Thursday, September 27, 2012

Bad deal book

Ohio State law school professor Steven Davidoff has written an analysis of the economics of law school for a New York Times' Deal Book "special section" on "the future of Big Law."

Davidoff begins by noting that veterinary schools aren't being called a scam or a bubble even though veterinarians make less than lawyers and pay even more to go to school.  I suspect there's a simple explanation for this: people who graduate from veterinary school get to be veterinarians.

Veterinary schools in the US produce just 2500 graduates a year (Harvard, Columbia, NYU, Georgetown, and George Washington by themselves collectively produce more lawyers), and the number of jobs for veterinarians is projected by the BLS to increase by 38% over the course of this decade.  I gather from several minutes of internet research that, to the extent that vets face any employment difficulties, this is a product of the fact that more prefer to be pet doctors rather than large animal vets relative to the available job opportunities. But if you graduate from veterinary school and want to be a veterinarian, you get to be one. In this regard, veterinary school graduates resemble medical and dental school graduates, who get to be -- check this out -- doctors and dentists.

Davidoff's whole analysis is premised on a fundamentally faulty assumption, which is that law school graduates get to be lawyers.   Law professors, still stuck in their world of Columbia law degrees and federal appellate clerkships and Shearman & Sterling associate gigs, constantly make the mistake of thinking -- well not really thinking, but rather semi-consciously assuming -- that their students are going to be lawyers.  This assumption is going to be wrong in regard to an enormous percentage of people currently enrolled in ABA-accredited law schools -- even at "good" law schools like the one Davidoff started teaching at this past year (previously he was at Wayne State and UCONN, where he taught lots and lots of students who did not become lawyers). Any analysis of the situation that fails to grapple with this point is missing the central fact regarding the crisis of the American law school.

Davidoff examines the idea of controlling law school costs by making law school more skills oriented and by cutting faculty compensation. As to the first alternative he points out that more clinical courses will actually drive up costs, which is certainly true assuming one were to maintain the current structure of American legal education (that this structure could be dispensed with altogether at little or no cost to anyone other than law professors is not a thesis Davidoff appears willing to entertain).

As to the second alternative, Davidoff's argument comes down to the claim that law professors don't make much in comparison to "law firm partners," and that if we were to cut faculty compensation this would lead to faculties being staffed by less "qualified" people.  This part of Davidoff's analysis is especially sloppy, so I'm going to spend a bit of time on it.

Note that Davidoff cooks his numbers quite a bit:

The average senior law professor who is not at a top-ranked school makes $130,000 to $150,000 according to a survey by the Society of American Law Teachers. It’s a nice salary, but certainly not comparable to what a law firm partner earns.
This assertion plays very fast and loose with the definition of both "top ranked law school" and (especially) "law firm partner."  Unless "top ranked law school" is a category that includes half the law schools in the country, the assertion about average compensation levels for senior professors is seriously understated, as a glance at the salaries of the senior faculty at his own school reveals. Indeed $130,000, or something fairly close to that, is now the starting salary for tenure track professors at many law schools that nobody would consider particularly elite.  (Starting salaries at top schools are quite a bit higher).

But the bigger problem with Davidoff's assertion is that "law firm partners" make far more than $130,000 to $150,000 per year.  This is obviously not true, unless by "law firm partners" one means primarily "partners at national law firms," who of course make up a tiny percentage of all law firm partners, let alone all practicing lawyers.  Davidoff is in effect comparing the lowest-paid law professors to the highest-paid lawyers.  Law professors, even law professors at other than "top ranked" schools, have higher average salaries than "law firm partners," and the only way one can miss this fact is by, characteristically, focusing on only the very top of the legal employment pyramid.

This is precisely what Davidoff does, when he asserts that cutting faculty salaries will make it much harder to recruit good faculty because "good practitioners are likely to be even more expensive than law professors. After all, the average partner at a big law firm can make well over a million dollars a year."  This is absurd.  It assumes that "good practitioner" is a category that's exactly co-extensive with "partner at a handful of elite law firms" (at how many law firms in this country does the "average" partner make "well over a million dollars a year?").  It also assumes that a common alternative career choice for law professors is to stay at an elite law firm and make well over a million dollars a year as an equity partner.  (Otherwise what possible relevance does the average partner draw at, say, Shearman & Sterling, have to the recruitment of future law professors?).

It's hard to say which of these assertions is more ridiculous: let's call it a tie.

Moving right along, when considering different types of law schools Davidoff engages in more analytical sleight of hand:

There is . . .  a qualitative difference between the top 15 law schools and the rest. These elite schools charge sky-high tuition that can exceed $50,000 a year. But graduates have a good chance of securing a coveted job with a starting salary of $165,000 a year — a salary that is likely to improve as the economy does. For a 26-year-old, that’s certainly good money. Duke, for instance, which was No. 11 on the U.S. News rankings, said its graduates had a 95 percent employment rate last year, with an average private sector salary of $160,000.

There may be valid criticism about lower-ranked law schools, particularly those U.S. News places in the third and fourth tier. Such private schools often charge significant tuition but do not obtain the same employment outcomes. The question is whether changes can be made to lower their costs, and whether this will lead to better opportunities for their graduates.

It's unclear what Davidoff means by "a salary that is likely to improve as the economy does." Is he arguing that starting big law salaries are going to go up eventually in real terms?  If so, this is far from clear, and even if it is it will remain irrelevant to the 85% to 90% of law school graduates who will never be in such a job, including in particular the 85% to 90% of Davidoff's own OSU students who won't get such jobs. Or he may mean that law graduates who start at $165K will make significantly more than that as their careers develop. This of course is very often not true, and is increasingly becoming less so.

But the biggest elision here involves the 85 schools between the "top 15" and the one hundred in the third and fourth tiers.  (Note how Davidoff casually concedes that the economics of law school make no sense at at least half of all law schools.)  What about all the "well ranked" law schools -- the solid majority of the first tier and all of the second -- that are hardly more successful in placing graduates in big law than their third and fourth tier country cousins?  If the economics of law school at such places resemble those of low-ranked schools far more than they do those of schools like Duke --and they do -- isn't that a bit of a problem? (And as a a commenter points out Davidoff's account also implies strongly that all is more or less well for graduates of the T-14 these days which of course isn't true either).  Given that Davidoff happens to teach at one of those 85 schools, not addressing this precise point seems like something other than an oversight.







104 comments:

  1. Of course a law prof, when comparing law profs to law firm partners, would look to the top echelon, because most law prof's are so full of themselves that they naturally assume that if they weren't teaching that's where they would be.

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  2. I think you can just toss the whole Davidoff article in the trash. He obvioulsy is blinded by his own position and can't see the forest for the trees.

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  3. But the radical chic criticisms levelled at M.I.A. could also be aimed at Nelly Furtado. The daughter of immigrants from Portugal, Furtado grew up comfortably in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia, a far cry from the Third World shantytowns featured in her videos.

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  4. If the Duke lawyers going into private practice average $160,000 to start then quite a few must make a whole lot more if there is a normal distribution curve. Where do I sign up?

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    Replies
    1. Starting law salaries do not follow a normal distribution curve.

      Delete
  5. Now that I think about it, I pretty much went to law school to buy a long term appreciating asset that produced increasing real cash flows over time.

    I didn't have any interest in law or practicing law. In fact, I still don't.

    But I have a stable job that currently produces increasing real cash flows over time.

    Go figure.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I wish that life was fungible so that I could trade my life with someone who actually wants what I have.

      Delete
    2. I just wasted 10 minutes reading your "blog."

      Trust me, no healthy male over 17 wants to trade lives with you.

      Delete
    3. I forgot that I had a blog.

      And, yep, it sucks.

      Delete
    4. I often enjoy playing with Anonymous trolls, but I expect a certain level of quality.

      Care to try again?

      Delete
  6. There is another error in the Davidoff piece. The lawyer partners whose salaries he is using for comparison are generally working 80 hour weeks year round, as verses most law professors who, except for exam time, are not working more then 40 hours per week. Most law professors would not want to become big law professors because they know what would be expected from them, they are paid less, for working less hours per week.

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    1. A typical law professor works only about ten hours per week.

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    2. You can't be serious. Any law prof who tried that wouldn't last a year on the job.

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    3. Serious and productive legal academics work as many hours as anyone in private practice - I've done both and I know what I am talking about. The ONLY difference is that I can decide once in a while to spend a weekend with my family without getting yelled at.

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    4. By the way, exams take almost no time (which shows how little you understand about law professors) but preparing for class and research take huge amounts of time - if you are serious about your work.

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    5. Ell Oh Ell @ 12:21 / :24.

      Delete
  7. "Davidoff begins by noting that veterinary schools aren't being called a scam or a bubble even though veterinarians make less than lawyers and pay even more to go to school. I suspect there's a simple explanation for this: people who graduate from veterinary school get to be veterinarians."

    And those veterinarians can have a reasonable expectation that they will practice for 30+ years. People love their pets. I wouldn't mind sending a few "law professors" to the vet - to be put down.

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    1. Veterinarians are having their own problems that are similar to law schools insofar of the debt-levels compared to entry-level salary.

      Even though most vet students will become vets, they will average $142,000 in debt and start with an average of $47K a year.

      http://veterinarynews.dvm360.com/dvm/article/articleDetail.jsp?id=742446

      So you do get to be a vet if you go to vet school, but the average vet is going to start with a toxic debt:income ratio.

      Delete
    2. True, but a relative of mine is a vet and, at least, they are comparatively assured of that income for as long as they want to be a vet and their income generally rises with seniority. Now, I'm not saying that debt to income ratio is good (student debt is a pervasive and debilitating problem due to the federal government), but at least it's better than law.

      Delete
    3. That law school is a scam/bubble does not imply that other specialty graduate programs (such as vet school) are not scams or bubbles, in fact if anything it makes an informed observer more suspicious that other specialty graduate programs are not worth their costs.

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    4. Even if the program is not worth the cost, I do not see the vet schools publishing fake employment statistics, and outright lying to students, a la law schools, which is why it isn't a scam, even if there might be in the beginning of a bubble themselves.

      Their debt might be toxic, and way to high to likely salary, but at least they have a salary, and a job as a vet, while most law students have neither a salary, or job as a lawyer, but only the toxic debt itself.

      Sadly the Education complex is increasing the number of students in most graduate programs at a time when it isn't clear jobs prospects are increasing, so maybe what we have in law becomes the new normal everywhere. Hopefully we can stop other profession following in our footsteps of having twice the graduates as entry level jobs.

      :>>--

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    5. Ridiculous debt levels are also creeping into tons of undergrad programs.

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  8. How the hell does anyone know what the "average" lawyer makes? When I read that the "average" earnings for lawyers are in the six figures I wonder if that is as bogus as the law school employment/salary figures. Do they get this six figure "average" by getting IRS tax return info on all filers who list their job as "attorney?" Or is it based on surveys of attorneys, e.g. self reporting which is meaningless unless the response rate is close to 100%. As we know, higher earners are more likely to respond accurately to these surveys than lower earners.

    My sample may not be representative, but the large majority of attorneys I know do not make six figures. A few do, but for everyone who does I know quite a few who make in the mid to upper five figures.

    BTW this was a great smackdown by Campos.

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    1. I completely agree with your point about the stats being meaningless. That issue was part of my comment to Davidoff's article that dealbook refused to post.

      I realize that citations are important to credit another's work or idea, but since when does a citation mean your statement is actually correct?

      Davidoff's article is a poorly researched mess, but uninformed readers will take it as truth. That scares me.

      Delete
    2. The BLS estimates wage data by occupation based on their employer surveys and the current mean salary for lawyers is $130,490

      http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes231011.htm

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    3. That MAY tell you what lawyers make who are successful and actually get to be employed as lawyers in a firm where they might actually get surveyed. It doesn't tell you the mean salary of law grads who had intended to practice law.

      In other words, it counts the top successful lawyer salaries and averages them but throws out those who are not successful - a very skewed and biased sample.

      Delete
  9. Whenever I hear law professors make this comical comparison between their own "skills" and those of a biglaw partner, I think back to my 1L torts professor, who spent no less than two full two-hour classes on the Palsgraf case.
    At the time, I was naive enough to think that was because there was something really vital that he was drilling down toward, rather than a holding and legal concept that could have been explained thoroughly in about 20 minutes.
    In retrospect, this guy just knew nothing about law practice or how to go about instructing future practitioners. But I'm sure having him on the faculty allowed the deans to puff out their chest about the Law & Economics "scholar" on the faculty, which is apparently an accomplishment of relevance somewhere in this universe.

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  10. "Davidoff is in effect comparing the lowest-paid law professors to the highest-paid lawyers. "

    Lawprof, I suggest editing your post to bold this sentence.

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  11. Has it happened even once in the history of the world that a typical law professor (1-2 years practice experience at most) has been offered a $1,000,000 pay package to work at a law firm as a partner? How about half that figure? I'm honestly curious. I can't imagine how a firm could justify that sort of expense for anyone without a very valuable book of business, but maybe I'm missing something...

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    1. Maybe Dean Sullivan at Quinn.

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    2. There was an article/blog post? not long ago about law professors who are also partners in firms. The practice was criticized as unethical because a full-time tenured prof cannot be that and be a partner. I have a colleague who is being courted for a partnership, but the school is balking at the idea.

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    3. Dean Sullivan is right. On a related note, Dean Kramer just left SLS for a package of 600k per year (I think, can't remember where I read it) to run the Hewlett foundation.

      Delete
  12. My dad makes about $115,000 a year living in a small midwestern town by working as a work-week manager at a nearby nuclear power plant.

    However, even though he makes a good living, as he acknowledges, the hours can be brutal (especially during his "work-week" which can go in excess of 80 hours if you count being woken up at 3 AM in the morning from some wuss at the plant covering their butt).

    He said that essentially his niece/my cousin who was so fortunate to land an entry-level teaching job in a wealthy school district, starting at $50K, makes more per hour worked because of her less-hours per year as well as the generous vacation time that teachers get (summers, breaks, Christmas).

    What we can take away from this is that law professors at low-ranked schools, per hour worked, make twice as much as $150,000/year salaried attorneys when you factor in hours/quality of life.

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  13. Is it really true skills-oriented courses will drive up costs?

    When I worked for a certain agency, we ran a course at the local law school. The head of the district office held adjunct rank, and a few staff attorneys in the office volunteered to supervise two to four students each semester. Everyone benefited: the agency used the course as a recruiting tool, and the students gave the course outstanding reviews. And our only compensation was free parking.

    I notice that SLU, that train wreck of a third tier, is in an uproar because, among other things, the president and the new interim dean have indicated a willingness to eliminate those precious summer research stipends that law professors get on top of their regular salaries.

    http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/laborprof_blog/2012/08/job-security-the-changing-face-of-legal-education-and-the-bigger-picture.html

    I wonder: Suppose SLU took the funds that it expends on summer research stipends. Add to that the funds expends on the "Center for the Interdisciplinary Study of Law" (run by an associate professor of law, Molly Juliann Walker Wilson, who has never actually practiced law and wouldn't know a courtroom from a faculty lounge. (below)). Then suppose SLU used the funds thus freed to set up innovative skills-oriented courses such as the one our agency offered. How would that drive up costs?

    http://slu.edu/school-of-law-home/centers-of-excellence/center-for-the-interdisciplinary-study-of-law

    http://www.slu.edu/colleges/law/slulaw/sites/default/files/mwilso36_0.pdf

    dybbuk

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    1. Clinics would drive up costs, sure. But the problem with law professors is that they draw a line in the sand between the Socratic/Langdellian method, where the focus is on abstract ideas and thinking like a lawyer, and clinical work. That leaves little room for anything in between, which makes a lot of sense when you realize that they need to make this argument because the current system affords them the ideal amount of time for scholarship (read: as much as humanly possible).

      Many of my adjunct professors (all top practicioners in their field) gave weekly assignments. The exam at the end of the course was a brief, researched and written on Wexis where there were several different fact patterns, parties, or jurisdictions. The adjuncts were paid around 20K per class- so probably 1/15th of what my full professors made, to teach 10-20 student sections. Very cost effective.

      I see no reason why the tenured profs couldn't introduce similar assignments into their curriculum other than it would require more time teaching/evaluating and less time scholarshipping.

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    2. "Bullshit we're doing that!" - SLU law professor while looking at the receipt for his sweet-ass Cardinals season tickets

      Delete
    3. Paid $20K per class as an adjunct teaching 1-20 students?? Bullshit. Maybe $6K. Maybe.

      Delete
  14. As mentioned earlier, law professors so often think that, of course! they'd be the ones holding top firm jobs if they weren't professoring.

    C@7:18: I had a similar experience with my Civ Pro prof. Worked two years as a junior attorney, then jumped to a T3 school. Pretends to be an expert at Civ Pro, but he's got almost no experience (seriously, how much decision-making does a 1/2 year associate do at a firm?). He was (and probably still is) an absolute douche bag and pretentious jerk.

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  15. Prof. Campos,
    Davidoff lobbed you a softball with those Duke employment and salary statistics. You completely shredded his argument, of course, but come on. Davidoff is implying (on purpose) that 95% of Duke grads are employed and making 160,000 dollars. He knows he can't say that, but he wants you to think that.

    PIG. Reading his article made me want to start a blog and go full NANDO on Davidoff. DJM, please have a sit-down with your trash colleague.

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    1. I'm out of Duke Law for a little over a decade.

      $120,000 in debt back during the dot-com era.

      Private practice.

      TV Ad Law.

      Under six figures.

      Five years ago, I was at about $55,000.

      Winning!

      (But, I note that I have a job and that Duke works for this getting a job purpose pretty well)

      Delete
    2. Um, but didn't you post at 6:58 that you don't practice law?

      And do you want a little star to stick on your precious forehead?

      Delete
    3. It's a data point.

      I don't care what you do with it.

      And yes, I practice law.

      Delete
    4. TV Ad law? Guess you couldn't get into Space Law, huh? A pity.

      Delete
    5. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    6. I think I fell asleep while reading that.

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    7. I'm taking it down. I have no interest in cluttering the comments section.

      Delete
    8. Goddamn there a re bunch of angry pricks in this comment section. At least pick the right target instead of a lawyer making 5 figures while carrying a 6 figure debt load.

      Delete
    9. If you're talking about me, I paid off my debt.

      And I don't mind being a target.

      I'm an experienced commenteer on bear chat. I took it down because it really was a giant glob of mess.

      Delete
  16. Somebody tell Andrew Sullivan about today's post. He linked to the Campos/McCardle interview and linked to Davidoff as a response. He might link to this too.

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  17. THANK YOU for posting this Law Prof. I was absolutely livid by the facileness of Davidoff's thinking when I first read this in Deal Book yesterday.

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  18. Ugh, I was *made* absolutely livid . . .

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  19. LawProf,

    Davidoff's analysis of the issue is sloppy and you did a good job mopping up his countless errors, but will you please offer some counterpoint to his Duke numbers?? Law School Transparency indicates that 53% of Duke grads from 2010 landed the coveted Big Law jobs. That leaves 47% of the class WITH a huge student loan balance and WITHOUT a feasible way to pay it back. Don't let him pretend that "all is well" in the rarefied air of the T14 -- it isn't.

    Publius Lex

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    1. His this post been provided to Dealb%k? I wonder if NYT would publish a response?

      Delete
  20. Professor:
    Didn't you write a piece a while back about some scandal at the University of Texas? After some internal lawsuits and FOIA requests it was shown that professors were pulling in over $300,000 at a public law school, financed by the taxpayers of Texas?

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  21. did UC irvine release their 2015 class profile.. I'm hearing it's really poor now that they aren't giving the great scholarship deals not their other classes were anything special even the ones with full tution.

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  22. Legal services exceed veterinarian services but those services depend upon the amount of those providing them. In the telephone book, there are far more attorney ads than veterinarian ads but there are too many attorneys for the amount of available legal business.
    "People who graduate from veterinarian school get to be veterinarians". Why? There are less admitted to veterinarian schools.
    There are too many law schools and too many admitted so people who graduate from law school don't get to be "employed" lawyers. Therefore, if there were less law schools and fewer admitted, there would be less lawyers and for those who didn't get admitted...they most likely wouldn't become an employed lawyer anyway.

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  23. Irvine has yet to release the 2015 class profile. According to their website, which doesn't include LSAT medians, they only enrolled about 90 people last year. Their 25/75 split was 163/167. With such a small class, it wouldn't be too surprising if they held their ground.

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  24. His article reminds me of my time spent as an article review editor in law school. Authors who clearly didn't spend all that much time finding the true facts (shallow analysis) but yet are completely confident in their work. You could chalk it up to deception, but I'm really not sure it isn't laziness and ignorance. And also not giving a shit.

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    1. @10:50 AM I completely agree.

      Davidoff's article is also a symptom of thinking he is wise and has valid things to say simply because he's a law professor. I beleive the vernacular is "pompous ass."

      My favorite memory of law review editing was telling a potential author (a law prof) that he needed to trash his entire article and start again. My editing team members were mortified, but I held firm. Those were the days...

      Delete
    2. Please, by all means, share more of your storied awesomeness with us!

      Were you really on law review? Golly.

      And there must have been other times when everyone else was oh so weak and you were oh so strong.

      We demand details!

      Delete
  25. 10:50 --

    It's how the "scam" works. The lawsuits are failing because law schools are careful about the deception they leak. They're propped up by long-mistaken conventional wisdom.

    So long as a professor can get a "life's good or at least Ok" article published in the main stream media, conventional wisdom is shored up for another year.

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  26. I'm so glad this blog exists. I graduated from OSU, where Davidoff teaches, in '05. I started working, in the law, before I graduated, and I still don't earn more than $60,000. I am on the IBR plan: can't even afford the interest on my $120,000 in loans (including undergrad). I'm just grateful to have a job.

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  27. I'm the same poster as above: just wanted to add: public sector pay has been going down the past few years. We pay more for insurance, local government crises mean we have had pay freezes, and raises are small.

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    1. I'm with the fed govt [SEC] and our salaries are essentially frozen with an 8% cut to come if the fed budget sequestration goes through after the election. That's just how it is now that we're drowning in govt debt. I don't expect we'll see anyone quit over pay being too low - we're not on the GS scale and the average attorney has a base of $170k plus benefits. Not exactly biglaw money but I'm grateful every day, especially since the job itself is so much fun. Even those old enough to retire continue to work because they love it.

      Delete
  28. No raises for most Colo gov't employees for the past four years. At the same time, the cost of benefits has been increasing = net loss. Thank god for the state pension. Oh, wait, that probably will go under before I retire.

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  29. Thank you Orin Kerr for linking to this story. You are still one of the bad guys and I still hope that you eventually end up unemployed. But you are the best of the bunch of Volokh, those others guys don't give a SHIT about this.

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  30. Everyone knows that the Duke law grads are the most special of the special snowflakes and are richly deserving of the $160,000 average salary- which actually may be a little on the low side.

    Chip and Biffy spent too many of their Spring Breaks yachting off the Vineyard and their lower grades resulted in them only being offered $140,000 to start, else the average would have been much higher.

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    1. Don't shed too many tears for Chip and Biffy. They rightly spurned the $140k offer and became executive vice-presidents at Daddy's company.

      Delete
  31. Meanwhile at CU:

    A solid fundraising year at the University of Colorado Law School has provided money to support three new professorships.

    The school pulled in $6 million, nearly double last year’s number, a reflection of CU Law’s “focus on human capital investments,” said Dean Phil Weiser.

    “With a state-of-the-art building, our most pressing needs are to support the people in the building,” he said.

    http://www.lawweekonline.com/2012/09/big-fundraising-year-at-cu-law-to-support-new-professorships/

    “People in the building” does not apparently mean students.

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  32. Even in BigLaw, among the partners, there is a very bimodal income distribution. First of course you need to always recognise the difference between non-equity and equity partners (as well as of counsels.) Non equity are paid like senior associates - $200-400k - of counsels are a bit of a spectrum - some are paid about a senior associate paycheck or even a lot less (and some are paid a revenue share), while other are paid a lot (usually these are big names who rarely bill hourly.)

    However, even among equity partners only a small minority in BigLaw are earning over a million - typically the rainmakers, those who can bring in clients (or in the case of Dewey allegedly bring in clients.) The idea that most Law 250 partners are making over $1 million a year is a fantasy, but one it seems law professors latch onto.

    Moreover, if you do not bring in the expected revenue as a partner on a high points (ow whatever they call it in your firm) you will rapidly be shown the door these days - even a bad year is not acceptable.

    I know many people here would not sympathise with BigLaw partners (and most deserve little sympathy) but the idea of their life and income Davidoff projects is horseshit. What is also horseshit is the idea that law professors want the lifestyle that goes with being a Law 250 partner - or even a senior associate.

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  33. "Davidoff is in effect comparing the lowest-paid law professors to the highest-paid lawyers."

    Given that law professors have extremely elite qualifications, isn't that a fair comparison? Who cares what a partner at a small GP law firm in Knoxville, TN makes when a potential law professor isn't picking between that job and teaching at UT-Knoxville?

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    1. No because at some point between graduation and making partner, it ceases to be about credentials and starts to be about rainmaking. Professors have no reason at all to assume they would be equally successful at that.

      Delete
    2. First, there are numerous BigLaw associates with graduating credentials equivalent to law professors who wash out of BigLaw every year - at this point about the same number as are hired each year. About 1 in 10 to 1 in 20 make it to partner.

      Second, I know any number of brilliant lawyers, including a Yale Law Journal Editor, cum laude Harvard, a couple of ex-Supreme court clerks, etc., who tried at legal practice and never managed to get a secure 'gig' in BigLaw - or even medium law. The main factor was the ability to bring in clients.

      Third, most current law professors pretty clearly bailed out of legal practice in as first year associates, even with their oft cited 2.6 years of alleged practice experience. That means that they would have to go back and get that experience in their early 30s to 40s. There is a reason why BigLaw likes 23-6 year old associates - you need to be young, numb and easily overawed to take the crap that a junior associate endures, not to mention the hours. Frankly, I do not see a former law professor as being willing to endure what it would take to get them to an experience level to make them useful.

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    3. Further most law profs (who left private/gov't. practice after not taking half the abuse us jr. Biglaw associates do) could NEVER let themselves eat the crow, self-deprication and humility/hubris sufficient to play Biglaw politics and/or rainmake. They believe their own "hype" as "academics". The real world gives two shits about their law review article on underwater basket weaving.

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    4. After the initial decision to become an academic or go to biglaw, I think it is helpful to see the law professor and the partner market as somewhat distinct. An academic without extensive prior eperience probably could not lateral to a senior position in a firm because would lack the skills.

      Do we need to offer high salaries to attract qualified academics? I doubt it. A look at the PhD market shows that people want to be professors even when barely paid a living wage. And these people, like law professors, could almost certainly have chosen higher paying careers or gone to HYS law themselves. Law schools, of course, can compete for specific faculty by offering more, but these people probably would have wanted to be profs regardless and the extra money is just a perk.

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    5. Most PHDs come out of school with no debt - if you have to take out loans then you should question whether it is the right career. So if law schools can fund law grads without debt in return for a commitment to teaching then you could probably create a different lower paying market. BUT you would not have faculty with practical experience and that makes a huge difference in many areas of the curriculum.

      Delete
  34. I dated an equine vet. She was on IBR and pissed about it.
    She worked longer hours for less pay than my associates. So vet school seems pretty scam-like too.

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    1. I don't doubt that vet school is scam-like too if the cost of attending doesn't match the returns over a career.

      But the sheer SCALE of the law school scam dwarfs vet schools and pretty much almost any other professional school I can think of. Its not that other professional programs are any less of a scam, its that the magnitude of the law school scam dwarfs all others.

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    2. Fair enough.

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    3. An irony is that while she is on IBR and complains all the time about not having enough $$, she owns a competition-level horse. So, I guess the taxpayer is paying for her horse . . . .

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  35. My head exploded when I read the part about veterinary schools.

    Does Davidoff think you have to identify the entire set of scams in order to know that one particular member is a scam?

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    1. Actually it is probably due to the fact that human activity occurs in waves (see rush hour, etc.) You just happen to post when everybody else is posting.

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  38. How can anyone question a person who will make more over the course of the next three months from the loans of his students by teaching two classes than an average graduate will this entire coming year?

    The market speaks for itself.

    Blessed market.

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  39. Maybe JD Painterguy should be a law school professor. As Davidoff proved, it doesn't really take that much (Professor Campos excluded of course).

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  42. But it has ALWAYS been true that students coming out of second tier schools have lower chances of becoming lawyers. No scam needed. No federal subsidy needed. The only people guilty of fooling anyone are the students themselves.

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    1. Amongst the older population you still see quite a few of them out of second tier schools. That number goes down as you go younger in age.

      They may have had lower changes but its a LOT LOWER NOW and FURTHERMORE THE DEBT OR PRICE OF FAILING IS A LOT HIGHER NOW.

      That is the big difference between then and now.

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  43. I do love the arrogance of law professors, assuming that had they stayed in private practice (assuming they were ever there) that they'd be equity partners. It's so precious.

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  44. A hard look at reform appears to be a worthy goal, but any changes should consider whether they will actually reduce costs, and provide something students want.

    I've got a simple answer to this problem: make law school a single year. This would both lower the cost and be something that students want. If someone wanted to get an "enhanced" JD or whatever, that would be fine, but it would not be required to practice law.

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  49. That is interesting, I hope that the dentists in St. Charles, IL know what they are doing and don't get caught up in any sorts of scams.

    ReplyDelete

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