## Friday, December 2, 2011

### Simple math

Let's do some simple math.  Ten years from now, how many new lawyers will have entered the market for legal services in the American economy?  If we assume (somewhat optimistically) that the ABA doesn't accredit any more law schools over the next decade, ABA-accredited schools will place about 450,000 graduates into the market.  Non-accredited schools will put about another 100,000 into it.

How many new positions for lawyers will be created, via the combination of economic growth and currently employed lawyers leaving the profession altogether?  The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the number as being about 244,000.  (A state by state analysis of the relationship between lawyers and legal jobs put the number at closer to 195,000, but we'll assume the higher figure).  That's a 300,000-lawyer surplus added to the current surplus.

This daunting figure does need to be reduced a bit, by a couple of factors.
First, let's assume that only 30% of graduates from from non-accredited schools end up getting legal jobs (it's striking how invisible these people are in the usual discussions of the state of the legal market, given that there are dozens of such schools in California alone).  That removes 30,000 jobs from the equation, leaving 214,000 jobs for 450,000 ABA law school grads.  However, not all ABA law school grads eventually pass a state bar exam. The median bar passage rate for first time takers of state bar exams who are graduates of ABA schools is about 86%, and if we assume half of those who take the bar more than once eventually pass it, that means about 7% of ABA law school grads never pass (this is an interesting subtopic that deserves a separate post).  So that would mean about 420,000 new licensed attorneys from ABA-accredited schools would be available for 214,000 jobs.

But we need to make one more adjustment, since not every new legal job in the American market will be taken by a graduate of an American law school.  I'm not aware of any figures regarding how many foreign lawyers per year successfully enter the American market, but let's assume that American law school grads get 98% of new American legal jobs.  That assumption has the virtue of producing an exact two to one ratio between new licensed ABA law school graduates and new legal jobs over the course of the next decade(420,000 barred graduates of ABA schools, 210,000 new legal jobs).

This doesn't mean, however, that 50% of ABA law school grads who pass the bar over the next decade will get legal jobs, since there are at this moment about 575,000 people in the USA of working age who have law degrees from ABA law schools who aren't currently employed as attorneys.  Of course the vast majority of these people have by this point left the legal employment world  permanently, but some of them are currently unemployed lawyers who are going to take some of the new legal jobs created over the course of the next decade.  This is a major variable in any analysis of how many jobs are going to be available for new attorneys: as recent law graduates can tell you, current "entry level" legal jobs often end up getting filled by currently unemployed lawyers with several years of experience practicing law, while other, new explicitly non-entry level jobs end up getting filled not by currently employed attorneys changing positions, but by unemployed lawyers with excellent resumes and a willingness to work for significantly reduced wages.

In other words, a significant percentage of "new" legal jobs are not going to be filled by new lawyers. This will not affect the overall legal (un)employment rate for people with law degrees, but it will push up the unemployment rate for new barred graduates of ABA law schools to well above the 50% predicted by a crude comparison of the number of such graduates and the number of legal jobs.

Meanwhile, how much law school debt will these new graduates be carrying? (Note this doesn't include other educational debt, or consumer debt).  The good folks at Law School Tuition Bubble have taken the trouble to calculate the answer to that precise question:

It appears legal education has been one of America’s winning industries for the last twenty years, posting an estimated 6.8% annualized growth rate in terms of debt revenue alone, though that’s a slight overestimate due to the relatively greater number of graduates between 2001 and 2009. In the future, total annual graduate law school debt will double by the end of the decade (~\$6.8 billion/year), and this is a conservative estimate because many public law schools are rapidly “privatizing” by going off state subsidies. Continued high unemployment will encourage this process for those public law schools that aren’t leaving the state dole whole hog, such as Minnesota and Arizona State. Public law schools will supplement subsidy shortfalls with tuition increases and a handful of alumni donations. This will add \$50.6 billion onto around 500,000 future law graduates’ shoulders. In 2010, the total average debt for graduates who took on debt was \$90,959. At current graduation rates, in 2020, of 54,536 graduates, 45,625 will take on debt, and their total average debt will be \$149,120 (\$114,801 for public school grads; \$173,161 for private grads).
(Note LSTB is being a bit less conservative than I am, since I assume no growth whatsoever in ABA-accredited law school graduate numbers over the next decade).

Now, what will be the average salary of the 210,000 new law jobs that will be filled by a cohort of employees which, by the end of the decade, will feature a greater than 50% legal unemployment rate and an average of \$150,000 in law school debt alone? (It should be unnecessary to point out that these are not conditions that put employees in a strong position in regard to negotiating the terms of their employment).  In 2010, according to NALP, the median starting salary of ABA law school grads who got full time jobs and reported their salaries (this group includes considerably less than half of all graduates) was \$63,000.  So if we assume a 10% annual growth rate in entry level salaries and a doubling of the rate at which the American economy is producing legal jobs everything should be just fine.*

*A footnote: according to one commentator there's a "methodological flaw" in this sort of analysis, in that I'm "claiming the fact that many law school alums do not work in law is evidence that law school employment outcomes are not good."  I acknowledge that this sort of analysis assumes that the vast majority of people who go to law school go in order to become lawyers, and that it doesn't make sense for anyone who isn't independently wealthy to rack up six figures of law school debt for any reason other than in an attempt to enter the legal profession.

1. Side question, does anyone here know whether these MBA career statistics are honest?

They claim 90% employment within 90 days of graduation with median salary of \$85k.

2. (I ask to assess what, if any, other options college graduates have)

3. One funny result of the oversupply of lawyers is that it's affecting bonuses at firms like Cravath. Keep in mind Cravath recruits only from the top schools, and then only the top students from those schools. Also keep in mind that their profit-per-partner number is higher this year than it was in 2007. Despite that, the bonuses this year are tiny, less than 1/4 of what they were in 2007.

The only rational explanation for this is that partners recognize the oversupply, even of top school and/or top grade candidates, and they've rationally decided to take advantage of it.

4. @7:16 - Agreed (Im lucky enough to be one of those "victims"). Add to the over-supply of attorneys the fact that they have most of us over the barrel with 6 figure loans to service. If you are going to have ANY external controls over a particular market you need to control it all. The way it is now the big boys get to take advantage of a free market when it comes to compensation but a controlled one-sided market when it comes to tuition costs (thanks to the nature of student loans) with limited controls over how many new attorneys get through - all to their advantage. They have us coming and going.

5. " I acknowledge that this sort of analysis assumes that the vast majority of people who go to law school go in order to become lawyers, and that it doesn't make sense for anyone who isn't independently wealthy to rack up six figures of law school debt for any reason other than in an attempt to enter the legal profession."

Tsssk, Campos, you should no better than to make absolutely groundless assumptions like that. I mean, it's not like borrowing hundreds of thousands of dollars and commiting three years or more of your life to gaining qualifications which are pretty much useless for anything other than gaining employment in the legal profession is an indicator of any kind of intent, now is it?

6. FYI great post by Nando on JDU

For the tax year ending 8-31-2010. The mission statement for Employer ID No. 36-0723150: "To serve equally the members of the legal profession and the public by defending liberty and delivering justice as the national representative of the legal profession."

The organization received \$140,834,962 in total revenue for this year. Fully \$61,403,908 was paid out in salaries, other compensation and employee benefits. Furthermore, the ABA had \$92,461,901 in end of year net assets. On page 13 of this document, you will note that then-ABA president Carolyn Lamm received \$100,000 in compensation from the ABA. On page 14, you can see that Henry F. White, executive director, made \$611,372 in total compensation.

Isn't it wonderful that these people can continue to produce too many grads, accredit too many law schools, further glut the job market - and yet still make nice fat salaries?!?!

7. PS - Vote Campos for "niche":

http://www.abajournal.com/blawg100

Unfortunately Dan Harris's China Law Blog published one of my pieces a while back, so my vote has to go to him I'm afraid, but there's nothing stopping you from raising the profile of the this blog and the Law School Transparency movement of which it is part.

8. I think one of the hardest dying myths out there is that law school is also good training and credentialing for a host of non-law jobs. It is not true, as job seeking law school graduates know from experience. But it seems plausible on its face and it cannot be proven false with current data. Students and parents will believe it because they want it to be true. Expect professors and defenders of the status quo to repeat this over and over.

9. *gaining qualifications which are pretty much useless for anything other than gaining employment in the legal profession AND completely useless for acquiring practical skills in that profession

10. Lawyers don't make good business people. They're always telling you what you shouldn't do. Business people hate lawyers. They ***hate*** hypervigilant issue spotters.

11. What's up with the comments? Mine appeared, and then disappeared.

12. Sarcasm does not change the fact that "Methodology Guy" is right when he says it is wrong to assume that the inability to find or maintain legal employment [is] indistinguishable from the desire, whether upon graduation or X years into practice, not to seek or maintain legal employment." It is inherently problematic when people who want to find work as lawyers can't do that. It is not inherently problematic when a person gets a job practicing law and then decides years later that he/she wants to do something else.

13. 8:52, Can you link us to legal jobs that go unfilled because qualified law grads don't want them?

Such jobs are necessary in "methodology guy's" world. Do they exist?

You do know of such jobs right? I mean, you're not just posting nonsense to an asshole, are you?

14. @8:52 a.m.:

The vast majority of recent law graduates have large loan debt that they need to repay, with unpleasant consequences (e.g., total denial of access to credit). With few exceptions, recent law graduates have exactly one skill with which they can repay these loans and live something approximating a middle-class lifestyle.

The methodological problem might have been more troublesome in an era when loans were more easily repaid, and people could move out of law into other careers because their debt didn't have such control over their quality of life. For graduates from 2005 to the present, most of whom would drown kittens to make \$175+ an hour - far less troublesome.

15. How do they "need to repay" loans, when they can go on IBR? If you are going to be a lawyer then you may want to learn the definitions of words.

16. I agree generally with LawProf's math and, sadly, may be even more pessimistic. Even the low BLS projections may not fully incorporate the growing impact of technology and global competition (which is occurring at both the high end and the low end) in law. These forces are literally like tsunamis: They have even more power than humans estimate, we get very little time to prepare for them, and they have widespread impacts on a society (beyond even the immediate hit).

I have a lot of thoughts on this that I would like to share--both more pessimism about how greatly the legal market will change and some half-baked ideas about how we can try to fight back (maybe even benefiting both clients and lawyers). On both parts, I would really enjoy some feedback and discussion. I have to go out for some appointments (face to face!), but wanted both to agree with what LawProf has said here and to note some related ideas perhaps for later discussion. (Hey, it's his Friday post so we can comment all weekend!)

17. Here's a word that has a definition: sinverguenza.

And here's an actual case of someone who is "choosing" not to practice law. "Mark" graduated from law school in 2009, with \$100,000 of debt. He got a job as an associate with an insurance defense firm (putting him ahead of half of his law school classmates) that paid \$50K a year. This happened to be exactly the same salary Mark had been making as a high school teacher when he quit his job to go to law school. So Mark incurred \$250K in direct costs and opportunity costs to get a law degree.

Unfortunately the job he got required him to work literally twice as many hours than his old job did, under much more unpleasant working conditions. Seeing little opportunity for advancement (a couple of his fellow associates were laid off in this 25-person four-partner firm during his tenure there), he decided to try to get his old job back. He was lucky, and managed to get a similar teaching job.

So Mark "voluntarily" chose not to be a lawyer. Apparently according to methodology guy, this sort of outcome isn't inherently problematic.

18. DJM, half-baked ideas are always fun to play with, looking forward to reading some!

19. @ law prof.

Exact story with a close friend. Teacher, went into debt for law school. Worked around the clock for little pay. Had a child and moved back to Cleavland for a teaching gig. Now smiles in his facebook photos.

100K in tuition to appreciate his old job. ::shakes head::

20. An example of law school created mental illness (4% of 0Ls are depressed, the same number as the general population, but 40% of 3Ls are depressed).

(quoting) "I know myself to be very different from everybody else, something I used to take pride in. But now my pride has abandoned me and I am often tearfully unhappy . . ." (more graphic signs of this person's new found distress in the link below).

http://www.salon.com/2011/12/02/will_i_survive_law_school/

How do LawProf and DJM feel knowing that lack of training, lack of jobs and all that aside, their institutions are literally destroying people from the inside?

21. Starting salary isn't everything though. For example, federal government salaries start fairly low and increase dramatically within five years. Given the low value new law grads bring to the table and the steep learning curve in the first few years as you get trained to be a lawyer I would want to see more data regarding how employment compensation increases in the first five years.
Clearly the data regarding the lack of jobs is a serious issue.

22. 7:51,
I agree bonuses suck this year. I can only speak for the associates in my firm, but I don't think we're having to work as hard as those in 2007 because the work just isn't there. To the extent profits per partner are increasing here, I think it's largely a result of increased billing rates for partners and reducing headcount.

23. Lawyers don't make good business people in the sense that they would "go along with the status quo." Most lawyers, issue spotters by nature,are seen as impediments to the business workflow. They are seen as "structural whistleblowers"....proverbial flies in the ointment. Typically, lawyers in organizations are found in the risk management departments, etc. The in-house lawyers, by contrast, are a different beast altogether because they are hand-picked to "go with the flow" mentioned above.

24. I refer to a posting dated February 2, 2011 on Steven Harper's (I believe a partner in an Amlaw 100 firm) thebellyofthebeast.wordpress.com referring to a Citi Law Firm Group’s third quarter (2010) report accounting report for another perspective on "the simple math:"

"...a 1,400 drop in 2010 total attorney headcount [from Amlaw 250 firms]. This qualified as a welcome improvement over the far deeper plunge in 2009. Associates took the biggest hit, accounting for about 1,000 of the eliminated positions.

That doesn’t sound too bad, until you realize that it’s a net reduction number. As 5,000 new law school graduates got large firm jobs, many more — over 6,000 — lost (or left) theirs. This simple arithmetic suggests an unsettling reality: The relatively few who land big law jobs may discover that keeping them is an even more daunting challenge.

In some respects, that’s nothing new. Long before the Great Recession began, attrition was a central feature of most large firm business models. In 2007, lucrative starting positions were plentiful, but big law’s five-year associate attrition rate was 80%. Some of it was voluntary; some involuntary. The survival rate for those continuing the journey to equity partner was exceedingly small."

I have posted before, and as a veteran of biglaw firms I assure you that the attrition that is "voluntary" as opposed to "involuntary" is hardly ever truly "voluntary." There are ways of making people who are no longer needed to contribute to the profits of the beast leave "voluntarily" ... many, many, many such ways.

So, as I have argued before, the obsession with focusing on first year job results only uncovers a portion of "the simple math." The accountants at Citi can confirm an 80% attrition over five years among those who land a biglaw [Amlaw 250] job. As an observer, I know it is certainly more than 90%, maybe more than 95% after 8 years. So what happens to lawyers once their biglaw gig is up? Do they get another job? What is their salary then? Nobody seems to compile the data, the "simple math," to produce any meaningful statistics.

The BLS data reflects that some 575,000 holders of a JD degree are not working as lawyers while some 700,000 plus are allegedly working in some capacity as a "lawyer." I have seen reports that suggest that lawyers make an average of \$129K per year. I must ask "how was that number calculated?" Who responded? What percent of respondents provided their salary? How did the respondents determine their salary? Since most JD holders working are doing so as lawyers in small firms of 5 or fewer attorneys or as solos according to BLS data, was that 129K gross or net revenue? if gross, what were the expenses? what was the real net? I suspect based upon my observations that real, honest answers would likely lead to a number that is shockingly low, significantly below the reported 129K. Again, it should be "simple math" to provide such statistics, but neither state bars nor the ABA collect reliable data in these regards.

So, back to the "simple math." If there was not such a huge glut of lawyers, the business model of the biglaw firm counting on c. 80% attrition over 5 years could not exist, there would not be 575,000 plus JD holders not working as "lawyers," and there would not be huge numbers of unemployed new graduates, etc.

Still further, as a product of the "simple math," law firms in general and the entire legal business more broadly provide notoriously nasty working environments. Why? In large part, because people are climbing all over each other in competition to find enough work to do....to satisfy the billable hours requirement of biglaw firms, to land a paying client in a small firm or solo, etc. I propose that the "simple math," the huge lawyer glut, is the biggest single factor making legal jobs notoriously unpleasant and unrewarding.

25. 10:23,
The lawyer glut has little if anything to do with Biglaw attrition rates. Biglaw pays the most so people go there. Biglaw works you to death because it pays the most and can get away with it. The attrition rate is high because there is less work that you can bill out at senior associate rates as you advance. Even if there was a 1:1 match for lawyer jobs, there would still be a flood of people wanting Biglaw jobs over other jobs for the money.

26. @8:58-- No, and I don't have to because that was not my point. To repeat: It is inherently a problem when a person who wants a legal job can't get one. It is not inherently a problem if someone who has been working as a lawyer decides he/she wants to do something else.

27. Fine, but if you can't find any legal jobs going unfilled, then your statement is an inane truism with no practical significance or consequence.

28. @ 10:35
I think you are missing my broader point. You are completely correct that "Biglaw pays the most so people go there. Biglaw works you to death because it pays the most and can get away with it. ...there is less work that you can bill out at senior associate rates as you advance. Even if there was a 1:1 match for lawyer jobs, there would still be a flood of people wanting Biglaw jobs over other jobs for the money."

I submit that if there was not a glut of lawyers and a constant stream of new graduates to feed the biglaw beast, the entire business model of biglaw could not exist. There would not be the hourly billing differentials and stratification of work among class years of associates. It would not be possible to have such a pyramid scheme that yearly casts off more of its members who are further down the pyramid structure. If the supply of lawyers was anywhere near the real need for lawyers, such an inhumane system could not exist at all. That is, if lawyers' skills were needed by biglaw, biglaw would keep its lawyers. Biglaw in general has too many lawyers with greater skills, so each year the number of a certain class year employed by biglaw decreases.

29. 10:52,
I disagree. There will always be a flood at the gates of Biglaw even if there was an excess of lawyer jobs. Biglaw will always have plenty of people to pick from that want to work there, regardless of how many other opportunities are available because it pays the most.
I do agree that smaller, less desirable firm jobs would probably be better work environments.

30. The point of the original Cravath posting was that biglaw doesn't have to pay much to get the best and the brightest, because there is a glut of un/underemployed junior attorneys.

31. @10:51-- It does have practical significance. I know a number of people who have left the law, don't consider having gone to law school a mistake, and are doing well. There are also people how have left the law and are doing terribly. They are, to me, in a different category than people who can't get a job to begin with.

32. All of this talk that we often hear about the usefulness/value of a law degree in non-legaljobs is such garbage. Yeah, it may be useful, but it makes no difference when the prospective employer has no interest in you because you do, IN FACT, have a law degree. In my experience and the experience of a greaty many of may friends in this f**ked up economy,having the JD on your resume is the death knell for a resume in a non-legal setting.

The career services counselor at my law school even suggested that I take the J.D. off my resume, meaning that the LAW SCHOOL wants me to negate the fact that I ever even attended in order for me to stand a better chance of being hired. It is too bad that we can't simply erase the debt along with erasing the J.D. from our resume.

33. 11:03 thank you for that. it's very relevant to the issue of lack of jobs.

34. More people need to be doing what this lady did: http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/No-law-school-for-Kittitas-Co-deputy-prosecutor-2292322.php

She has a JOB, NO DEBT, and is PRACTICING LAW. Sounds like what we are all hoping for. And she didn't go to law school. Go figure.

35. @11:14-- You need to read the whole thread. Law Prof's response to "Methodology Guy" raised the subject.

36. I think the fact that somebody leaves the legal profession within a few years of graduating from law school *is* "inherently problematic" in the sense that it creates a reasonable presumption that the person would have been better off not going to law school in the first place. Obviously this presumption will not turn out to be correct in every single individual case. But as an earlier commenter pointed out, under current conditions, where people incur enormous costs by going to law school, it's likely to end up being correct in a large proportion of cases.

Furthermore, it should go without saying that the fact somebody doesn't leave the profession doesn't mean that person was better off going to law school after all. That hardly follows, in an era of massive debt, declining salaries, and deteriorating working conditions.

37. Methodology guy's point: if only half of all JDs are employed as lawyers, that doesn't rule out that they might be so voluntarily.

It's not a great argument.

38. We disagree. I don't think it's inherently problematic. And if it is not true in every case that the person would have been better off not having gone to law school the problematic nature of the move out of law cannot be inherent. The only point I was making is that it's wrong to lump the problem of people not getting a legal job when they want one together with the phenomenon of people leaving the law. Now, you are clarifying what you said, and that is fine. You bound it by time--a few years. And then you say that "it's likely to end up being correct in a large proportion of the cases" that having gone to law school was a mistake. That's a more careful statement.

39. I have a question: How are the thousands of newly created document review temporary positions that exist in such places as DC/NY/LA accounted for in these figures? You know the jobs in which they work you 14 hour days, place you in a basement with cockroaches, fire you without notice, and don't provide you with any sort of benefits or experience. I know quite a few recent graduates who are doing this work, and a recruiter friend of mine told me that were thousands of them in DC working at any one time. The naked hourly rate annualized would look good, but how many of these people actually stay employed for the entire year? What kind of jobs comprise this 214,000 figure?

40. Here's my first suggestion, which some others in both legal educ and the profession have also noted: We have to create different levels of law licenses, with different training to accompany each. These levels might be sequential, so that people can move up the ladder if they choose, but we can't keep charging everyone full (indeed, inflated) prices for the "be partly prepared for everything" law degree.

To a large extent, the differentiation in practice is already happening. Think about the difference in BigLaw among traditional associates, career associates, contract attorneys, and paralegals. These tracks have different responsibilities, compensation, and career prospects--with little crossover among them. (Ironically, the biggest mobility may be at the bottom, because paralegals can go to law school and move up or out to other types of law practice.) But the three JD groups all have the same education and debt, despite their very different career prospects.

This differentiation is happening elsewhere, as nonlawyers chip away at parts of law practice they're pretty capable of handling (routine wills or residential real estate closings). Outsourcing is also a type of differentiation: Even lawyers in relatively small firms are relying now on foreign lawyers to do legal research and other types of legal work. Why hire an American JD with a lot of expensive education when someone with less, but more focused, education can do the job as well?

The goal for all of us, I think, should be to figure out ways to differentiate legal education and law practice in a manner that most benefits the lives of practicing lawyers and their clients. And by "us" I mean people in both the academy and practice who care about these issues and are willing to work on them. Current law students and recent grads have a lot of ideas to contribute to this.

This principle--differentiation--may seem wildly unrealistic because of the traditional interests of the entrenched bar (which has always forcefully maintained the need for what they call a "unitary" profession). But differentiation is already happening--just under somewhat hidden guises. And the economic interests of bar association members are also shifting, largely because of the irrefutable math that LawProf lays out here. So I think it may be possible to seize this trend and steer it. In what directions? Well, that's where we get to the half baked stuff....(although even the principle is still in the oven, welcoming further input)

41. I have intimate knowledge of the DC temp market, having made my living as a member of It for four years. I don't know how the jobs factor into Lawprof's numbers. I do know that the money you can earn is better than average. I personally made over 100K doing this in 07 and 08. Today, it's worse, but a person could easily earn 60 in a year's time. The downsides are many. In recent years, I've heard of people moving to DC from all over the country just to do document review.

42. Also, doc reviewers measure their employment by the week. Very few are employed all year, but you don't have to be. If you can work more than 40 weeks in a year, you should make at least 50 or 60K.

43. DJM, I think that makes all sorts of sense. Indeed I believe that in a very informal way something resembling that system existed a generation ago, in that law schools were far less prone to follow the current "everybody pretend to be a poor man's version of Yale" model." There were lots of schools that had no pretension to being graduate academic institutions, and they were by current standards extremely cheap.

Moving back in that direction provides the opportunity to rationalize legal education by, for example, making the entry-level law license something that could be acquired with an undergraduate major in law followed by a year-long apprenticeship program. Under this model, Yale could still be Yale, as could a certain number of other Yale-like law schools, but you wouldn't have to get a faux graduate degree in law to be licensed to practice in general, although of course there could be more advanced licensing requirements for certain subspecialties etc.

44. And whats the point of differentiation? First law schools need to actually teach students to be working attorneys and tuition needs to be lowered by any of the methods discussed yesterday. That takes care of the major issues. Then you can differentiate in-house at your law school.

Fat guy - 7:51 here. We have plenty of hours at my firm (will bill around 2700 this year)...so in my view its a straight-up money grab by the partners. Because they can, of course, for the reasons you cited.

My pipe dream is that since we have all these other rules and barriers in place why not restrict how much a partner can keep of your billable hours....associates get to keep, say, 50% of what the partners bill your hours for. Ethics and all that....(and would make the insufferable world of doc attorneys a lot less Dickensian). Its not like we work in a world that is a true free market and way, for all the reasons discussed in this blog. Just a pipe dream and the problems described in my first paragraph are far more pressing.

45. strike *and way

46. I like this blog, and have learned a lot from it and don't mean to excuse schools. But two themes seem underplayed: 1) A lot fewer students pay full-sticker tuition price than did 15 years ago and 2) a JD may have value for many, for example on the marriage market, family business, etc. If you have little social capital and are paying full-sticker it's probably a bad deal outside of the top schools. But there are plenty for whom the lower-ranked schools still make sense (because they can use social capital to make it worthwhile and/or are paying steeply discounted tuition).

47. I have never seen social capital equating to discounted tuition---unless you mean the social capital of rich parents making donations to the school to get you in the door or taking advantage of a tuition benefit because you work for the law school.

48. I'm not equating social capital and discounted tuition. I'm saying that the presence of either or both could still justify attending a non-top law school.

49. @Law Prof That would also clarify things for employers, as the pools of potential employees would be separated out even more clearly. People who went to a type of school would know exactly what to expect in the way of potential employment.

50. I think the ladder-approach for various levels of legal training is a good one, but that is something that would have to come after the more pressing issues are solved.

What difference does it make if 45k new "general grads" come out each year or 45k broken up into different levels? Actually, if you changed the system to having the lesser levels I think all you'd end up doing is filling all of the seats at all of the levels and would probably end up graduating 60k new "specialized grads" per year.

51. Jon, I don't think the social capital argument in regard to pre-existing connections to the legal employment market has been under-emphasized on this blog. See category 3(b) in this post. http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com/2011/08/who-should-go-to-law-school-now.html

Many commenters have made the same point.

I'm curious as to what you mean by the marriage market. Do you mean going to law school and finding a (presumably legally employable) spouse, or do you mean getting a JD as a form of social signaling on the more general marriage market?

52. Hmmm, do I marry the police officer with no debt and a house or do I marry the JD with a net worth of (\$150,000) who had a nice basement room (with it's own private entrance!) in his parent's house?

53. Yeah, all of my friends from third tier schools came to DC for doc review jobs. Naively, they think living with 3 roommates and struggling here is going to equate to some big firm or government job. What they get in return are short job assignments of 2-3 months, periods of momentary unemployment lasting anywhere from 1 day to a few months, no health benefits, no retirement, and roughly \$25-\$35/hr at best when they are employed. Needless to say, they all call mom and dad about 5 times a year to "float" them a "loan." In the interim, they are so grateful to get paid when they do that they spend much of what they earn now because they know none of it will likely be there in a few weeks or, at worst, days.

54. LawProf,
Thanks for that link and sorry to have overlooked it. As to the marriage market I had in mind its value as a signal on the general market . . . . these days it seems to me that in upper-middle class circles a male doctor, for example, feels better introducing around his wife the school-district attorney than his wife the nurse, paralegal or schoolteacher.

55. Here's simple math:

US Legal Jobs are, and have been, in decline.
US minted JDs are, and have been, on the rise.
JDs are in trouble.

It's just like the housing market...due to the glut of homes on the market, even though new building has slowed, the market just can't turn around. It'll be a long time before the glut can be absorbed.

BUT OF COURSE WE KNOW IT IS WORSE THAN THAT FOR JDS! Because there was no slow-down in new building and the glut just keeps getting larger each year.

I guess the only "positive" is that, unlike houses, which remain marketable after having been for sale for years, JDs are not. Wow, what a positive.

56. "Also, doc reviewers measure their employment by the week."

Doc reviewers (and there are literally thousands of them in the big cities) are considered employed as lawyers. But from the way I understand it, much of what they do is clicking on boxes, looking for key highlighted terms in documents. They do not do legal research or analysis, meet with clients, go to court, etc. Why do these people have to spend 3 years and undertake 150k in non-dischargeable debt to be "trained" on how to do work that a monkey could do? And here we are not even discussing the 50% of graduates who can't find any legal job whatsoever.

57. Yes, all law graduates are living with their parents.

58. Hi there! You must be the one I read about that exaggerates what people say to make lame straw-man arguments. Pleased to meet you!

59. Doc reviewers literally do the same thing I was employed to do as a high school graduate during my first summer before undergrad. I scanned legal document and flagged the pages with the pertinent key terms and legal language that I was advised to look for. In truth, computer imaging and search tool will make the doc review jobs obsolete in the near future if they aren't eliminated by outsourcing first.

The only difference is that I made \$17/hr as a high school graduate and they get paid \$25-35/hr and typically have both undergraduate and law school debt. That extra \$10/hr and 7 years of your life must have been soooo worth it!:)

60. Are you ineffective losers still at this?

What happened to the transparency petition? Died like I said it would, because you were too scared to actually call professors and ask if they would sign it.

Now you're busy arguing with and insulting eachother. When's the last time you called a law school Dean and argued with him?

You people are pathetic.

61. Look, it would be horrible to end up as a document-reviewer, but it's not crazy for employers to prefer JD's for the task. The JD is a signal that you're likely to show up, be thorough, etc. as compared to someone with just a college degree.

62. You heard about? Hmmm. That's an interesting way to put it...

63. 12:31: The main advantage of the ladder approach is that it would make a law license far cheaper to acquire than it is now. This certainly wouldn't help with the employment problem, at least in the short-term, but it would do a lot for the debt side of the equation.

64. The JD means nothing when someone in India can be trained to do your job...and they are ready and willing to do so WITHOUT THE JD.

65. The reason legal employers prefer JDs for the task is that they can pay \$60 an hour for the work (half of that goes to the "lawyer," the other half to the temp agency) and bill it out to clients at many multiples of that.

66. Jon are you an attorney? You sound rather naive about how all of this works.

67. There's nothing that a doc reviewer does now that a computer can't already do 24/7. And the computers have the advantage of performing their task with a greater degree of accuracy without demanding a wage or benefits. Don't you know the score for how business works? If Americans in big cities are too costly, you then go to the rural, poor areas. When those people and their laws(federal and state) then ask too much of the business, the business then goes to the 3rd world and developing nations. When outsourcing costs too much, you automate the task, and do away with the people in the equation. Doc review work will be dead in the water in 10 years.

68. Hi--yes, well, I'm an attorney, about 15 years out -- I have a small-town practice and haven't kept up on all the law-school related developments. I do know some recent grads who seem to be doing ok.

69. Also, doc review does involve exposure to sensitive material. Or at least I'm told that, in my four years I never personally saw anything juicy. But I am told that. This might be a reason to prefer to hire licensed attorneys because you hold the threat of disbarment over them. That's the theory some of us came up with when we sat around wondering why they needed us to do a monkey's job.

70. Another one of the awful things that these temp agencies like Robert Half and Hire Counsel do is simply take the unemployed JD's information and use it in their bidding process with prospective clients. The recruiters have to make a quota and will have you come to their respective offices, fill out all the paperwork, and get you in their system. They then will use your information as part of the numbers they have on file to boast the number of available JD's they have to work on a potentional project. Once they secure the bid, they will then rely upon only a fraction of those that they used in the initial bid with most of the individuals consisting of close colleagues, friends, and their already-existing go-to people.

71. "Doc review work will be dead in the water in 10 years."

Well, that is bad news. I know quite a few 2nd tier mills that have been literally dumping half their classes into these positions. .

72. Exposure to sensitive material is a lame excuse, which further underscores why computers will be performing doc review work almost exclusively in the coming decade. As a doc reviewer, you are nothing but a glorified "Control-F."

73. Jon, OK...sorry I thought you were a student. Im sure if you dangled the \$200,000 you saved by not going to law school in front of any woman/man that is interested in marriage strictly based on a JD she would happily bed you. Why you would be interested in that kind of woman/man is a whole separate issue.

74. A few legal self delusions:

1. Businesses love to hire lawyers. No, they hate lawyers and only hire the bare minimum required.

2. Women love lawyers. *some* women *love* money, and so they will love lawyers who make money. The lawyer credential alone won't cut it.

3. Lawyers are good writers. No, they are the worst writers out there. There is a special pejorative word used for their writing, "legalese."

4. Lawyers have social prestige. No, society hates lawyers. Always has. Lawyers have notoriety, not prestige.

75. @1:01 - oh what a wonderful ethical occupation I have joined, where middlemen and monied partners can shit down the neck of a whole generation of debt slaves.

Im sending the ABA a Xmas card for sure.

76. About the "social" market value of being a lawyer. I think that is in severe decline. The word is getting out that law school is a scam and the industry stinks.

I have two relatives currently in law school at Tier 2 schools. They both realize now that they made a mistake. Most of the family does also.

I have a totally different view of lawyers I meet in my area. They are sort of pathetic types. I sort of pity them. There is no way I would actually marry a lawyer with all of that debt and such lousy future prospects.

77. Several of my male law school classmates are married to female JD's who are stay-at-home moms; also, several doctors and businessmen at my country club are married to female JD's who don't work or work part-time. IMHO they would not have married the women if they just had a college degree. I realize that sounds like they are big snobs but I think that's a prevailing sentiment of sorts--mere college degree isn't much of a signal these days for upper-middle-class types. I realize that this phenomena can only account for a small % of law-school graduates, though!

78. "IMHO they would not have married the women if they just had a college degree."

LOFL...they don't sound like snobs, they sound like complete idiots. Those marriages sound rock solid.

79. "Several of my male law school classmates are married to female JD's who are stay-at-home moms; also, several doctors and businessmen at my country club are married to female JD's who don't work or work part-time. IMHO they would not have married the women if they just had a college degree. I realize that sounds like they are big snobs"

Actually it sounds like you are not a very good judge of human motivation.

80. Jon, you must live in the rural south, right? Having a law degree is not that impressive in locations in the Northeast, and, to a smaller extent, along the West Coast.

81. The saddest thing are the fresh graduate doc reviewers. I worked with a guy once who bought and read an IP hornbook because it was patent litigation. The realization that they are glorified cntl-F doesn't come for a few weeks or months.

82. As a doc reviewer, you are nothing but a glorified "Control-F." ROFL

83. Jon,
You are speaking about a "social" market value that existed for JDs in the 80s and 90s. The outlook is far different these days. Those 80s and 90s JD moms didn't come with \$150,000 in debt.

The JD "miss" seeking to become Mrs JD stay-at-home Mom is a much more expensive article to purchase these day. She comes with a monthly \$1,500 per month loan payment.

84. I made a big mistake. I graduated from New York Law School and accumulated a massive amount of debt. I now owe close to 250K, if you add in college and law school. My bf and I decided that I will be a stay at home Mom, and that I will go on IBR. He pulls down 150K a year so we will be fine, and will have the added benefit of saving on childcare costs. Unfortunately, from the way I understand it, we will be unable to marry, but I don't need a label to validate our relationship. Oprah and Stedman for example have been together for 30 years, longer than most "real" marriages. If all goes as planned, Uncle Sam will have to cover the entire cost of my education.

85. Heh--yeah, I do live and operate a legal practice in a small southern town! Am I that obvious? But, I wasn't saying it was "that impressive." Just my observations. I'll have to take a look at what JD/capita is for different locations. I am a graduate of what the kids are calling "T6" though, so most of my classmates are practicing in major northern urban centers.

86. @ 1:27 PM, Did you forget your sarcasm font or italics? I love it when JD's venture off into their split personalities to assume the role of a stay at home JD mother to write such a humorous post.

87. I think the "laddered approach" makes a whole lot of sense, actually. Even outside of doc review, there is alot of legal work done that isn't overly sophisticated which anyone with a half a brain and some training could do. It makes little sense to require someone wrangling over child support or working in a consumer bankruptcy mill to have the same credentials as an IP associate in a major market. Laddering would also be benficial to all involved in the less sophisticated matters because the lawyers could afford to charge lower rates, which, in turn, would be more affordable for people in need of these less sophisticated services. Someone of limited means in the middle of a custody battle who proceeds pro se because they cannot afford representation at \$200.00/hr may see value in representation at \$50/hr. Unfortunately most attorneys have so much "overhead" with their current loan debt that it is simply not worth their while to take cases at such rates. This may also cheer up grumpy judges and create more efficient Courtrooms as the glut of pro se cases would diminish.

88. Any time somebody starts talking about a social market for marriage I go running the other way.

And as far as the West Coast goes, titles and ivy league degrees brings you far less cachet out here. For many out here, attorney = boring square. Our shallowness flows in other directions. (I've lived on both coasts)

89. 1:27: My understanding is that your partner's income doesn't count for IBR purposes if you're married but file separately (You should definitely check on this before doing anything rash though. You might also want to check if the increase in your post-marriage debt will be considered martial property in your state of residence).

Ah romance.

90. You're definitely right about IBR and filing separately.

Also, did you know that IBR does not include compound interest...;)

91. Yeah, most of the East Coast types are douchey strivers that are trying to climb their way through a 400+ year history of rich families, poor ghettos, hierarchical structures, and business relationships that---over all that time---divided the propertied classes and the middleclass/poor who rent their property and attend the less prestigious schools on all levels: pre-k, elementary, junior high, high school and beyond. These concepts are foreign to those outside the Northeast, whose histories and land/property divisions are not as fully entrenched over their much shorter history. In the south and places in the midwest, you will find a larger general class with property interests.

92. All joking aside, I think the government is SERIOUSLY underestimating how much IBR is going to cost in the long run. With daycare costs so expensive, it serves as a serious incentive for the 2nd wage earner to bow out of the job market for a few years. We are essentially incentiving people not to work/work less and adding to the deficit in the long run.

93. "You're definitely right about IBR and filing separately."

So let me get this straight, you could marry Donald Trump and essentially have the gov't pay your student loans for you?

94. The incentive was created when tuition skyrocketed thanks to those student loans. Just sayin'

95. There needs to be a "storming of the Bastille" moment with law schools.

96. There's a lot of variation one could imagine on the ladder approach--including different types of ladders to suit different markets or evolve over time. I like LawProf's idea of an undergrad degree that allows some types of law practice. There might not even have to be an apprenticeship afterwards, if some "student lawyering" (like student teaching for education majors) were built in.

I think the work for the law BA could be done during the last two years of college--one year of specific law work integrated 50/50 with other courses over those two years. That way, college students could also have another major if they wanted.

Two other advantages of the Law BA: (1) Law schools would provide most of the courses, which gives them a new source of revenue to replace lost JDs or reduced JD tuition. The undergrads could pay the same tuition as they otherwise would for a BA, but some would go to the law schools. Arts and sciences departments would fight this, but I think the law schools would win. Overall, universities are under pressure to make their degrees more marketable and a BA that licenses a grad to practice certain types of law and also includes a major in whatever area the undergrad chooses would be irresistible to many provosts and university higher ups.

(2) Some of the undergrad JD courses could be taught by the second level JD students--who would be paid for that work (or given tuition waivers). This is how a lot of graduate education keeps costs down for grad students: They teach undergrads, which brings revenue to the department and allows the department to pay the grad student something. Medicine also works partly on this model: The attending doctors teach the residents, who teach the interns, who teach the medical students. Of course, in both of these models, there is also interaction from the top level with the bottom. I'm not saying that the law undergrads would be taught entirely by the JD students.

Laddering also allows a very different JD education (or whatever one calls the higher part of the ladder). As I picture this, the JD students would have done the law BA and spent some time practicing with that degree. That would give them a whole different understanding of the more advanced courses and force the advanced training to engage directly with law practice. It's one thing to pontificate in front of students who don't know anything about law practice; it's a different thing altogether to be shown up in class by students who have actually probated wills, negotiated plea bargains, etc.

There could also be alternate ways for people to get into the JD (higher license) program without first doing the law BA. These JD schools might, as LawProf suggests, also specialize within that level. Maybe someday you will need a PhD in a non-law field before being admitted to Yale's JD program. Doesn't bother me as long as there are other programs for other needs.

97. The only way to solve the problem is to remove market distortions that have divorced law school tuition from economic reality. The only way to do that is to put a cap on government-guaranteed student loans, as LawProf suggested in his previous post. This will have two effects, both salutary: (1) students attending lower-ranked schools will (until the market adjusts) be unable to obtain the funds necessary for a law degree, thereby saving them from the financial disaster of paying six figures for a credential that will never repay such investment; (2) as mid and lower ranked schools watch their enrollment numbers drop they will realize that they have to compete on price. Ideally this will eventually lead to the Econ 101 equilibrium between real, non-government distorted cost and demand.

In the long run this will benefit everybody in the legal profession, especially the poor would-be lawyers that some commenters fear would be harmed by cutting off the federal spigot. By bringing the cost of law school down to what the market justifies, such a policy will allow people from modest backgrounds to obtain law degrees without impoverishing their futures. Indeed, there is no particular reason why most law schools couldn't provide a legal education for the amount LawProf suggested (\$15k/year) as the federal cap. After all, almost every law school in the country did provide a legal education for less than that amount just 30 years ago (in real, inflation adjusted terms). The notion that we have to give unlimited federal loans as a means to help out the poor is horribly misguided and actually reverses the economic reality of the situation. The reality is that self-interested law school decision-makers will always capture our public generosity in the form of salary increases, perks, etc. for already wealthy professors and administrators. Those poor students we're so worried about, by contrast, receive only one thing from unlimited federal student loans--more debt to pay off. Make no mistake, under the current system we are not in any way helping the poor. We are helping rich law professors and administrators get richer off the backs of the poor students that actually have to pay off the absurdly inflated student loans that our public policy encourages.

98. Re 2:59: I think you make a key point, taking away the guarantee that you can charge students ANYTHING will force differentiation within the market. There is a reason why you'll pay more for a Porsche than a Hyundai, or for an iPhone than a dumbphone. The free market produces a range of options that allows the consumer to balance desirable features vs. affordability. But that doesn't happen in law schools, and why should it? Everyone knows they can charge Porsche prices because Uncle Sam guarantees financing.

99. I thought graduate students are already limited to federal student loans of \$20,500 per year. Is it actually more?

How are students getting to \$50,000 - \$70,000 per year?

100. 3:13,
I would also add that there are plenty of morons out there ready to pay Porsche prices for a Hyundai.

101. Why are law profs so clueless? because they have no reason not to be...

102. They just need to get rid of the Graduate PLUS loans that are above \$20,500 and costs 7.9% interest.

Any degree that costs more than \$20,500 per year in tuition is likely not worth it. If it is worth it, the private sector can provide the money.

103. I see a lot of people blaming the professors for high law school tuition, but I'm curious:

How much has a typical law professor's salary gone up over the past...I don't know...20 years vs. the typical law school tuition? I'm guessing nowhere near as much, so where is all of the money going?

Someone mentioned earlier that a lot more money is going to merit scholarships to raise average GPAs/LSATs on the backs of those paying sticker (all to raise the USNEWS ranking). Then there is tha "investment per student" BS... so really, where does all of the extra \$\$ go?

I'll bet there's a lot of fat that could be trimmed if schools just froze prof's salaries and managed that other garbage.

104. This is a great article and blog. I think it would be extremely foolish to borrow money for law school today - unless at an Ivy League - even then, it's questionable.

I graduated from a decent law school 12 years ago and have done pretty well considering I didn't get in with a big firm. But I think I've been lucky because I got to know a few key people who have helped me.

These numbers scare me, and they should scare everyone in the profession. I think the profession, as traditionally practiced, is a sinking ship. I hope to be off it in 5-10 years.

If you are in law school now or considering it. Please don't be stupid and burden yourself with enormous debts. I would have been screwed my first few years in that position.

105. The stats from law schools HAVE been disproven.

106. Will Meyerhofer wrote what is perhaps the best article in existance on why non-lawyers don't want to hire lawyers, and he was someone who made the successful transition.

http://thepeoplestherapist.com/2010/11/03/extremely-versatile-crockery/

107. The Will Meyerhofer piece is spot-on. After I got hired at my current job, the HR generalist where I work told me flat-out that she pushed to NOT hire me because of the JD. It was only because I KNEW the person making the final decision that I was hired. The JD is an albatross outside the law; don't let the dean at Stanford convince you otherwise.

108. For whatever it's worth, I noticed that LSAT was trending on twitter this morning. It would seem the interest in attending law school remain high.

109. What was wrong with the old system? The feds lent you \$18,500, and if you wanted more you had to seek out funds on the private loan market. This wasn't even that long ago. Private loans were also subject to bankruptcy. It wasn't like poor community organizers were being deprived of Harvard educations 10 short years ago. The \$18,500 should be indexed to inflation.

The GradPlus system in which the sky is the limit is simply not going to work.

110. Retard you're posting in the wrong thread.

111. Here's another idea that would address the math in LawProf's main post. This, of course, is in addition to transparency, loan reform, and (I would urge) a laddering approach to law education and licensing.

Rules of legal ethics prohibit nonlawyers from partnering in law practices. A lawyer can hire a social worker or accountant to work with her in a practice, but the two can't split profits as partners would. Similarly, lawyers can take loans from banks to establish or expand their practices, but they can't partner with entrepreneurs who will split profits down the road.

This inhibits innovation in the legal market in lots of ways. Lawyers can't dream up innovative cross-professional practices. E.g., a JD can't partner with an MBA to provide sophisticated regulatory risk analysis to companies. One of you can work for the other in providing that service, but you can't be partners sharing risks and rewards.

More important, entrepreneurs and established businesses can't invest in new ways to provide legal services. Why has it been so hard to figure out ways to provide low-cost legal services for mass sale? Partly because the people who excel at that type of innovation and mass marketing can't invest in these ventures: Lawyers have to do it themselves, and lawyers generally aren't good at that type of venture.

The UK has just changed this rule, allowing outside investment in law practices. It will be interesting to see how that plays out. I'm guessing that if we did this in the US, it would:

(a) Help bring down the cost of legal education, because some of these new companies would have the weight of BigLaw but would push schools for lower tuition. Imagine how eager schools would be to please Google-Law.

(b) Open untapped markets for lawyers. Many analysts believe there is a big latent demand for legal services, if lawyers could just provide those services in a more cost-effective, nationally marketed way.

(c) Lead to more innovation generally.

There are risks in this, of course. Will the companies that invest in legal services be more like Google or WalMart? The former might provide good, creative working conditions for lawyers, the latter not so much.

112. Those are all helpful proposals DJM, but my thought is to crawl before you walk. So far, the "movement" has *zero* accomplishments. I think we should focus on making one simple and real change and then discussion additional proposals.

113. The ABA site has a list of all the states that are considering proposals to allow partnerships with non-lawyers.

114. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

115. 12:15, thanks for the reference--do you have a link to the specific page? The ABA's 20/20 Commission has already ruled out most forms of nonlawyer investment, which I find quite exasperating (see http://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/aba_commission_on_ethics_20_20.html). But the real action happens in the states on this issue, and nonlawyers have more power there. So your reference is very helpful.

The nonlawyer investment piece seems far out there, but it's a significant part of the way that the bar associations (and then law schools) keep things in a rigid mold. It's useful to gather thoughts and info about related parts of the puzzle when they come up. What else is Saturday for?

12:21, keep doubting--it keeps you out of the way while others are working.

116. Here is the citation, but it is out of date. It does reinforce the idea that this proposal has been on the table for a while

http://www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/commission_multidisciplinary_practice/mdp_state_action.html#NewYork

117. Cooley pwns this website and the tiny cadre of unemployed losers known as the "scamblog" movement.

118. LawProf:

Methodology guy here. Thank you for addressing my concerns. As I hope you can tell, I am trying to help refine your criticisms of the status quo. I agree it needs changing and want to help you focus the critique. Frankly, your current methodology muddles some important, but distinct, points. This is a long post, so I will split it up into two.

In assuming that each law graduate who leaves the practice of law deposits, on his way out, a weight on the "not worth it" side of the law school value scale, I think you're overlooking the crucial element of choice.

The erstwhile common practice of working at a firm for a few years and then moving on to something outside law is still happening. I don't think that people moving from law to the business side, consulting, banking, the Hill, State (e.g., foreign service), other government (outside law), or starting a business - or, for that matter, to raise children - suggests something is "wrong" with law school. On the contrary - and I say this as a practicing lawyer - I think it is empirical evidence of the versatility of a law degree. (This *does not mean* every unemployed T3 graduate can waltz into a job at Goldman Sachs by virtue of his JD; it simply means a JD, especially when coupled with a few years of experience, remains a valuable credential.) I know people who have done each of these things *in the past few years* (I graduated within the past 5), despite the weak economy. In fact, while the economy has made many people appreciate the paycheck more, I think it has also caused many people to reevaluate what matters to them in a job and has helped accelerate moves they otherwise might only have been considering.

I say this cognizant of the fact that many people are having trouble getting even the first job that might later permit them to move on to something outside law. *But this is my very point*: the set of people who are UNABLE to get a law job is not the same as the set of people who CHOOSE NEVER TO TAKE OR CHOOSE TO LEAVE a law job. Does it make analytical sense to lump all these people in together into your set of "law graduates not working in law"? That is like saying all married couples over 50 without children are experiencing the same tragedy of childlessness, when for many such couples it's a choice. Similarly, you might justify the aggregation on the grounds that in your view marriage really has only one purpose - historically, legally, logically, whatever - and has many costs that cohabitation doesn't (even if it also confers benefits) so it's fine to casually assume marriage should lead to children.

And of course on top of the number of people who ULTIMATELY leave the practice of law voluntarily you have some people who skipped practice entirely and went straight into the kinds of jobs I mention above UPON GRADUATION. This number is non-trivial, but it has been relatively small in the past three graduation years, so I think the focus should be on what someone is doing, say, five years out and why.

119. [Methodology guy continued]

Let me also respond to your example of "Mark," which I'm afraid includes further methodological problems. Mark made \$50K a year as a teacher before incurring \$100K in law school and taking a job paying \$50K working 2x as many hours in a law job he hated, and then returned to a similar teaching position. First, you say he incurred \$250K in costs - including opportunity costs - by spending three years in law school. This overlooks the fact that his debt includes his living costs; to calculate his true opportunity cost, you'd need to know how much was he able to save in the job and location where he was teaching. (If it was \$50K pretax, my guess is no more than \$5-10K net.) So, his true cost of going to law school was really something like \$130K, not \$250K. (Of course, this still omits the long-term cost of borrowing \$100K at (presumably roughly) 6.8%, which is \$108K over 20 yrs, but that is largely mitigated by inflation (postwar, the value of money has roughly halved every 20 yrs; inflation recently has been lower, of course) and the student loan interest deduction if he's really only making \$50K.) We could further complicate things, but this captures almost the whole true cost of Mark's legal education.

Now, we have the question whether someone can truly leave law "voluntarily" when his job situation is very bad, like Mark's. That is an interesting analytical (and existential) question. I would say yes, certainly for purposes of your query. For example, if someone accrues \$100K in debt for a creative writing program and then discovers the life of a creative writer really entails being a waiter, and returns to his life as a freelance web designer making the same \$50K, has he "chosen" to leave creative writing? Yes. Now, what is the problem with the analogy? It is that (1) no one expects creative writing programs to lead to secure jobs and, FAR MORE IMPORTANTLY, (2) creative writing programs probably do not advertise full, six-figure employment of their graduates. BUT - to beat this dead horse further - that is a DIFFERENT issue (namely, transparency); it has NOTHING to do with voluntarily leaving a job.

Let's just stipulate that some number of people leaving the practice of law do so for genuinely mixed motives -- I still think it is accurate to say most people leaving law "choose" to do so. Yes, this assumes that leaving a job you don't like for one you do is generally a choice. (If it's not, what is?) The way to deal with this problem is not simply to lump those who choose to leave law with those who can never enter it or are forced out of it. I think the more candid (and accurate) approach would be to acknowledge uncertainty in the best available data and apply a discount rate to the number of people leaving the profession. The rate would likely tailor upwards, such that, say, 90% of those not going into law the year they graduate are assumed to be doing so against their will, 80% the year after, and so on. We can quibble about what rate to use, but frankly I think it's indefensible analytically to label all those who not longer practice the same.

Best,
Methodology guy

120. **the discount rate would likely tailor downwards, e.g.:

Class of 2011: 90% discount rate (i.e., 90% of those not practicing are presumed to want to and to be actively seeking to do so)
2010: 80% so presumed
2009: 70%
2008: 60%
2007: 50%

And so on. Again, happy to debate what these rates should be, but you can't just assume, for purposes of your data or your argument, that a 2002 T2 graduate working at an NGO or government policy, non-law job (I know several post-recession graduates doing so) is equivalent to a 2011 graduate working at Starbucks.

-Methodology guy

121. " I don't think that people moving from law to the business side, consulting, banking, the Hill, State (e.g., foreign service), other government (outside law), . . ."

Methodology guy, I assume you teach at Harvard or Yale or some other uber elite school. The problem is that your world is not what the law school scam movement criticizes. You need to alter your perspective a bit because you're looking at the problem through the wrong set of eyes.

If, in fact, you teach at a lower ranked school, then the quote I provided above is a despicable example of either delusion or dishonesty.

122. 8:19 -- please read my comment before you respond and hurl accusations like that. Had you done so, you would have discovered I am a practicing lawyer, not a professor.

-Methodology guy

123. "Yes, this assumes that leaving a job you don't like for one you do is generally a choice. (If it's not, what is?)"

Methodology guy, do you think the people who leave law firms do so by "choice?" No. They do so because rising to the level of partner requires business development, meaning it requires competing with other lawyers for a finite amount of work. Because of the oversupply of graduates, there are far too many lawyers competing for that work and many will be forced to leave the profession before making partner. You can stick around as an associate for a few years as you mooch off of someone else's work, but eventually the lack of work will force you to leave the field.

Unable to practice law, this oversupply does many things - the most disgusting of which is to become a law professor - but regardless they did not leave by choice. They left because there was not enough work for them and the other law school graduates.

Again, your posts are either delusional or dishonest. Either way they don't add anything helpful and in fact they are nauseating. If you are being sincere, then you need introspection about what caused you to be so duplicitious whether you do intentionally or innocently.

124. "you can't just assume, for purposes of your data or your argument, that a 2002 T2 graduate working at an NGO or government policy, non-law job (I know several post-recession graduates doing so) is equivalent to a 2011 graduate working at Starbucks."

They are ABSOLUTELY EQUIVALENT if both of them had to leave the law because of an oversupply of attorneys chasing a finite amount of work.

It's called "musical chairs" - a game and idea that children can understand but one that is apparently beyond your faculties.

125. Methodology guy wrote:

"Had you done so, you would have discovered I am a practicing lawyer, not a professor."

Yes or no - Are you hiring attorneys for your practice?

126. 8:29 -

Being unable to make partner at a big firm because of the pyramid structure of those firms, and having to seek employment elsewhere, does not equal being forced out of the practice of law against one's will. The phenomenon you describe is far less common at smaller firms.

8:35 -

If you genuinely think that a 2002 law graduate leaving practice to take a position with a health care policy NGO is identical, for purposes of assessing the success of law school outcomes, as a 2011 graduate working at Starbucks because he can find no other employment, then we appear not to have anything further to talk about.

8:43 -

I am not in a position to influence hiring, but yes, my firm continues to hire (and lose) people all the time.

Methodology guy

127. re: 8:29, You're wrong. Whether you fail to make partner at a large or small firm, or whether you fail to keep your solo practice going, is all due to the same reason - lack of work.

re: 8:35, Again, both left because of a lack of work i.e. the oversupply of law graduates. That's why they are equivalent. Why are you unable to understand basic supply and demand?

re: 8:43, That's odd that a senior attorney such as yourself would have *no* influence on hiring. Any way, there are lots of unemployed law graduates looking for work on this board. Can you at least have the courtesy to give us hints about how they can find the jobs that you claim are available at your firm?

128. Here is an informative article on a children's game designed to illustrate what happens when you feed a large supply into limited demand.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Musical_chairs

You can play it a number of ways, either by slowly removing demand (chairs) or by slowly increasing supply (children looking for chairs). Either way, at some point a large number of children are not going to get a chair - whether in the first run (first year associates) or the eight run (8th year associates).

129. They could leave for lack of work, or because they are not very good at what they do. Law firms are not the only model. I know people who loved practicing law, but felt burned out by the enormity of the problems their clients faced. Some people can soldier on. Methodology Guy is right; the category lumps too many unlike people together. And the thing is, it is not necessary to go to that extreme to make the case about the problems with the current model. It is like a headline grabbing technique for a newspaper.

130. What Methodology Guy fails to notice is the connection between "lack of work" and "dissatisfaction" or "not being good at what you do."

If there isn't enough work, and competition turns hyper competitive, then all of a sudden the job isn't as pleasant and the talent level required is much higher than what most can provide.

For example, if law schools output the proper supply of attorneys - then perhaps attorneys would have to only work 40 hour weeks to get clients, and they wouldn't have to take on trouble clients.

But since there is such an oversupply, such lawyers can't compete. They'll have to give way to workaholic lawyers willing to work 70 hour weeks and willing to tolerate the cheapest and most troublesome clients.

That's your error methodology guy. You fail to dig into the reasons why people "choose" to leave the law.

131. None of what you said justifies saying that for everyone who leaves law, law school was a mistake, and that all of those people are just like graduates who want legal jobs but cannot find work.

132. It does until you prove that the proportion of graduates leaving were all of

(a) perfectly happy working as lawyers,

(b) had all the work they needed as lawyers,

(c) left into a job that they could not have gotten without law school and

(d) their choice to leave was in no way impacted by the oversupply of graduates (in other words they would have left the law even if we lived in a world that did not have an over supply of graduates) --

until you prove that this proportion is not trivial. Because if it's trivial then it's negligible. Since you raised the critique, the burden is on you.

And AGAIN - where is the firm you claim to work at where they are hiring attorneys? Dear Jesus there are people on this site who are desperate for jobs. If your firm is hiring then tell us. Don't be an asshole.

133. "None of what you said justifies saying that for everyone who leaves law, law school was a mistake, and that all of those people are just like graduates who want legal jobs but cannot find work."

This is an inane critique used by faux-intellectuals that could be used against literally every statement. For example, if I said "AIDS shortens your lifespan," Methodology Guy would run in to say that "no, sometimes AIDS shortens your lifespan, but sometimes it does not."

Intelligent people realize that you do not raise a critique unless it is ***material***. But Methodology Guy is a dumb person trying to sound smart.

134. I am not Methodology Guy, and I would have to have "proof " if I accepted your premise, which I do not. I will say generally that people have left law throughout history fir reasons other than the oversupply of lawyers. That is indisputable. Again

135. Again, just because it is indisputable does not mean it is a material critique. It is indisputable that not every single person with AIDS has a shortened life span. However, only a moron with no sense of proportion and no appreciation for materiality - i.e. a borderline autistic - demands that we not make the statement "AIDS shortens your life span" because there exists a tiny group whose lifespan was not shortened by AIDS.

Methodology Guy's error is that:

1. He does not dig into the reason why people "chose" to leave the law. If he did he would see that often it's for reasons directly attributable to the oversupply of lawyers, such as lack of work, excessive competition, overzealous advocacy and the adversarial system and so on.

2. He does not understand the concept of materiality. To him the significant, the material and the negigible are all one in the same because all three exist - their force is insignificant.

136. 10:19 is right.

137. I just posted a response to the Cooley comment on TaxProf Blog. I've reposted it below for those who are interested. One thing to note--it is possible to find a fair amount of data in the US News premium section (many of you may already know that) and to piece a number of revealing facts together from those data. I have an idea about this that might force further transparency directly from the schools. But first, on Cooley:

I agree that this post is intellectually dishonest. Even without further discovery, we know that the numbers Prof. Miller reports aren't true about Cooley graduates. U.S. News has the full 2009 NALP data for every law school--although, unfortunately, you have to pay \$20 to get the figures online.

For Cooley, we find this: In 2009, the school produced 958 graduates. Only 84.2% of them responded to surveys asking about their post-graduation employment--a remarkably low number. Other schools regularly obtain information from 98-100% of their grads, so the burden is on Cooley to explain why so many of their grads don't respond.

Of those who did respond, only 65.6% of them were employed in ANY job nine months after graduation. So, accounting for those who didn't respond, Cooley can confirm that only 55.2% of its grads were employed a full 9 months after graduation!

Meanwhile, among those who responded to the survey, 12.5% are in part-time work of some kind and only 70% are in jobs that require bar admission. Only 46% of Cooley's grads are in a position to represent anyone in court--and even that figure assumes that the nonresponders are similar to those who responded to the survey. Based on the survey responses it has obtained, Cooley can point to only 38.7% of its grads who were in lawyer "I-could-go-into-court" jobs 9 months after graduation.

Nor did those Cooley jobs pay very well. Only 38% of the grads in private practice reported their salaries--another low figure. Among them, the median salary was just \$49,760.

What did these 958 students pay for these outcomes? 90.2% of them have loans, and those loans average \$105,798. Cooley provides no loan repayment assistance program.

This is shocking--not only that so many college grads are lured into this financial debacle, but that taxpayers are footing the bill through federal student loans and that an academic is defending this situation.

Professor and Associate Dean Miller: I agree that Prof Schlunck's analysis focuses on one group of law grads. But please do this analysis for your own grads and tell us what you find.

138. Meanwhile Cooley's Deans earn about \$300k to \$500k each per year. Even Justice Brennan who, as far as I know, does not do any work for the school anymore, makes \$500k per year.

139. And only a person who is basically insecure about his or her beliefs gets hostile and resorts to name calling when challenged. Most people on this blog agree on most things that are being said about law schools. But if you go outside of preaching to the converted, details matter. What is said and how it is said matters. If you say the only reason people leave law is because of the oversupply of lawyers, a good number of people will know better and not take the need for reform seriously.

140. Only an autistic person, or a person not otherwise mentally fit to analyze matters, focuses on the insignificant.

The law has an entire doctrine to address this issue, it's called materiality.

Having a sense of proportion, and understanding the concept of materiality, I do not think we should disallow the statement "people who do not work as lawyers would have been better off not going to law school" because it's not true for a tiny percentage of such people. Such obsession of the insignificant would prevent us from saying anything.

141. The idea of oversupply as being the main driver of people leaving law is untenable. People have been leaving the practice of law for decades, regardless of supply/demand, for all kinds of reasons.

142. "The idea of oversupply as being the main driver of people leaving law is untenable. People have been leaving the practice of law for decades, regardless of supply/demand, for all kinds of reasons."

Reasons that you are willfully blind to.

You do not dispute that (a) there is not enough work for lawyers in the field and (b) lawyers are leaving the field.

You want us to believe, though, that lack of work is not the primary driver for attrition. Rather, the two events occuring at the same time is mere coincidence.

This, despite the fact that it was clearly explained to you that:

(a) Lack of work is felt especially hard at the senior attorney levels because their job is to develop business i.e. rainmake.

(b) Lack of work leads to excessive competition, whose negative effects are magnified in the law because of its adversarial nature. This excessive competition also leads to unbearable hours and a greater willingness to tolerate abusive situations and clients.

Finally, you claim to work for a law firm that is hiring, yet you refuse to tell anyone where to find these jobs - even though you know there are unemployed attorneys on this site. That more than anything shows what an unehlpful asshole you are, and why no one should listen to you.

143. Methodology Guy--I'm an expert in both social science analysis and the law of evidence. It's time to apply a very simple evidentiary principle to this debate: If a party has control over relevant evidence and refuses to disclose that evidence, the fact finder can (and often reasonably will) make inferences against the party.

Law schools already have a great deal of these data. The Career Services office knows which of its recent grads are working at Starbucks and which of them are working with health care NGOs. The Alumni/Fundraising office knows where most of those alumni are further down the line.

After more than two years of public and alumni demands (and, in some cases, internal faculty requests) schools still are not disclosing those data. Most, in fact, are reporting misleading figures on their websites.

It's time to apply proper evidentiary principles to this. The burden (for drawing reasonable conclusions) isn't on LawProf or anyone else asking the schools for more data--it's on the schools. They don't have to disclose if they prefer not to, but outsiders can (and increasingly will) draw reasonable inferences from the existing data, the ways it is portrayed (often in violation of good statistical practices), and the failure to respond to requests for more info.

144. Even partners leave due to lack of work. I had a conversation with a professor once where I asked him, "how do you develop business?" His response was that if he could answer that question he wouldn't be sitting here with me.

145. I've found this study from 2007 to be an interesting read.

http://www.law.berkeley.edu/files/manuscandtablesMonahanandSwanson.pdf

It's the only one I've seen that analyzes the employment of a graduating class over a 20 year period.

146. @ Fat Guy
It's nice to know that the class of 1990 at UVA is doing really well.
Snarkiness aside this is exactly the kind of information you'd think would be available to people - even if a 20 year span is unwieldy in practice, it should be easy enough to collect a 5 year one. It doesn't seem like the people involved in the study did a whole lot to get this information - they made a phone call, sent a letter, and an e-mail. It makes the arguments against the achievability of transparency seem, well, like flat out lies. Thanks for sharing it!

147. Reading through the .pdf linked above, I noticed the median household income was \$250k (page 15). Yeah, I bet they're a mostly happy group of people. It will be interesting to compare that 1990 group of graduates to the classes of 2000 & 2010.

148. Fat guy's (how fat are you by the way) link is also interesting because it shows you how ridiculously out of whack first year biglaw salaries are.

149. BigLaw salaries are winning lottery tickets. The payout is so, as said above, out of whack, I see it as an outlier. Very few law school graduates land such positions. The fact some hit the jackpot means little for the rest of use "normal" folks.

I can make an admittedly only anecdotal observation of my wife's graduating class from 2003. The median, average, mean (whatever) salaries are less than six figures for nearly all of the folks she keeps up with this many years out. One guy did better, but he took some what I will refer to ask "risks" in his business. Suffice to say I wouldn't conduct myself in a similar manner. But, he does what he does and I just hear the stories.

Bottom line, the tuition/salary, cost/benefit, investment/return issue remains as strong as ever. I'm all in, and knowing what I know now, I wish I had invested in a Baskin Robbin's franchise or Quick Lube or something.

Enough crying. There is football to watch and dinner to prepare. Keep fighting the good fight, ya'll. It is worth doing.

150. What people conveniently ignore is that the US population is steadily growing and has been for some time now. Per capita, the number of law schools is steady or declining.

Yes, the job market is a bit weak now but that's due to something called the "business cycle." Every 5 or 10 years there is a slowdown in legal hiring and like clockwork, people come out of the woodwork to claim that the system is "broken"

151. Perhaps all these people who come out of the woodwork like clockwork are out of work?

152. The author of this blog seems to be employed. And profiting nicely from the "broken" system.

153. NYC:

1) While the number of law schools stays the same, class sizes have continued to rise. Additionally, the US has the highest number of lawyers per capita, and you could argue we will not reach "equilibrium" for some years.

2) An increase in the population does not mean an increase in the demand for legal services. Technology can reduce the need for lawyers altogether. People may simply not have the money to hire lawyers.

3) Even if the demand for legal services increases, recent graduates may not be able to find clients because nobody wants to hire them, they are not tapped into the networks that will refer them clients, they cannot afford a small business loan to start their own practice due in part to their debt, technology makes it easier for experienced lawyers to take on more clients, or they are not properly trained to begin handling clients right out of school.

154. Exactly NYC, even in this depression most law schools have 90%+ employment as the Cooley Dean so eloquently stated in his brilliant commentary.

The few people who can't get jobs didn't get them because they're losers. Had nothing to do with law school.

155. "While the number of law schools stays the same, class sizes have continued to rise."

Just as the population continues to rise.

"Additionally, the US has the highest number of lawyers per capita,"

People were saying the same thing back in the 90s, 80s, and 70s. Heck, it's probably not even true anymore. Probably by now there are more lawyers in Israel.

" An increase in the population does not mean an increase in the demand for legal services."

Of course it does. More people means more divorces, more injuries, more business transactions, and so on.

The level of ignorance on this message board is astounding. Sorry to rain on your pity-party, but as a junior faculty member I feel the need to rebut the absurdity.

156. NYC,

You are an idiot.

Increases in population in the early 1900s meat that the need for horses for transportation rose in perpetuity. You must be a legal writing professor.

Just keep screaming "population rise" as the house burns down around you. But hey, whatever helps sleep at night on a mattress that debt slavery bought.

w/r/t increase in divorces:

population up - marriage down

157. Wow, that had multiple typos. Maybe I was quick to criticize legal writing profs.

meat = meant

"whatever helps *you* sleep at night"

Probably other.

158. An alternative for highly motivated people for whom law school costs would be prohibitive:

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160. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

161. So if law schools keep making money "educating people," while systematically destroying the financial health of a high percentage of those who attend they are sill "winning?"

If that's winning I am proud to be a loser.

Bernie madoff had to "reject every 2 candidates for every one [he] accept[ed]." WINNING.

162. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

163. I was born a loser.

Law school took \$100,000 from the government, had me sign three forms and left me in debt slavery. I blame them for fleecing me. Not for my failings.

How would you know how many graduates are doing fine?

Are you omnipotent?

Nope, you're just a jack@ss.

164. Come on Terry Malloy, these guys are just fucking with you.

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166. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

167. Best three years of my life? Ha.

I had better sex in jail.

168. @terry

"Idiot" = someone who injects a few facts into the discussion.

169. Sorry, 7:22. Things started to get absurd, so I played along.

170. 9:48: So if there was an oversupply of lawyers in 1990, and the population continues to rise, and the class sizes continue to rise, there is still an oversupply of lawyers. This article suggests that the number of new lawyers has increased relative to the population over the last 30 years.

Great, so the US is only the second most overlawyered country in the world?

More people does not necessarily mean more work for lawyers. More divorces, simple business transactions, wills could be handled by the parties with online forms. More crimes could be pled out way before trial.

And it doesn't mean more work for entry-level lawyers either. Maybe more of that work is being gobbled up by established practitioners who are using technology to take on more clients without hiring more people. Maybe the middle and lower classes, who complain about high lawyers fees and not being able to afford legal services, still would refuse to hire a newbie with no office, secretary, or experience.

171. "Great, so the US is only the second most overlawyered country in the world?"

Got goalpost-shifting? Maybe we would be better off like Somalia. No lawyers, and resolving disputes with assault rifles.

172. @ NYC

There are way too many lawyers relative to the amount of renumerative lawyer work. And the amount of renumeration for MOST grads is way out of line with the cost the law degree in the first. To suggest these things are not true suggests you are a troll or really really out of touch.

Things won't get better for a long time and by the time it does it will be too late for many grads.

And suggesting that things can either be AS-IS or else need to be like Somalia is just an asinine comment.

For all those who suggest that things are great for grads, why not open up a law recruiting business and rake in the dough? I mean if there are all these positions available, you'd be raking in money finding all these jobs for all these grads who claim they can't find work. The answer of course is that you'd starve doing this because THERE IS NOT ENOUGH WORK.

173. While I agree that there are too many lawyers, this should not discourage those who really want to become lawyers from doing it. Those who are unsure though should obviously reconsider. One good things about the controversy regarding law school's job posting statistics (people working in a bar are included as "employed") and the growing number of students that are suing law schools, new students should be on notice that a law degree is not a printing press. I hope that over the years this will create a large group of lawyers who go to law school for the right reasons. I loved law school but I admit that my experience may have been shaped by the fact that I went to Harvard (transferred from Brooklyn Law after my first year). As a Harvard grad, I have not been subject to the same struggles as some other students but I do feel their pain. I know that many of my good friends at Brooklyn still do not have jobs.

174. Stressed out about getting a good job? Take your job search into your own hands…with a little help. JD Match provides a free online service that uses a proprietary matching algorithm to match students with firms and firms with students. See for yourself today at http://bit.ly/tVK1sy

175. For those who truly want to work at a law firm - do you think they are better off being a paralegal/legal secretary/firm administrator/office manager or being a lawyer? in answering please state if you are a lawyer or non lawyer and if you work in a law firm or not

176. I have a blog post on this very topic and it is based on a question that I received sitting on a panel presenting to students at Harvard University. Please feel free to check it out.

http://lawschoolsuccesstips.blogspot.com/2012/03/should-you-paralegal-before-law-school.html

Quick answer is No. I am a lawyer and work in a large law firm in New York.