Monday, October 15, 2012

This market belongs to you and me

Acceptance is easy in the aggregate. Law deans and professors look at national employment figures and shake their heads. They acknowledge that law jobs are disappearing and that salaries are declining.

But they don't believe the statistics are true of their school. We're in the top ten, they think--or the top quarter, the top half, the top three-quarters. Or we have a special regional advantage, or a top-rated program in health care/intellectual property/trial practice....

Unfortunately, this is an equal (non)opportunity market. The changes that are sweeping law practice have affected hiring at every law school. The shifts are different at each step of the law school hierarchy, but the changes are everywhere. Starting from the top, here are a few examples (statistics come from the ABA's 2011 employment reports and school websites). All statistics report outcomes nine months after graduation:
  • Harvard funded 33 full-time, "long-term" (at least one year) jobs for its 2011 graduates--that's 5.7% of its graduating class. This is a new program: the positions did not exist for 2009 and 2010 graduates.
  • The University of Pennsylvania is tied for seventh in US News, but only 84% of its 2011 graduates obtained full-time, long-term ("FT-LT") jobs that required bar admission. Exclude the four jobs funded by the school and the percentage slides to 83%. That's almost one out of every five grads from a top-ten school without a FT-LT job requiring bar admission.
  • Penn tracks salaries more closely than many schools, which allows us to see how those numbers are falling. According to Penn's website, its 25th percentile starting salary was $142,500 in 2008, with 95% of the graduating class reporting salaries. In 2009, the 25th percentile salary fell to $125,000; in 2010, it was $73,408; and in 2011, just $62,688. That's a drop of more than 60% in three years. The percentage of graduates reporting salaries also fell, so the decline probably is even worse than these numbers suggest. 
  • Things aren't much better at Virginia, another seventh-ranked school. In 2008, Virginia sent 216 graduates (54% of the class) to firms of 500+ lawyers. In 2011, it sent only 96 graduates (25% of the class) to those firms. Virginia did place 95% of its 2011 class in FT-LT jobs requiring bar admission--but only because Virginia paid for 18% of those jobs. Sixty-four Virginia grads took those fellowships, earning a median salary of $27,000. 
  • UCLA ranked fifteenth in US News, but placed just 61% of its 2011 class in FT-LT jobs requiring bar admission. Starting salaries? UCLA doesn't report overall figures, but the 25th percentile for graduates in private practice fell from $132,000 in 2010 to $85,000 in 2011. The percentage of graduates getting private practice jobs also fell, as did the percentage of those grads reporting their incomes.
Outcomes at the top 15 schools don't affect just those schools' graduates; they reflect broader market trends and create ripple effects of their own. If bottom-quarter salaries have fallen so far at Penn, and if Virginia grads are taking jobs that pay $27,000, what do you think is happening at other schools?

Here's a first peek at the next thirty-five, the schools (like my own) that rank in the top tier of U.S. News, but outside the top 15. Using the ABA Reports, I noted the percentage of 2011 grads at each school who found FT-LT jobs requiring bar admission by nine months after graduation. In the right-hand column I adjust the raw percentage to eliminate FT-LT jobs funded by the school itself:

2011 Graduates Obtaining Full-Time, Long-Term
Jobs Requiring Bar Admission

U.S. News Rank
School
Raw Percentage
Adjusted Percentage
16
Texas
69.9
69.6
16
Vanderbilt
73.7
73.7
18
USC (Gould)
64.7
64.7
19
Minnesota
59.4
59.4
20
George Washington
81.3
65.8
20
University of Washington
52.7
51.6
22
Notre Dame
62.1
61.1
23
Washington University (St. Louis)
59.3
59.0
24
Emory
68.9
57.8
24
Washington & Lee
55.0
55.0
26
Arizona State (O’Connor)
68.2
68.2
26
Boston University
50.9
50.9
26
Indiana-Bloomington (Maurer)
63.6
63.6
29
Boston College
68.4
68.4
29
Fordham
55.7
54.0
29
University of Alabama
78.0
78.0
29
UC Davis
56.4
56.4
29
Iowa
65.6
65.6
34
University of Georgia
61.2
61.2
35
William & Mary (Marshall-Wythe)
54.9
54.9
35
University of Illinois
51.1
46.8
35
University of Wisconsin
62.6
62.6
38
University of North Carolina
68.4
68.0
39
Brigham Young (Clark)
51.4
50.0
39
George Mason
60.0
58.8
39
Ohio State University (Moritz)
58.4
58.4
39
University of Maryland (Carey)
47.1
47.1
43
University of Arizona (Rogers)
75.3
75.3
44
UC Hastings
46.5
46.2
44
University of Colorado
55.7
54.0
44
Wake Forest
56.3
56.3
47
University of Utah (Quinney)
68.7
67.2
48
University of Florida (Levin)
59.4
58.9
49
American (Washington)
35.8
35.3
49
Pepperdine
42.8
41.0


























These results tell us two things: First, some schools are supporting a significant number of their grads for a full year after graduation. George Washington paid for eighty members of its Class of 2011 to work full-time for a full year. That's 15.4% of the class. Illinois paid for eight full-time, one-year positions--a much smaller number, but still 4.2% of its graduating class. And remember, these are just the full-time, "long-term" positions funded by a school; almost every school in this top tier paid for some part-time and/or short-term positions.

Second, the number of real lawyer jobs available to these graduates is far too low to support the time and money students are devoting to the traditional three-year degree--even at schools within the top quarter of all accredited schools. On average, after eliminating school-funded jobs, only 59% of students at these thirty-five schools obtained full-time, long-term jobs that required bar admission. Entering students: Look two seats to your left and two to your right. Among the five of you, only three will manage to find a semi-permanent, full-time job practicing law within nine months of graduation.

And that's just the basics. I'll have more to say soon about the stability of those three jobs, the salaries they may pay, and their prospects for long-term advancement. We also need to look at the remaining three quarters of law schools, where the outlook is even grimmer.

This job market is everywhere, faculty colleagues: at my school and yours. What's our next move?

95 comments:

  1. The Alpha and The Omega.October 15, 2012 at 7:43 PM

    Well, I've read that somewhere it is said that the first shall be the last. So let me know when y'all are done commenting on this here post, and I'll come back and add one last comment that is just as pithy, on-topic, and scintillatingly worth-while as the instant comment.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Those UPenn numbers are telling. They're also interesting to think about in comparison to Scranton, PA city employees getting cut to minimum wage.

    These kinds of changes are happening across the economic spectrum. Both the consequences of a failed economic model. Thanks for taking the wheel, Invisible Hand.

    ReplyDelete
  3. "... 25th percentile starting salary was $142,500 in 2008, with 95% of the graduating class reporting salaries. In 2009, the 25th percentile salary fell to $125,000; in 2010, it was $73,408; and in 2011, just $62,688. That's a drop of more than 60% in three years. "

    Professor Merritt - please pardon my ignorance, but what particularly does the 25th percentile salary show? I'm noting that the median salaries don't drop so precipitously (but do indeed drop - 2011 is 145K vice 160 previously).

    Given that Penn does carefully track its grads and has a very high percentage of grads reporting salary data, and given the small drop in medians, does that tend to meant the sharp drop in the 25th percentile could be attributable to a relatively small number of grads?


    Harvard - wow. Just wow. Had to start what might be crudely termed a welfare program for the first time, and has 33 new recipients of the program in its inaugural year. That's impressive. Or maybe "depressive", if that's actually a word.

    And even worse at UVA - almost 1/5 of the class is "on the school dole".

    Kids, don't go to law school right now.

    And non-trads, don't even consider it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Think about the 25th percentile figure this way: Take all of the reported full-time salaries and put them in a list from lowest to highest; then put a mark one-quarter of the way down the list. The salary at or just above that mark is the 25th percentile salary. (Some definitions say just the salaries above, rather than at the mark, but that's a quibble we can ignore.)

      In 2011, Penn had 274 graduates and 241 of them reported salaries. So we'd have 241 people on our salary list, and the one quarter mark would occur between the sixtieth and sixty-first salaries on the list. So the sixtieth salary becomes our "25th percentile." Penn reported that salary as $62,688, so one member of the class earned that salary and 59 others earned *no more than* $62,688. We don't know what those other 59 salaries were: Each of those grads might have earned $62,000 (unlikely) or each could have earned just $20,000 (also unlikely). Most likely it was a range of salaries between $30,000 and $62,688.

      Then there are another 33 people who didn't report a salary. Some of them were unemployed, so didn't have salaries. For reasons discussed in earlier posts, many of the other "non reporters" would have had salaries lower than the 25th percentile salary. Grads earning $62,688 or less could have composed as much as 34% of the class (the 60 reporters in the bottom quarter, plus the 33 non-reporters).

      The striking fact about these figures is the radical decline in outcomes for the bottom quarter of the class. The top quarter at Penn did just as well in 2011 (salary wise) as in 2008; the top half was doing almost as well as in that earlier year. But the bottom half--especially the bottom quarter--was experiencing sharply different outcomes. For schools further down in the pecking order, that drop-off almost certainly occurs much higher in the class. I'm looking for some other schools with high reporting rates to offer some indication of that.

      Delete
    2. The Alpha(yada-yada)October 15, 2012 at 9:39 PM

      Professor Merritt - thanks much for coming back with the detailed explanation. Very helpful.

      Delete
    3. Probably not PosnerOctober 15, 2012 at 10:36 PM

      Schools should be required to report both the median and the mean for both LSATS and salaries. Schools shouldn't be allowed to hide the numbers on the low end by only having to report the median.

      Delete
    4. Not to be a statistics twit, but what DJM is describing is the 75th percentile. That might be part of the confusion.

      If the 25th percentile were 60k, that wouldn't be great, but it's not devastating. A collapse like that at the 75th percentile suggests a wholesale wipeout of an entire generation of newbie lawyers.

      Delete
  4. Law school is officially a joke.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Lol skool makes me laugh.

      Delete
  5. When will we see a Cognitive Dissonance Professor of Law endowed at an ABA-accredited school?!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Probably about the same time that you grow a pair.

      Delete
    2. In what way(s) should or could Nando "grow a pair"?

      Delete
  6. But how about that prestige? Do you want to drop out of high school, get a GED, and do 2 years at a community college to get an unprestigious cop gig where your pension @45 will be more than most attorneys' salary? Nah fuck that. I mean, if you try to do that, you could fail the entrance test or not meet one of those elusive "intangible" factors to get those jobs. That's a huge loss because you lose like 150 bucks for the test and a month work of study time. Whoa! That doesnt make sense. Also, even if you beat the odds and get the job, its so not prestigious. Prestigie is important, especially if you want to get hot chicks.

    Yeah, better to spend 7-8 years getting degrees, passing licensing exams, and spending a few hundred grand to have a slim chance at making basically the same money (if you factor salary, benefits, and pensions). I mean, the prestige is guaranteed. Nothing oozes sex appeal like, "hi, Im a lawyer and I am starving."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Once again, becoming a police officer is not an option for everyone.

      Delete
    2. How many cops have shot innocent unarmed people in NYC this year (and it isn't over yet)?

      They need to raise their standards. You make it sound like any idiot can be a cop. And the facts seem to bear out your opinion.

      Delete
    3. "Do you want to drop out of high school, get a GED, and do 2 years at a community college to get an unprestigious cop gig where your pension @45 will be more than most attorneys' salary?"

      Do you really think that any PD will hire somebody without a 4-year degree (and probably military service)?

      Delete
    4. NO Schmart Cops ALLOWEDOctober 16, 2012 at 6:08 AM

      @ 10:30 pm, " You make it sound like any idiot can be a cop. And the facts seem to bear out your opinion."

      No, really?


      http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/gnxp/2012/01/too-smart-to-be-a-good-cop/


      http://abcnews.go.com/US/story?id=95836&page=1#.UH1b82_R7Fl (title: "Court Okays Barring High IQs for Cops")

      Delete
    5. I had no idea about this. I never thought cops in New York were very smart, but I didn't know they were required to be stupid.

      Delete
  7. "According to Penn's website, its 25th percentile starting salary was $142,500 in 2008, with 95% of the graduating class reporting salaries. In 2009, the 25th percentile salary fell to $125,000; in 2010, it was $73,408; and in 2011, just $62,688. That's a drop of more than 60% in three years. The percentage of graduates reporting salaries also fell, so the decline probably is even worse than these numbers suggest."

    Now these are the starting salaries. An interesting question is whether one who got a starting salary of $142,500 in 2008 was able to keep it with the downturn of the legal market, or did it fall? Is there any information on the long term growth prospects of salaries in the legal field?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Biglaw is still lockstep. If you got your job and kept it, your salary went up or stayed the same.

      If you lost your job in biglaw as a first or second year, it is a safe assumption that you are not making your starting salary now - though some people might be.

      Delete
    2. My personal anecdata is that my overall income is lower now than when I was at Biglaw (and later, Mediumlaw). However, I make between $30-$220 an hour more now (depending on the client), as a "contract lawyer" who writes briefs for other lawyers, than I did at my last law firm job. My hourly rate is lower now than it was then, but getting to keep 100%, and not having to deal with opposing counsel or (hardly ever) go to court, is a sweet deal for me because I'm an introvert and also because I am got way too burned out to care anymore about maximizing my income.

      That said, the only reason this lifestyle is possible is geographic arbitrage. I work from home, in a very low-cost region of a country with national health care and free higher education, so I don't have to worry about health insurance or college funds for the kids. I couldn't work this way if I'd stayed in the States. For most people, their lifestyle goes WAAAAYYYY down after Biglaw, especially if they wash out (as I did) before the loans are completely paid off.

      Delete
  8. Probably not PosnerOctober 15, 2012 at 8:46 PM

    I did not realize unemployment had hit Harvard that badly. I guess we should now just speak of YS?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yale or fail.

      Delete
    2. I'd drop the S before I dropped the H.

      Delete
    3. Probably not PosnerOctober 16, 2012 at 5:34 AM

      Yale of fail: LOL, well, I suppose the market for Yale JDs will remain uniquely robust given the ongoing creation of new law schools.

      Delete
  9. Feminism has ruined 2000 years of Western Civilization. Wake up, Western man!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You realize that white men are the people in power who created this mess to fuel their egos and build their private wealth.

      Delete
  10. Good thing Harvard is shifting to video interviews for admission. Fewer trolls = more jobs. Survival of the prettiest/most masculine.

    ReplyDelete
  11. How is anyone voting for Obama in these circumstances? Want a job? Vote Romney.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're a very strange lefty.

      Delete
    2. 1. Because Mormons are crazy.

      2. Obama is still trying to dig out from the Republican's mess they left behind.

      Delete
    3. Are you one of the Koch brothers?

      Delete
    4. I will wager Hillarys left testicleOctober 16, 2012 at 6:11 AM

      10:21 PM: "Obama is still trying to dig out from the Republican's mess they left behind."

      And in 2016, I'll wager that Secretary Clinton's campaign slogan will be "Obama was still just trying to dig out from the Republican's mess".


      When does the Administration take some responsibility?


      Ever?

      Delete
    5. When do people realize the mess Bush left? Never?

      Delete
    6. When do you stop needin cheeze to go with yourOctober 16, 2012 at 7:48 AM

      ...whine?

      Never?

      Delete
  12. Hell if I'm hiring anyone while the 0bama is in power. Not likely.
    And yeah, I am America.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Right.. you need employees, but you won't hire them because of the president.

      Delete
    2. How is Obama responsible for the fact that you don't have enough work to justify hiring anyone?

      Delete
  13. Meow Meow says: I can hardly wait until you get to the remaining law schools.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't they fall more or less into the "why bother" category?

      Delete
  14. What to say to the TLS people who in DROVES believe that this is just a temporary downturn? this may correlate with whether they have a job or not.

    People are now saying things like clients have always wanted to pay less for fees...that this is just one of several temporary downturns.

    They seem to ignore the BLS data and probably haven't read it.

    They certainly don't think that we are in a major turning point in biglaw history in terms of structural change.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No thanks to the law schools.

      Delete
    2. What bothers me is that their opinions are valued on the site. They seem to feel that biglaw is not facing any structural change long term.

      One person even applauded Orrick opening their West Virginia office. Not sure that they realized that those 65 (and will be-100) attorneys count as biglaw hires. It probably is an improvement over doc review for an agency, but they don't see this as an indication of a structural change at all. I wonder if there is a way to pull out how many regular associates Orrick ( and I think it is Wilmer in Dayton Ohio) have hired and how many are permanent associates making way less.

      They also don't see the salary drop as meaningful. Some just see it as a temporary market correction due to the bubble and law firms over hiring to begin with.

      And just to repeat, these are mega posters with a great deal of credibility on TLS. There are the occasional person who argues, but it is hard to convince TLS that things won't be fine in a 5 years (at least in biglaw).

      People who are just graduating really can't see how different it is now than 5 years ago.

      Delete
    3. Another argument for salary drop is that medium size firms are hiring more at below market salary. These are firms that stopped hiring drastically during the recession but are hiring now. So these firms with their below market salary and their increased class size will pull down the average.

      No one wants to believe that salaries are going down and staying down.

      People don't see the failure to pay a spring bonus in order to cut costs to try to increase profits as a long-term problem.

      Does anyone think spring bonuses are coming back in the next 5 years now that biglaw knows they dont have to pay them, can't afford them and there is no strong demand for laterals.

      Delete
  15. I'm betting that 2012 numbers are not much improved over 2011, 2013 may be slightly better and 2014 will be down.

    ReplyDelete
  16. DJM,

    I am wondering if there is any systematic data available regarding employment at five years or ten years post-graduation. If you come across it, will you share with us?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. They will "all be fine" 20 years from now, despite this tax-payer-funded scam.

      Delete
  17. Replies
    1. Going to school in Chandigarh is probably a wiser decision than going to an American law school.

      Delete
  18. Next move...speak out somewhere in addition to this free blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are you joking? Law prof has been speaking about this all over the country. He is scheduled to speak in November at a conference regarding hiring.

      There is also a youtube video of his talk to Stanford (?) I think it was, law students.

      Lawprof: maybe you could put up links to those resources on the blog? I am sure blogspot has a format that allows it.

      Delete
    2. HFS it's a free blog no one can take it seriously!

      Delete
  19. Replies
    1. Can you delete this spam? Just a dead link to some web hosting site or something.

      Delete
  20. Is it possible that the sinking salary at the 25% level reflects more Penn students accepting judicial clekships than in the past?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. That would take a hell of a lot of judicial clerkships.

      Delete
    2. No. It is not possible. Though there may be more people taking some local state clerkship because they can't find anything else, if that is what you mean.

      Of course those one year clerkships also count as full time employment!

      Delete
    3. "That would take a hell of a lot of judicial clerkships."

      Given the bimodal nature of salaries it wouldn't take many.

      Delete
    4. Can you explain this further ? We know about the bimodal nature. What we don't know is why the bottom quartile is falling so rapidly in the past 3 years?

      Wouldn't it take a substantial increase in the number of grads in the bottom 25% ( which ignores the unreported) to drop that number so drastically in 3 years? Do you have to have a salary to be counted as employed? I can imagine a few salaries of zero would drop this number?

      Or am I misunderstanding again?

      Delete
    5. The 25th percentile is falling. The 25th The 25th percentile represents one person, and we know that 25% of the class makes less than that one person.

      In 2008 Penn probably had 80% of students making 142K or more. If it's only 70% now, the 25th percentile grad falls outside of that BigLaw window, where salaries drop precipitously. Penn's class size is pretty small, so a difference in BigLaw placement of just a handful of people can make all of the difference.

      You are correct that a few salaries of zero, if reported, would drop the figure. Doesn't look like Penn does this though since on their site they indicate the number of salaries reported underneath the number of employed grads, indicating a subset.

      Delete
    6. There has been no relevant change in the number of judicial clerkships: 42 in 2008 and 41 in 2011. The big changes seem to be decline in positions at firms over 500; increase in three smallest categories of firms; increase in government/military (nonclerkship); and increase in business/industry (which can include doc review companies).

      Delete
  21. It strikes me that law schools are not the sole source of data about employment outcomes. For example, every year, when attorneys pay their bar dues, they fill out forms detailing their current employment status, among other things. Of course, the Supreme Courts and bar associations also keep tabs on what law school each attorney attended. However, they do not ask for income information, but perhaps they should.

    Similarly, E&O carriers also maintain fairly extensive data bases, and they do ask for income information.

    Also, organizations like Martindale Hubbel maintain a fairly extensive database of attorneys. However, their information tends to be out of date and based on third party reporting.

    All I am suggesting is that we do not have to take the law school's word for anything. Much of this data is being kept in other places. I would not be at all surprised if the bar associations have much more accurate statistical information, which might be obtainable through open records requests?

    High Plains Lawyer

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe in your state, neighborOctober 16, 2012 at 6:26 AM

      "For example, every year, when attorneys pay their bar dues, they fill out forms detailing their current employment status, among other things. "

      Must vary by state. Mine asks nothing about employment status. I happen to use my work address on the form (so they spam me here instead of at home), but there's no requirement to do so.

      "Also, organizations like Martindale Hubbel maintain a fairly extensive database of attorneys.... ...however... tends to be out of date..." Yes. Martindale Hubble still has me at my 2nd-last employer (over 10 years ago). My next 2 employers refuse to pay to list lawyers. Even the one that used to list attorneys in M-H stopped doing so in the early 2000's even before I left. Just not a cost that most want to front anymore.


      "I would not be at all surprised if the bar associations have much more accurate statistical information, which might be obtainable through open records requests?" That's an interesting thought. My state's bar association is officially an arm of the state's supreme court, which should make it amenable to our version of FOIA-type laws. I wonder if this is fairly common, or are other state bar associations more "private" in nature than governmental?

      Delete
    2. I wonder if firms keep track of their alumni?

      At any rate, it should be possible, with some work, to take a class of attorneys from a firm, and track where those hires went. It would take a lot of leg work as well as a reliable list of names to start with.

      I should have copied the list of Dewey associates while the directory was still up.

      Delete
    3. Is it possible to find the list of a school's graduating class online anywhere? We could work from that.

      Delete
    4. "Is it possible to find the list of a school's graduating class online anywhere?"


      Yes.

      Delete
  22. DJM,

    AIPLA puts out a very detailed economic survey every two years for IP lawyers. i think there are about 2500 respondents which is still
    a pretty low number.

    Its broken down by years of experience and many other factors. Private practice salaries peaked in about 2006.

    ReplyDelete
  23. If you are an average Joe, it's reasonable to cautiously assume for the sake of planning that you will be around the 25th percentile in terms of outcome.

    Keep in mind that in the top 25%, the deck is stacked with the well-connected; pretty girls who get hired for their looks; affirmative action cases; and so on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. What is it with you and this sexist crap? Do you think that firms keeps associates around in this market simply for their looks?

      You might be surprised. There are many pretty girls who are smart. Or even really smart girls who are pretty.

      And, now with the pressure to be pretty and successful, women are all looking as attractive as possible at work. You can't just be a brain anymore.

      Who would have ever imagined that?

      Delete
  24. And the top 25% is also stacked with people who work harder or are smarter; and so on.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hard work is not going to be enough to get you top 25% at most schools. Stop correlating grades with effort. Effort is for most people necessary but not sufficient. If there were no mandatory curve, you would see much higher grades from schools. The effort is there for the majority of the students.

      Some rare people just understand law school and succeed without hard work.
      But most people study pretty hard and want to do well. Their problem is they don't know how to eek out every point on a law school exam, not that they don't deserve an A based on their knowledge of the law.

      Delete
    2. Not really. Due to mandatory curves and the fairly subjective nature of essay-style exam grading, working harder and/or being smarter does not correlate with being in the top 25%.

      I'm not saying grading is so random that an A+ could be graded as a D- just as easily. But I know of many stories where people compared exams and could not figure out why one was an A and one was a B+.

      There was even someone I heard who submitted their paper, got a B+ initially, then because of lost paperwork or such, resubmitted THAT EXACT SAME PAPER to be regraded and got like an A!

      Delete
  25. Probably not PosnerOctober 16, 2012 at 5:41 AM

    Law Prof, I was thinking more about the tendency of law profs to come from higher-income families and to be less likely to understand their students' educational debt.

    It occurred to me that another big difference between when current law profs were in school and now is that it used to be possible to get paying 1L summer jobs at firms and to work many weeks during 2L summer. This allowed previous generations to pay for a lot of their tuition and thus have fewer loans. Today it is almost impossible to snag a 1L firm job, and many 2L summer programs are shortened for those lucky enough to get them. The drying up of summer work removes a traditional funding source that has further added to debt and the advantage people from higher-incomes have. If you can no longer get paid summer employment, paying sticker is harder than it used to be.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. A bit more than a generation ago, it was not unusual to get a summer job that would leave enough after taxes and living expenses to pay for tuition. Today, not even the salary of a fifth-year associate at a white-shoe law firm before taxes and living expenses would cover tuition.

      Delete
    2. The real problem with summer employment drying up is that it means you may not get a biglaw job at all. If you were counting on biglaw to pay your loans, then you are screwed.

      I strongly believe that if you don't have a summer 2L job that is likely to lead to a job that will cover your debt, and you don't have friends or contacts who can help you, you should drop out after fall semester as a 2L.

      Without a summer job, the chances of biglaw are almost none, and really are none unless you go to a top school.

      Law prof needs to add a chapter to his book about if you do go to law school, when should you drop out?

      Delete
    3. The book has a chapter on that.

      Delete
    4. My pay from my 1st year summer at BigLaw and my 2nd year summer covered my tuition in law school as a 2L and 3L and my 20+ hour a week clerkship in a white collar crime practice in my last year of law school paid my living expenses. That was 20+ years ago now. A year or two's savings between college and law school and a little help from my parents paid for my 1L tuition.

      Delete
  26. I'm top 1/3 at a T25 and landed a V30 SA. I feel like I won the lottery. Most of my friends are in a frantic, desperate scramble to figure out what they're going to do with their lives.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You haven't won yet. You still need to get an offer, not be deferred and then not stealthed in your first two years.

      You are much better off than the thousands of people who have nothing.

      But try to remember that being a summer is a long interview. You don't have a job yet.

      Just read the TLS posts by the Winston people who unexpectedly got no offered and there are other firms as well.

      It is great that you have a job for the summer. Just don't "feel like you won the lottery" until you actually have the "prize", a permanent offer. Or you can feel like it, but don't count on a permanent job yet. (I have a bad feeling about the 2013 class hiring.)

      Delete
    2. And if your offer is from a branch office outside the headquarters city you need to avoid that office (or in my case twenty off years ago two different BigLaw offices) imploding before your start date.

      Delete
  27. To the Olde Geezer:October 16, 2012 at 6:18 AM

    OldGeezer @ 3:26AM, "Is it possible that the sinking salary at the 25% level reflects more Penn students accepting judicial clekships than in the past?"

    No, no it's not. Professor Merritt provided the link to the UPenn stats page (also reproduced below).

    From there, you can see that clerkships are essentially flat (tracking the average). There's a substantial dip from average for biggest firms (500+) and some of those appear to have shifted to business/industry (usually about 10, now about 20).

    It's just a guess, but my guess is that those additional business/industry aren't executroid jobs but instead retail at $11/hour.

    https://www.law.upenn.edu/careers/employment-statistics.php

    ReplyDelete
  28. DJM--wow thanks for pulling this together. I've been following this issue for a while, and closely, but I didn't imagine it was bad enough that Harvard--HARVARD--is at the point of creating make-work jobs for its grads in order to goose the employment figures.

    It would be interesting to see how much worse these figures would be if solo practitioners were factored out.

    ReplyDelete
  29. Damn, H has fallen. Now only S and Y remain unscathed on this blog.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If you check the ABA Employment link above you will see that Y and S are also paying grads to work

      Delete
    2. Yale actually pays a larger percentage of its class than Harvard does--10.7% of the Yale class of 2011 had school-supported, FT-LT jobs, while another 3 grads (1.5%) had FT-ST jobs supported by the school. But some of Yale's public interest fellowships are longer standing, so I didn't use them as my example. I wanted just one of the "HYS" so as not to focus too much on that group.

      Stanford has just a small number of school-funded positions, at least for 2011: Just 3 FT-LT positions (and no ST or PT ones) out of a class of 192.

      Delete
  30. how many UCLA/USC grads work in LA type firms where you really don't need the JD but you can the job easier if you have one. jobs in the entertainment industry and so on. I have heard them make this argument and it doesn't show up on their employment when counting JD required jobs but still make good money.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I worked in LA from 2001-2007, and my practice was about 1/3 entertainment law. I do not recall ever meeting a UCLA/USC type grad in the kind of position you're describing.

      Delete
    2. I'm an entertainment attorney, in-house at a studio. (I graduated in 2011). When we and other studios are looking to hire assistants, execs, paralegals, contract administrators, etc., we will not consider JDs. So I don't think a JD helps you in the entertainment biz, unless you're applying for an attorney position.

      Delete
  31. it does seem schools like Virginia, UCLA, Georgetown and maybe even HARVARD!! should start having smaller classes.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I forgot to list NYU and columbia. IF I remember correctly both of those have plus 400 people. HOW about asking schools to reduce to at least 200-250 at minimum? Is that fair?

    ReplyDelete
  33. The Omega is now The AlphaOctober 16, 2012 at 5:57 PM

    Well, I've read that somewhere it is said that the last shall be the first. So let me know when y'all have started commenting on this here post, and I'll revert and start the comments with one that is just as pithy, on-topic, and scintillatingly worth-while as you might expect the ultimate or at least penultimate comment to be.


    Or not to be.


    That is the question.

    ReplyDelete
  34. It is so much worse for more experienced grads. The numbers are not out.

    ReplyDelete
  35. How to Prepare for ged book 2011 Test through Pre GED Test Options That Work

    ReplyDelete

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