Monday, February 20, 2012

The transfer game

This weekend I had a fascinating series of email exchanges with a Columbia 3L, regarding the transfer polices there and at law schools generally.  S/he also put together a bunch of eye-opening data.  In this person's own words:


My LSAT was around the 75th percentile for the bottom eight of the top 14 (it really is sad that these distinctions matter), and my GPA was slightly below the 25th. I applied to six schools -- five top 14s, and the local "safety" I ended up going to. I got into two of the top 14s. And, interestingly enough, the two that admitted me needed help on their 75th percentile LSAT, and the three that rejected me were lagging on their 25th percentile GPA. But of course all those admissions were done holistically and not according to some formula. ;)
My decision to go to my first law school actually came about organically due to price considerations. I thought that law school financial aid was like college -- a little bit of merit aid, but mostly need-based. So, when I ended up with two offers that would require me to pay c. $65k per year in tuition and COL, and another offer from a school that would pay all  my tuition along with a $3k stipend, I was shocked enough to take the money. I probably would've stayed too, but I saw that outside of the very top students -- and a few good ol' boys -- the vast majority of people didn't get jobs. And CCN seemed so safe . . .
Writing this also jogged my memory about another incident from 1L. Besides taking $200 from each of my classmates so they could receive the benefit of my marginally-qualified-for-Georgetown wisdom, my law school also generously decided to pay to sign us all up as ABA student members (for all three years in advance!). Which meant we got a boatload of ABA student division spam, including an "action alert" to write our members of Congress and ask for an increase in federal loan limits. I've attached the "sample letter" that the ABA included with the email alert.
I remember trying to explain to my friends why this was a bad idea ("the only thing keeping tuition down at all right now is our physical inability to get more money"), but they looked at me like I had suddenly devolved into glossolalia. Which is perhaps the most insidious aspect of the scam: the most vulnerable are also the most susceptible.
 I didn't incur any undergrad debt. I went to a state school and, as I said, worked my way through. I guestimated $155k in law school debt when I posted, but I looked up the actual number, and it's c. $170k. That interest really bites you in the ass.
I started law school at a school ranked between 150 and 100 in US News and had a class rank in the top 20, but not top 10 percent. This is actually not a rare occurrence -- they're willing to take anyone who doesn't embarrass them (no US News reporting), and LSAT is a much better guarantee in that regard.

 I knew how easy transfer admissions were because Northwestern offered me "conditional" transfer acceptance when they rejected me for 1L. Moreover, a friend who was accepted to Penn for 1L (same year) received a rejection letter from Harvard (Harvard!) that strongly suggested he reapply as a transfer: "If your interest in Harvard Law School continues into your first year at another law school, we would welcome your application as a transfer student in 2010." Incidentally, as more 0Ls are wising up, I hear the transfer market has gotten even softer.
So, I figured that transfer admissions were easy (they were). And everyone at a top 14 school had to get a real job, right?

Not quite. The general atmosphere at Columbia is surreal. Bubbles of panic amid an ocean of complacency. After looking over our (horribly inadequate) placement statistics, and doing a little extra digging on my own, I would say that 60-65 percent of my class -- but only around 40-50 percent of transfer students -- are (for now) comfortably employed. And the rest of us are living in terror, but under enormous social pressure not to reveal our distress.

As for the number of transfers, that is in the ABA law school stats. It turns out there were 78 transfers my year (and I heard "around 90" for the current 2Ls).
I was rather taken aback by the Columbia numbers, and did some quick calculations, which reveal the following:  Using a conservative estimate of 80  transfers in the current 2L class, transfer students -- who of course get no scholarship money -- are paying slightly more than eight million dollars in tuition at CLS this year.  This represents amount equal to about half of the total tuition being paid by the entire 1L class, based on the assumption that the 1L class is collectively paying 80% of sticker tuition price.  The money being brought in by transfers pays for around 40 tenure-track faculty salaries: it's 21% of all tuition revenue collected from all 2L and 3L students.

Columbia's practice of supplementing its finances with a large number of transfer students, almost all of whom, of course, were rejected for admission by the school a year earlier, is far from unique.  My correspondent collected the stats for the rest of the top 100 schools for 2010 (the most recent year available).  The stats are in the form of transfers in, transfers out, and total students in the relevant year, i.e., current 3Ls.  I've added percentage totals for all schools where at least 10% of the current 3L class consists of transfers, along with Georgetown, about which more shortly:


Yale
16
0
229

Harvard
29
0
585

Stanford
15
0
193

Columbia
78
2
476
16.4%
Chicago
27
6
211
12.8%
NYU
58
3
499
11.6%
Michigan
24
2
389

Penn
25
7
273

UC Berkeley
46
2
335
13.7%
Virginia
10
5
369

Duke
5
8
225

Northwestern
38
7
297
12.8%
Cornell
0
15
189

Georgetown
61
13
626
9.7%
Texas
9
8
376

UCLA
34
7
337
10.1%
Vanderbilt
16
7
201

USC
18
8
224

Washington St. Louis
32
22
270
11.9%
George Washington
97
16
580
16.7%
Minnesota
31
6
234
13.2%
Boston U.
16
15
269

Indiana
0
14
204

UC Davis
11
13
207

Illinois
6
6
227

Notre Dame
19
4
199

Boston College
7
6
261

Iowa
4
5
190

William & Mary
10
9
203

Emory
32
8
269  
11.9%
Fordham
24
14
485

North Carolina
13
2
265

U. Washington
6
1
186

Washington & Lee
19
18
134
14.2%
Ohio State
11
6
228

Alabama
17
1
188

Georgia
5
1
237

Wisconsin
26
9
286

Wake Forest
17
5
164
10.4%
Arizona State
32
3
208
15.4%
George Mason
0
10
222

Brigham Young
2
2
145

Arizona
3
5
150

UC Hastings
22
23
465

Maryland
24
16
303

Utah
15
0
142
10.6%
Tulane
22
11
287

Colorado
13
1
177

Florida
37
14
330
11.2%
American
43
39
483

Florida State
74
7
303
24.4%
SMU
35
1
280
12.5%
Yeshiva
39
5
391
10%
Loyola Marymount
43
12
384
11.2%
Pepperdine
6
10
215

Baylor
0
1
180

Connecticut
20
3
191
10.5%
Houston
0
3
241

Tennessee
5
1
161

Penn State
8
8
187

Case Western
12
29
186

Georgia State
5
2
208

Chicago-Kent
22
9
288

Seton Hall
10
22
323

Temple
0
11
283

Cincinnati
9
1
142

Brooklyn
32
24
497

Lewis & Clark
17
5
234

Richmond
12
9
152

San Diego
19
5
317

Loyola Chicago
15
15
268

Northeastern
9
1
216

Kentucky
6
3
152

UNLV
6
5
152

Oklahoma
6
3
196

Pittsburgh
12
10
232

Denver
26
9
302

Miami
6
15
496

Catholic U.
3
23
245

Indiana, Indianapolis
25
12
307

Kansas
10
2
164

New Mexico
3
0
119

Oregon
1
10
167

Arkansas
5
1
134

Buffalo
28
12
219
12.8%
DePaul
18
12
349

Hofstra
12
30
359

LSU
5
4
223

Nebraska
2
2
135

Rutgers, Camden
38
13
283
13.4%
Rutgers, Newark
12
10
247

Santa Clara
42
13
301
14%
Seattle
14
6
321

Villanova
15
11
255

Hawaii
2
2
124

Marquette
23
7
226
10.2%
Michigan State
18
14
281

St. Johns
6
4
308

West Virginia
10
4
154

Syracuse
5
14
199

Louisville
4
2
129

San Francisco
0
7
238

Pacific
9
28
295


My correspondent's gloss on this fascinating little glimpse into the law school transfer racket market:



(1) Holy fucking fuck, Florida State (74, 7, 303). Thank God that Dan Markel is there to uphold their standards when the numbers aren't reported to US News. ;)

(2) The driving factors seem to be prestige, location, and prestige-within-market. Also, there are some interesting inferences to be made with revealed preference theory -- e.g., why do transfers find Arizona St. such a markedly better deal than statistically and geographically identical Arizona?

(3) What is the deal with Cornell? They do accept transfer applications, so are they actually being virtuous, or does no one want to move to Ithaca? [Ed. note: Cornell accepted between nine and 18 transfers in every year between 2006 and 2009 so the 2010 number is an anomaly]

(4) Note that the largest abusers (aside from GWU) are either among the elite or near the bottom edge of the first tier. These are, generally speaking, the common "reach" schools for strong and weak first-time applicants, respectively.  [Ed. note: There's a similar effect at the bottom of the second tier as well.]
There's some evidence that this practice of pumping up law school revenues by admitting hordes of transfer students -- nearly a quarter of FSU's 2Ls and 3Ls are transfers! -- has intensified over the past five years.  We don't have data for 2011 yet, but I checked the numbers for several schools for 2006-2010, and here are the number of transfers they admitted:


George Washington: 97 transfers in 2010; 51 transfers in 2009; 66 transfers in 2008; 61 transfers in 2007; 33 transfers in 2006.

Georgetown: 61 transfers in 2010; 81 transfers in 2009; 93 transfers in 2008; 93 transfers in 2007; 100 transfers in 2006.

NYU: 58 transfers in 2010; 22 transfers in 2009; 13 transfers in 2008; 42 transfers in 2007; 18 transfers in 2006.

Chicago: 27 in 2010; 24 in 2009; 22 in 2008; 16 in 2007; 18 transfers in 2006 (note that because U of C's entering class is less than half the size of Columbia's these numbers are in percentage terms not very different from CLS's).

FSU: 74 in 2010; 45 in 2009; 61 in 2008; 60 in 2007; 59 in 2006 

Northwestern: 38 in 2010; 37 in 2009; 59 in 2008; 43 in 2007; 40 in 2006

Berkeley: 46; 45; 39; 39; 37

Loyola:  43; 48; 37; 33; 35

Where are all these people coming from? At the elite schools, my correspondent's story is probably typical: somebody whose numbers weren't quite good enough to get into the transfer school goes to a lower-ranked school with the benefit of a big scholarship, and then transfers (note my correspondent's very good but not top of the class grades at a third tier school didn't deter CLS from accepting him/her and his/her money a year after the initial rejection).  Or in some cases, such as the Penn enrollee who got a letter from HLS, somebody who just missed HYS and went to a slightly lower ranked school for full boat will get accepted into Valhalla a year later, when their 170 LSAT won't sully the stats.

Obviously this isn't what's going on at places like Florida State.  Where in the heck is FSU finding 120 transfer students to fill out its 2L and 3L classes?  Who knows, but I looked up Cooley's transfer stats, and in 2010 188 [!] people transferred out -- which turns out to be a typical yearly number for them.

Some further notes:  These numbers indicate that the transfer market is much softer than the conventional wisdom at places like TLS suggests.  The T-14 are taking around 450 transfers a year -- thus creating the equivalent of a couple of extra elite law schools.  In DC GULC and GWU alone collectively take as many transfer students every year as the entire first year classes of some of the smaller law schools.

At lower ranked schools the remarkable number of transfers into some of them indicates both how desperate lots of people are to escape the bottom feeders, and how a lot of people end up confusing the fact that law school in general is pretty awful with their belief that the law school they enrolled at is unusually bad.

Finally, my correspondent's impression that somewhere in the neighborhood of 35% to 40% of the 3L class at Columbia is in a bad spot in re employment shouldn't be overlooked in all this, especially by people with full scholarships at lower ranked schools who even at this moment are dreaming of dumping $160K on spending their last two years of law school in Morningside Heights.

There's more to say about the ethics of law schools balancing their budgets via government-supplied loan money taken out by students they wouldn't accept in the first place, yet who they're happy to admit once those students' entrance qualifications won't affect the schools' precious rankings, but this post is already too long. 

Update: A commenter thinks I should point out that some commenters are disputing the correspondent's estimates regarding the employment situation at CLS for third years in general and transfers in particular. I disagree with the commenter that the referenced comments constitute a refutation of the correspondent's claims -- since Columbia doesn't deign to publish real employment statistics this is a war of anecdotes -- but I'm noting the existence of the dispute.

81 comments:

  1. Could you post the letter from the ABA urging students to write to their congressmen to increase federally backed student loan limits? That's just scandalous, period.

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  2. You have to hand it to the admissions dept. of these law schools. They really learned how to think like lawyers.

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  3. There was a fairly robust bunch of "to transfer out or not" conversations going on here at Rutgers after all the grades rolled in from first semester. Of the dozen or so acquaintances of mine with top-notch GPAs, I only know of 2 who chose to head up-and-out, one to NYU and one to Columbia. For a lot of us, it just wasn't worth giving up the scholarship money, or the connections already established with folks doing things like journal and moot court and clinic and so on. I have no doubt that more or less everyone on the editorial board of law review could've traded up if they wanted to, but they all seemed to realize that paying full boat at a T14 just wasn't worth it.

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  4. Can you put column headers on the transfer data?

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  5. Lawprof, as a current CLS 3L (one who you know does not have an offer yet) the figure of 35-40% is baloney. I would say that 85-90% or more of the 3L class is employed. This is still pretty bad considering Columbia's pre-crash reputation for universal employment for anyone with a pulse, and it's just scary enough to strike fear into some of the 1Ls who might have otherwise decided to coast 1L year. I have no incentive to sugar-coat these numbers, as the obvious next question is "well, so what the hell is wrong with you that you can't get a job when 90% of your classmates can?." I know of two people aside from myself, perhaps out of 50, that do not have a full-time offer, and one of those people may not even have been considered employable in the boom times.

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  6. Bored3L: Note the correspondent said "comfortably employed." I'm not sure what this means, but I took it to signify something like "has a job offer that's considered at least minimally acceptable by the person who has it."

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  7. Prof Campos,

    Thank you for this vital and valuable post. As someone who has followed these issues for some time, you taught me something new this morning - the complicity of my own alma mater, SUNY-Buffalo, in the 2L transfer racket. I am beyond dismayed with what I learned this morning. All along I thought that Buffalo was one of the "good guys" in the law school admissions game. Now, we learn they too are strip mining the depths of the bottom 50 law schools for 2L transfer students.

    Buffalo lowered the size of its incoming 1L classes over the past few years and raised its admissions selectivity. I thought this was a good move and a step in the right direction. How naive I was! Looking back, there was no way a place like Buffalo, with dwindling state support and no endowment to speak of could take such steps without seeking new sources of revenue. From what you posted, it looks like the new "revenue" comes from the 2L transfer racket. This is unfortunate and unsettling.

    From my experience, most of Buffalo's 2L transfers are native NYers who didn't make the admissions cut the first time around. They go to places like Akron, Cleveland State, Cooley, Toledo, etc. as 1Ls and try again as transfer 2Ls. Since these kids are from NY (mostly upstate) and plan to practice in NY, I view Buffalo's practice far lower down on the continuum of the racket than diploma mills like GW. While this mitigates their participation in the transfer racket somewhat, it's still disappointing to learn about this.

    This should serve as a word of caution to other involved alumni. The "good news" stories you hear about from alma mater may be more complex than they first appear.

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  8. I suppose the only way to know for certain whether the transfer into the most elite schools is worth it is to actually know the specific outcomes for the people who transferred in, information that we do not have. Just saying, "I estimate that this percentage or that percentage of people in the school are not employed yet", which as bored3L suggests may be far from accurate, doesn't really tell the story. Even in the terrible market for the past three years, HYS had strong numbers for employment considering the economic situation. Did some of the transfers get jobs? Did they have a better shot than if they had stayed in the lower ranked school? Very likely many of these people did get jobs. We do not have enough information to make the claim that it was definitely not worth it, particularly in the past 3 years, to transfer into Yale or Harvard or Stanford. Bored3L suggests the same for Columbia.

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  9. Lawprof- That is still the case. We haven't yet reached a point where people are beginning to consider the 50K/year small firm offers.

    Of course, the 35-40% might take into account the people who are angry that they had to settle for Milbank Tweed when they really wanted Sullivan and Cromwell. There are a fair number of those people here. But there has to be some objectivity (since Milbank and Sullivan Cromwell guy are after all going to be part of the same 160K club) or else you get S.D.N.Y. clerks pissed off they didn't get a COA or Cravath guys still miffed they were rejected after a screener by Wachtell. The prestige-whoring truly never ends.

    For example, out of about 20 3L editors of my secondary journal (not a very exclusive one) 19/20 are employed in biglaw, clerking, or fed gov. Only one (myself) is still unemployed.

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  10. But there's still not enough jobs! Why are you distracting attention from that?

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  11. 7:14 Anecdotal evidence on my end suggests that transfers pretty handedly beat out employment outcomes for median CLS 1Ls, at least at EIP. I do not know a single transfer student who is unemployed now, while I know three "native" students. It actually caused quite a bit of ruckus among some of the 1Ls who now had to "compete" with people with much better stats than they had for a limited number of interviews. CLS boosting the transfer class to a record high during the recession didn't help matters. One of many reasons I will never be donating a penny to this school even if I hit the winning numbers.

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  12. Thanks Bored3L. If only there were some way to determine the extent to which these various impressions regarding the situation were more accurate . . .

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  13. Bored3L,

    Comfortable = Biglaw/Biglaw offer declined for clerkship. This may be the height of #firstworldproblems, but 70k/year in loans (counting living expenses, because you didn't have a summer gig) means that anything else is going to hurt a bit.

    And my glasses may be colored by hanging out with the losers -- but you should try slumming some time.

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  14. 7:14, Thanks bored3L. When you consider the numbers of really highly qualified people who apply to CLS and other elite schools, you have to know that there are lots more people in the pile who could be there and do well than can actually be accepted. No one in an elite school who is really thinking about it (or is not a jerk) believes that their class actually represents the "only" people who should have gotten in. I doubt that HLS or CLS tells everyone they reject to consider applying again. These are people who could be at the school and compete. Your experiences, and my observations, bear that out.

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  15. Lawprof: Unfortunately, CLS is notoriously tight-lipped about employment outcome. We will probably never know the actual figure. They believe themselves to be on par with HYS and any suggestion that CLS does not place as well as HYS is heresy. But the fact that we are having this conversation is progress.

    JC3L: I would include a couple of more positions in that category. Federal gov honors positions pay very well and have good exit options (I know one person going to the OCC who will be making 107K next year). You also can't discount the people who were "dedicated PI" from the start, as they planned to take advantage of LRAP. I would say that comprises maybe 5% of the class.

    Look, if 35-40% of the people were unemployed or underemployed at CLS I would be shouting it from the rooftops. But based on my experiences, the people I've talked to, that's just not the case. I'm an outlier among 3Ls and I've accepted that.

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  16. 7:37: Yes, IMO a transfer student ranked highly at their old law school accomplished much more than what I did to get into this place. They deserved offers, at least ahead of my median ass.

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  17. I have a friend on the Columbia admissions committee - I should ask him/her about this...

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  18. Bored3L:

    I forgot about the PI folks. And I wasn't taking into account the better govt. jobs.

    To be fair, that probably raises the stats as high as 75/60.

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  19. It is not as though no on in the top 200 firms is hiring. if they are hiring anybody, they are going to hire from elite schools, the schools where many of the hiring partners went themselves. People are getting jobs, as bored3L suggests, it has just not been as easy to get what they considered their "dream" jobs in their dream cities. Not everybody can work in San Francisco.

    Again, I just don't see that what is going on in elite schools is worth fretting over too much. It's always interesting to watch the rich, but there are lots of folks out there who are really struggling.

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  20. The significance of what's going on at CLS for other schools is that elite schools are canaries in a coal mine. If, say, 20% of the CLS third year class is in a bad spot in terms of employment -- not "I can't get a job with a big firm in the Bay Area" trouble but "I can't get a job that will pay my loans" trouble -- then that means 30% or 35% of the class at Michigan and Duke are in that situation, and 50% of the GULC class is more or less screwed. That's how this business works. In other words, we may be getting to a point where law school isn't making economic sense for something close to a majority of the class at schools actually in or on the borders of the top ten.

    I think it's very suggestive that last week GULC put up it's NALP-style employment stats for 2008-2010 (this is becoming the new standard of disclosure in the T-14), but didn't put up its 2011 stats, which it now has. The 2010 stats in particular were horrible -- 60% of the class didn't get big law -- but they held back the 2011 numbers. What does that tell you?

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  21. Wow Hofstra had 30 transfers. St. John's only had 6. Whats so bad about Hofstra that that many students are running away? I wonder what will happen at Hofstra now that they have been sued. I wouldn't want to graduate from a law school that's been sued for defrauding their students. They will probably have 60 transfers in 2012.

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  22. Having transferred to Harvard from a T14 and worked in BigLaw, I have a few thoughts.

    First, transfers to Harvard did very well in every sense. I never discussed this with classmates, but not only did I get much more in grants from HLS than the school I went to for 1L, I got about the same as or more than I was offered by the most generous schools I was accepted at the first time around -- including places that offered merit scholarships.

    HLS transfers had an easy time getting jobs as summers, clerks, and permanent offers in BigLaw after, easier probably than anyone except those on law review. As far as I can tell, Harvard does not milk its transfers; it just does what any sensible but self-interested school would do, which is admit people who have proven themselves as law students but who do not negatively impact US News and ABA stats. They treated us very well.

    As a former BigLawyer, I think it is easy to see why transfers are favored. So you run a law firm and you need a bunch of people to do the actual work that the partnership (correction, a small group of partners) brings in. You need Smart, Hardworking People, but you also need people whom clients don't mind paying $500 an hour for low-level work we all agree is not intellectually challenging but is often complicated, draining, and important to the client. So how do you signal to clients that your hires are up for it, and that their rates are fair?

    The first step, of course, is to hire a bunch of people from fancy schools. It's much easier than having a conversation about how Johnny went to a no-name school but is really a fantastic lawyer with a compelling personal story, so not only will he handle your documents for you at $500 an hour, he will do it with a smile. We might all prefer to live in a world in which this wasn't the case, but when you need to staff 20 or 50 people on something, you can't look to the island of misfit toys for client-acceptable juniors.

    So transfers are easily marketable to clients but also have signaled that they are hungry and seek status. They started at a school -- often what they concede is a perfectly good school -- but weren't satisfied. They are perfectionists and want to succeed, to win, to please -- and will work tirelessly to do so.

    Now that you have a client-acceptable group, this is precisely the subgroup you want staffing your cases. They now have the prestige of their current school (the former school appears nowhere on the online bio) combined with the hunger of the current school's law review team, and perhaps their Raw Legal Intellect to boot.

    This perceived combination is one reason transfers do well in the job market, at least at Harvard.

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  23. 7:42: You should ask your friend why Admissions is admitting more students who can't interview- according to OCS that's the reason why so many of us aren't getting jobs.

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  24. An update:

    A few of my fellow lions -- people I trust -- have said my numbers are low (but not so low as Bored3L suggests).

    After doing a lot of Facebook stalking, I must conclude that (a) 70% seems more likely and (b) transfers lag a little, but not horribly far behind.

    Here is some analysis with actual data:

    To service your debt at Columbia, you need either Biglaw or LRAP -- and let's face it, LRAP still isn't pleasant.

    We have a grand total of 7% (http://www.law.columbia.edu/careers/career_services/admitted) of grads in "public interest" and "government," combined. And I know quite a few personally who don't want to be there, but are doing it for LRAP.

    So, let's call the number who have top govt. jobs or who came to Columbia intent on PI 4%.

    Also, everyone knows that -- at least in terms of earning potential -- Chicago is the first "C" in CCN.

    Unlike Columbia, Chicago's (probably a bit better) 2010 stats are public record (http://www.law.uchicago.edu/prospective/employmentdata):

    0.712 * 0.743 = 52.9% Biglaw.
    0.141 * 0.889 = 12.5% Federal clerkships.

    So, using our fairly liberal estimates, we arrive at: 52.9 + 12.5 + 4 = 69.4% of people at Columbia (and around the same at Chicago) have employment sufficient to justify their decision to attend.

    Yes, this is the epitome of #firstworldproblems, but people who get into Columbia are (without exception) the kind of people best suited to succeed in the law school game. The fact that 30% of us don't is, as LawProf notes supra, a giant canary belting out show tunes beneath the ground of western Pennsylvania.

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  25. The canary in the coal mine is an interesting and, maybe, appropriate image, but what happens when the numbers start to look better? Elite schools are reporting modest, but noticeable, upticks in the summer employment situations for students. Unless all those people bomb out, we can expect to see some better news on the permanent job front in the coming years for people who are in good schools. Will we still use the canary image to say that all is clear? No, I suspect we won't. And rightly so.

    I'm far from being a Pollyanna on the future. I think there are longterm systemic issues that will transform the legal profession that aren't even being discussed on this blog. For example, America's and Europe's future declining share of word GDP, which will alter the nature of business operations in the world and will, necessarily affect the legal profession. China and India are getting ready for this.

    Focusing on the "bad" year 2010 or 2011 may be as misleading as when people focus on the "good' years and say they represent the future. This is a short term cyclical problem taking place within a much larger, even more disturbing, context.

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  26. 8:12. You misread the list. St. Johns had only 4 transfers compared to Hofstra's 30. St. Johns must be doing something right to lose only 4 transfers.

    ReplyDelete
  27. I agree with 9:28 - the problems (if any) with the T14 are likely more of a function of the current economy. I don't think anyone transferring to a T14 and taking out loans is making a terrible decision - but as with any debt decision there will be some bad outcomes. The ridiculous status worshipping law profession will continue to make T14 a good decision for most.

    That said, this still leaves over 90% of law grads in a terrible lurch. I'm worried that you can overreach here - the law school model is completely broken outside the T14. We shouldn't worry about the T14 - even if there are some signs of marginal slippage.

    ReplyDelete
  28. The deal with Cornell is that transfers can't do OCI there. That kills the main purpose of transferring, which is to get a (better) job. No one will go there at sticker and be shut out of OCI.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Professor Campos:

    Surely you can afford to hire a research assistant to pull the list of people who passed the New York Bar the last few years and look up those names on the NY OCA web site. That web site lists law schools attended and current office location.

    Columbia's bar passage rate is high and most graduates take the New York bar. So it should give you a pretty good indication of "where they are now."

    ReplyDelete
  30. Back when I went to law school, in the go-go late 90s, transferring from one law school to another was rare and discouraged. I don't know what accounts for the change--maybe having too many transfers used to be a considered a negative data point in some ranking, but no longer is.

    The only transfer student I knew was somebody who was 2nd in his class at a 4th tier and transferred into my first tier. It turned out to be an disastrous decision for the poor guy.

    I shouldn't generalize from a single anecdote, but I think it is a mistake to leave an environment where you are thriving, where you are a top dog, and where you have influential people who are impressed with your work.

    The employment outcomes in the lower tiers are beyond awful, but this is not necessarily the case for the top 10% of those students. Anyway, I do not believe such students bolster their chances of getting a decent job by transferring to a name-school, where they have probably have to pay more, undergo the stress of adopting to a new environment and school culture, and where they have no mentors or contacts and no class rank.

    ReplyDelete
  31. Columbia is a national law school. What if some graduates are practicing in other states? You will not end up with accurate numbers.

    ReplyDelete
  32. "Columbia is a national law school. What if some graduates are practicing in other states? "

    Most Columbia graduates take the New York bar, even if they intend to practice in other states. The web site simply shows their office address in California or wherever.

    ReplyDelete
  33. So, will the people who do not take the bar in NY be counted as unemployed?

    ReplyDelete
  34. "So, will the people who do not take the bar in NY be counted as unemployed?"

    They would not be counted at all since the starting point would be the list of people who passed the bar exam.

    If you don't like this approach, just swing by the next graduation ceremony and pick up a program with the list of graduates. Then look them up a couple years later.

    ReplyDelete
  35. Another reason why I would never give CLS a dime. It gets worse for CLS grads as they get older. Law firms are "up or out". Say 90% of the $160,000 jobs are temporary. Ask CLS for the median salaries of grads 10, 15, 20 years out and every 5 years before that. They are not close to the $160,000 mark in private industry. Most people in the experienced classes either cannot get jobs for which a law degree is required or preferred and which pays $140,000 plus. CLS lies when they post their employment numbers as $160,000 median. Maybe for first year grads, but they don't tell you you are worth less for each year you age on average.

    ReplyDelete
  36. Sometimes I regret pointing out that significant minorities of the classes at top ten and even top five law schools are either having problems securing appropriate (given the cost) employment, or will be in a similar boat within a few years of graduation. Doing so is sure to bring status-obsessed students and grads out of the woodwork.

    Nevertheless I point this out from time to time to emphasize that going to even the most elite schools has gotten much, much riskier than it was 10-15 years ago. And if Columbia is becoming an increasingly risky proposition (which when you combine the risks of getting shut out at OCI, getting Lathamed, and not getting an LRAP PI position if that's what you want, it obviously has), then that makes schools just a little way further down the pecking order extremely hazardous to the median student's economic health.

    ReplyDelete
  37. No, that will not stop conjecture about what happened to the people whose status is unknown.

    So, most Columbia graduates (what percentage?) sit for two bar exams even when they are not going to work in NY? That is interesting.

    ReplyDelete
  38. @11:11, it has always been that way. No law school has ever been a guarantor of lifetime employment. People in the past knew that. The expectations have changed.

    ReplyDelete
  39. No, what has changed is the cost of attendance, the likely return on that investment, and the consequences that flow from the relationship between the two, i.e., a whole generation saddled with six figures of non-dischargeable educational debt. This idea that the real problem is graduates with an entitlement mentality is just more Boomer cluelessness.

    ReplyDelete
  40. I know the cost of attendance has changed. But if you went to school with no money before, and had to borrow for everything, you were still in a bad position. In the high five figures of debt, with a much smaller salary--or no salary-- was no picnic either. Anybody who goes to Columbia and is angry at the school--not at the firms for the way they do business or corporations who are sitting on more money than ever--is missing a big part of the picture.

    ReplyDelete
  41. 12:03: I think it's the hypocrisy of CLS and other elite schools that concerns me the most. Look, everyone knows what you get when you sign up for biglaw- hell, some of the partners will tell you to your face during interviews. You can hope to last 3 years- that's it. You will work insane hours doing robo-work for big corporations without so much as an attaboy. The partners do not give a fuck about you except when their actions towards associates hurt the firm's reputation. Even then they will look for ways to treat you as poorly with less publicity (look at Lathaming vs. stealth layoffs).

    But the school is telling you "there's more to life than biglaw," "why do you want to serve big mean corporations," "you can have a fulfilling career without working for a firm," "fight for social justice!" Then they turn around and tout their 160K median employment figures and their biglaw placement. They hit up the firms for buildings, classrooms, stairways- even toilets. They can jack up tuition 1.5K per year in the worst economy in 60 years because they know the students count on having that big salary at the end to pay it back. They are hypocrites and charlatans of the highest caliber- the very definition of limousine liberal. I never understood why people I grew up around had such distrust of academics. I always thought it was uninformed anti-intellectualism or insecurity. Then I came to CLS.

    ReplyDelete
  42. "It gets worse for CLS grads as they get older. Law firms are "up or out". Say 90% of the $160,000 jobs are temporary. Ask CLS for the median salaries of grads 10, 15, 20 years out and every 5 years before that. They are not close to the $160,000 mark in private industry. Most people in the experienced classes either cannot get jobs for which a law degree is required or preferred and which pays $140,000 plus."

    Absolutely. In most professions, there is a reasonable expectation of in general advancing over time and making more. Think of all the people who land the 160K and their families bragging "...and that's to start!" Little do most realize that what you say is true. The 160K job must be taken as in all likelihood a temporary job for 2, 3, maybe 5, at the most 7 years. Then, what follows is a lower paying job, if a job as a lawyer follows at all. The lawyering business is indeed unique in this regard....quite different from the professions (medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, teaching, nursing, accounting, etc.)

    ReplyDelete
  43. 12:03 @bored3L, that is a very different perspective than the one I was addressing, that students who go for Big Law do not know what they are getting into. All I was saying is that if graduates today think they are any different from graduates in the past, i.e. that their jobs are secure, they are operating under a sense of entitlement or have not been paying attention when they should have been. Nothing about the structure of law firms suggests permanence.

    Schools advertise these numbers because that is what many prospective students want to see. Can't we admit that there is some reciprocity in this?

    ReplyDelete
  44. No. There is no reciprocity in terms of prospective students not being told about "up or out" or about the dearth of jobs for experienced lawyers. Who would know that the $160,000 salary at CLS is temporary? Who would know you may have to work for much less after your biglaw stint? A pharmacist can expect to earn $117,000 on average at Walmart and you can go to a relatively less costly area and actually be guaranteed that salary for life. Dentists can earn $150,000 and actually be self-employed, so they can work as dentists for as long as they are able. There is no complicity of students who have no way to know that even with a top law degree, they are getting into a profession where it will be increasingly more difficult to make a living as they get older. Not only is the profession overcrowded, but a huge portion of the jobs that open are experience-capped. If you are over 40 or 45, you do not meet the qualifications for most six figure law firm jobs. Let me warn you before you sign up for law school - the future is much more rocky than if you are a nurse, doctor, teacher or pharmacist, to name a few professions. CLS is running a scam- packing their classes with transfers and increasing the size of their classes each year in a hugely overcrowded profession. I hope they get caught in their ranking for just that reason and it is lowered substantially because they are taking so many less qualified transfers.

    ReplyDelete
  45. Great post. Having read these types of blogs for several years now, I thought I had heard it all. However, the extent to which law schools play the "transfer game" surprises me. Distorted incentives at its best!

    ReplyDelete
  46. The "up or out" nature of law firms and the limited number of long-term legal jobs creates a large surplus of highly qualified lawyers. You can call it a highly qualified lawyer surplus. The process is similar to the weeding out process for law school grads but takes place for years after law school graduation. The cause is schools like ClS vastly increasing their enrollment and many law firms running.massive firing programs over many years. The $160,000 jobs are there because the law firm fired most of your predecessors. They will fire you as well most likely to bring in younger blood. It is not easy to use your law degree to enter another profession. You can call prospective law students fools, but in truth at CLS the school is fooling people into believing the picture is rosy. It is anything but rosy for a large percentage of experienced CLS grads.

    ReplyDelete
  47. @1:49-- uhhh, I knew that and judging from conversations with my classmates, many of them knew too. I talked to people before I went to law school about different types of jobs. That was the first I had ever heard about law firms. I understood that not everyone made partner, which was not why I went to law school anyway. To be sure, things became even more apparent during the first year when I talked to 2 and 3Ls and professors about firms.

    ReplyDelete
  48. Has CLS greatly increased the numbers of students?

    ReplyDelete
  49. Oops - sorry. I got the columns backwards for Cornell. I am very surprised that people transfer into Cornell knowing they can't do OCI.

    I think no one left Cornell because no no got into Harvard or Yale or Stanford.

    ReplyDelete
  50. CLS has increased its class to between 1.5 and 2 times the class size in the 1970's. Tuition is probably 15 times what it was back then. Rate of inflation is less than 1/3 of the rate of tuition increases. They have the gaul to address alumni and say their last graduating class had 98% employment.
    Problem here is that good legal jobs are few and far between. The good legal jobs that are out there disappear at the drop of a hat. Years ago, very few experienced lawyers out of large law firms and good schools had no income to fall back on. Now years of unemployment is common for lawyers. There are some practice areas where there is a huge group of unemployed lawyers with 12 plus years experience who cannot get work, and a healthy demand for lawyers with less than 12 or so years of experience at very high salaries. Many lawyers graduate into long-term unemployment. If you get laid off at the older ages, forget about working again as a lawyer and making any sort of decent living. Law students today are facing a very troubled profession and a very uncertain future. The supply and demand is so out of whack, you cannot compare it to any time in history. This is systemic. CLS needs to go back to under 300 students a class and other law schools need to follow suit if there is any prayer of balancing the supply of lawyers with the demand.

    ReplyDelete
  51. If employment is not at 98% at CLS, about what is it?

    ReplyDelete
  52. "can you imagine a business handing out six-figure bonuses with a purported justification of hanging on to top talent, while at the same time not making repayment of those bonuses a condition of departure within the payment period?"

    Uh, yeah. Actually, I don't have to imagine businesses doing this since they do it all the time. Ask any exec. comp. lawyer who regularly drafts such agreements. Or, just ask any elite executive who has enjoyed such largesse. Where do you think they got the idea from?

    ReplyDelete
  53. The conclusion of the comments was decent employment for the CLS 3L class right now is 70%. We are talking students with offers of federal clerkships, big law firms, honors programs at government and certain jobs where tuition will be forgiven who have job offers.

    ReplyDelete
  54. Lawprof- you need to update your post to show the comments dispute the anecdote you used from the Columbia transfer. You update all the time. If the numbers are wrong, then you should admit it. If you are going to publish incorrect information on the word of one person, then you need to correct you story if you have bad information.

    You should have tried to get more information from transfers before you published. Now you have the information, you need to update.

    Maybe you need to publish less often if you don't have time to make the story accurate.

    Another FYI LSAT scores are irrelevant for transferring. Why wouldn't a school want to admit good students to their class?

    I'm usually a fan, you hurt your credibility with this post.

    ReplyDelete
  55. 3:22: You're citing anecdotes in the comments, not data. If there were actual data on this I would link to it. There isn't -- there are different impressions regarding what the situation at CLS actually is.

    ReplyDelete
  56. The insular culture between the judiciary, law schools, etc... is the heart of the problem. Not dissimilar to the crony capitalism that has infected America. Until the disease of fraud and injustice is routed from the body politic, there will be no foundation upon which the profession can build. I predict that it will take 30-40 years to re-establish law as a profession. The damage done is beyond repair in most of our life times.

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