Thursday, March 15, 2012

Yet more law school numbers

Nearly a week after this blog noted that Columbia and NYU had recently published employment data indicating that 555 of their 2010 graduates had jobs with firms of more than 250 lawyers, while the National Law Journal had only been able to confirm that 448 graduates in those classes had such jobs, both schools have issued responses to this observation.

The responses are quite different in tone, and to some extent in substance.  Columbia, to its credit, did not use the occasion to express outrage over the fact that anyone would dare to ask questions regarding discrepancies in the reporting of employment outcomes for law school graduates. The substance of the school's response is brief:

The NLJ did not discuss with us the difference between their numbers and ours for the Class of 2010, but we had detailed discussions with them about the Class of 2011 and discovered a number of reasons why their numbers are wrong. For example, 24 of the NLJ 250 firms did not respond to the NLJ’s survey. In addition, the NLJ did not count as “employed” some full-time, permanent, first year associates who were awaiting admission to the bar. The reason is that some firms use the term “law clerk” to describe them (in order to avoid an ethical issue about describing employees not yet admitted to the bar as “lawyers”).
NYU's response is another matter.  Readers can decide for themselves what both the tone and substance of that response reveals.  Here I'll address a couple of the response's more curious details.  NYU writes:

To gather its data, the NLJ contacts each of the NLJ 250 law firms. But not all release this information. NLJ editor-in-chief David Brown told NYU Law that in this year's survey, the results of which he just published, 71 of these 250 firms provided no school-specific 2011 hiring data. And, if a firm didn’t participate and a law school declined to say how many graduates it sent to that firm, the NLJ simply recorded that as a zero. “If we didn’t have information from the law firm or the law school, we didn’t publish information we didn’t have,” Brown said. Presto: a sizeable group of entry-level lawyers vanish into the ether.

How did this disappearing act affect NYU’s numbers? It happens that quite a few of the firms that do not release data to the NLJ are major New York-based firms that typically hire a lot of NYU Law grads. We have strong, longstanding relationships with these firms, and if they did not provide the data, we similarly did not disclose it. During its data-gathering process this year, the NLJ sent us a list of NLJ 250 firms that had reported hiring NYU Law 2011 graduates, including the number at each firm. But 21 NLJ 250 firms that hired a total of 58 of our 2011 graduates were missing from the list, and, when asked, the NLJ told us that was because these firms did not provide information. For the 2010 data that Campos cites, five of these firms alone hired 49 NYU Law 2010 graduates, erasing almost the entire discrepancy Campos cites.
First, note that the number of non-disclosing NLJ250 firms seems to vary a lot depending on whether the source for this information is Columbia, which says 24 of the 250 firms didn't disclose in 2011, and NYU, which says NLJ's editor told them 71 didn't disclose. (The fact that a paragraph later the letter states that 21 firms that hired NYU graduates were missing from the list the NLJ shared with NYU makes one wonder if the "71" figure is a typo, although of course not all non-reporting firms necessarily hired an NYU graduate). 

The letter goes on to say that earlier this year NYU determined that in regard to the class of 2011 -- keep in mind my questions were regarding the class of 2010 -- non-disclosing firms hired 58 NYU grads, and that the school asked the NLJ why these grads weren't listed as working for NLJ250 firms.  This would seem to contradict the statement earlier in the same paragraph that "we have strong, longstanding relationships with these [non-disclosing] firms, and if they did not provide the data, we similarly did not disclose it."  Apparently NYU did disclose this data to the NLJ in regard to the class of 2011, despite its impliedly confidential working relationship with the non-responding firms.

Anyway none of this involves the class of 2010.  Did the five firms that didn't report to the NLJ in 2011 that hired 49 NYU grads in 2010 also not report that year? This seems like a natural inference, but given that NYU doesn't say we can assume the school doesn't actually know.  That question becomes more interesting if one examines the analogous data for NYU's class of 2008.  NYU reports that 75% of its 458 employed graduates were working for law firms, and that 92.4% of those graduates were working for firms of more than 250 attorneys, i.e., NLJ250 firms.  This comes out to a total of 317 graduates.  How many NYU class of 2008 graduates did the NLJ report working for NLJ250 firms? 317.

This curious fact serves as a reminder that there was essentially no discrepancy between the law school-reported numbers and the NLJ numbers for any of the other top 11 law schools' classes of 2010, with the partial exception of Harvard.  Did the five firms that hired 49 NYU grads in 2010 and didn't report their numbers in 2011 collectively hire no Yale, or Chicago, or Michigan, or Duke grads in 2010?  Why do the factors referenced by Columbia and NYU -- non-reporting firms, listing of graduates as law clerks rather than attorneys, etc.-- seem to affect only their graduates, or at least affect their graduates in such great disproportion, when it comes to the NLJ numbers? (This isn't a rhetorical question by the way).

This would be a good time to emphasize yet again a point I have already made explicitly, and more than once, in regard to all these questions:

Some commenters responding to the original thread on this topic assumed I was accusing Columbia and NYU of intentionally cooking their numbers. I didn't and I'm not.  What I'd like to know is why one out of every five BigLaw jobs that Columbia and NYU reported to NALP in 2010 has gone missing in the NLJ stats.  There are lots of possible explanations for this that don't include outright fraud by the schools themselves (For instance one possibility is that unusually large percentages of Columbia and NYU grads are taking new non-partner track associate positions, which the NLJ doesn't count when surveying firms).

Simply refusing to answer the question, however, isn't a very good way of getting people to give you the benefit of the doubt.
I'm pleased to see that the two schools have now provided answers, the adequacy of which interested parties can judge for themselves.  In any case, one would think we were well past the point where law schools had cause to feel put upon to be asked these kinds of questions, and to be expected to answer them.


  1. I do not think it just a matter of feeling put upon. It is that the way you wrote suggested that something nefarious had taken place. That may not have been your intent. But that is the impression your readers got, so much so that you issued a disclaimer. Even with the disclaimer, you still write in a way that infers wrongdoing without saying it explicitly. And noting the different tone sounds awfully like the pearl clutching so often ridiculed on this site.

  2. The schools generally don't care if a recent graduate is a deferred hire at a Biglaw firm. Do the schools bother to check whether the job ever materializes?

    One somewhat well-known NYU Law grad, who writes several legal blogs, was hired by a Biglaw firm. Now, he is living with his parents in Alabama. He was set to make $160K per year. Does anyone doubt that the schools count these guys as "employed" - if that information was given to them before the nine-month mark - but the job never comes to fruition?

  3. I don't care about anyone's tone - school or lawprof. I am really interested in employment numbers and actual hard data, should anyone ever be able to find any.

    Nando's point about B1ly is a good one, though I don't think anyone, anywhere bothered to track exactly how many associates lost jobs due to the recession.

  4. This could perhaps account for why you will law schools publish something along the lines of:

    Class of 2010: 93 percent
    Percent in private practice: 55 percent
    Median starting salary for those in private practice: $125,000 (based on a fraction of those working in private firms)

    Have you noticed how schools with a rather high percentage of grads working in law firms of 2-10 attorneys still feature an impressive starting salary? Do the schools even bother to include a solo practitioner's first year "salary"?

    My point is that if a grad gets hired at a firm, and reports that to the school, before the NALP deadline, the schools will count him as employed. If the student were to inform his school that the job did not materialize, after the report has been sent in to NALP, what can the school do at that point? They receive the benefits, without needing to report such situations afterward.

    Can you see ANY law school later contacting NALP and saying, "By the way, we had 93% employment, including 130 grads working in firms. We now realize that 22 of those firm positions did not actually occur"?!?!

  5. This is the new reality law schools are going to have to learn to operate in. Anytime the numbers don't add up, the presumption is fraud/lies. It's up to them to explain their innocence. Thank you Lawprof for holding NYU accountable.

  6. Just a brief detour, then back to the numbers story. But since it was the subject of a string of commentary on another thread, here is Leiter on the "two school" solution.

    Four Changes to the Status Quo in Legal Education That Might Be Worth Something
    Some changes are obvious and we've been remarking on them for years (e.g., better oversight of employment reporting by schools), and some are beyond the power of law schools to affect (e.g., federally guaranteed student loans, which insure a market for even non-marketable law degrees). But here are ones law schools could affect, and are at least worth considering, though there are serious obstacles (and objections) to each:

    1. Higher education in America includes research universities and teaching colleges (the latter placing less emphasis on research); law schools need the same division of labor, so that we have some law schools that are Harvard and Chicago, and some law schools that are Oberlin and Reed. How to bring it about is the really hard part, but changes to ABA accreditation rules could surely help. Tightening up the availability of student loans for legal education might also create some market pressure in that direction.

  7. WRT to the Leiter idea - it is somewhat idiotic.

    I'm not going to check the numbers, but Harvard and Chicago are almost certainly similarly priced to Oberlin and Reed - Oberlin and Reed aren't significantly cheaper because they're liberal arts colleges.

    As to Harvard and Chicago placing emphasis on research - faculty are expected to bring in serious grant money to fund this research. Can you imagine any grant-giving body aside from student tuition 'funding' the 'research' that legal faculty produce? Ha!

  8. Hi Professor,
    I am a 2L at Duke and unfortunately I just came across this blog a couple of days ago. Reading it is probably one of the most therapeutic things I can do right now - I'm one of those depressed law students.

    So, here's my story. I have great grades and law review "status" and a 1/3 tuition scholarship, meaning I will have lots of loans but not as much as some other people. (Side note about grades - even having good grades I still feel they are TOTALLY ARBITRARY and every semester I have no idea what I did to get them.) Career-wise, I have no idea what's ahead. On the one hand, I would like to be a public defender. On the other hand, I hate the legal system, I hate the competitiveness and stress of it all, and now I'm considering not being a lawyer at all if I can figure out how to pay my loans back some other way. My first question is, am I totally fucked? If so, what should I do?

    Secondly, you have no idea how helpful it is to read so many other people who think the legal system is bullshit. I have a strong anti-authoritarian personality and have hated the hierarchy of law school since day 1. DLJ is probably the worst offender - just as an insider example, when we screen articles one of the most important criteria is what other flagship journals the author is published. To my knowledge, we will rarely consider anyone who has not published in the T14 and especially HYS. I literally have only one friend who thinks the same way I do, and we have a great time mocking all these brainless worshippers. I don't know what I would do if I didn't have him.

    I think though that it's important to recognize the whole system is fucked, not just academia. The entire legal system is an absolute disgrace, defending the excesses of huge corporations while it locks up small-time drug offenders. The for-profit criminal justice system is literally extorting 10s of thousands of dollars from DUI convicts and torturing thousands in supermax facilities, and my law professors have their heads so far up their asses that they think a theoretical discussion about retributivism v. utilitarianism is useful. The two-tiered legal structure encouraged by high law school tuition is literally helping to destroy the rule of law in this country, because the brightest students end up serving as foot soldiers for the corporate army - that's how high the stakes are.

    Third, it's really true that no one has a clue what's going on. No one at school really talks about this stuff, and my family and friends are just in awe that I'll have a Duuuuuke Law degree. They have no idea the financial risk I'm taking, and it is just hitting my own naive little brain that I might have to make some serious sacrifices just to break even.

    Anyways, thanks for reading my rant. We're having accepted students day soon and I wish I could just stop them somehow...

  9. Yes, they cost the same, but the market for differentiated law schools might not work out the same way. The split would not be Harvard or Oberlin, but Harvard and "name some other school that is not Oberlin, but is a solid cheaper alternative." It is worth a try.

    If a split came, and the other thing he suggests--shutting down 75 percent of law reviews-- were to come to fruition, legal scholarship could be transformed. We should not discount the possibility of improvement. We should insist on it. Even LawProf has said that law, unlike business, is an academic discipline. It should be said that it is not as though all member of faculties in other disciplines are producing pathbreaking work. We should avoid romanticizing things just because they are not connected to legal education.

    Legal Scholars would have to do different things. They already are as the new generation of law professors who are trained as PhDs, and who have experience teaching and producing scholarship, are coming into the pipeline. That trend will continue. People here have decried that turn of events, saying such profs are a waste of time, but different schools will give people who disdain that sort of thing an alternative.

    Sorry for diverting attention from the main event, which is important. If people want to continue discussing this, we can take it back to the other thread.

  10. Did you notice that in the latest US News Rankings, ASU has the highest 9-month employment number (98.2%) of any law school in the country? Curious.

  11. Please see the above-the-fold article in the Denver Post this morning. Westwood (Technical) College has settled a suit by the Colorado attorney general. AG Suthers alleged that Westwood failed to follow Colorado's consumer lending laws. According to Suthers, Westwood was "misrepresenting success rates and employment." In the context of this blog, how much real difference is there between for-profit technical schools and non-profit law schools? Could this lawsuit and settlement in anyway serve the cause?

  12. 8:23 AM here: The Westwood article is on the first page of Denver and the West section in the Post.

  13. The point raised above about job losses is interesting. If you have a job lined up at graduation, but then the start date is pushed back, or the offer is withdrawn, what is the likelihood that a school will update its 9 month numbers to reflect that?

    I assume most schools don't ask again after they have you down as employed at graduation.

    But, for the part of the comments specifically referencing me, I started on time and remained employed past the 9 month mark, so I was properly counted as employed. This does however get to a bigger issue, that schools don't collect data from students 5, 10, 20 years out. They know about your first job, but they have absolutely no idea about your career. Now, there may be no cost-effective way to collect this data, and response rates would be too low and too biased to make the data particularly useful, but schools should still own up to the fact that they don't know what happens to their grads.

    And to @6:43: Law Shucks has an excellent layoff tracker:

  14. Perhaps you could ask NLJ for a firm-by-firm breakdown of how they arrived at their numbers, and then these schools could respond and say, for example -- they say we have 2 grads at form X, when in fact we have 8, and here are their names. That would be giving the firms a fair chance to respond.

    You seem to say schools should be forced to prove their data, while NLJ should be presumed correct.

  15. I find it comical that the rankings/prestige obsessed Leiter can't bring himself to naming "teaching schools" that don't themselves have a prestigious name to them. Oberlin and Reed? That is what he comes up with? Though I guess kudos to him for not suggesting a Swarthmore/Amherst track versus an HYS track.

    I'm skeptical about the two-track idea because (1) it would probably create more grads, not fewer, and we already have twice as many grads as jobs (though there is a need for legal services, that isn't the same as an existence of sustainable jobs) (2) unless the states/ABA are also willing to step in and create two systems of legal accreditation that distinguish what kinds of work the two tracks are eligible, a bunch of young kids will probably end up at the the Reeds and Oberlins of the world thinking they can pull in 160k starting.

  16. LawProf, are you going to take NYU up on their offer to audit their data? I think that would be interesting and will volunteer to assist you in doing this.

    I agree that there are perhaps reasonable explanations for the discrepancies between the NLJ and the NALP but I think an audit might uncover some more interesting tidbits.

  17. @ 9:00 am. Not necessarily. If people knew that the schools they could get into would not be tickets to prestigious clerkships, big law, and that sort of thing, but would give them solid preparation for being lawyers, it would force people to think seriously about their futures. As the comments on this blog show, a lot of game playing is going on about the nature of the profession. For whatever reason, and I cannot conceive of why, many prospective students do not think the schools they attend have any bearing on their future in the profession. We are trying to deliver that message indirectly by trying to come up with a reporting regime that gives them the best hint. Why not have schools that sell themselves on the basis of their ability to train lawyers; not leaders of the future, not big law associates or Article III clerks, but people who have the basic tools they need to go into the profession and, of course, continue to learn as they go along? It would not happen over night. But there is no reason to think that good schools could not be created. If they are successful at doing that, those schools can thrive.

  18. 8:05: I hope people will respond to your post and your questions. I have my views on these things, which you can find in the posts here, but feel free to email me if you'd like to discuss your own situation in a more direct manner.

  19. @8:05 - Do you have a summer gig or other employment prospect lined up?

  20. I hate to give credit to my not fondly remembered alma mater, but Washington and Lee Law has decent survey info for 2010 (not earlier, however). They account for the employment status of all but 5 of their 2010 graduates, nine months out. They attach raw numbers to their employment and salary data, which are more useful than the purported percentages that they list for the various categories (those being deceptive because not based on the whole class).

    Out of a class of 123 grads in 2010, nine months out, the following students can be said to have achieved a good outcome:

    -14 who reported salaries of over $110,000, and another 9 who reported salaries of over $90,000, for a total of 23 (these numbers match up closely with the number who got jobs in firms of over 26 lawyers (22)).

    -12 others who can be assumed to have achieved a good outcome, even though their starting salary was likely less than 90K--namely, the 10 who got a federal judicial clerkship and another 2 who joined the military (JAG being a very good outcome these days).

    -A total of 36 fell into the category of 50-90K.
    As noted, it is clear that at least 12 of those had a good outcome in the legal profession. The remaining 24, of course, could be working in anything from a cushy state sector job to a document review project that fell in the reporting window to a nonlaw job obtained through mom or dad. Let's say that 18 of these 24 had a good outcome on their law school investment, a generous assumption.

    Thus, in this lower-first-tier school (US News ranking: 24), with a good alumni base and a couple hours away from DC, lawyer-hiring capital of the world, only about 53/123 (43%) had a good outcome on their law school investment, nine months out.

  21. A couple of months ago, LawProf asked the complicated question in this blog, what is a better album -- BEGGARS BANQUET or ABBEY ROAD? My favorite Stones song is 'Salt of the Earth' which is on BEGGARS BANQUET. The lyrics on 'Salt of the Earth' ring as true today as when they were written 40 yrs. ago. So, I give a slight edge to BEGGARS BANQUET over ABBEY ROAD as the better album.

  22. BL1Y

    This does however get to a bigger issue, that schools don't collect data from students 5, 10, 20 years out. They know about your first job, but they have absolutely no idea about your career. Now, there may be no cost-effective way to collect this data, and response rates would be too low and too biased to make the data particularly useful, but schools should still own up to the fact that they don't know what happens to their grads.

    Might I beg to differ – if you are very successful and make a lot of money, rest assured the school will somehow “know” about you enough to send you fundraising letters. They do not incidentally send you letters suggesting that you might help with graduate placement.

    However, you do raise a good point – I have no idea, at least from my school, if I am successful, unsuccessful, medium successful with respect to my peers from the same law school year. I do not even know what would be doing well financially or in terms of the work I do – and I know that my old law school has shown zero interest in me or one of my partners from the same school, except for the occasional effort to round up some money. It is not like I am hard to find – they would get a few thousand hits on Google.

    The reason I think it is important is that very few 0Ls realize that legal practice is a struggle. First you struggle to get a decent junior associate job. Then you struggle to keep that for more than a few years. You struggle to lateral maybe. Then you finally get to being a partner or a GC – and it is still precarious. My accountant tells me what seems to me to be a lot of money last year – but my income is totally precarious – I could make several hundred thousand this year or maybe nothing – we are in the battle for clients, and then waiting months to get paid – and then you have sleepless nights over tax returns etc.

    Very few lawyers make more than $160k and most big firm associates are probably on about the largest paycheck of their lives – and will after 2-3 years never reach that level of income in real terms again. Few will make partner – and if they do, it may well be in a smaller firm, or one they build themselves.

    Moreover, much of anyone’s success as a lawyer is down to sheer luck. I have encounter so many “gobshites” practicing law, many of whom are senior partners in BigLaw, or big corporate GCs and a good few of whom are HYS, that I have to say that success does not appear to be hampered by a lack of ability.

    Anyone who is going into the law just for the money ought to think again.


  23. @8:05 You sound like Public Defender material.
    You'll get to cross X cops all the time and question authority. You'll actually fight for the 4th Amendment in the trenches, where it matters. If you stay with a PD department long enough there are interesting divisions that you can transfer to such as appellate, habeas corpus, or capital crimes (if your state has a death penalty). With enough experience you could wind up becoming a Federal Public Defender--which is a decent gig.

    The camaraderie among newbie PD's is usually excellent--always someone to get a drink with after work. Being a PD means that you never have to question whether your work is meaningful--it simply is. All-in-all, it's not a bad life for a lawyer with certain type of disposition.

  24. MacK,

    Yes, if you go on to be a professor, judge, politician, head of a Vault 100 firm department, or donate a pile of money to the school, they will know about your career.

    I imagine this creates a false sense of success among the professoriate. If 95-100% of people you hear back from are wildly successful, you imagine that surely at least 75% of all the graduates are in the same boat, and the other 25% are medium-sized professional, maybe only pulling in $500,000 a year at their solo practice where they work 35 hour weeks.

    Just think about the median pay for a professional baseball player. A Rod makes $32 million, Vernon Wells makes $26 million. They're superstars, but surely the median player must be making what? $3-5 million?

    Nope, $1.2 million. ...Actually, even less. That's the median for the MLB. 3 teams have medians below $500,000, but the true median for all players is below $30,000. No typo, the vast majority of professional baseball players are in the minor leagues.

    tl;dr version: graveyard problem

  25. What about comparing NALP data reported by firms? It doesn't list the schools, but it lists the number of new associates and summer associates, etc.

    Going through the firms for New York shouldn't be too arduous.

    I'm not sure how it would be helpful other than to come up with a total of jobs from those firms.

  26. That's beyond hypocritical and hilarious (laughing at you not with you) that you of all people dare to criticize tone.

    They caught you in a lie, exposed it and dared you to audit them. They pwned you. Next time accept the pwnage humbly.

  27. Questioning an apparent statistical discrepancy is not a lie.

    Leading the world to believe that virtually all of your graduates move on to legal jobs with $160,000 salaries -- now that's a lie.

  28. What is the point of continuing this? If we know now, contrary to what everyone was swearing up and down, that some non-neglible number of firms do not give data to NLJ , and that a good number of those firms are NY firms who hire NYU and Columbia grads, why try to track down every single person? I guess LawProf could go and look, but why?

  29. @9:00 AM: In fairness to Leiter, he's been considerably less prestige-obsessed since he left Texas (which he perennially considered the most underrated school in the history of academia) for Chicago. Note how out-of-date his rankings have become in recent years.

  30. Fuck you troll at 10:58.

  31. @10:58 a.m.:

    Campos: "Everybody in the top 10 except for Columbia and NYU has graduates place into NLJ 250 firms within 80% of the rate that NLJ says that they do."

    NYU: "Yeah, but these NLJ firms don't report in the NLJ survey, and besides, some of our students do all these special invisible-to-NLJ things for loads of money or professional prestige that apparently none of the other top 10 schools do in any significant number. Of course, we won't go so far as to point to any specific firm or firms, or even list some examples where our graduates are hired but listed as something other than partner-track associates, but Campos is super wrong, and yeah."

    That doesn't sound like "pwnage." That sounds like the last Nixon aide to resign before the indictments were handed out.

  32. Nixon didn't invite anyone to come to look at his information. The court ordered him to give up the tapes.

  33. Stop forcing students to subsidize and mortgage their futures to create b.s. law review articles. Professors need to teach more and write less. We could cut the number of law review articles in half and nobody would care or notice.

  34. @ 11:58, that is why it makes sense to have schools with professors who do not want to do that. Others that want to keep on, can keep on. Students who feel as you do, can go to schools where the professors do not do that.

  35. @10:26 MacK is absolutely correct

    "The reason I think it is important is that very few 0Ls realize that legal practice is a struggle. First you struggle to get a decent junior associate job. Then you struggle to keep that for more than a few years. You struggle to lateral maybe. Then you finally get to being a partner or a GC – and it is still precarious. My accountant tells me what seems to me to be a lot of money last year – but my income is totally precarious – I could make several hundred thousand this year or maybe nothing – we are in the battle for clients, and then waiting months to get paid – and then you have sleepless nights over tax returns etc.

    Very few lawyers make more than $160k and most big firm associates are probably on about the largest paycheck of their lives – and will after 2-3 years never reach that level of income in real terms again. Few will make partner – and if they do, it may well be in a smaller firm, or one they build themselves."

    It has been a struggle for me and everyone I know for nearly 20 years to stay employed and busy, and my colleagues were the supposed winners of the BigLaw lottery at graduation. I keep saying it...there are no reliable employment data that demonstrate what happens to law graduates long term. I know anecdoatally that it isn't pretty. The selection bias for those who at least temporarily have high incomes to report those incomes while those with little or no income do not report lingers long after the first job employment statistics are accumulated. Therefore, any alleged salary surveys that you see are highly suspect and do not even resemble reality.

  36. "This does however get to a bigger issue, that schools don't collect data from students 5, 10, 20 years out. "

    If schools revealed this numbers law school enrollment would drop overnight. Particularly if they included the info on the salaries people make over those years.

  37. 12:14 correction *these* numbers (can't go back and edit)

  38. 11:29: Maybe, though I could point out that his tardiness in updating his rankings might be curiously associated with the way in which Chicago's older stats are often a little more complimentary to Chicago than more recent data. So, for instance, when he looks at academic placements (his most recent update), he decides to go all the way back to 1995--a rather strange move given the sizable changes in academic hiring that have taken place in the last 15 years.

  39. 8:05 here - thanks for the encouragement about PD work. I have an internship for the summer at a federal public defender's office, but haven't tried to get anything permanent yet because I'm hoping to clerk for a year or two when I get out. I also am very interested in academia, but NOT legal academia. My dream job would be to teach law-related and poli sci classes to undergrads. I think it's hugely problematic that in order to understand the legal system in this country you have to shell out over a hundred grand and get 3 more years of school. Seems like a great way to accumulate power in the hands of a few.

    It's interesting - I brought up this blog with a friend today and she was adamant that everyone at Duke gets good jobs and that I am just making myself paranoid for no good reason. Maybe she is right, but if she is it's only because I'm near the top of my class. I hope Duke and all the rest of the T14 get added to the lawsuit - they claimed 100% employment in the middle of the recession.

  40. Given the availability of online data - I wonder why someone does not try to do some sort of more objective rankings. It would not be difficult anymore to at objective data to get a sense of how law school graduates do.

    Start with a cumulative alumni count over 40 years per school. Then do a count of lawyers from each school that are still members of a bar - which tells you in principle how many are practicing - which I would regard as a key criterion. Then use say PACER to take a time sample of cases tried over the last say 10 years and do a school by school headcount of lawyers listed on the winning side (this would tend to leave out the settlements though.) Maybe look for a similar way to sample names on business transaction, probate filings, etc. Then take the published list of disciplined and disbarred attorneys. Look then for books and publications in non-law-school legal journals (the ones we actually read.)

    It strikes me as very feasible to come up with a more objective way of looking at how good a job law schools are doing.


  41. In the media:

  42. @12:37 regarding the Forbes article:

    THAT IS EXACTLY WHAT I MEAN....THE DATA IS NOT is based upon Payscale's analysis of self reported data. There is always a bias for the high earners to report while the low or zero earners do not report.
    "Payscale combed through the profiles of its 30 million unique users who supply compensation information on its website to find which law school grads make the most. They looked at starting salaries of graduates from 98 popular law schools and found roughly 30,000 of them in their database who had reported salary information, including 8,900 working in the private sector with less than five years of experience (the study excluded those working in the public sector)."

  43. @12:26

    I doubt everyone at Duke is getting good jobs - and if they do I suspect that they have a hard time 2-5 years out. Nonetheless my impression is that Duke does well regionally - in the South, but is less successful in DC, New York and California and does not have much of an international profile. Within the South (and again this is my impression) the rankings are sort of Harvard, UVa and Duke as the top 3 schools - and other schools, whatever USNWR says are ranked lower.


  44. Thanks 9:51, checked out the data, and that sounds about right. Can't assume those who didn't report salary would disrupt the outcome very much. And that is for a supposedly "better" school. Maybe we should attach grades to each law school when given the information on their graduate's outcomes versus price. With a curve, maybe 40% will end up being an A!

  45. Hard to tell if Columbia or NYU are being truthful. There are a number of NY firms who call their entry level lawyers law clerks even though they are associates. It is likely that the 2010 figures for Columbia and NYU included deferred students, and of course these students should have been listed under a separate category so as not to mislead, Still does not answer how many of the Columbia grads had law school funded jobs or how many ended up in lower paying jobs when they wanted high paying jobs.

    The points being made in the comments about how lawyers fare 5, 10, 15 years out and so forth are very important, given that the Big Law jobs only last a few years. If people are maintaining close to their Big Law earnings after leaving, great. If they are leaving without jobs, terrible.

    The problem is that Big Law is a business model that does not work well in a tight market for lawyers. There is a conflict of interest between the law schools, that make their living on "up or out" and the more experienced grads of those law schools who in some cases are being put out on the street to make room for new law school grads.

    The top 250 law firms should be disclosing placement statistics, just like the law schools, but theirs should be for a couple of months after the lawyer leaves. If people are moving to good jobs, at least the system is working for the small percentage of grads that can get into Big Law. If not, the top law schools are selling 0L's a bill of goods- a high salary for a few years that will not last long enough to even pay off their law school debt. We need more information, particularly from those 250 "up or out" NLJ law firms.

  46. @12:26
    It's good that you have something lined up for the summer. Another thing you can check up on is whether or not there are any hiring/pay freezes either current or in the immediate future of the areas where you want to work.
    I know several people who wanted to be PDs in our area (PA) and had good grades; it's just that there's apparently several hiring freezes in the area so they hasn't been able to find work.
    In terms of law school however, the environments not going to change over the next two years; ten percent of your class is going to get smugger and smugger and 90% are going to go nuts with fear.

  47. Oh man I should learn to edit my comments: "haven't" not "hasn't"

  48. @12:49

    Why should the top 250 law firms be disclosing their own hiring? Why is there any obligation.

    20-30 years ago no firm would have done anything as vulgar as disclosing profits per partner or revenues - in part because it would piss off the clients to see what their lawyers were making.

    I actually think all of the "dick-measuring" that took off when AmLaw started publishing educated guesses of the numbers was ultimately very bad for the profession.


  49. @ 12:46

    So, if Payscale is saying that they found 30,000 grads, and almost a third of them have graduated in the last 5 years, what is happening to all the other grads?

  50. MacK: I was there and the AmLaw hypothesis is absolutely right. Also, those PPP figures in AmLaw bear about the same relationship to reality as law school employment data in USN.


  51. Wow, Forbes are a bunch of fucking retards. In other news, they reported that Microsoft's stock has an average annual growth rate of 50%, based on a small sample taken in the late 1990s. Fucking imbeciles.

  52. Why should the top 250 law firms be disclosing their own hiring? Why is there any obligation?

    Because a lot of people are going $150,000 into debt and spending 3 years of their lives in law school to get those jobs. Because students who go $150,000 into debt need high paying jobs to pay back their debt. Because the numbers of high paying legal jobs that are not fed from the big firms is in the minority.
    Because elite law schools are promising a median salary in the private sector of $160,000 and a high percentage of the legal jobs that pay at least that much in the USA are in the top 250 firms.

  53. I think Forbes was just reporting what was in Payscale.


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