Saturday, February 25, 2012

Class of 2011 big law employment stats

The National Law Journal has released its annual survey of which schools placed the highest percentage of their graduates with big law firms.  It reveals an ongoing contraction in the number of positions available to new law graduates with high enough salaries to justify paying what the cost of law school has become.

A couple of preliminary notes:

(1) This kind of survey is nearly meaningless to law students at the 85% of ABA-accredited law schools which place less than 10% of their grads in big law.  In other words, this data is significant at the top end of legal academia, since it determines the extent to which it makes sense to borrow $150,000 (that will be the approximate amount of average educational debt carried by the current 1L class by the time it graduates) to go to a particular school within the top 30. Outside that range it obviously doesn't make sense to borrow anything like that sort of money, despite the fact that tens of thousands of law students continue to do so every year.  Within that range, these numbers reveal that the number of schools at which this level of indebtedness constitutes a reasonable gamble continues to shrink.  But since for perverse reasons the rest of legal academia continues to copy the financial structure of the elite law schools, it's important to emphasize the extent to which that structure increasingly no longer makes sense even for those schools.

(2) It's possible that 2011 will turn out to have been an exceptionally bad year for big firm hiring, and there are various anecdotal claims bouncing around the internet that big firm hiring is up for current 2L summer positions.  Of course that's the same thing people said about 2010, and before that 2009. Beyond that, it's important not to lose sight of the fact that even if big firm hiring returns to the levels of five years ago, that will do nothing for the 80% of law graduates who won't be hired by big law even at those levels. Nor will it solve the increasingly serious problem of people with six figure debt losing their big law positions before they have managed to pay a reasonable percentage of that debt down.

As to the statistics themselves, some particular observations:

(As always, Yale, Harvard, and Stanford put so many people into clerkships and high-end government work that their big firm hiring numbers can't really be compared directly to those of other elite and sub-elite schools.)

Michigan's figure of 31.48% suggests that more than half of the graduating class at the nation's seventh-ranked law school had a bad employment outcome post-graduation.  11% of the 2010 class had Article III clerkships, so if the numbers are similar for this year's class, and we assume (generously) that five percent of the class either got desirable government jobs or were dedicated PI/LRAP people from the time they enrolled, that still means more than half the class basically struck out -- at a school at which I paid $4,500 per year in tuition but which now charges more than ten times that.

NYU's figure of 40.1% (eight percent of NYU's 2010 class were federal clerks) isn't a whole lot better, especially considering the school's place within the sacred T-6 and the crazy total cost of attendance (now realistically pushing $250K).  Last week much outrage was generated when a current Columbia 3L suggested that only 60% to 70% of the CLS class of 2012 was "comfortably employed."  Columbia placed almost exactly half its 2011 class in big law, which, when taking clerkships, high-end government and PI/LRAP into account suggests the midrange of that estimate may well be correct.

Fordham (19.6%) and George Washington (17.8%) confirmed their status as classic trap schools.  With less than five percent of their classes doing federal  clerkships, and with the total cost of attendance at both now well over $200,000, it's likely that more than seven of ten 2011 grads of these schools had employment outcomes they would have considered unacceptable when they enrolled. At 21.5% Texas was right there with them -- a number which could lead those of a less than generous disposition to wonder if Dean Sager really earned all of that half million dollar bonus he paid himself.

Possibly helpful chart

High-Status Employment Law Placement  [HELP]

Calculated as big law + A3C + prestigious government/dedicated PILRAP(estimated)

Columbia:  64.65%

Chicago:  59.32%

NYU:   53.13%

Michigan:  47.48%

Berkeley:  59.9%

Penn:  72.33%

Duke:  57.64%

GULC:   41.38%

Texas:   34.47%

George Washington:  26.76%

As a commenter suggests, the real significance of these stats is that:

(1) Anyone who goes to a high-ranked law school these days can go to a lower ranked one for far less money, given cross-subsidized "scholarships."

(2) The comparative advantage of a high-ranked law school is that it increases a graduate's chances of securing high-status/compensation employment.

(3) Someone who does not get that kind of job is going to be vastly better off in the long run graduating from a lower-ranked school with little debt as opposed to a high-ranked school with major debt.


  1. Those are really frightening numbers. I have no idea how these schools charge tuitions that only and just barely make sense if their graduates get biglaw, when the vast majority of their graduates will NOT get biglaw and indeed probably half won't get any kind of legal job. How do they sleep with themselves charging that much for something they know is not worth anywhere near the price? They're nothing more than clever thieves who have figured out how to game the system.

  2. How the f*ck does Penn place such a high percentage every year? That school is sh*t compared to NYU, Chicago and Columbia. What the hell?

  3. I just reread the post and again a chill went up my spine. Behind these numbers is a lot of regret, anger, and emotional pain and suffering.

  4. Keep in mind this is only firms in the NLJ250. There are firms outside the NLJ250.

    Of course this doesn't mean non T-14 schools aren't traps, it just means the real number for the T-6 may be a little higher than prof estimates. You took into account clerkships, PI and government, but not smaller firms.

  5. There are very few firms beyond these that pay six figure starting salaries. If you compare a school's total number of grads hired by firms of 250+ lawyers and these numbers they will be very close. "Midlaw" basically doesn't exist, hence the bivalent salary distribution etc.

  6. 11:43:

    Uh, ok. Do smaller firms justify the tuition dollars borrowed? Are they permanent, full time, salaried positions? Do you know? I don't. If you know something we don't, please share it with the group.

    Maybe you are "just sayin" who knows. The numbers lawprof lists in this post are just plain scary.

  7. Yes asshole at 11:43, let's take the data and inflate it with imagined good jobs at small firms. What percentage should we add to each school? Pick a number you lying pos.

  8. "...there are various anecdotal claims bouncing around the internet that big firm hiring is up for current 2L summer positions."

    How nice for the 2L's. I guess we 3L's are just going to be thrown to the wolves.

  9. I'm only talking about the top 6 or so schools, in which these opportunities (elite litigation boutiques) do exist.

    Bottom line is, it's definitely not a bad idea to go to HYS, and might not be a bad idea to go to CC with some money.

  10. So, if one makes the adjustments you suggest, the odds of getting a return on your investment are over 50% for the top 10 + 1, perhaps 1/3 to 40% for the next 5, 1 in 4 or 5 for the next 5 to 7 and "well, somebody has to win the lottery" for everyone else. Chilling.


  11. In my somewhat dated experience boutiques tend to hire laterally from Biglaw.


  12. Yes, 2011 looks like a bad year. The reports on summer associate hiring indicate 2012 will be better. But the days of huge associate classes are gone. That was unrealistic anyway.

  13. No way RPL, they hire entry level folks right out of law school for six figures. Let's imagine it and it will be so.

  14. It's not a bad idea to go to HYS if that is what you really want to do.

  15. The ONLY and I mean the ONLY revelation in these charts is that if you paid full tuition to go to a higher ranked school, as opposed to taking a scholly at a low ranked school, then you probably made a HUUUUUUGE mistake.

  16. Note that GW, which has reported a median and 75 percentile salary of $160,000 three years in a row placed fewer than 20% of its grads in jobs that conceivably pay that amount. Must be an oops year.


  17. Schools calculate average/median/percentile salaries based on tiny biased samples. It's probably their most brazen form of statistics fraud.

  18. Every school other than Chicago from what I've seen.

  19. HYS report the number of respondents to surveys on employment and salary. The reporting is very high, into the high 90s in most years.

  20. "HYS, NYU, etc..." Keep in mind that there are well over 150 law schools, so for the vast, vast, vast (did I say vast?) majority of law students, legal education is a losing proposition.

  21. Probably you should subtract 5% from the BIGLAW placement figures to account for people who got jobs through family connections, affirmative action, etc. Stuff that's not available for your typical law school matriculant.

  22. It appears as though most ABA law schools and their graduates wind up on the Forever Unemployable who Cannot Knowingly Enjoy Dinner list...aka the FUCKED list.

  23. "Subtract 5%" for what? Are these not real people?

  24. Imagine if U.S. medical and dental schools featured such results/outcomes for their debt-strapped students. Perhaps, law students and attorneys are big pussies.

  25. @ 2:32. I agree with you in re affirmative action (it really doesn't help all that much, and probably not at all once you consider the fact that being "other" is not helpful in a social game predicated on "fitting in").

    However, @2:27 makes a very legitimate point about subtracting 5% (or more) for family connections. At my decidedly non-elite 1L school, a guy in the median of the class got a Vault 100 job because his father was an Article III judge.

    Now, that case is fairly egregious, but subtler instances are far from rare. Consequently, I think it would be useful for 0Ls to have a "People Who Can Get Good Jobs Without Help from Daddy" statistic.

  26. A few further thoughts:

    I was shocked by how many people jumped on me when I suggested that a large number of Columbia 3Ls were facing severely disappointing employment outcomes. I even questioned myself: "How could I be so horribly wrong? Is it just me and my friends?"

    Now it turns out that -- according to the only hard data available -- I was pretty much right on the money.

    But to move beyond #firstworldproblems, I believe this pollyannaish outrage illustrates a larger problem we have in combating the law school scam:

    People who go to law school -- even those of use with degrees in Environmental Feminist Studies -- have (as a general rule) above average intelligence and "drive."

    Such people will usually find *some sort* of employment with or without law school. And since law school is, above all, a three year exercise in social sorting, there is immense pressure to fake it. For the desperate to perform composure, for the disappointed to perform contentment, and for the broken to perform sanity.

    And since almost all of us (full disclosure: even me) have some sort of job, it isn't even all that hard to play the part:

    "I love practicing solo. I get to set my own hours."

    "I never liked all that adversarial stuff anyway. I'm so much happier in management. And I just love the food-service industry."

    We fool our friends, our families, our classmates, and often even ourselves. Just look at how my classmate Bored3L thinks s/he's the only one who's in trouble.

    But it's time to be honest: As it stands the institution of legal education is cheating taxpayers and law students directly via unreasonable, unsustainable tuition and loans, and indirectly by precluding an untold number of otherwise productive lives.

    Even my friends lucky enough to have gotten jobs at Latham privately agree that (a) they probably could have done something more productive with their lives, (b) they're stuck in a job they hate because of their massive debt, and (c) they live in constant fear of being, well, Lathamed.

    I know most of us (myself included) need to keep up the charade. But let's start by being honest with ourselves, our families, and, most importantly, any "0Ls" we encounter.

    The system doesn't work. And we got screwed.

    This is hard to say. We all went into this game with dreams of being Ally McBeal or Jack McCoy, and it's hard to admit that we aren't. That we failed.

    But we did fail. The majority of people who go to law school do. Admitting this is the necessary first step in repairing our world.

  27. Probably another 5% should be subtracted for the "pretty girl" factor. Unless of course you happen to be a pretty girl.

  28. JC3L, what did you want? It cannot really have been to be Ally McBeal or Jack McCoy because those are fictional characters. We know they don't really exist.

    There has been a suggestion that one way to deal with this is to have different types of law schools for different people. Elite law schools for students who are going on to BigLaw, prestigious clerkships, public interest jobs, and government posts. We have to say that even then, when a recession hits, not all of those people will get their dream job. That is where we are now, and have been since 2007, roughly. That is life-- always has been, always will be. It is also true even in other professions that people see as 100 percent safe. I have a friend who just got a medical residency in exactly the place she wanted to go. Others of her friends were greatly disappointed. So, even under a divided system there will continue to be times when some percentage of people in elite schools won't get what they want.

    Then there could be schools taught mainly by adjunct practitioners, with faculty that focuses on teaching instead of scholarship. This will be a "no frills" education where people receive the much vaunted "skills training". It would be cheaper. Those people will know going in that the train is not going to Big Law or the other destinations open to students who go to the traditional research oriented law schools. But it won't matter because they would not pay as much, and would not need the Big Law salary. It's too late to talk about this now for people who have already graduated. But would that be a good system going forward, which is what we need to be talking about-- what to do going forward? If that system had been in place, would it have helped you think about the decision to go to law school in a different way?

  29. JC3L: Good thoughts. I think the kind of faking it you're talking about has become increasingly common in legal education and the legal profession in recent years, which is a major reason why the misleading law school stats have in fact been so misleading.

    3:19: The system you talked about existed in the late 19th and early 20th century, but the ABA and the AALS decided to destroy it.

  30. @ Law Prof. Yes, they did, for a variety of reasons. But what was destroyed can be revived, no? I was just asking if that is what the commenters on this site want: a formalized two tiered system of legal education that would make it clear to people at the very outset what they could and could not do with their legal degrees.

  31. Where are the stats for HYS? Would be good to see them as a control to the above numbers. One thing different about YS is their small size, but even so, it has to be that 10 to 15% or maybe more of the class at HYS did not get the result they wanted. In this oversaturated market no school will achieve perfection.

    Please note that starting at biglaw or an article III clerkship or government honors is not the only way to the top of the profession. Some people will start in a less good place and move up by changing jobs. Others will start in what looks not so great and end up with a great job. The most successful lawyers of the older generations did not always have first jobs at the top of the profession.

  32. YHS's numbers will not be significantly different than the 2010 numbers.

  33. Looking at the US New clerkship stats from 2009 there is a probably 5% or 6% better outcome from Harvard than from Columbia. Sort of comes down to law school is not a sure thing. You may have 20% or more of the class at even the very top with an outcome they do not like for a first job.

    Once you are in that job, it does not matter whether you went to Harvard or NY Law School. You stand or fall without regard to you academics. So that top law degree loses its spice on the job. Shudder, but a Loyola or St. John's grad can land that big partnership and leave all the top law school grads in the lurch.

  34. Yup, happens all the time...

  35. That is what is so stupid about this emphasis on the first job. It is pretty meaningless in the long term. The up or out nature of large law firms means very few people get to stay at those firms. You need statistics farther out into legal careers to get a real idea of employment outcomes.

    People seem to dismiss those statistics. If you land in a good place and work hard, you may do very well from a TTT. Look at the big law firms and their partner lists. What percentage are T14? What percentage are T50?

    The main question is the long-term ability to earn a sustainable living. Your earnings power has to last long enough to pay off your law school debt and then to enable you to live comfortably.

    Look at more experienced classes and THEIR JOBS and THEIR ESTIMATED EARNINGS AND FUTURE EARNINGS POTENTIAL. These are numbers we don't have. It may surprise us, but going to NYU may not produce that much better a result than Fordham in the long term. We just don't know what the outcomes are statistically.

  36. I think this is a good point:

    "The main question is the long-term ability to earn a sustainable living. Your earnings power has to last long enough to pay off your law school debt and then to enable you to live comfortably."

    This article tangentially relates to the topic here because of the notion that labor (which lawyers are) is being squeezed for a variety of reasons. Some of it is technological, and, some of it is the effects of a global economy:

    I don't agree with everything it says, but I do think its interesting in terms of lawyers trying to understand themselves as labor or small businesses rather than large law firms, because large law firms are more akin to multi-national corporations without ties to nationality.

    So, when trying to examine the state of most lawyers, the truth is we shouldn't be using large law firms at all.

  37. Actually we do know for UVA. Thanks.

  38. To put another, global law firms are not concerned about what happens to the domestic legal profession within the U.S. because their ties, like that of capital, is weaker to the domestic profession.

    Bruh Rabbit (also writer of 4:28)

  39. Large firms vs small would really not matter if a lawyer could earn the same living no matter where. If it is possible to strike out on your own and be comfortable, great. Lets find out. We cannot get first year employment data, so it is going to be impossible to go farther out.

    Law Prof ought to survey his school's alumni directory (if he is allowed to do this) and see what he comes up with. It is not scientific and may not be totally up to date, but it is a start.

  40. Yet, ironically, the ABA is mostly controlled by the larger firms despite the decreased sense of a link between the firms and the domestic legal profession.

  41. More on the changing nature of law firms that shifted with global law firms. These firms are less connected to community, focused on new "innovations" like PPP, and are increasingly specialized:,0_

    One key element to demonstrate the point: in the 80s, a large law firm was 250 lawyers. Now, a large law firm is several thousand lawyers (7000 was one example of the size now).

    So we become less like owners of a company, and more like employees in a multinational corporation in terms of the top end that controls the ABA and other organizations.

    Bruh Rabbit

  42. @3:49, 3:54. The numbers at HYS do include a non-negligible number of genuine disappointments.

    However, HYS have real, honest-to-goodness need-based aid and 100% LRAP. This opens up options that simply aren't available at lower ranked schools (even CCN).

    That's why Law Prof hasn't put up HYS's numbers. The employment categories themselves simply mean different things:

    "Academia" and "Government" at many T-14s (and infamously at Duke --

    "My school is paying me to pretend to be employed."

    "Academia" and "Government" at Yale:

    "I'm a tenure-track professor or AUSA."

    This is also borne out by the Yale stats (, which show that Biglaw was the non-clerkship first choice job for only 55 percent of students.

    My school doesn't have the integrity to put forth the minimal effort to collect such stats, but I doubt I will occasion much argument by suggesting the number approaches or exceeds 90 percent.

  43. These posts give a misleading impression that a student is DOOMED if he or she goes to a lesser school. It may be that 40% of Yale is doomed at age 50. GW may be the same number because their grads end up in DC and jobs are more plentiful in DC than the Northeast. The big firms are a good start for a lawyer, but do not ensure paying off one's law school debt or even gaining acceptable employment as a lawyer after the big firm,

    Problem is that big firms are doing the "out" part of "up or out" and they don't need to produce placement statistics. In some firms, a lot of people may have to leave without jobs. That can take a toll on a lawyer's employability and long-term earnings. You may be better off in the government or a corporate setting to start than biglaw, if you do not fact the "up or out" syndrome. What is the risk of leaving biglaw with an unacceptable employment outcome?

  44. More

    These law firms are billion-dollar corporations:

    Not the lawyer with his shingle up in a community getting to know the neighbor.

    Bruh Rabbit

  45. @4:49 "What is the risk of leaving Biglaw with an unacceptable employment outcome."

    Very high. There's a name for it: being Lathamed.

    That said, it is *still* the best place to start.

    Good entry-level corporate jobs are about as plentiful as unicorns, and corporate is just as unstable as Biglaw.

    Good entry-level government = more competitive than Biglaw.

    There is no magic bullet. The problem is, as LawProf keeps pointing out:

    There. Are. Not. Enough. Jobs.

  46. This post is so misleading. If I am out of NY Law, go to work at a DA Office or at the Health and Hospitals Corporation, or any othre government agency that will train me to do something useful, I have expertise. With expertise, I am useful to an organization that is hiring lawyers. I can move up in the world, and yes, even to a top 250 firm with some luck and hard work. I will be coming in at a senior level or with a practice group. Far better off than the T14 grads who came in as first year cannon fodder.

  47. I see it in what I do. The vast majority of successful lawyers did not go to HYS. More than half went to a school outside the top best known schools. Go figure. Going to a T14 does not make a lawyer more likable or more likely to be promoted.

    There is still a severe supply demand imbalance, and in the long run, it will hit HYS hard, just like everyone else. You do not see it on first jobs, but you can be a very good lawyer from Harvard or Yale, and end up unemployed or underemployed. Maybe the numbers are less than for NY Law, but you really need long-term employment statistics to figure out the lay of the land here.

  48. re jobs

    the issue is not specific to the legal market

    Gallup did a survey pointing out that there are 5 billion people on the planet looking for or working in jobs, and there are only 3.5 bil jobs.

    That stat is a license for upheaval. America was only insulated from this because of its post War World II position in the world economy, but that has slowly deteriorated in the last few decades.

    1. The "solution" is to leave the public at the mercy of large corporate law firms with huge war chests while providing them with even worse attorneys than they already have. Again, its interesting how the "solutions" all end up leaving the public worse off.

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  49. @ 5:03, 5:09, inter alia, who are asking why people are so focused on first jobs and the prestige of schools, the answer is simple:

    Going to a "trap school" (pretty much anything below the top 14) for full boat *simply doesn't work*.

    @5:03 suggests that Enterprising Rugged Individuals from lower ranked schools will beat up those T-14 eggheads and through the sheer awesomeness of their willpower "move up" to Biglaw partnerships.

    This is a comforting tale. It salves the very real pain of $150k in debt. But it isn't honest. It distracts us from the big picture and, most insidiously, tells the vast majority grads who don't make it that it's their fault. That *they* just didn't work hard enough.

    I don't have time to look up the stats for the U.S. offices of every Vault 100 firm. But here are the stats for Wachtell Lipton Rose & Katz (No. 1 in the Vault 100):

    80 Partners. 61 from HYS/CCN. 9 from the rest of the top 14. 9 from the rest of the top 50.

    Oh, and this one dude from SUNY Buffalo.

    So, unless your name is Kenneth B. Forrest (Buffalo '76), don't talk to us about how we need to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.

  50. I've thought quite a bit about the two-tier solution, and I tentatively think that's the wrong approach--unless it turns out to be the ONLY way to reduce the costs of legal education and legal services. Better, I think, would be a combination of (a) deregulating law practice so that nonlawyers can perform many routine legal activities (this is a type of "tiering," but not what I think most people mean by two-tier law schools); (b) using information, market pressure, and changes in accreditation standards to reduce the number of law schools; (c) introducing more clinics and other practice-oriented experiences at all law schools; (d) increasing the amount of time professors at all schools spend on teaching or interacting with practitioners rather than doing research; and (e) greatly reducing costs at all law schools. Notably, I think (c) and (e) are quite compatible. Clinics are expensive, but not nearly as expensive as what we currently spend on faculty research, merit scholarships, and salary wars.

    These are some of the reasons I prefer these solutions to the two-tier one:

    1. All types of law practice involve some types of repetitive, low-level work. I don't think we need expensive law schools to prepare anyone for that work--or that any clients (even wealthy ones) should have to overpay for routine legal work. Much better to allow nonlawyers to perform that work, with paralegal training and/or attorney supervision as necessary.

    2. Conversely, all types of clients generate tough legal problems that can have life-altering implications. I co-teach a criminal defense clinic that handles only misdemeanor cases. Many law grads might be surprised at how complicated these cases can be--not just legally, but factually and human relations-wise. And many of these cases carry very serious consequences: Depending on the charge, a conviction can put the client on a sex offender register for decades; lead to deportation (even for legal aliens); bar defendants from nursing, social work, policing, truck driving, and numerous other occupations; or prompt removal of children from the client's home. Plus, of course, the fines and jail time.

    3. I don't think ANY legal education needs to be as expensive as it is. Why does it cost so much to produce Biglaw associates? I have heard many Biglaw partners say that they don't care what courses their new associates have taken in law school. Their hiring practices seem to confirm this: They persistently hire based on law school prestige, law school grades, and law review membership. Grades and law review memberships cost no more to produce today than they did 30 years ago. If we're going to educate people for BigLaw, we might as well do it cheaply!

    4. Law schools today devote far too many resources to scholarship, but I think it would be a mistake to concentrate scholarship at a small number of schools. That could lead to homogeneity and discourage innovation. Law schools generated all sorts of ground-breaking scholarship during the 1930s through 70s, at much less cost than today. Much of that scholarship was even theoretical or (horrors!) explored obscure corners of legal history. There's no reason why we need to spend so much--at any school--to generate comparable scholarship today. With electronic research and computers, research and writing are actually easier today than a generation ago.

    5. For a profession, I think it's a mistake to separate theory and practice too much. Both are designed to serve clients, and they draw upon one another. Just as doctors have to worry about bringing theoretical advances from "bench to bedside," that's an issue for us. We need more interaction between scholars and practitioners, I think, rather than more separation.

    So my program would be (a) through (e) above rather than two tiers of schools. But these are difficult issues--we clearly need to reduce the costs of legal education, and I personally welcome all proposals for that end.

  51. (1) Anyone who goes to a high-ranked law school these days can go to a lower ranked one for far less money, given cross-subsidized "scholarships."

    (2) The comparative advantage of a high-ranked law school is that it increases a graduate's chances of securing high-status/compensation employment.

    (3) Someone who does not get that kind of job is going to be vastly better off in the long run graduating from a lower-ranked school with little debt as opposed to a high-ranked school with major debt.

    This is very important for potential applicants to consider. I was very disappointed when I got dinged by HLS; another question or two right on the LSAT and I would have been a lock, but it was one of the luckiest events of my life. Instead, I had a 60% scholarship from UVA and was able to graduate with relatively low debt (I'm class of 2009; tuition has increased 50% since my first semester in Fall 2006, so the low debt part may no longer be possible). In 2005-2006 almost none of the info about law schools and law firms was out there and law firm hiring was booming. Looking back, my classmates and I were like little kids wandering through a minefield. The best advice for anyone thinking about going to law school is don't; the next best advice is avoid debt if you are going. Law firm hiring/firing and law school performance are somewhat of a crapshoot; make sure any debt you take on can be paid off without a BigLaw job or IBR.

  52. 5:46,
    I'm UVA '09 too :)

  53. "Solutions"

    "I've thought quite a bit about the two-tier solution, and I tentatively think that's the wrong approach--unless it turns out to be the ONLY way to reduce the costs of legal education and legal services. Better, I think, would be a combination of (a) deregulating law practice so that nonlawyers can perform many routine legal activities (this is a type of "tiering," but not what I think most people mean by two-tier law schools); (b) using information, market pressure, and changes in accreditation standards to reduce the number of law schools; ...."

    The "solution" is to leave the public at the mercy of large corporate law firms with huge war chests while providing them with even worse attorneys than they already have. Again, its interesting how the "solutions" all end up leaving the public worse off.

  54. @DJM. Very insightful analysis. What are your thoughts on this proposal (keeping in mind that all such sweeping proposals are to greater or lesser extents impractical to implement)?

    Mine has one step: Go state by state, and make it so anyone can take the bar.

    You would essentially get a two tiered system (but without some of the objectionable aspects you mention).

    The bar would become like the CPA exam -- there would be $2000-$5000 complete bar courses (there are similar courses that take you all the way through the CPA) -- and graduate and undergraduate degrees in law.

    Having a law degree would be a necessary qualification for a lot of jobs, and the people who just dream of "being a lawyer," would only waste $5k and not $150.

    A bunch of schools would dry up, and those that didn't would be forced to compete on price. Salaries and tuition would have to get under control, but significant legal scholarship would pretty much continue apace -- perhaps even aided by real PhDs who spent a couple years worth of weekends working to pass the bar.

  55. JC3L We are talking 250 law firms, not Wachtell. What are the numbers of partners/ counsel and senior associates with 10+ years experience from the top vs. non-top schools. You may find that half these lawyers are from top schools and half in the middle and half all over the lot.

    There are also good government jobs. They pay alot. New York City for example has benefit costs equal to its salary costs. So you can double that so-so salary and get a nice round healthy income on a government job.

    Look at in house. The people who landed there early in their careers may have risen to the top from very modest law schools.

    As a top law school grad (although one who went to school when the cost was not prohibitive),I curse that my great academnic credentials don't make a difference any more. They don't.

    Once you get into that good job (and it could be 2 or 10 or 15 years out), you are at the same level as a similarly employed top law school grads.

    A lot of these lower tier grads beat my super-credentialed peers. Some of my super-credentialed peers have golden careers. Other super-credentialed peers try very hard and have flopped.

    The market is about suvivial of the fittest. There are much too many lawyers and much too few jobs. Top law school grads have an advantage but very often do not do as well as the lower tier grads who claw their way up.

    As one of those top grads and with lots of colleagues who are those top grads, I know the score.

  56. "Solutions"

    "I've thought quite a bit about the two-tier solution, and I tentatively think that's the wrong approach--unless it turns out to be the ONLY way to reduce the costs of legal education and legal services. Better, I think, would be a combination of (a) deregulating law practice so that nonlawyers can perform many routine legal activities (this is a type of "tiering," but not what I think most people mean by two-tier law schools); (b) using information, market pressure, and changes in accreditation standards to reduce the number of law schools; ...."

    The "solution" is to leave the public at the mercy of large corporate law firms with huge war chests while providing them with even worse attorneys than they already have. Again, its interesting how the "solutions" all end up leaving the public worse off.

  57. "I'm class of 2009; tuition has increased 50% since my first semester in Fall 2006, "

    WTHF? Link? That can't be real.

  58. Right now there is a bloated infrastructure in law schools that needs to be dismantled to bring the cost of legal education down. Inceasing the number of adjunct faculty, decreasing the number of full-time professors, keeping academic salaries in check (they do not need to match big-law),limiting course offerings, keeping university buildings safe but not state-of-art, no new building projects.
    The goal should be to bring down the cost of legal education. Law schools that increase tuition beyond the consumer price index should pay an excise tax to the federal government or lose federal loan/grant money equal to the excess tuition they collect. Should have happened long ago so tuition was not galloping away at several times the rate of inflation.

    Government should base tuition assitance on employment results, with the intended impact of reducing enrollment and tuition over time in insitutions that do not pay off economically for their grads.

    Right now there is no check on tax exemptlaw schools who act in the interests of the people running the institution and totally contrary to the interest of their students. The federal government has of course bloated all tuitions, not just law schools, with their run away loan policies.

    Really sick state of affairs.

    Lastly, for law students who were defrauded by their law schools and suffer long-term very adverse employment outcomes, the government should arrange for some form of loan forgiveness PAID FOR BY THE LAW SCHOOL.

  59. I'm the other person that was c/o '09. I think it was like $27K when I started and it was like $33 or $35K when I graduated in '09. It's now $44.6K so yeah it's gone up by a little more than 50% since 2006.

    1. I think you should not say that it makes sense to borrow that much money for law school. I don't care if that means only the wealthy or the brilliant who get scholarships can go, no one should be borrowing that much money to go to law school.

  60. There are lots of ways to regulate tuition, even retroactively. It needs to be done in all sectors of higher education, but particularly in the law schools. It has to be done by federal regulation. Obama had a vague proposal on this. Tuition inflation has reached a crisis point. It needs Congressional hearings and comprehensive federal regulation, just like happened to the non-profit schools.

  61. Ohio State didn't make this list, but they've increased their tuition by 100% since I graduated in 2005. In-state tuition (not counting living expenses) was around $10K a year back then and is over $20K today.

  62. @6:00. I live in NYC. I've applied for those government jobs. I know what the salaries and benefits are. Manhattan ADAs (pretty damn competitive -- after all, you get to be Jack McCoy) make $60,500 with minimal benefits (info at -- unlike Det. Benson, Jack McCoy doesn't get a nice fat pension).

    Try paying off $200k in loans on 60 a year.

    Also, I'm sure you "know the score" for people from your generation. And I'm sure there are quite a few partners from non-elite schools.

    However, the model has changed. There is such a glut of new lawyers today that, as LawProf's data shows, half the T-14 people can't get even get their foot in the door. And below the T-14, you're really screwed.

    I am not saying this to be snooty or elitist. I am saying this as someone who is going to be wrestling with a mountain of debt for the next few decades, who recognizes that even third tier law schools charge $40-50k/year now, and who believes s/he is doing a public service by telling the 1Ls (and 2Ls) at sub-T-14 schools, that:

    The jobs aren't there. The competition is unimaginable, and the "pulling yourself up by the bootstraps model" pretty much never works.

    If you're paying full boat and don't have a job offer, you should give serious thought to throwing in the towel.

  63. @2:52 Very good points.

    What did one failure say to the other?

    "So, what law school did you go to"?

  64. To clarify: that advice doesn't apply only to people at schools outside the T-14. Just especially so.

    I know I should've bailed when I had the chance.

  65. @JC3L. It's an interesting thought, but I'm not sure it will achieve the results we want. When I graduated in 1980, several states allowed anyone to take the bar. I took the bar in one of those states, Georgia, and my impression was that very few non-JDs passed. As I recall, most JDs passed easily (the bar was easier in those days--lower passing score) but the overall pass rate was dismal (about 50%) because of the non-JD takers.

    I sat next to a fellow who was taking the bar for the third time. He was an engineer at a company, and did not plan to practice law independently, but bar admission would have gained him a promotion, salary increase, and the chance to do new work that interested him. At least during those days, the bar review companies guaranteed passage--so you could retake the course for free if you failed the bar. He kept retaking the course for his original fee and sitting for the bar--and was intelligent enough to be an engineer--but he wasn't having much success at passing. At least as currently constituted, the bar may require so much accumulated doctrinal knowledge that it takes extended study to pass.

    It might also be interesting to look at California and other states that currently allow grads from unaccredited schools to take the bar. I don't think that has had much impact on law school tuition at the accredited schools. Instead, I think it may simply extend the scams: People pay too much for accredited JDs but also pay too much for unaccredited JDs (given the lower chances of bar passage and good employment). The non-JD bar takers, like the one I met in Georgia, may devote fewer resources but--given their outcomes--may also pay more than they should.

    I'd be more inclined to loosen the definition of "law practice" so that more people could do some things without a law license. But it's hard to know exactly where any of these proposals might lead. Good to keep thinking about all of these alternatives.

  66. For those from lower tier schools, do not give up. A successful landing can take years while you work at less than ideal jobs. You can land on your feet. I know people for whom that took 18 years. The economics today make law school a bad bet for half the grads. They will not find employment. That is a disaster if you have huge loans. For the half that do find work, all bets are off. You are on your way. It may be a tiny firm today but you may land much better.

  67. @6:31. You're right: OSU's in-state tuition is $26,238 this year. It's morally wrong and soon will be practically unsustainable--points I have started making regularly to my colleagues. OSU didn't make LawProf's list because we don't make the top-50 list of schools providing associates to Biglaw. I have no problem with that fact in itself--I'm in regular touch with many recent grads who are very happy in other types of law work. But their salaries simply don't support the tuition we are charging.

    When I graduated from law school, debts forced very few of us (even from elite private schools) to go into Biglaw. Many did, but debt didn't force the decision as much as it does today. We need to get back to the point at which grads of any school--Columbia, Ohio State, or whatever--can afford all different types of practice. Naive, I know, but that's a goal I find worth fighting for.

  68. We should consolidate law schools (or at the very least their libraries) to reduce costs.

    Do Harvard, Northeastern, BU, BC, NESL & Suffolk all need separate law libraries. Boston isn't that big of a city.

    If we have regional courthouses why do we need separate law libraries? Suffolk and NESL's are in easy walking distance of each other and Northeastern isn't that far away by foot, either.

    Law schools that cared about costs would form consortia to assist their students' in keeping costs down. Of course, their interests don't lie in keeping costs down, however, so this won't happen.

    Outside of libraries, they could consolidate lecture halls, share texts and adjuncts and other low level faculty. (I imagine full-time professor would never go for teaching at a regional, blended school, as this would mean less of a market for their individually authored books and less control over teaching their particularly idiosyncratic areas of law.)

    Gone would be the days of some professors teaching the rule against perpetuities in Property and others ignoring it altogether.

    If we have a consortia with less variety in texts and other teaching materials, it seems there'd be less diversity in how the "same" subject is taught.

    This may be a bad thing, however, if we all end up learning the exact same thing, but law is boring anyway and we're already supposed to be learning the same law, right?

    If professors weren't ensconced in their home universities and taught at a regional school then they'd necessarily teach the same thing to their students; they aren't going to prepare different lesson plans for students from one part of the city/country versus another.

    This model would also put pressure on states to remove barriers to practicing across state lines.

    Of course, not everything could be taught on a regional basis, but perhaps there can be shorter elective courses that focus on state-specific areas of law.

    MA family law, for example, may differ from NJ family law as long as Christie is governor! Of course there are other differences, but if you know you're going to practice in MA, then you take the class that focuses on same-sex marriage and other MA distinctions. (Note that this would be a state-wide or regional consortium, so you wouldn't have to worry about offering every state's distinctions.

    The consortium could assist out of state lawyers as well. If you're coming from NJ and you want to practice in MA, you take the mini-course on MA family law, as opposed to learning family law all over again.

    For example, we could have a consortium that taught Massachusetts law to students across the state and we could have one that taught NY/NJ/New England law to students from NY/MA/CT/NJ. (You can already take the bar in NY and a few neighboring states, like MA & NJ concurrently.)

    So rather than open up each state to all comers, we can broaden the bar to regions instead of states. At the very least this would give people more options in terms of looking for work. Graduates wouldn't be wedded to their particular state, like CA bar admittees currently are.

    This may be a slippery slope though because once you eliminate state barriers in favor of regional ones, what's to stop you from going further, if the legal employment situation deteriorates even more?

    My guess is that some will object that this will lead to higher costs in the long run because there'd be less competition between schools, but competition doesn't keep costs down now, so something's got to change.

    I'm just brainstorming...

  69. "Do Harvard, Northeastern, BU, BC, NESL & Suffolk all need separate law libraries. Boston isn't that big of a city."


  70. Do they really even need a library at all? You can find all the legal forms you need on the internet now.


  71. Horrid numbers. And, as a few others have pointed out, one of the biggest problems with law (especially Biglaw) is that its a short career path. Recent studies have cited 80% attrition as the norm among associates by year 5. Even if you do win the big law coin toss coming (and not at a single one of these schools were your odds much better than a coin toss if not significantly worse), odds are you won't make it long enough in Biglaw to make it a worthwhile investment economically. If you're lucky, you will be able to pay off your loans. And, after suffering an economic loss on the cost of the degree, many seem to leave the profession altogether, finding it distasteful, unwilling to take lower paying jobs, unable to find other legal work, etc.

    I suppose at the end of the day the economic loss you take by becoming an attorney wouldn't be so bad if at least you found yourself in a career that you found personally fulfilling and would rather pursue more than anything else in the world. But in reality, very few find the law satisfies these conditions.

  72. I guess I should point out the ABA requires schools to have their own libraries.

  73. I'm class of 2009; tuition has increased 50% since my first semester in Fall 2006, "

    WTHF? Link? That can't be real.

    Another commenter (and UVA '09 grad) already confirmed, but here's a link that has some numbers. My recollection is that in-state was 30k and out-of-state was 35k when I started in Fall 2006. Current tuition at UVA is 45k in-state, 50k out of state, so that's up 50%. In 2003-2004, in-state was 22k and out of state was 28k, so it appears to have nearly doubled in 8-9 years.

    Part of that is the Law School decided to move away from accepting public funds; Dean Jeffries told us at a 1L meet-the-dean type lunch that tuition would be going up sharply over the next several years. I remember his successor Dean Mahoney remarking that the available research indicated that prospective elite law students aren't price sensitive. Hence the tuition increases. I'm not trying to criticize UVA - I really enjoyed my time there and I thought the faculty and students were amazing. At the same time, there. aren't. enough. jobs. And even if there were, those prices are too high.

  74. 3:19 here, @ DJM-- I don't see the point of worrying so much about what is going on in elite schools. They will take care of themselves. There is room for legal education in which law professors are scholars and the school provides opportunities for clinics. Why destroy that? That is the kind of education I opted for, and that many other people want. If I had a kid who wanted to go to law school, that is the kind I would want him/her to go to. If a person does not want that kind of education , fine. Again, no matter what employers (I'm speaking of ones at elite firms) say when they are whining about the lack of preparedness of law students, they prefer students from elite schools. Some of those schools are preparing their students for the next step-- the growing globalization of the legal profession that will fall in line with the transformation of the American business model. That will largely be the province of elite firms. Why not prepare students for the roles they are likely to play in the profession rather than sticking to a one size fits all model-- everyone emphasizes scholarship or everyone de-emphasizes scholarship. Let the elites do what they do best, and the let other schools fashion programs that suit other types of students. No education should not be as expensive as it is, but that does not mean that every school has to be leveled.

  75. Dear Ted Seto:

    Can you, Vick Gold and Graham Sherr still say, with a straight face, that kids should choose your school if they want to become a big law partner in L.A., in light of the fact that they have less than a 1 in 20 shot at getting a big law gig out of your piece of shit establishment, and knowing that they will have a 9 out of 10 shot at having 10s of thousands of dollars in crippling debt?

    How the fuck do you guys sleep at night dude?

  76. @ JC3L what amounts to a "non-negligible number of genuine disappointments?"

  77. Has anyone yet been able to explain the Penn stats? That shit's pissing me off.

  78. "Another commenter (and UVA '09 grad) already confirmed, but here's a link that has some numbers. My recollection is that in-state was 30k and out-of-state was 35k when I started in Fall 2006. Current tuition at UVA is 45k in-state, 50k out of state, so that's up 50%. In 2003-2004, in-state was 22k and out of state was 28k, so it appears to have nearly doubled in 8-9 years. "


    OK, can anyone explain what the fuck happened in the 00s that caused the country to lose all contact with reality? It's like every segment of the country went insame with greed and opportunism. What a horrible horrible decade.

  79. what the fuck happened in the 00s

    (1) expansionary monetary policy from the Greenspan headed FED.

    (2) boomers grasping the levers of power and lining their pockets with treasure while the ship sinks.

  80. "boomers grasping the levers of power and lining their pockets with treasure while the ship sinks."

    Excellent. This theory might explain why the country nose-dived during the 00s. It was the decade where the boomers hit their 40s and 50s and completely took control from the prior generations.

    The boomers who attained Deanships in law schools started contriving reasons why law school was really worth so much more than they were charging, and quickly raised tuitions.

    Fucking scumbags.

  81. @6:55 I can't explain the '00's but the state school tuition boom can be explained by the availablity of federal loans to replace state tax dollars. Sometime in the not too distant past law school administrators figured out that they no longer have to rely on the legislature for taxpayer money and legislators figured out that they no longer have to provide it. To raise more money state LS's can simply raise tuition and scoop up the available federal loan funds. Of course, this has the effect of shifting responsibility for funding state schools from the taxpayes to 20 somethings but I suggest to you that this is a result most state legislators regard as a feature, not a bug. State taxpayers are notorously easy to anger and 20 somethings are the least politically powerful and most widely disliked segment of society. U VA is perhaps the best example of this; it charges private school tuition and offers an absurdly low in-state discount. As a practical matter it is a state school in name only.

    By the way, this is also happening, on a slightly smaller scale, at the undergraduate level.


  82. 1 in 33 boomers has Hep-C.

  83. what the fuck happened in the 00s?

    Eric Hoffer: 'Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket.'

    The 60 year post WWII growth cycle is now over and all that remains is for all these rackets to collapse. This is the breakdown of the "blue social model" that Walter Russell Mead has been talking about.

  84. Tee Hee! Tickles!

    Tickles for me!

    And Tickles for You!

    I done did a nice new Post today and y'allin ought to be a readin it.

    That's what I thunkdid aforein I made this here a comment :)

  85. The federal government is clearly to blame for the endless tuition hikes at law schools and other educational institutions. The schools have absolutely no incentive to achieve their primary focus, education, in a cost efficient manner.

    This is an area that is crying for Congressional hearings. What other business is totally immune to economic pressures? The law firms and other legal employers are cutting staff, reducing hiring, revoking job offers, cutting discretionary pay like bonuses and benefits (except for state and local governments, where state consitituions guarantee employees lifetime benefits at the same level as when the employee was hired) and even laying off people at the top.

    While legal employers are suffering from a turn down in the profession, law schools can fill their coffers by raising class sizes and tuition, embarking on expensive building programs, increasing faculty salaries to the highest level in private practice and increasing faculty to student ratios.

    What gives here? A whole generation of students defrauded because these law schools are allowed to lie about employment outcomes while blithely setting up a cost structure and business plan that operates to the detriment of the majority of their students.

    Senator Grassley - Please help us. Schedule the Congressional hearings as soon as you can. Please, don't wait for another generation of young Americans to be ruined by educational debt.

  86. "Senator Grassley - Please help us."

    No one. Cares.

    In this country if you're poor or unemployed it's invariably your fault. And if you point out injustice you're whining.

    It took someone setting himself on fire in Tunisia to trigger the Arab Spring. In the US, people would barely notice if an unemployed JD did the same.

    We lack empathy. Even in times of record unemployment, people are criticized as being lazy for using food stamps and unemployment.

    If you're born rich or well off and use that leg up to make obscene amounts of money, a la a certain Presidential candidate, you've been successful.

    In other words, as Cain reminded us, "if you're poor or unemployed, blame yourself" is the attitude of the day.

  87. No one cares because we have drifted from one another in a sea of petty consumption and electronic distance.

    The change may come, when we cease to isolate ourselves in our misery. To quote grapes of wrath:

    One man, one family driven from the land; this rusty car creaking along the highway to the west. I lost my land, a single tractor took my land. I am alone and bewildered. And in the night one family camps in a ditch and another family pulls in and the tents come out. The two men squat on their hams and the women and children listen. Here is the node, you who hate change and fear revolution. Keep these two squatting men apart; make them hate, fear, suspect each other. Here is the anlarge of the thing you fear. This is the zygote. For here "I lost my land" is changed; a cell is split and from its splitting grows the thing you hate--"We lost our land." The danger is here, for two men are not as lonely and perplexed as one. And from this first "we" there grows a still more dangerous thing: "I have a little food" plus "I have none." If from this problem the sum is "We have a little food," the thing is on its way, the movement has direction. Only a little multiplication now, and this land, this tractor are ours. The two men squatting in a ditch, the little fire, the side-meat stewing in a single pot, the silent, stone-eyed women; behind, the children listening with their souls to words their minds do not understand. The night draws down. The baby has a cold. Here, take this blanket. It's wool. It was my mother's blanket--take it for the baby. This is the thing to bomb. This is the beginning--from "I" to "we.

  88. How does a law grad, recently admitted to the bar, actually pay the bills, and those whopping interest-accruing student debts? Here are the tiers of outcomes:

    1. Top end outcome: Big law, prestigious federal clerkship, public sector law at the federal level, academia.

    2. Moderate outcome: Public sector law at the state or local level, moderate or smallish firm with a solid niche practice.

    3. Poor outcome: bouncing around document review projects, grunt in a personal injury shitlaw mill, setting up a solo or small firm and praying for some court-appointed work.

    4. Calamity: Leave the law degree off your resume, invent some persuasive lie about how you spent that last three years, and get a job as a barista.

    A recent law grad can anticipate deteriorating prospects in each and every tier (except the bottom one). In the top tier, corporate clients are challenging the billable hours model. In the intermediate tier, there is public sector austerity and market saturation. At the second-to-bottom tier, there is offshoring and computerization of doc.rev.

    There is less job security too, so a lawyer at the first, second, and third tier of outcome is often only one market fluctuation away from landing at level four.

    When I graduated, in 1998, level 2 and 3 were the consolation prizes, and there was no 4. Now, it is likely that close to half of law grads, indebted as never before, end up as 4s.


  89. @3:19 and 10:41. I think you're accepting uncritically the elite schools' claims that they have to charge current tuition levels to support excellent education programs. I don't think that claim survives even minimal scrutiny.

    A few observations from my own experience: I graduated from Columbia Law School in 1980. We had plenty of famous scholars, clinics, international programs, small seminars, and interdisciplinary courses--but for a fraction of the tuition students pay today.

    In 1978, as a 1L, I took an interdisciplinary elective on Law and Social Science, taught by one of the pioneers in the field (Maurice Rosenberg). As a 2L, I took a small section of Constitutional Law from Ruth Bader Ginsburg--who also led a clinic on sex discrimination litigation. She was arguing her famous cases before the Supreme Court at the time. I took Family Law from a professor with a PhD in anthropology and no J.D., which was just as "academically cool" but impractical in 1979 as it would be today. I took Federal Courts from Herbert Wechsler, author of the famous "Neutral Principles" article (and the Fed Courts book itself, which was pathbreaking in its day). My husband/classmate was a research assistant for William Carey, who chaired the SEC in the 1960s, authored the leading article on federalizing corporate charters (all the way back in 1974!), and coauthored a leading casebook on corporations.

    All of those people earned far less (in real dollars) and taught far more than law professors today. Yet they still produced first-rate scholarship, prepared students for law practice, and led comfortable upper middle-class lives. I have first hand experience of the last part: My father joined the Columbia law faculty from practice when I was three. My mother didn't work outside the home, both of my parents came from working class backgrounds (so no family wealth), but we did fine on that one law prof's salary of the 60s and 70s.

    I grew up knowing most of the Columbia law faculty of that era. A few left teaching temporarily or permanently because for government service, but I don't remember any leaving because they demanded higher salaries or thought they spent too much time on teaching. And those were the days when professors spent much more time on teaching--more courses, classes of 150, handwritten essay exams, virtually no multiple choice or true/false.

    On scholarship, take a look at the law reviews from the late 1970s. You'll find plenty of theoretical, interdisciplinary, pathbreaking, and maybe even useless scholarship. During my years on the Columbia L Rev (1979-80), we published one of Michael Perry's very first theoretical interpretations of the equal protection clause (and he was a professor at Ohio State then, for god's sake!--to paraphrase Justice Scalia); the Charrows' "Psycholinguistic Study of Jury Instructions" (still widely cited as a key interdisciplinary study); an article by the legal philosopher HLA Hart; two of the first articles by Fisher and Finkelstein on multiple regression in legal proceedings; and (just to give people like Chief Justice Roberts something to mock), an article on "The Early Enforcement of Uses" by legal historian R.H. Helmholz. Other reviews produced equally good--or better--articles.

    So the idea that "tuition is high because legal education and scholarship are so expensive" just doesn't fly with me. I hate to sound like an old fogey at 56, but law schools used to produce equally valuable education and scholarship with a lot less money and greed. And don't get me started again on the fact that all of that 1970s scholarship was done with notecards, typewriters, and the US postal service. I like technology, I really do, but I like it because it has made the lives of legal scholars and teachers much easier. We should be able to teach and write for *less* money today than thirty years ago.

  90. dybbuk: Washington & Lee Law Class of 1998, right? Works for Veteran Affairs in DC, right?

  91. Adding to 2:05 p.m.:

    How valuable to our profession are all those law review articles produced by law professors?

    In order to shed some light, I did an "All States and Federal" Westlaw Next search of Profs. Brian Leiter (U of Chicago) and Neil H Buchanan (GWU), two prominent law professors who have publicly defended the value of law review articles. I clicked on "cases" and "administrative decisions and guidance."

    According to their respective CVs, Leiter has written or co-authored 58 journal articles and Buchanan has written 18.

    However, my Westlaw Next search revealed the following: Of Leiter's 58 journal articles, only two have ever been cited by a reviewing court somewhere in the country. And those two were both articles that Leiter merely coauthored, and the co-author was Ronald J. Allen of Northwestern--who, unlike Leiter, is actually able to distinguish a courtroom from a faculty lounge. None of Leiter's articles have never been cited in a published administrative decision.

    Of Buchanan's 18 published journal articles, a total of zero have been cited by a reviewing court somewhere in the nation. I then clicked on the administrative decision tab. Buchanan's work has been cited a total of one time--one of his articles is mentioned in a footnote in a GAO report.

    The "scholarship" produced by these guys is useless to courts and practitioners. And they aren't the only ones.


  92. 2:25. Nope, I fibbed about the year I graduated. Please quit cyber-stalking, it is disgraceful.


  93. Dybbuk: Excellent summary of the situation. Very cogent.

    DJM: Everything you're saying is in my view not merely true, but almost indisputably so. The notion that a quality legal education has to be anywhere near as expensive as it has become flies in the face of all the historical evidence.

    Michigan Law School resident tuition in 1977: $1,500. In 2011 dollars: $5,667. Yes the law school got state support then but check out the non-resident (unsubsidized rate): $3,400, or $12,997 in 2011 dollars!

  94. @ DMJ-- I do not accept any arguments uncritically. It is against my nature and training. I agree with you that the costs of education are too high. But I think the cost of all higher education is too high. I know this is a legal blog, but it really makes no sense to act as if the cost of legal education can be considered in a vacuum. That's inconvenient for the way discussions typically proceed here, but it's a fact.

    I would wager that tuition at Columbia College is much higher now than it was when your father taught at the law school. I would assume--I could be wrong--that even then it cost more to attend Columbia Law School than Columbia College. If not, I would not imagine the gap in costs was so great. In any event, we talk about structural problems as we critique the current state of the job market. The cost of higher education in the United States must be approached as a structural problem, too.

    I, too, am intimately familiar with elite legal education, from personal experience, and that of multiple generations of relatives and friends-- although I know nothing of Columbia. When I was on my school's law review, we published great articles and student notes, too. Legal scholars are continuing to write good scholarship, in law reviews, books and other venues. Very often, it takes the passage of years to recognize true value.

    Students at the schools that I know best, the ones that I, my relatives and my friends attended,HYS, have way more resources available to them than existed when you were in the schools in the 1970s. Clinical programs have grown, fellowship opportunities have expanded, classes have gotten smaller, students services have grown enormously-- things most students who attend these schools want and expect. Every generation has its stories about how the times of their youth were so much better, how they made do with next to nothing, and were, by God, glad of it. I do not accept those portrayals uncritically either.

    I know something has to be done about costs. But I know I received tremendous benefits during my legal education from people whose scholarship informed their teaching, as it should. The education at elite schools may not have to be AS expensive as it is (that can be debated), but my basic point was that schools that continue to follow the research model will be more expensive than schools that go a different route. Elite law firms, judges, elite government offices will, I predict, continue to favor schools that provide their students with the kind of education that is, apparently, disdained by many commenters on this site. The comments convince me that alternatives are needed. With that said, I do not see any reason to destroy the traditional research model. If alternatives are available, people can choose which model they wish to follow. The problem is that those alternatives do not exist. They should exist among private schools and in public institutions, as well.

  95. 3:38, please educate yourself on the signaling model of education. HYS is a sorting mechanism and it is valued for that reason.

  96. I promise you, i don't have to educate myself about HYS. I understand the concept of sorting. The question is how they sort. I am well aware of how they do that. And it does not change my analysis one whit. There should be schools like HYS, and schools that follow another model. What is wrong with that?

  97. 3:38: as an HYS alum, I largely agree with you, with the caveat that the current trend towards increased clinical education should continue even at HYS.

  98. @ 4:49, I agree totally. Absolutely the trend should continue. Clinical programs serve an extremely valuable function.

    1. Yet, ironically, the ABA is mostly controlled by the larger firms despite the decreased sense of a link between the firms and the domestic legal profession.
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  99. DJM: Couldn't agree more. I had a very similar experience at Penn in the mid-70's for a tuition of about $14,000 - 16,000 in today's dollars, depending of which inflation calculator you use.

    Alas, I just had dinner with my 15 year old granddaughter and I must admit, I am an old fogey.

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

  101. One of the issues that is looming - and underpinning the fall in jobs in BigLaw is that the BigLaw leverage driven business model is broken and starting to fail. Clients, even big corporate clients are no longer willing to pay for armies of junior associates pointless activity. They still want and will pay for skilled and experienced lawyers, but not for a tail of 4 to 15 associates.

    I have told this story before. More than a decade ago that a Skadden "counsel" in his 9th year came in to interview. The problem was that this guy (Columbia or Harvard) had spent all of his time at Skadden being the HSR 2nd person, i.e., the associate who assembled the responses to such a request - for those readers not familiar with antitrust, a 2nd Request is what happens when a major merger deal is not passed on the nod, the DoJ or FTC gets more time and more information. 2nd Requests are rare and likely only Skadden then could actually have an associate who specialised in putting the package together. He had salaried out at Skadden and was looking. But he knew zero real antitrust law and nothing much about anything else; we could not hire him. He displayed a classic feature of the former big-law associate, micro-competence, good at one little thing, but useless at anything else. Why does this matter - it illustrates an issue, even the HYSers that make it into BigLaw will probably be gone in 5 years from BigLaw, with their careers likely undermined by their failure to get real experience.

    On several recent occasions I have been in discussion with biglaw partners, large corporate GCs, etc. These are people who got out of law school between the 80s and mid 90s, some of us in the horrible 91-95 period. I am not going to say that our success is not down to hard work, legal knowledge, skill and ability because this would not be true. Most of us worked our asses off to get where we are, and ate a lot of shit sandwiches along the way - we know that, and we know that we deserve the success that we have now. BUT we all tend towards the same conclusion, for almost all the current graduates, and for ourselves were we coming out of law school today, hard work, legal knowledge, skill and ability would get us very little return - because the starter jobs are not there. They are not there because no law firm doing high level work can justify paying the amounts that the typical legal graduate needs or expects and give that associate any real training. Because there are far too many graduates chasing far too few jobs. Because we had choices 20 years ago because we had small or no debts that new graduates don't have.

    We are coming out of an aberrational period during which the structure of the legal business meant that it made sense to pay ludicrous amounts to new graduates to do work a semi-housetrained monkey could perform. Student loans and those ridiculous paychecks (not to mention the greedyassociates phenomenon - I suppose few reading here remember that) drove law school tuition and enrolment to unsustainable levels.

    I cannot agree that there should be two tiers of legal training. I do some of what the odd poster here derides as "shit-law" on a pro-bono basis, usually when I see someone taking advantage of someone's lack of resources. The cases I have won, have involved international employment contracts with a major complex international choice of law issue, leases with 140 year old legal precedents on joint and several liability releases, etc. This is not by way of bragging - but to illustrate that what people call "shit-law" can have serious legal issues that require a serious understanding of law. I do not think it is fair and right that someone's lack of money should mean that they must hire a semi-lawyer that lacks the knowledge to stop them from being stripped of their job and their family simultaneously thrown out on the street. The poor deserve well trained lawyers too.

    (again, Bruh Rabbit is not invited to reply to this posting)


  102. It is not clear to me that non-HYS type schools have to be bad schools. To have some combination of adjunct practitioners and professors who are devoted to teaching would not automatically mean that students would not get the kind of training we agree that students should get.

    And, of course, no school is a guarantor of lifetime employment in one particular place.

  103. Yes, yes, we could engage in the wholesale restructuring of legal education. Or we could eliminate the navel-gazing douchebaggery and just make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy. Problem solved withing 5 years, maybe less.

  104. Yes, yes, we could engage in the wholesale restructuring of legal education. Or we could eliminate the navel-gazing douchebaggery and just make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy. Problem solved withing 5 years, maybe less.

    Or we could do both.

  105. I was talking today to an older friend (60s) of the family. He argued with me that student loans are still dischargeable in bankruptcy. He had no idea of the cost of tuition or the lack of jobs. His solution was that people should just declare bankruptcy, when I told him that student loans weren't dischargeable, he didn't believe that the law had changed.

    I know I spend too much time on this stuff, but I didn't know how out of touch most of the rest of the world can be.

  106. Lawprof: I disagree with your first statement. It never makes sense to borrow $150,000 to go to law school. Even if you get biglaw, it can take forever to repay it. If you can't hack the hours or the work after a couple of years they will cut you lose. What happens if you can't handle the work year after year, but you have the pressure of being successful just to pay back the loans. What happens if your practice group leaves the firm? Or there is another recession? The odds of someone, at least in NYC, managing to repay that amount of debt before they leave their biglaw job is probably very small. I think most people will leave biglaw with a significant amount of debt. People need to look beyond the golden ring of the job that means it may be possible to repay their loans. Just getting the job doesn't mean you will last long enough to be debt free when you leave biglaw, and it may not be your choice as to when to leave. And what if you want to get married or have children during that time? How will you manage your life then?

    I think you should not say that it makes sense to borrow that much money for law school. I don't care if that means only the wealthy or the brilliant who get scholarships can go, no one should be borrowing that much money to go to law school.

  107. Why in the fuck are you letting these cocksucking law profs get to you like this? Fuck them. They're arguably the most useless pieces of shit in the country right now. They do no work for outrageous pay and permanently fuck over the vast majority of grads in the process. They're parasites and deserve your anger and hatred, not acceptance and surrender.

    We're finally starting to get some traction. Giving up now only hurts us, not them. They'd rather not have to deal with us. They'd prefer us to just go away quietly and die.

    Also, a word of advice:

    Go get laid.

    If you can't get laid, start working out and get to a point where you can get laid.

    Exercise increases your testosterone, which makes you better able to handle stress and depression. You'll feel better about yourself. Trust me.

    P.S., I cannot wait for a pissed off law graduate to shoot up his "professors" and "deans".

    I'm surprised this hasn't already happened.

  108. 8:36 really disturbs me. First off, Law students will never shoot their professors. They are by far the biggest brown nosers of all professional schools combined. They have to kiss ass because exams are mysteriously graded and often times subjective. Secondly, they are mostly upper middle class and risk adverse (ironically while taking huge amounts of debt). In other words, most law students are white boys from pretty decent households. You wouldn't want your parents to find out you went off and killed your law professors. No, you quietly wait the day when you will be in cap and gown and proudly display your diploma. Also, it's really not the law professors who are to blame but society for indoctrinating the mistaken belief that all education is a good investment. No your wrong. Education can ruin your life. Period. Why is that do hard to believe? What is wrong with our society? AES said it best in one of his comments. It's not just the money! It's the precious youth that your giving up. You will never be young again, never carefree to make mistakes (that can be discharged in bankruptcy), You are giving up a tremendous amount of freedom and precious hours alive to play hot shot lawyer for three years. So to wrap up, you shouldn't shoot the professors. Instead put a gun to a potential 0L. Like that scene in Fight Club. Make the law student beg for his life. Waken him/her from the complacency of "oh, maybe I'll just go to law school".

  109. Legal Scholarship at its finest:

  110. For the record, while average debt might be $150,000, all the students that borrow the entire cost of law school, (ie tuition plus living expenses) are looking at $210,000 in debt.

    That's a minimum monthly payment of $2,500, or $30,000/year.

    Taxes on 160,000 for NY and Fed are about 50%, so you're down to 160-30-80= 50k for living in NYC after taxes and student loans.

    $50,000/year is a comfortable amount to live on in NYC, if you're single, but it's certainly not rich.

    If you're going to law school to make money, you've made the wrong choice.

  111. Lawyers still make more than just about everyone other than doctors, and their unemployment rates are still much lower than most other professions.

    You can see the data here:

    There's been a lot of griping and complaining by young lawyers--it's what they're trained to do, and it's in their interest to thin out the competition by spreading tales of misery.

    But the truth is, lawyers remain exceptionally well compensated and exceptionally secure compared to the rest of us.

    Unless you can get into medical school or dental school, if you want to make good money, go to law school.

  112. Anyone have any stats on Washington University in St Louis?

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