Friday, May 11, 2012

Should law school acceptance letters include warning labels?

One of the first English sentences I can remember reading, when I was acquiring that skill in the late 1960s, was this: "Cigarette smoking may be hazardous to your health."  That remarkably understated proposition was the first the federal government managed to require cigarette companies, after a long legal struggle, to put on their products.

Between 1970 and 1985 the warning became the somewhat more forceful and authoritative-sounding "The Surgeon General has determined that cigarette smoking is dangerous to your health." At that point the government took the regulatory gloves off and started requiring the following labels:

  • SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Smoking Causes Lung Cancer, Heart Disease, Emphysema, And May Complicate Pregnancy.
  • SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Quitting Smoking Now Greatly Reduces Serious Risks to Your Health.
  • SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Smoking By Pregnant Women May Result in Fetal Injury, Premature Birth, And Low Birth Weight.
  • SURGEON GENERAL'S WARNING: Cigarette Smoke Contains Carbon Monoxide
(This coming fall cigarette companies were supposed to have to start putting color graphic representations of the bad consequences of smoking on their packaging, but the implementation of this new regime has been held up by litigation).

Since the government first required warning labels the prevalence of cigarette smoking among adults in the United States has declined from 42.4% to 19.3%, although of course it's very difficult to determine what portion of that trend can be attributed to government-mandated warnings on the product itself.

As for subsidizing the acquisition of hazardous materials, the federal government also spent more than one billion dollars subsidizing tobacco farming between 1995 and 2010, which is a drop in the budgetary bucket in comparison to what it has spent subsidizing the acquisition of law degrees (This year alone law students are borrowing around $4.5 billion in taxpayer money to help pay for the cost of attending law school).

Given this investment, shouldn't our regulatory agencies also issue appropriate warnings about borrowing money to go to law school, by for example requiring the acceptance letters law schools send to applicants to include certain boilerplate warnings?  If such warnings tracked the history of cigarette packages, they would start with something like:

Borrowing money to get a law degree may be hazardous to your financial health.

After a few years it could move on to:

GENERAL ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE WARNING: Quitting law school after your first semester greatly reduces serious risks to your economic and emotional well-being.

Etc.

This may strike the reader as a facetious suggestion, but consider this:

The best time to buy is when everyone else is selling. If August 2012 law school matriculations are truly as bad as the common wisdom expects, then three years from now law grads with decent credentials will be in higher demand than they otherwise would be. This does not mean that English majors who can't figure out what else to do should go to law school. And it does not mean that prospective students should ignore costs. But when markets correct misallocations, they often overcorrect, particularly in markets with imperfect information. In my view, there is reasonable possibility that the current decline in law school applications represents just such an overcorrection.
That's the analysis being put forth by Ted Seto, a professor at Loyola-Los Angeles law school, and to my knowledge the first law professor to publish a comment on this blog under his own name (During the initial week when I published the blog anonymously before deciding that wasn't a good idea, Prof. Seto warned me in a signed comment that once my identity was known tenure would not protect me from the dire professional consequences that would flow from publishing the claims I was making on this blog).

Now let us consider the idea that investing in a law degree at this time -- say at Prof. Seto's own institution -- could well be a wise contrarian strategy.  There are a number of problems with this claim, the most obvious being that investment contrarianism is really just a variation on the insight that it's a good idea to buy low and sell high, and, at present, going to law school very much still requires buying high. Indeed the cost of attendance this fall at Loyola will be $71,702.  (Note that the school characterizes borrowing this sum in the form of high interest non-dischargeable loans as a "financial aid award," which seems a rather curious way to characterize an unsecured loan).

In addition, per ABA data Loyola appears to give out a strikingly small number of grants to students: the latest figures indicate 67.3% of the school's students pay the full sticker price of attendance, while the school gives out almost no full tuition scholarships.

What's the cost of debt-financing a degree from Loyola?  Thanks to the good folks at the Georgetown University Law Center this calculation can be made in a matter of seconds, and the answer is that a 2012 matriculant who does so can anticipate a total debt of $259,616, at an average interest rate of 7.6%. This will require either ten years of loan payments of $3,099 per month, or 25 years of payments of $1,949 per month (the total payout being $371,844 or $581,763 respectively).

In the comments to Prof. Seto's speculation, Deborah Merritt does an excellent job of outlining the extent to which Loyola's published employment and salary statistics, inadequate as they are, do not, to put it mildly, give any warrant for thinking that investing this amount of money to get a Loyola law degree would be a sensible decision.

Indeed this little exercise indicates the extent to which the framing of the market for law degrees as a matter of rational maximizers of utility making informed investment decisions continues to bear little relation to the social reality of clueless 21-year-olds and their often even more clueless parents deciding to spend either their own or more often what will be in the long run other peoples' money in ways that don't begin to make any economic sense.

Prof. Seto's comment indicates, among other things, the extent to which many legal academics have not even begun to recognize that the price of legal education in this country in general, and at their institutions in particular, no longer bears any rational relationship at all to its long-term economic value.

Given that the federal government is playing such a central role in continuing to ensure this is the case, it doesn't seem unreasonable to expect it, in the context of its regulatory function, to warn prospective law students and their families of this fact.

Update:  Paul Caron informs me this is not a new idea.


83 comments:

  1. In my pretty extensive experience as an investor, the best advice is to initially short the bad news - in other words, the initial fall in an asset price to a shock event is usually an undercorrection, not on overcorrection.

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  2. The student loan "counseling" should certainly consist of more than a few online multiple choice questions. The fact remains that most American high school students do not understand how credit works. Many have little to no work experience. They do not take classes in financial plannings or economics. How many high schools even offer such courses?

    They have also been told non-stop, since infancy, that "Higher education is THE KEY to your future." This message has been repeated and reinforced to them thousands of times, via family members, friends, peers, school counselors, politicians, authority figures, TV, film, etc.

    Then again, corporate bagman Melvin Schweitzer believes that college graduates are "sophisticated consumers." (For $ome rea$on, this rationale does not apply to Bernard Madoff's wealthy, business-wise victims.) If a college graduate is a sophisticated consumers, why not someone who is smart enough to get into college? Then again, pretty much anyone with an IQ above 85, the desire to gain more education, and the willingness to incur debt can gain entry somewhere.

    Google "Colby Nolan MBA" and see what you find.

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  3. I know that we all post ad nauseam about how spot on these blog posts are. But still. Just bullseye after bullseye.

    I could not have been more clueless as 21 year old, and my parents couldn't have been more proud.

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  4. If I follow Ted Seto's fallacy ridden attempt at logical reasoning, in 2015 graduates of Loyola Law School (I assume he finds this to consitute a "decent credential") will be more marketable than they otherwise would be, due to the downturn in applications. In other words, they will be more "marketable" than absolutely not marketable at all. I suppose that means they'll be around 1/1000th more marketable than a vagrant who begs for change at the bus stop.
    So there you go kids, cough up that $250k so you can learn from rigorous thinkers like Ted Seto. You'll have the world by the balls in 2015.

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  5. Ha, Seto's probably right. If the legal economy ever stabilizes, the firms will just go grab the next crop of law students, skipping over tens of thousands of young lawyers.

    Of course, you have to take the risk and bet that yours will be the specific class that will benefit. No way to know that.

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  6. One thing is for sure, they won't be grabbing them from Loyola.

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  7. Let's also take a moment to point out that no one "sells" a law degree. People can only buy them from monopoly law schools with an unlimited supply for which they charge housing bubble prices. What would the housing bubble look like if people didn't have to make a down payment or mortgage payment for 3 years? Seto can whistle past the graveyard all he likes, but things have a habit of changing very quickly and this has been building for a while.

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  8. In a follow up comment, Seto responds, "there was no apparent oversupply of lawyers 10 years ago."

    Ummm, yes there was. You might not have heard about it because the media wasn't reporting it because the people at the top were still getting jobs and tuition/debt levels weren't as obscene, but a significant number of graduates at Loyola were not landing jobs as full time lawyers in 2002, I guarantee it. This guy is oblivious and he randomly spouts out assertions totally unsupported for fact.

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  9. "This guy is oblivious and he randomly spouts out assertions totally unsupported for fact."

    Knock me over with a feather.

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  10. 9:03:

    It was hard even 15 years ago. All of my classmates, myself included had a hard time, and we went to a "decent" law school that has a great regional reputation.

    It has been clear for many years that was being called a cyclical problem is really a systemic one. This goes for law school as ell as all of higher ed.

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  11. lol Ted Seto is such a shameless troll. It's funny really because if you knew him he's actually an excellent professor (in tax at least). I wonder if he makes these comments to be funny.

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  12. You can issue all the warnings you want, but when someone graduates unemployed into our shit economy - having to try very hard just to get a job at Best Buy or Walmart - borrowing money for a three year vacation at some toilet suddenly doesn't look so bad. Especially with IBR.

    Frankly, with IBR law school is a no-brainer for such a person. The warnings should have been given to the moron taxpayers who are funding this boondoggle.

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  13. In the comments, Ted Seto writes: "Second, when I started at Harvard Law School in 1973, we were told at orientation that, statistically, only half of us would ultimately practice law; the rest would go into jobs for which a legal education might be useful, but not required."

    Then Bored3L and DJM stepped in and compared that ***honest*** disclosure (how quaint of old Harvard) to today's ridiculously misleading and dishonest career placement stats pumped out by places like Loyola.

    lolololol it's almost like Ted Seto is trolling us.

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  14. @9:46

    A professor of mine in law school, as far back as 1981 or 1982, said to the class "We need JD birth control." The problem has been coming for a long time and has been around for much longer than legal academics, at least, realized or were willing to admit. I am so very happy I left the profession years ago.

    --Porsenna

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  15. "GENERAL ACCOUNTABILITY OFFICE WARNING: Quitting law school after your first semester greatly reduces serious risks to your economic and emotional well-being."

    This needs to be made more obvious. As you articulated previously, LAW SCHOOL IS A MENTAL ILLNESS FACTORY. You go in mentally healthy, you come out depressed. Something like 40% of 3Ls are depressed as compared to only 4% of 0Ls.

    That should very seriously be on every application, every wall, every classroom in law school.

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  16. Nando,

    LOL on the Colby Nolan. I guess Schweitzer is not the only PU$$Y with a graduate degree.

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  17. Seto, and the rest of his defensive apologist ilk scum, increasingly sound like Comical Ali from the first Gulf War. To amuse myself on a Friday, I'm going to imagine what Comical Law Dean would tell Prof Campos in an interview:

    "Lying is forbidden in [Loyola]."

    "The [ILSS blog] is all about lies! All they tell is lies, lies and more lies!"

    "The information was correct but the interpretations were not. I did my duty up to the last minute." -- Seto post-collapse excuse

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  18. Seto makes like $20,000 a month plus huge benefits and will do so until he retires. You, 10:23?

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  19. Regarding people like Seto being clueless: A commenter hit a home run yesterday with this paragraph: "So, my conclusion is that when you are a practicing lawyer or a law professor or dean, you never see these people again because they are,like my female classmate above, living in their parents' home and not bumping into you at the alumni events that cost money, or the receptions at fancy private city clubs because they have no career (or money for tix). They are not out of sight but having careers. they are suffering and a ashamed."

    I recently got into a debate with an administrator at my law school, and she said that "almost everyone" she knows from my class (class of 2010, Toledo) is practicing law.

    Yet as I said then, I can think of at least a dozen grads - off the top of my head - from my class who are not practicing law, although they want to. I'm sure there are far, far more (certainly dozens). One thing that keeps these administrators (and employed grads who think everything's fine) in total denial about how bad things are is that the victims of the law school scam are either embarrassed or totally apathetic and out of the loop. They're invisible. As a fellow grad told me in a private comment, they wanted to chime in but they're still holding out for a good job and don't want to burn bridges.

    As Harvey Milk suggested back in the day, we need to be OUT. People need to know we exist, or those in power can conveniently pretend our problem isn't even a problem.

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  20. Seto can't be right. The problem is one of supply (too much) and demand (too little) and monstrous barriers to entry (high tuition paid for by non-dischargeable loans which take half of a lifetime to service). If the supply side of the equation would somehow fix itself, i.e., meaning at least 50% of law schools closing their doors, maybe a rational trader could adopt his point of view. But there's no way he can possibly be correct with the supply side creating far more number of fungible legally trained commodities than the market, either now or the foreseeable future, can possibly absorb. I don't support the ad hominem attacks on Seto - he is no different than the mass of commercial real estate bankers, for example, whose modus operandi right now is merely to hope on top of hope that the significant number of see through office buildings now standing will somehow get filled so they don't have to do major damage to their balance sheet. Yes, we understand why they hope on top of hope, but no one intelligent is persuaded it is a rational business strategy. Seto is simply wrong, no more and no less.

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  21. Rob Switzer: This is what BL1Y referred to way back at the start of this blog as the cemetery problem (the term is from the book The Black Swan). People notice success and ignore failure, thereby systematically overestimating the prevalence of success. Of course when it's in their economic self-interest to do so this tendency is amplified all the more.

    Nevertheless it's really not acceptable for legal academics at this point to be making claims such as that there wasn't an oversupply of lawyers ten years ago. That's now just willful blindness in the face of overwhelming data to the contrary.

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  22. "A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest."

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  23. Professor Seto is the David Lereah of the law school bubble.

    Lereah was the chief economist of the National Association of Realtors during the bubble years.

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  24. Nando, I can't believe you pulled the "Colby Nolan" example. Colby Nolan was a smart cat and he graduated cum laude. Hell, he is probably smarter than your average Cooley student.

    You should have cited "John I. Rocko." Now that dawg tore up the criminal justice program at Concordia. He should have applied to Cooley as he gave star quality testimony in court.

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17398521/

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  25. Anecdotally, about 10 years ago there were a group of new law school graduates called the "Greedy Associates" that could demand higher salaries from big law firms.

    Of course, this was a only very small subset of all law school graduates in the early 2000's that graduated from top schools and worked in big law firms.

    Here's a peer reviewed journal article about the "Greedy Associates".

    http://www.springerlink.com/content/c1g589cx26ef2trl/

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  26. In his profile on the Loyola web site, Seto lists, among his "selected writings", being the "principal author" of the 12th edition (1976) of the Blue Book.

    I submit that this is all you need to know to know that he is not to be taken seriously.

    Publius

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  27. Law Prof (and others),
    In one of the comments Seto notes he will be publishing an article related to his comment. Perhaps we can keep a collective eye out for it, I'm interested in what it will say.

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  28. 1/2 a million dollars for a law degree?

    Just let that sink in a bit.

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  29. It occurred to me today that one advantages of making law school loans dischargable is that it would drive home how bad law school is for most people:

    Imagine if it was reported that 15,000 lawyers declared personal bankruptcy this year b/c of poor employment and student loans.

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  30. 12:08,
    Not really. People will just think lawyers are scamming the system and using bankruptcy to get rid of their student loans. Not true, but I'm sure that's what the perception will be.

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  31. Does anyone know what race Ted Seto is? Is he white or chinese?

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  32. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  33. "In his profile on the Loyola web site, Seto lists, among his "selected writings", being the "principal author" of the 12th edition (1976) of the Blue Book."

    What kind of a-hole felt the need to take something as simple as a citation (which is only supposed to tell you where to find a fucking article; not rocket science) and turn it into a 400 page manual?

    Wow.

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  34. Here is an interesting anecdote...from a solid second tier rather large law school...two editors of the law review in consecutive years respectively are no longer working as lawyers almost 20 years out. One of those law review editors was also ranked absolutely number 1 in his or her class. Both describe sales sorts of jobs now.

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  35. Sales of what? Drugs? Sex?

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  36. And Rush Limbaugh says that smoking will take YEARS to kill a person.

    And that everyone that has eaten well and healthy are guaranteed death within less than a hundred and fifty years or so.

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  37. WARNING: The fact that you are being lent in excess of six figures before your 25th birthday does not mean that the lender or your law school actually think you can pay the money back.

    WARNING: Your spouse/partner will pull some really shifty passive-agressive nonsense when they realize what a crimp your student loans will put on their lifestyle.

    WARNING: 8 years from now you will go to a dinner party and look at your host's house and furniture and think "What the F@ck am I doing wrong?" and then realize, "Oh, they have $1,200 a month to spare that I don't thanks to my loans."

    WARNING: in 15 years you will have an existential crisis when you realize that you have only paid back the compounded interest on your student loans.

    WARNING: IBR is not guaranteed to still be in existance in 20 years. Your loan balance, however, will be.

    Any more?

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  38. Seto is illustrating a pet peeve of mine - law professors who on its face could not practice law. In Seto's case it seems that he failed at the practice of law, opting for the professor/academic track - he went from Foley Hoag in Boston to Drinker, Biddle in Philly (the eponymous Drinker being a notorious racist, religious bigot and all-round shit and the first legal ethics guru of the ABA (Drinker thought a lawyer participating in a lynching was a close call, ethics rules would keep the Irish, Italians and "little russian jew boys" out of the profession, and that being a conscientious objector was for a lawyer unconscionable (hint to law students, Drinker quotes make ethics professors apoplectic.)) In any event, in 1991 Drinker cashed in his chips as hiring partners at Drinker (the job no productive partner wants) to leave Philly for LA.

    Looking at Drinker statements (he was allegedly a commercial litigator) they are consistently full of pompous howlers, but more significantly the sort of "it's so because I say it is so" that litigators in white shoe firms and with HYS backgrounds tend to trot out. I have won several cases on the back of idiotic positions taken by these types, making a big issue of a "fact," often a not very relevant fact, making it the center of their argument, making me wonder "am I wrong" to then discover that they had failed to make elementary checks of the facts - and they were wrong on the assertions. The big buildup on the factual assertion is wonderful, because they cannot now argue it is irrelevant. So looking at Seto, what hostages to factual examination has he trotted out - well in 2002 it was just a peachy time to be a law graduate "there was no apparent oversupply of lawyers 10 years ago." Sorry Theo, had you not bagged the hiring partner position at Drinker you would have seen the stacks of resumes landing on my desk as a GC with a 12-14 lawyer legal department, there was a shortage of jobs and it was even then a buyer's market - with the limited exception of HYS - but your are a professor a Loyola-LA - it was bad then for your students. I could go on but I am busy cleaning up the mess an assumer that his gilded resumé means he does not have to work or check facts has left for me...hey, it's billable, I did not employ him.

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  39. lol mack sounds like he knows seto

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  40. "law professors who on its face could not practice law"...?

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  41. I don't know Seto, but a lot can be surmised from his bio ... his comments ...

    What is funny is a guy from Drinker, Biddle taking a job at a Jesuit school, Holy Saint Ignatius, Drinker and Biddle must have been spinning in their graves.

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  42. Well Drinker ... no evidence that Biddle was a bigot

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  43. Brief autobio on Seto. Interesting.

    http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2006/04/theodore_p_seto.html

    Lawprof, please delete the post above. Wrong link - full of taxprof bios (the good, the bad and the really ugly)

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  44. The legal job market is a lot worse than it was 10 years ago because of structural changes. Midlaw which created many jobs for grads of middle tier law schools at relatively comfortable compensation levels with decent hours and a decent lifestyle merged into biglaw. Biglaw employs many associates who are recent grads and relatively few experienced lawyers. Without a book of business, it is very hard to get or hold a job at Biglaw or a paying job anywhere else after about 15-20 years of practice. People on this blog do not realize that a large proportion of the salaried jobs in the legal profession are held by younger lawyers.

    The effect of all of this is that experienced lawyers are more often now relegated to non-sustainable forms of law practice, even when they come from the top law schools, after age 45 or so. There are huge numbers of solos listed in Martindale in each geographic area. They couldn't possibly make even the average salary in the U.S. There are just too many of them for the amount of legal business.

    The problem of lack of first year jobs is simply the most visible portion of the law school bubble. The lack of legal jobs and low incomes at higher levels of experience and with high levels of expertise is a less well publicized problem, but one that Law Prof has hit on.

    The truth is, for all those people who talk about baby boomers retiring, a large portion of the highest paying jobs in the legal profession are associate jobs that go to the select few - you need to be young - for a select few years.

    Most of the few mature, permanent, good legal jobs that are not subject to up or out will go to people who already have jobs and who have a good level of experience in an in demand area. If you are volunteering at Legal Aid for 6 years while working at Starbucks, your chances of landing that job are going to be poor. A very small percentage of grads, more from top law schools, but also a good number from bottom tier law schools, will land those few long-term permanent jobs.

    The problem is that the number of long-term high paying legal jobs is so small relative to the number of job seekers, and the jobs are so unstable precisely because there are so many job seekers. The odds of working as a lawyer and netting more than a policeman, a teacher or even a janitor in the public sector on a long term basis, when you take into account benefits, are very small.

    Every law school should come with a warning. But you cannot back up disasterous long-term employment statistics with anecdotes. You need data. That data will show, if ever produced, that your income will drop substantially even if you went to a top law school as you get more experience if you are part of the 85% of grads who simply do not luck into a high paying long term job.

    The best warning would be to force law schools to produce data that goes farther out than first year. Very few people would actually go to law school. The bottom would fall out of applications even to the top 14 law schools if the truth were known. Who is going to do this to face repeated periods of unemployment and for a 15% chance of making more than a policeman or a teacher long-term?

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  45. Re: warning labels-- interesting idea, but there is a key difference vis-à-vis smoking IMO, namely, the government did not CAUSE the link between smoking and cancer in the first place. By contrast, government policies did cause the law school tuition bubble and related financial disasters.

    So I think it's unreasonable to expect the government to mitigate, via warnings, a problem that it was responsible for creating.

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  46. Prof. Caron kicks ass.

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  47. @7:15 "The problem of lack of first year jobs is simply the most visible portion of the law school bubble. The lack of legal jobs and low incomes at higher levels of experience and with high levels of expertise is a less well publicized problem, but one that Law Prof has hit on."

    You are exactly correct. I have tried to make this point repeatedly on this board. I know anecdotally this is absolutely true. I know literally scores of unemployed and severely underemployed highly experienced and well credentialed lawyers, many from top schools and alumni of biglaw. It is highly unlikely that you can make the alleged median U.S. attorney salary, 6 figures, at "the law firm of X [insert name]," especially if the address of such establishment is your home or a post office box. That is why I know, with tons of anecdotal evidence, that the median and average attorney salaries as reported by the BLS and ABA are just about as believeable as the median and average starting salaries reported by many/most third tier law schools. No one in their right mind would go to law school anywhere if the truth of the long term employment prospects and income was known. Unfortunately, there is no, or at least not much, reliable data to evidence the fact that I know as assuredly as I know anything in my life.

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  48. Let me clarify my position as an alumni of biglaw, now in a small law firm, the reason that "the law firm of X [insert name]" exists is because either i) x did not have enough billable hours to support his or her salary at his or her prior firm, or ii) the clients of x presented a conflict problem such that his or her firm perceived it might generate more revenue without x than with x present. If ii) is true then x will land at another firm that does not have a conflict with x's clients. In the case of option ii), there will be no "the law firm of X [insert name]" shortly. If i) is true, then "the law firm of X [insert name]" will remain in existence, and the revenues of such establishment will be less than the salary of x at his or her previous firm. In fact, the revenues of such establishment may be zero or a number not far from zero.

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  49. Let me clarify further, "the law firm of X [insert name]" may also by X & Y, Attorneys at Law or X, Y and Z, Attorneys at Law. In these instances, X and Y or X, Y and Z will most likely all be in the same boat. There are instances where X and Y or X, Y and Z establish their practices separate from biglaw because of the financial structures of biglaw that either i) preclude taking new clients or ii) funnel the money to the top so that X, Y and perhaps Z can make more money in the short term at X & Y, Attorneys at Law or X, Y and Z, Attorneys at Law. However, from my experience, this is less common than otherwise.

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  50. Any update on whether Seto is white or asian? I can't tell from his name or his appearance. That is the most interesting thing about him if you ask me.

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  51. Ted Seto: "The best time to buy is when everyone else is selling."

    I wonder if we looked at Ted Seto's investment portfolio if it would be full of record stores, bookbinders, and landline telephone cords?

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  52. Ted Seto: "Second, when I started at Harvard Law School in 1973, we were told at orientation that, statistically, only half of us would ultimately practice law; the rest would go into jobs for which a legal education might be useful, but not required."

    Right, because it's Harvard. They expect a portion of their class to become politicians, investment bankers, work at the state department, become law professors, or various other jobs that don't require bar passage.

    How many people is Loyola putting on Wall Street or at the State Department?

    Didn't need to pass the bar because you're working at an investment bank? O.K.

    Didn't need to pass the bar because you're pouring lattes at Starbucks? Not O.K.

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  53. Ted Seto: "I have no axe to grind here. I'm tenured at a school that is highly unlikely to go out of business before I retire."

    Translation: I got mine!!

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  54. "I have no axe to grind here."

    This bothers me, not only because of the "got mine" connotation, but because it's clearly not true. Professor Seto has spent a significant part of his career at Loyola-LA; the school's reputation and success will affect his own reputation and self esteem, even in retirement. More broadly, as LawProf has pointed out so many times, *all* law professors have a profound psychological stake in believing that their work is worthwhile; they're professionals who want to engage in worthwhile work, not just a job. (Sort of like their students; the irony of that statement is ringing.) Similarly, law professors have a strong psychological stake in believing that they're providing value for the tuition students spend; most of them (including, I assume, Seto) don't want to entertain the notion that they might be taking an unsustainable amount of money from the next generation.

    In saying that he has "no axe to grind," Seto is trading explicitly on the image of scholars as objective, reasonable researchers, without recognizing his clear self-interest. He's far from alone in that; it's a common problem right now in the legal academy. Every person and organization is self interested to some degree; why not just recognize that in ourselves?

    Meanwhile, maybe all comments by law professors relating to the value of legal education should come with their own warning: "WARNING: I am a member of the legal academy, with a strong incentive to defend the status quo."

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  55. Well said, DJM. And thank you, again, for speaking truth to power.

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  56. Look, everyone in the world has a axe to grind--DJM, too. I think he meant that he has less interest in this because he is nearer the end than the beginning. He is no more self serving than usual.

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  57. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  58. Seto is actually a decent guy. His tax courses are extremely well planned and organized. it is clear that he is extraordinarily conscientious and thoughtful about that aspect of his job. He is also always available to students who want to ask questions.

    That being said I have no idea why he damages his reputation out by taking up the self interested and risible argument that borrowing money to attend Loyola is no less than a terrible decision made by naive and duped people.

    However in all fairness I say we judge him on his entire record.

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  59. What could possibly be DJM's axe?!

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  60. "However in all fairness I say we judge him on his entire record."

    Lots of people are decent, great at their jobs, and super-caring (a good deal of unemployed attorneys would fall into that class, and a subset of that group would be qualified and thrilled to teach Seto's classes). Yet the overwhelming majority of those people are NOT actively promoting a ruinous fraud and pretending like they have no skin in the game. So even judging him "on his entire record," he looks like crud.

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  61. 7:03:

    Correct. I sit at home, 100K in debt (after paying for years at 6% interest on capitalized interest), no job whatsoever, a pregnant wife who has to work and I can do nothing about it. These assholes make hand over fist in bank and continue to perpetuate the FRAUD that law school is a valuable use of time and resources. The vast majority of professors and admins try to blame the graduate when you confront them with the truth.

    Don't really care how much he cares about his job or how good he is at it. The real issue is the act of being in the class in the first place. It is a waste of time when you consider the debt, time, and the fact that the people who leave will be fucked for life.

    Seto can go straight to hell.

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  62. what do you think the government is going to do when they realize that the largest loans being forgiven are from the law school scam?

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  63. lol @ "the largest loans being forgiven are from the law school scam"

    You can't do math. There are far far greater costs. Not even close.

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  64. 9:17:

    Go fuck your mother you son of a bitch. I will meet you anytime or anywhere, just name the place you rat fuck pissant.

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  65. @ 9:16pm

    which college program in particular do you think comprises a larger per capita loss for the government under Obama's loan forgiveness rules?

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  66. It doesn't matter what you think.

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  67. What did 9:17 say 9:26?

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  68. nyt finally doing some decent reporting

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/13/business/student-loans-weighing-down-a-generation-with-heavy-debt.html?pagewanted=1&_r=1&ref=business

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  69. The girl in that NY Times article clearly has money for food. Oh, but when it comes time to pay back the taxpayers who funded her vacation called higher education all of a sudden she's sooo saaad and helpless.

    Eat less and pay back your debt. If you're fat you have no basis to complain about student loan repayment.

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  70. She would probably blame McDonalds for making too much delicious food, because you know Americans have no free will. Put a student loan application in front of them and whisper a few lies about jobs, and they MUST sign it. Put a delicious smelling Big Mac in front of them and they MUST eat it. It's all other people's fault.

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  71. Hear this story...

    Parents go to their son's University for his graduation. They discover that their son's name is not in the program. Son NEVER turned up at the auditorium.

    They go to his off campus home and friends said he was there the night before.

    Parents call the police who get in touch with the University.

    The University tell the parents that their son has not been to classes for over a year.

    Son wanted to drop Pre-law and not go on to Law School but parents would not hear of it...

    (Everyone has an Attorney or Law Student in their family and BY-GOLLY they were going to have one too)

    From what I understand he had very good grades...

    I believe they are still looking for him...

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  72. Hear this one.

    Parents have 3 kids & they choose their career paths.

    Son #1 becomes a fine Medical Doctor as his parents ordered him to.
    Son #2 was supposed to go to Law school. Attended for a year. Dropped off the face of the earth and resurfaced as a male Nurse in Iraq.

    When you ask the parents how their #2 son is doing? they claim he is Overseas doing "Medicine"

    Their last child wanted to go to Law School but "they" sent her to Medical School and she hates it..
    She wants to be an Attorney.

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  73. Hear this one.

    stfu your stories are not interesting.

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  74. 4:40PM, R U the missing University of Michigan student?

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  75. In 1996 the application I rewuested for a Ph.d program in Philosophy DID come with a warning about employment prosepct....

    I decided to go to law school....

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  76. @6:13
    Could that be because of your spelling problem?

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  77. Blackberry typos are not indicative of an inability to spell.

    Thank you bringing attention to a salient point. That is sarcasm, 7:30.

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  78. FYI.

    http://www.consumerfinance.gov/speeches/prepared-remarks-by-richard-cordray-director-at-the-michigan-state-university-college-of-law-commencement/

    Oh the irony . . .

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    ReplyDelete
  80. I am an LLS graduate with loans approaching $200k because I am unable to find work (am under employed as "of counsel" with two firms and looking). I have a son whose mother hates be because she thinks because I went to LLS, I should make tons of money. My financial life is a complete reck. Professor Seto was simply the most impressive professor I have ever met. I think he is simply making an economic point about the value of law school educations generally and helping us see that the market will make some correction. That correction will be minimal, however, and when it does correct, my resume will not get me in the door at most firms because I have not been able to find suitable work during the important first few years out of school.

    One serious problem LLS has is that it does not eliminate the bottom of its classes after first year. It should eliminate the bottom 25% and warn those in the bottom 50% about what their job prospects are before they borrow enough money to ruin their lives.

    Does anyone know of a good website to help us figure out how to get jobs. I go on craigslist in the surrounding counties and symplicity, but have never received an offer for full time employment.

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