Month: May 2012

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.

Why Is Shpoonkle Shilling Law Degrees?

Market for Attorney Employment Has Never Been Better,”

“The economy has been tough on everyone…” opens Shpoonkle’s press release, in direct contradiction to its title. This, folks, is how not to write a press release.

The thing about Shpoonkle is that its reverse-auction model should be sophisticated enough to indicate whether the market for lawyers is healthy or not. If many lawyers are bidding cases down, that would indicate that it’s a buyer’s market for legal services. In a seller’s market, lawyers would find little use for Shpoonkle.

However, the press release goes way off the rails attacking the law grads it’s trying to entice.

“There seems to be a heightened sense of entitlement for many young grads regardless of the type of profession … Gone are the days of leaving school and expecting six figures. Regardless, of the type of school, reputation, or how much an education costs a student, it will take time and hard work to earn money these days. The good news is that there are jobs available for graduates on Shpoonkle. A legal degree is not a limitation, nor does it have boundaries. It represents many opportunities. While many recent law grads may be suing or touting the reasons not to go to law school, some of the core reasons to get a legal degree still remain.”

Death by straw man argument!

This paragraph is remarkable. Shpoonkle wants readers to believe that work is abundant, yet grads have to simultaneously hustle extra hard to get it. If you have to work hard to earn money, then how can the market for attorney employment be “never been better”? Seriously, this reads like Boomer lawyer satire. More importantly, I fail to see why Shpoonkle is targeting recent graduates specifically. There are plenty of lawyers it can appeal to, unless it charges registration fees, which makes this release seedy.

“Many law students have graduated law school, and are wondering now what? ‘Law school defenders note that huge swaths of the country lack adequate and affordable access to lawyers, which suggests that the issue here isn’t oversupply so much as maldistribution,’ writes David Segal of The New York Times in ‘Is Law School a Losing Game?'”

You know what problem these “huge swaths of the country” that “lack adequate and affordable access to lawyers” have? THEY’RE FUCKING POOR. They can’t afford their mortgages. They can’t afford to pay for the car they need to drive to work. They can’t afford their child support. They can’t afford a night out at Applebee’s. They can’t afford green eggs and ham, and they sure as shit can’t afford a lawyer, at any price.

“The common sense advice and Shpoonkle suggests to new law school graduates is: get practical experience. Just as doctors have to do a residency and pay their dues, after a costly medical school, attorneys have to do the same. As a new law school grad, opportunities exist to intern, donate time for legal aids or charities, or can find clients on various online legal service sites such as”

After attacking law graduates for feeling entitled to a living wage job that uses their education, now Shpoonkle is condescending to them. Did I mention that after quoting 249 words, this isn’t even halfway through the press release? It’s reading more like an advertisement…

“A law degree is considered a huge asset in business regardless of whether the law graduate actually practices law. ‘Most law graduates are still finding employment even if it is in a ‘non-lawyer’ type positions, like working for their law school in some capacity. And while some may bash these positions, they sound pretty good to me; decent hours and salary while gaining legal experience,’ wrote Jen Kehl in the Daily Record.”

How is (always ephemeral) law-school-created employment relevant to Shpoonkle? We’re at 321 quoted words.

“As a new attorney, there has to be the motivation to help people – clients. If the law student is going to Law School just to make money, then perhaps the student chose the wrong profession … If the expectation is to not become an advocate, being a lawyer was probably a wrong career choice. Clients come to an attorney at the worst or most stressful moments in life, and will seek kind help from an attorney.”

Now we’re insulting our prospective customers for “choosing the wrong profession” after telling them how important clients are. Also, what about those people who go to law school and help corporations or governments? Oh, they don’t need Shpoonkle, do they.

“Most good attorneys are dedicated to helping people and want to be ‘fairly’ compensated. New attorneys need to focus on the clients, and the jobs and money will follow.”

Wait, I thought no one was entitled to living wage work, what gives?

“No one can guarantee new attorneys a job, and ultimately it’s up to them to find one. However, is there trying to make that process a little simpler. Thousands of legal professionals have already benefited from Shpoonkle.”

More condescension … and close.

That’s 464 quoted words, and I edited out a fair chunk, making it too long for a press release. It’s a rambling advertisement masquerading as PR that targets the wrong audience, and then it condescends and insults them. What’s weird is that Shpoonkle gains nothing whatsoever by defending the supposed value of law degrees. Sure, new lawyers need work, and perhaps Shpoonkle can deliver some clients to them, but lecturing them like an incompetent career services flak isn’t how to go about it.

Coming to a State Bar near You ¬– Beggar Thy Neighbor

In my last post on the Massachusetts Bar Association’s underemployment report, I was flying blind because the link to the report was broken, and it wasn’t readily available on the MBA’s Web site. It’s up today, so I can give it a fairer read, and I was surprised to find two endnotes to the LSTB. Yay. More importantly I can give it a fairer review instead of criticizing its co-chairpersons’s public statements. Go to the source…

Link here.

I won’t spend too much time on the report, especially since I’m not a Massachusetts lawyer, but the report has a few novel ideas that I haven’t seen batted around. Here’s my outline.

I. Comparison to Medical and Dental Schools and ‘Reinventing’ the Third Year

“Currently, there is no appreciable underemployment in the medical profession … While comparisons are myriad, there are several striking differences between the medical school and law school teaching models. First, the number of students admitted to medical school is tightly controlled.” (3)

This might explain why physicians can have catastrophic levels of education debt without med school scamblogs proliferating. A current and projected shortage means that no matter what med students learn in class, they won’t have an underemployment problem.

“By comparison to recent law school statistics, there is no appreciable underemployment among recently minted dentists … As with the medical profession, the number of students admitted to dental school appears carefully regulated.” (4)


Let me be clear, engineering a shortage of practitioners is bad for the economy and is indefensible on moral grounds. It drives up prices because sick people have no alternatives and must pay wages and rents for medical services (unless they leave the country, e.g. destination surgery). Advocating the same for legal education is no less unconscionable. However, in both cases the report starts with “Interestingly, profession x has no underemployment problem,” and ends with “Profession x also happens to severely limit entry into its ranks,” and then discusses profession x’s education model as though that’s what causes its non-underemployment problem.

As a result, while programs like Northeastern’s cooperative model might help, even if every law school in the state adopts it, there will still be underemployed graduates. The solution to the problem must address the problem.

II. Encouraging U.S. News to Add a “Practical Training Element” to Its Rankings

“Because the criteria used in the U.S. News rankings incentivizes law schools to adjust their programs to achieve higher rankings in those areas, one way to motivate law schools to change their curriculum so as to have a greater practical focus would be if one of the criteria used in the ranking system was the effectiveness of the law school in preparing its graduates for the practice of law.” (8)

Wait, shouldn’t “practice preparation” be the primary criterion U.S. News uses to rank law schools? Maybe job placement after that? It’s a decent idea, but U.S. News is a for-profit magazine and since it already has law schools over a barrel, I don’t see it changing its methodology a whole lot to accommodate them. More importantly, we should be looking for solutions that diminish U.S. News‘ hegemonic role in determining law schools’ fates. I see it as part of the problem, not the solution.

III. Legal Residency Program

“A legal residency program, conducted under the auspices of the MBA (in partnership with the Board of Bar Overseers and participating Massachusetts-based law schools and law firms), would be the most comprehensive approach to providing practical training for new lawyers. In such a program, recent law school graduates could apply for legal residency positions with Massachusetts law firms participating in residency training.” (9)

This is good idea, except the problem is there are too many law graduates. Having a bottleneck of residency applicants just illustrates the problem.

IV. (I’m skipping the MBA’s discussion on improving law school transparency…)

V. …The Good Stuff! “Obstacles to Employment” (15)

The MBA discusses cunning plans it can use to reduce the number of lawyers in-state.

(a)   Lowering the Bar Passage Rate – The problem isn’t that too many people are passing the Massachusetts bar exam; the problem is that there are too many law schools and law graduates.

(b)  Limiting Reciprocity – The MBA wisely concluded that making it harder for out-state lawyers to obtain a Massachusetts license would do more harm than good.

(c)   Reciprocal Pro Hac Vice Rules – Instead of the current system of liberally allowing out-state attorneys to represent clients in Massachusetts, the MBA wants to close the valve to give more work to its own lawyers. No discussion of costs to clients.

(d)  “Establish Incentives to Explore Legal Practice Outside of the Commonwealth upon Graduation” – This, my reader, is the kicker.

“In an effort to better manage the volume of graduates from the nine Massachusetts law schools entering the Massachusetts legal community, or until such time as market forces reduce the oversupply of lawyers seeking employment in Massachusetts, the task force recommends that Massachusetts law schools increase exposure to legal practice opportunities in the surrounding five New England states. This exposure would provide additional employment opportunities for Massachusetts law school graduates while decreasing the load on the existing Massachusetts legal job market.”

State bar association adapts “beggar thy neighbor” philosophy to its law graduate surplus problem, dumping them on its adjacent states. The problem is there is no neighbor that has a lawyer shortage itself. Though tiny, since 1940 New England’s population hasn’t even doubled, but its number of law schools has nearly tripled. It is currently the most law-school saturated region in the United States. Even if places like Roger Williams closed shop, it’s not like Rhode Island would suddenly have a huge lawyer shortage.

VI. The Law School Law Firm

The MBA closes with a bunch of recommendations for soaking up unemployed law graduates, the most interesting one is the “law school law firm,” which is a non-profit law firm staffed by grizzled elder lawyers and employing law graduates to help them learn the ropes. It’s a good idea, but if it’s so effective, why not simply make law a college degree and have them go through this process?

In conclusion, after reading the report myself, I liked my idea in my previous post: tell Massachusetts’ law schools to draw straws.

No Massachusetts, Law School Should Not Be More Like Medical School

Lisa van der Pool, “Report: Law school should be more like medical school,” in Boston Business Journal.

van der Pool is given the task of reporting on what the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Task Force on Law Schools, consisting of 14 lawyers, thinks needs to be done about “Law, the Economy and Underemployment.” Task force co-chair Eric Parker of Parker-Scheer LLP tells her:

“In Massachusetts, we are a relatively small state that has nine law schools. When you start to realize the sheer number of lawyers who are flooding into the job market … you say something’s got to change.”

So naturally the Task Force recommended Massachusetts’ universities draw straws and shut down all but two law schools, including the newly ABA-accredited UMass School of Law, and, sadly, the renegade Massachusetts School of Law. Right?

To identify the causes of legal underemployment, the report examines the medical and dental school models, which focus on practical training, something that law schools have increasingly been accused of lacking during the past several years. In a tough economy, clients have increasingly refused to pay for inexperienced lawyers.


I mean, it’s not like law schools’ lack of practical training is a new problem. Presumably lawyers including those on the committee had similar legal educations as today’s new lawyers. They just benefitted from a less glutted market and less debt. Frankly, if clients (and really we’re talking about Biglaw corporate clients, not people looking for someone to represent them in traffic court) are satisfied with the services they get without inexperienced lawyers, it probably means they’re not necessary.

That said, deploying the word “economy” in its name, one would think the Task Force would come to the same conclusion that mere mortals do about what causes underemployment, which is lack of demand. Instead, after six months, the Task Force concludes that law schools need to change their curricula, which will cost more tuition. This “mal-training” argument is really just a generic structural unemployment one: We have the wrong lawyers for the right jobs; retrain them and scambloggers will go away. Except structural unemployment is a load of crap. If it were true, we would see Massachusetts’ lawyers’ wages rising to meet the high demand and experienced lawyers from other states would be moving there to take advantage of the high salaries and available work. Instead, there’s across-the-board lawyer unemployment, but that doesn’t discourage the Task Force.

“It’s no wonder that when physicians and dentists graduate, they’re ready to earn,” said Parker. “They have marketable skills that people want to pay for. By contrast we found that law graduates come out with a generic exposure to legal theory and lack the experience and practical training that converts into a marketable skill.”

It’s also no wonder that physicians and dentists also benefit from entering a profession that has a shortage of practitioners, whether it’s deliberately engineered or not. It follows that these two professions’ education models aren’t necessarily better either. New doctors may have practical experience, but they pay even more in tuition than lawyers do, and they sit out of the workforce for a minimum of eight years of formal training (gotta learn how those tyrosine kinases work I guess) while other countries train doctors at the undergraduate level. I think the anecdote of Ben Bernanke’s son’s $400,000 of medical school debt is quite telling.

It also occurs to that the mal-trained lawyer argument also contradicts the versatile juris doctor, but that’s not the Task Force’s problem.

The report concludes that the third year of law school should look different than it does now, with more emphasis on practical training: “The task force recommends that the MBA encourage Bay State law schools to reinvent the third year so as to provide greater opportunities for law students to gain practical legal experience and expand opportunities to hone their legal writing skills, beyond that offered through traditional first year legal writing programs,” the report reads.

…And after the reinvented third year, graduates will be just as underemployed as if they’d studied nothing but “Law and …” courses, not that I don’t like those, but supply does not create demand, unless you’re sitting on the Massachusetts Bar Association’s Task Force on Law Schools.

May Day General Strike Protest Pictures

I was out and about on May Day last week. Meant to get these photos up sooner, sadly.

Occupy Wall Street designated May 1 as a general strike day. Frankly, seeing general strike graffiti made me think I was living in a Terry Gilliam movie. It was that surreal.

Here’s the gallery, a new WordPress feature, perhaps.

The most notable thing about the protests was the large police presence. I’d say there were 5-10 uniformed officers for every 100 protesters, making it clear the city didn’t think too highly of the demonstrators.

I didn’t hear too much about the event beyond what I saw, but you can read the Times‘ coverage here. Many of its photos are of some of the 34 arrests the police made, and interestingly, the Times doesn’t actually give a precise number protesters, just using the term “thousands.” I heard the number was 30,000 but won’t bother to look up the source.

I don’t have too much else to say about it. I saw a lot of non-protesters milling around the city that day, so it didn’t feel mobilized. Maybe I’d be more satisfied if there was a leadership class to the movement that I could (dis)agree with, or maybe I think more favorably of acute protests over specific issues rather than general ones, such as the hundred thousand or so throng that stood at and in the capitol in Madison, Wisconsin last year. The problem I have with Wall Street as the political opponent isn’t that it’s obscenely overpaid, distorts our politics, doesn’t create real value, and gets endless bailouts while the poor suffer. The problem with Wall Street isn’t that it’s a parasite on the American economy; rather, it’s a parasite on the investment class that’s a parasite on the American economy. Thus, I find it easy to rag on bankers–and they do deserve it–but I’m not sure if the protesters are willing to attack the myths of owner-occupied housing, endless education, and trade deficits.