Bloomberg Casually Slaps Law Schools, Uses Some Misleading Facts

Josh Block and Janet Lorin, “Law School Debt Exceeds $100,000 Amid Jobs Shortage,” Bloomberg.

I have to say this has been a weird week for media coverage on law schools. On the one hand they’re somewhat more critical of law schools and show a willingness to research some facts, but on the other hand, they’re making pretty clear factual errors. For my part, yes, I like being an ass and pointing out their flaws. The LSTB is not inspired by Beat the Press for nothing. Then again as much as I enjoy criticizing legal education, I want the media to be accurate. This Bloomberg piece follows spiritually from the Slate/Reuters piece from earlier this week.

Law school graduates are leaving college with an average of $100,433 in debt at a time when new lawyers outnumber legal jobs, according to a survey from U.S. News & World Report.

Is “college” debt undergrad or law school debt? If it’s undergrad, it’s quadruple the $25,000 figure we see bandied about. If it’s law school debt, then it’s probably accurate but not by the methodology the authors use. U.S. News provides the average debts of law schools’ graduating classes. Taking the average of this is not the same as lining up 44,000 people’s debt figures.

This decade, U.S. law schools will produce four times as many new lawyers as there will be jobs for them, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This one made my eyes bug out. Then I realized that Bloomberg is only looking at net jobs, not net jobs plus replacements. That means it’s only double the number of graduates. Also, there will certainly be fewer than 440,000 ABA law school graduates by 2020. It won’t match supply to demand, but it will be significantly fewer. 35,000 graduates per year is still too many but better.

Average tuition and fees for private law schools have jumped 73 percent since 1999 to $35,743 in 2009, an American Bar Association survey shows.

This figure ignores inflation. Average private law school tuition actually grew by 34 percent. Still bad, but this is a pretty big mistake.

Ultimately, while I’m glad media are taking a critical eye towards legal education–especially discovering the BLS–they shouldn’t do it so flippantly. It reduces their credibility and makes them look partisan when they’re not supposed to be.

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