
41 Mississippi (2) 21.76% 50 42
42 Nevada (1) 20.72% 48 43
43 Idaho (1) 18.62% 41 44
44 Florida (11) 11.63% 38 45
45 District of Columbia (6) 9.16% 725 1
46 North Dakota (1) 7.81% 16 48
47 Arizona (3) 7.14% 14 49
48 Virginia (8) 6.62% 18 47
49 Vermont (1) 5.18% 18 46
50 Utah (2) -13.92% -32 50
51 Delaware (1) -14.81% -43 51
N/A South Dakota (1) N/A N/A N/A
USA Average (199) 34.60% 130

66.44% of Puerto Rico’s attorneys were active and resident but not working as lawyers in 2008, and it comes in fifth in number of idle attorneys per capita after D.C., New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut, a clear misfit.

Now I’ll do something I’ve been avoiding: diving into LSAC employment data. Because I find the composition of these data so suspect, I’m going to limit myself to the percentages of non-responses to post-graduate employment surveys. If you look in the source pdfs, enrollments at Puerto Rico’s three law schools are distributed fairly evenly, so it’s not like Pontifical Catholic has only 12 graduates per year while the University of Puerto Rico has 500. Also, I had to exclude Puerto Rico’s fourth law school, Eugenio María de Hostos School of Law (founded 1995), for want of data.

First of all, Inter-American’s employment numbers are extremely suspect. The reason its line plateaus as it does is that all its employment numbers (# employed in law firms, # employed in “business and industry,” etc.) published in the Official ABA Guide for 2008 are identical to those from 2007, and the same goes for with 2005 and 2004. I’m surprised the editors of ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools wouldn’t notice that or alert its readers. I wonder if more is going on here…

Second: Look at the University of Puerto Rico. Even in its best year, only 46.7% of its 2007 grads bothered to return their employment surveys. And the Times says the protesting students are worried that enrollments will be restricted.

Third, I included the University of Hawaii in the graph because I think it makes a good comparison. It’s actually quite interesting.

Puerto Rico Hawaii
Law Schools (total)/10 million Residents (2010) 10.736 (4) 7.351 (1)
ABA Law Students/10,000 Residents (2009) 5.863 2.641
Percent Idle Attorneys (2008) 66.44% 28.02%
Idle Lawyers/100,000 Residents (2008) 209 90
Annual Grads/Job Opening (2008-2018) 5.54 1.47
Annual Projected Surplus Graduates/100,000 Residents (2008-2018) 11 2
Projected Job Growth (~2018) 4.07% -0.67%

Obviously, Hawaii still has a surplus of graduates relative to its own economy, and there’s no deficit elsewhere in the country, so the comparison doesn’t let the Five-O off the hook. That said, if Hawaii is over-enrolled, then Puerto Rico’s law schools are a disaster and badly need to be pared down, even if we can expect 4.07% job growth there.

So: What the buh?

The answer may lie in a fairly good analysis of Puerto Rico, a 2006 Economist article with a title that hints at the Gilligan, “Trouble on Welfare Island,” which closes with the following:

[B]ecause of the small private sector, too few well-educated Puerto Ricans are gaining useful skills and experience in the marketplace.

As he walked through Aguadilla’s town hall recently, [Mayor] Carlos Méndez boasted about each employee’s university or graduate-school credentials as he introduced them. The trouble, he says, is that “All they want to do is find security only. They have no ambition…Everybody wants to work for the government.”

Puerto Rico thrives on federal government transfer payments via Social Security and other programs, and because people can more easily claim disability there than elsewhere, they don’t work. The result is a moribund private sector and with it an unemployable—and occasionally overeducated—labor force. These circumstances differ from the mainland U.S. where educated Americans can’t as easily claim disability benefits and not work, and unlike the Puerto Rican government, holder of 30% of the island’s jobs, the U.S. government is trying to cut jobs when it should be expanding to utilize idle workers.

I don’t know whether students attending Puerto Rico’s law schools are debt peons like their American peers. I can say that if there’s any place not worth going to law school, it’s Puerto Rico. I just hope the students aren’t demanding cheap, over-enrolled higher education that will only hurt the poor more than help them.


  1. It costs about $20,000 to go to Law School in Puerto Rico. Students get a JD without a ridiculous amount of debt. The University of Puerto Rico graduates about a 100 student per year from their Law School. Many come from middle-upper class families and have done their Undergraduate degrees from Universities in the States (Harvard, Yale, VIllanova, NYU, etc). They “come-back” to the Island to get a J.D. for $20,000 and not be immersed in debt like their American Peers.

    1. PR law students may be richer than everyone else on the island, but PR has a lower GDP per capita (PPP), meaning $20k there is worth more than $20k in the states. Also, the high non-attorney employment rate still prompts the question of why rich people would attend.

  2. Your assesment of “Social Security Disability” its wrong. First Puerto Rico has one of highest denial cases. Besides, Social Security was earned by the workers not given by the U.S./PR tax payers. Also Puerto Rico does not get SSI benefits either. Out of the 20 billions dollars coming into the Island just 4 billion are part of social programs (welfare,education,transportation, social services) the rest its Veteran benefits, Social Security, Pensions in other words earned payments. (look ssa and congress budget for PR to verify info) Now if you want to compare inequality then used this: Colombia get 20 billions in “social programs” to fight crime (drugs, contraban, etc) from the U.S. for free, yes, free. nothing in returns. Now U.S. Invest 20 billions in Puerto Rico and gets 48 billions back. So how its that. Ain’t we a U.S. Territory? So with that said; the assesment of Law Schools, Law Students and jobs you are wrong. First most Law students end up working as Solo Lawyers, some work with the local government and the rest its split between outside Puerto Rico and Firms around the World. I have travel many States, Countries and Puerto Rico’s cities and I have not seen an Attorney that its not working. Now, I can tell you something that makes us Puertoricans different: Its Pride! simple. Been a Lawyer in Puerto Rico its highly respect it and we all know that its very difficult to achived. And yes financially its very hard, because most capable prospect students comes from low income families and may not have the means as the upper middle class families that can pay for applications, testing, tutoring, first day deposits, housing, and 3 years of hard work. Now you talk about why Universities in PR don’t/won’t report to U.S. News. Wrong again. The truth behind all of this its pure speculation; explain, Many law writing competions has been won by students from law schools in Puerto Rico, yes higher than Yale, Hardvard etc. now do you think that us.news will put a “four tier university” in front of Harvard, Yale? Well the way the determined rankings has to do with: Years with law school, acceptance amounts, Tuition, graduates, jobs after 9 months, competions won. Now if you have statistics per state then PR would have the higest rankings with the least expensive law schools. Next time you want to argue a something about the unknow try at least to interview real people that has real assesments and contributions to your data. P.S. Carlos Mendez in Aguadilla has the highest salary amoung city Mayor’s in Puerto Rico, he is an example of your assesments; Wrongful and not worth it. People in Aguadilla has real needs and he does not even walk his own plaza cause its so dirty and ugly. Yet, he has many educated employees becasue in Aguadilla you have 3 Major universities and many junior colleges, not to mention that near by towns such as Aguada, San Sebastian, Moca, Isabella has many college graduates. I do give you that Puerto Rico need to bring back what the U.S. lost as well: Manufacturing jobs because the Island has become an Island with to many college graduates that has not many options once out of college with the exception of Engineers that always have work in the States. Hope that this explains to you the reasons Puerto Rico has no “ScamBlogs”. Pride!

    1. Dear Les,

      Please reread the post and back up your claims with verifiable evidence, e.g. links to government data. Also, please learn to break your thoughts into separate paragraphs.


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