Sunday, August 21, 2011

To what extent is more transparency the answer to what's wrong with legal education?

The answer, of course, is that we don't really know, because we still have a very inadequate level of transparency regarding a number of important things, most notably job and salary information for recent graduates.  My guess is that the kind of information which would be readily available if the recommendations made by the folks at the Law School Transparency project were adopted would constitute an important first step in reforming legal education, but no more than that.  Those recommendations or substantially similar ones should be forced onto ABA-accredited law schools immediately if not sooner by the ABA, especially given that law schools continue to publish placement statistics that bear little relation to actual employment outcomes.



The current deplorable state of the purported employment information that law schools disclose can cause people discussing the problem to gravitate to one or another extreme.  On the one hand, there's a tendency to believe that the main problem with contemporary legal education is purely informational, and in a narrow sense.  A caricature, although not a very gross one, of this position would run something like this:

Potential law students are rational consumers of information.  If you give such people genuinely good information about employment outcomes, they will make rational decisions about whether to invest time and money in legal education. The law school scam is at bottom really about how law schools hide the truth about how many of their students are getting real legal jobs -- that is, permanent, full-time jobs that require a law degree -- and how much those jobs pay.  Force law schools to reveal the true answers to those two questions, and the scam-like elements of legal education will largely disappear (although this revelation could well cause a bunch of law schools to disappear in the process).
At the other extreme you have the view that even an ideal level of disclosure regarding employment and salary data for recent graduates will have little effect on the decisions of potential law school students.  That view is roughly as follows:

The idea that potential law students are rational maximizers of their utility, who just need better information to make better choices, is a myth.  Full disclosure of employment information regarding outcomes for recent graduates will have little effect on law school admissions for two reasons. First, people assume statistical generalities won't apply to them, which leads them to be over-optimistic about their own prospects even when they are realistic about the prospects of others. Second, there is a very large pool of college graduates who have poor employment prospects, and for whom therefore the opportunity costs of going to law  school are low.  When you combine these two factors with the artificially low front-end costs of going to law school ( which are kept artificially low by government-guaranteed non-dischargeable loans, that potential students would not be able to acquire in a financing market that actually reflected the long-term pecuniary costs and benefits of legal education), this results in a situation in which the vast majority of people who are now going to law school would go anyway, even if they had much better information beforehand.
Now at this point the sage academic will scratch his chin and observe that "the truth no doubt lies somewhere in the middle."  No doubt!  But of course the crucial question is, how close to the middle? And the answer is -- as the answer so often is to so many questions that legal academics like to opine on with unwarranted confidence -- "nobody knows."

My best guess, which along with $3.75 will get you a large latte at Starbucks, is that the second view will ultimately prove to be closer to the truth than the first.  But my preference for a suitably moderate version of the second view comes subject to a big caveat, which is I do believe some recent law grads and many law faculty have a natural tendency to over-estimate how much information about employment prospects prospective law students can reasonably be expected to acquire under current circumstances. The scam blogs are doing a great service, but for all sorts of reasons prospective students may well find it easy to rationalize away the information available on them, especially given that people interested in going to law school are probably prone to be too trusting about the information given to them by authoritative social institutions, as opposed to that conveyed by disenchanted rebels.  This is long-winded way of saying that it might actually make a big difference if law schools stopped lying about employment stats (Yes I realize that most law schools are not, in the narrowest technical sense, lying about the stats. It all depends on what the meaning of the word "lie" is).  There's an easy way to test this hypothesis, which is for law schools to disclose the employment information they already have in a straightforward fashion: something which again "everyone" seems to be in favor of, but that still isn't happening.

But whatever view on this subject turns out to be correct, ultimately the problems with contemporary legal education -- and, of far more importance, with the careers that this education does (or doesn't) prepare people to lead -- go well beyond anything that can be fixed by more transparency about initial job prospects. Nevertheless it's imperative that all the relevant parties continue to push for more transparency regarding employment and salary data for recent graduates.  It is after all something that can be done immediately at almost no additional cost, and which might have substantial benefits for prospective law students.

In that vein, prospective law students could, through collective action, put significant pressure on law schools to reform their current practices.  Ideally, prospective law students would insist on asking certain questions to any law school to which they were applying, and especially any law school to which they were admitted.  These would include: what percentage of your graduates, nine months after graduation, have permanent full-time jobs for which a J.D. is a prerequisite? (Judicial clerkships could be broken out as a separate category) What percentage of those were sole practitioners?  What percentage of the graduates with permanent full-time jobs that require a law degree reported salary information, and what were the median and mean salaries reported?
 
Prospective students should especially keep in mind that the meaningfulness of the salary figures they're given in regard to the third question is a direct function of the relative percentage of graduates reporting salary information. A school with salary information for only a small percentage of its graduates who have real legal jobs is revealing little of direct significance regarding the salaries of its salaries. (What is of much greater significance is that the school doesn't have good salary information, since graduates with good salaries are much more likely to report them).

I want to emphasize in particular that a crucial piece of this information that isn't currently available to prospective students at all is the answer to the question of how many of the jobs graduates report having are actually permanent (aka real). A huge percentage of recent graduates are doing temporary contract work of various kinds, or poorly paid non-judicial clerkships, or are trying to make a go of it as sole practitioners, with the latter situation often being tantamount to unemployment, except with extra expenses. Again, adopting something like the Law School Transparency project's recommendations remains imperative.

Update:  The comments in this thread remind me of just how much air has to be taken out of the law school employment statistics as currently reported. For example, in addition to the various factors mentioned in the original post, accurate employment stats need to reflect the increasingly common practice of law schools employing their own graduates for a few weeks or a few months (this is another reason why it's so crucial for the stats to distinguish between temporary and permanent employment).  The most critical reform I didn't mention is the need for some sort of auditing of the reporting process, which as of now relies on self-reporting from graduates -- who of course have self-interested reasons for exaggerating their employment status, because of how employment statistics affect their schools' rankings -- and in addition assumes schools will then report this already significantly suboptimal data set accurately.  Given the enormous competitive pressures the rankings game puts the schools under, that is almost certainly an overly optimistic assumption in at least some cases.

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66 comments:

  1. Why not ask a much more subjective question as part of a survey? Why not try to craft language that gets at customer satisfaction? Why not ask something along the lines of "I am satisfied with my legal education and with the career opportunities it has presented me considering the cost?" Or something along those lines anyway. The only objection to this is that graduates would not answer it seriously, but, when you think about it, that's not an objection at all because it would be an accurate reflection of how abusive the schools are and what people actually think. It also would be the same across the board. If it's buyer beware, then let's keep the customer satisfied.

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  2. It's also more than a little ironic that you seem to be concerned with transparency, but won't link to the other scamblogs. Nice one.

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  3. US News now reports data very similar to what you're asking for.

    For the University of Colorado class of 2009:

    (1) How many people received J.D. degrees from this institution in the most recent class for which nine-month post-graduation employment information is available?

    95.2%

    (2) How many of these graduates reported, nine months after graduation, that they were working in permanent, full-time jobs for which a J.D. degree is a prerequisite? (Schools could of course break out judicial clerkship information separately).

    79.2% working full time in jobs requiring bar admission.
    5.8% working full time in jobs requiring a JD, but not bar admission.
    These are full time, but no details on if they are permanent positions.

    (3) How many graduates who reported they were working in permanent full-time jobs for which a J.D. degree is a prerequisite also reported salary information, and what was the mean and median salary reported by these graduates?

    60% of grads employed full time reported salary data. The data is not broken down between jobs that require a JD and those that do not.
    Median private sector: $95,000.
    Median public sector: $50,000.

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  4. It's also more than a little ironic that you seem to be concerned with transparency, but won't link to the other scamblogs. Nice one.

    --------------

    None, If you want to link to your scamblog then link it in your comments. Stop spamming the comment asking LawProf to link to your blog for you.

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  5. Mr. Campos,

    One solution is for the graduates themselves to take and publish an honest survey of job placement. Just pull out the graduation list, find them via google or the alumni directory and ask each one what they are doing. Then publish these results on a website. Perhaps throw None's subjective questions in there as well (I like those questions).

    Law schools better be careful, because soon students may use this "nuclear option."

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  6. @BL1Y:

    The US News data is better, but this is not a complicated issue and, unfortunately, it is made needlessly complicated.

    "(1) How many people received J.D. degrees from this institution in the most recent class for which nine-month post-graduation employment information is available?

    95.2%"

    Case in point: What does that mean? The way I read this, it says somehow that 4.8% of the people who responded to the survey . . . don't have a J.D.

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  7. @9:11 AM

    I don't have a scamblog. I'm sorry for befouling your computer screen. I'll do whatever I want, and you'll go fuck.

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  8. I wouldn't link to the scamblogs either. They've burned any shot at a serious reputation, and not just from the pictures of feces.

    The scamblogs have degenerated into a miniature high school with people bickering over who gets credit for directing traffic to who, who is a sellout, and who is responsible for such-and-such more mainstream outlet discussing law schools. They've been bitching for a long time without taking one concrete step towards improving the situation for either themselves or others, and outside of their own clique, no one really cares any more.

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  9. I can only speak for myself, but misleading placement statistics were a key reason why I destroyed my life and finances by attending law school. The career placement stats made it seem like every good student could make six figures. They said that the median salary at firms was $150,000, not mentioning that only a tiny fraction of the sample reported salary information (and of course they assumed that this tiny sample represented the larger group). I had no problem signing the student loan forms. I thought, worst case scenario I would make $70k and get by. Any way, it turned out that you needed to be in the top 2% of your class to get a biglaw job (a bad situation exacerbated by the recession), that $70k jobs were impossible to get as well (why would someone pay you $70k when they could get someone as good as you for free, by simply proving that person office space in exchange for 20-30 hours of work per week?). To be fair, I didn’t have many other options and I deluded myself a bit about the prestige and status of being a lawyer. But I still don’t have any options, except now I have a ton of debt as well.

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  10. Nando has pretty decent integrity for a scamblogger. It was funny, for a period he had a fued with the shilling me softly girl. He accused her of being insincere and jumping on the bandwagon for publicity. He turned out to be right. She eventually quit her scamblog and, rumor has it, she took a job in law prep at Kaplan (although I am not sure if this is true. I read it on JDU so take it with a grain of salt).

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  11. I can only speak for myself, but the job placement stats were probably completely honest at my school. I enrolled at NYU in fall of 2005, and the claim that all you had to do was no fail anything and you'd get a BigLaw job was pretty much true.

    My main beef is that professors took a very irresponsible attitude of "you'll learn the law and get skills on the job, this is just three years of theory and academic goofery." Then, the economy tanked and people were either unable to get jobs, or laid off before gaining enough experience. They were content to kick the ball, never thinking about the possibility that there might not be anyone to catch it.

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  12. There is never any excuse for lying or giving misleading figures, but it would be interesting to know how many people actually decided to go to law school based on statistics provided in law school brochures or websites and not based upon the stories in the media about the 160K salaries that supposedly awaited graduates. When salaries hit that point it was all over the media and has never left. It's a standard point of comparison when people talk about the relatively low salaries of judges. Every article on the subject raises that figure. So it has become a part of the culture, why many people look to law school in the first place. Media outlets can get this info from firms that broadcast it.

    i don't know. if I read a statistic that said grads reported a salary of 150K or 160K, and then saw a note that indicated that fewer than half the grads reported salaries, i would not think I had enough information to make a decision based upon that alone. That is if I were going to law school only to get that kind of salary.

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  13. Sorry about the lack of capital letters...

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  14. " . . . and then saw a note that indicated that fewer than half the grads reported salaries"

    Would you have seen that? When did that figure start being reported?

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  15. Fair point BL1Y. I know a lot of top 5 graduates who missed out on the 3-4 years of biglaw that is usually handed to them, and who are now in the same desperate place that tier 2 grads are in. They could have done with less Dworkin and more, I don't know, Spence.

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  16. BL1Y-

    Thanks for being a judgmental prick. I write a scamblog and I think despite all the flack Nando and others have received for just "bitching," the fact remains that scamblogging has accomplished more in magnifying this issue than any law professor or pontificating loser who doesn't practice law and wasn't even good enough to get hired part-time by Above the Law.

    You are like a broke-man's law professor. That's pathetic.

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  17. It might also be worth discussing the flaws in the current employment reporting methodology pointed out by the Standard 509 (Consumer Information) Subcommittee. If you want to see their report dated March 14, go to:

    http://apps.americanbar.org/legaled/committees/Standards%20Review%20documents/April%202011%20Meeting/Report%20of%20Subcommittee%20on%20Consumer%20Information.pdf

    As a highlight from the Background section, the Subcommittee states: "Over the past few years, there has been a great deal of criticism directed at law schools for their public presentation of employment information. Much of this criticism is warranted. Too much information is presented in a potentially misleading fashion." Of course, nobody's following the Subcommittee's every move, especially when the ABA is doing as little as possible to publicize its activities, so a little bomb-throwing from previously anonymous law professors is helpful here.

    The ABA's Annual Questionnaire to schools instructs schools to count only those graduating students whose employment status is known as of February 15 for the previous calendar year. Thus, if your status is unknown ("Wow, did we forget to send out questionnaires to the bottom 50% of the class? Silly us!"), you presently don't count against the school's employment rate. On top of that, USNWR used to count all students enrolled in follow-on degree programs and 25% of the unknowns as employed, which they just changed this past year. Of course, we all know about the problems of schools counting baristas just as employed a new associate at Skadden.

    Of course, the Questionnaire Committee is not about to let its Tier 2/3/4s suffer from all this transparency. Acknowledging that median salary is a deeply flawed metric with which to convey general salary outcomes, they nonetheless would prefer to create an aggregated national salary statistics pool, presumably to soften the blow for those schools. This is a far cry from Law School Transparency's two-list model, in terms of telling prospective students how many students are reporting how much income, or even how many aren't reporting at all.

    Every effort is being made by the ABA and their constituents among law school faculties/administrations to lessen transparency for the law schools' benefit. If these law faculties genuinely believe that it won't make a difference whether the highest standard for transparency is met, then why are they doing everything they can not to meet it?

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  18. Drawing light to the issue? Yeup, the scam blogs did that. ...Like a year (or two?) ago. The reason a lot of people don't care about the scam blogs any more is because they're just repeating the same mantra with nothing new, they're still stuck on Square One. Any momentum they generated has been wasted.

    Have scambloggers done more than I have in shining light on the issue of what's wrong with law schools? Maybe. It's hard to tell, I don't know what metric you're using. I've written quite a bit about why people have bad reasons for going to law school, working towards dispelling myths about what you get out of it and what the professional is like.

    I've also been trying to help fresh grads by writing bar prep materials and distributing them for free. We're looking at putting together some more thorough stuff in the future; it won't be free (I gotta eat), but will significantly undercut much of the competition.

    If the scam blogs really want to accomplish something, they need to go beyond mere preaching. What have they done other than talk?

    PS: I never applied for a job at ATL.

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  19. I care about the scamblogs and appreciate their work. They're still growing in number. There is a new one "do as I say not as I do" that I like. But I respect BL1Y's opinion.

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  20. Regarding the employment stats posted above, you can see the problem when only 60% of people report a salary. If 95% actually responded, but only 60% included their salary, I think its safe to assume that 35% of people make something pretty shitty and don't feel like sharing it.

    So of the 60% who did respond, we don't know what percentage of those people are doing document review. I live in Washington DC, where many hundreds or thousands of attorneys work as career temps, jumping from one temp gig to the next for years on end. Doc review is a unique problem because it actually can earn you what looks on paper to be a decent salary and this is likely reflected in the salary figures. It would definitely fail the subjective "are you happy with your job?" test, however.

    Anyway, knowing the median salary of 90K for the private sector doesn't really help a prospective student know what the odds are of their landing any particular salary. Reporting the median or mean figure is going to mask the nature of private sector salaries to fall in a double bell curve, grouped around 40K on one end and 160K on the other.

    I guess that's really the ultimate point. Could a student look at those figures and figure out what is likely to happen to him after graduation? No. Not at all.

    I'd like to see some sort of scatter plot. Every reported salary gets its own dot, color coded to represent what sort of job it is, permanent, government, JD required, etc.

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  21. @10:51: Colorado also reports a 25th percentile private sector salary of $60,000, and a 75th percentile of $75,000.

    Is it a complete picture of income distribution? Of course not, but the 25-50-75 numbers give a pretty good picture. Is 60% a pretty poor response rate? Definitely, but that's mostly on the students, not the school.

    A year ago salary data was much more obscured, but it has come a long way.

    I agree with None's first comment that a subjective report on jobs would be useful. A high-paying private sector job may be exactly what you're looking for, or it may be the fallback after you didn't land a clerkship. That government job may have been your top pick, or what you were forced to take when you couldn't get in to private practice. A survey with questions such as "Are you entering into the industry/market that was your first choice?" would be very informative.

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  22. Ooops, had a thinko in the post above. 75th percentile at Colorado is $120,000.

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  23. Why don't law firms complain about how much they actually have to teach their new hires?

    Someone should survey law firms and/or interview law firms about the quality of their new recruits and how well or how poorly they are prepared for the actual job.

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  24. They do complain. I've heard partnes make that exact complaint on numerous occasions: in person, when making a speech to my class, in print media, in books . . .

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  25. Someone made a comment earlier that, although it seems completely impractical, is not impossible to accomplish - especially not in the days of social networks and the Internet.

    Anyone could establish a website that (a) accepts and seeks out employment stats from recent law graduates and (b) checks out the names of people who submit information against the school they claimed to have graduated from before they publish the data. It would take some time and the information could not be advertised as completely accurate without an invasive vetting process, but soon you would be able to fill in numbers through crowd sourcing and give a slightly more accurate image of just how bad it is for recent law graduates.

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  26. They have been making the same complaint for 100 years because law schools have never taught people how to practice law. The ones who are complaining today were trained themselves by older, more experienced lawyers. The difference is that now, like in so many areas, the baby boomer generation really has no interest in doing for younger people what was done for them.

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  27. Who cares if the firms complain? They do nothing about it. These guys could use their considerable clout to institute some kind of change, but they do nothing. They complain about students being unable to write, but they keep using the same hiring practices (law review, top percentile, etc.). They just complain because they like the sound of their own voices.

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  28. Well, if I recall correctly W&L Law School instituted a 2 years of courses + 1 year of practice curriculum. Let's see if firms recruit more from W&L.

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  29. Let me say that I am first a lawyer who is committed to the profession and has worked actively in its support. But I am also an academic whose major interests in the last 20 years have been decidedly non-academic. But that is another story for another blog. On to the issue at hand.

    Two truths: Figures never lie and liars always figure. Full disclosure may reduce tort liability but is, in my experience as a person often consulted about the value of legal education, not nearly enough. I recently spent considerable time with a young friend named "Jane" who wanted to go to law school. She is an exemplary person, a bi-lingual Teach for America graduate, with a passion for social justice. She would have to borrow her way through law school. She is exactly the kind of student we want in law school because she is creative, bright and committed. But I had to tell her that in my humble opinion she had little or no chance of being able to do the kind of work that she wanted to do. Her debt burden alone would require her to take the antithesis of the kind of job that she wanted. She most likely would be forced to take a BigLaw job just to pay her debts. As a woman in her thirties who wanted to start a family, her chance of accomplishing her goals while paying off her nonchargeable law school debt were close to nil.

    Over my 44 year career I have counseled many students like Jane. Until recently I was able to tell them that if they did well in law school they stood a reasonable chance of being able to accomplish their goals one way or another. But at least in this century, and for a bit of the last, I have been increasingly hard put to be enthusiastic about their admirable goals. In the last five years I have become downright pessimistic about them. I know many other lawyers, and a few law professors, who are similarly pessimistic. The ScamBlogs are having an impact, though sometimes their crassness is overwhelming and they lose their audience. If I am correct, the demographic change that will come to the law schools beyond the top fifteen, the kind of law schools inhabited by Law Prof and me, will have pernicious effects beyond our imagination.

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  30. Good for you LOC.

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  31. So, what is Jane going to do?

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  32. Now that we all know who LawProf is, let's see if we can out this weirdo:

    http://yourehalfvulcan.com/

    This person claims to be a lawyer too.

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  33. The real answer is to get the ABA out of the business monitoring law school employment data. Independent, third party auditors, similar to publishing which uses BPA and others to audit their audience numbers should be hired to verify law school data. The Law School Transparency project should be tasked with oversight of this regime.

    The data now has zero credibility and only a disinterested third party can reputably compile the information. The situation now is little more than the fox guarding the hen house. With schools like Villanova admitting the altered the numbers, it is clear the schools can no longer be trusted to self report.

    The Law School Transparency project should work with the auditors to develop the criteria and the schools must required to submit the data or lose their accreditation (the ABA's only role in this).

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  34. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  35. @anonymous

    Jane is teaching elementary school using her TFA skill set. Her social justice passion is at work!

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  36. The only way to get the ABA out of regulating law schools is to remove their accrediting power as an amendment to a complete unrelated bill. Not likely to happen.

    But, what you can do, right now, is actually work from the inside. Take a position on an ABA committee or task force or whatever, and then start making noise from the inside.

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  37. @ LOC

    That's great...an extremely important job!

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  38. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  39. This idea that somehow trying to work with ABA or force change from the inside is naive at best. The free flow of information and truth created by the growing blogging community is the smartest path imo. You can't reform that which is so fundamentally corrupt to the core. All the incentives are geared toward continuing the status quo. Continued exposure of the truth via the free flow of information is the foundation of real reform.

    BL1Y, just because you and I and others have seen this argument re-hashed for over 2 years means nothing. The vast majority of the public (and pool of potential law students) still has no clue of the extent of the systemic fraud and misinformation machine. Saying the same thing over and over and over again works. Just look at Fox News...

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  40. The two tactics are not mutually exclusive.

    Informational warfare is useful, but you've got an entrenched enemy. I think it you start getting people in the trenches, you're going to see change a lot faster.

    Right now, the best strategy for the ABA and the professors is to simply dismiss the critics, ignore them, or give them token acknowledgement. Move into a position where they might actually lose power, and they'll be forced to start making real concessions.

    I know I'm not the only Robert Greene fan around here.

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  41. Don't forget.

    The first year of Law School, beats the ever living shit out of an individual, and his or her self-esteem.

    In the old days, and in the student's mindm all the abuse was going to pay off.

    Someday. Somehow. Somewhere.

    And then to go through all the Socratic abuse, and end up robbed, and cheated, and jobless, and deeply in debt.....

    well, you can guess the rest...

    along with all the hatred that the human soul can muster, somewhere, simmering and smouldering, like a great beast that is in a cage, and beating on the walls of that cage, tirelessly pacing, and pounding, and hoping for a way out.

    God! How I hate some of my Law School Professors, and may God forgive me for carrying such absolute hate within the depths of my soul.

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  42. Invert the auditing process-do it in the vein of costumer satisfaction and get the law firms to report who they hire, and for how long.

    Add to that you have to get this discussion outside of the "academic sphere" and into an arena where you would have some natural allies.

    Again the law firms.

    Tax payers investing in the state run law institutions.

    How about donors to the colleges?

    You're outnumbered and their attacks are so immature and petty it's astounding.
    A good chunk of the adults that have left campus could see that in a nano second.

    Evidently they are use to presenting "evidence" to a captive audience of barely post-teens who never challenge them because the kids are smart enough to keep their eye on the grade.

    Good to keep ignoring that-that is a distraction. Although you must be tempted-fish in a barrel and all that. Don't touch that cesspool. Well I can tell you know that. You have admirable restraint.

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  43. @ 4:02 PM

    Is your real name Panurge?

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  44. In the old days, and in the student's mindm all the abuse was going to pay off.

    -------------

    Exactly. The shit we had to take from those asshole professors, many of whom didn't practice for more than a year. My professors were such cretinous human beings. My civ pro professor was this 120lb yalee nerd who would dress like a retard and talk to you in this uber confident, condescending and bullying tone. If he tried that outside of a professor-student setting he would have gotten his ass kicked but in class he was free. My criminal law professor was this insane and vapid bitch from Stanford, who had also never practiced outside of a clerkship. I could go on and on but I don't want to risk outing myself.

    Sitting in their class you really wanted to open up a can of verbal whoopass on them but you couldn't because you had to kiss their butt and bide your time until you graduated and received the reward . . . oops.

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  45. I think one should probably assume that the 25, 50, and 75th percentile figures refer to those percentiles within the top 65% of the entire class. I think we ought to assume that the 35% who did not report salary correspond to the bottom 35% of salaries, although I admit that's an assumption and probably not exactly right.

    If you rework the math to take this into account, it makes the picture look worse, although not terrible. The 75th percentile of salary reporters making 120K becomes the 85th percentile of the entire class. The 25th percentile of salary reporters making 60K becomes the 50th percentile of the entire class.

    The big black hole of information is what happens to those people in the bottom 50% of the entire class, including most of the non reporters. They could be making anything. They could be making 20K for all we know, it wouldn't show up in those stats. A smart student might look at this and think that he had a 50% chance of ending up in the bottom half of the class, where his salary could be anything from 0 to 60K. A 50% chance is pretty big.

    I'll take your word for it that this is still a dramatic improvement over what they used to report, but its still a pretty clear attempt to be dishonest. They are trying to make it look like if you graduate in the top 75% of the class (pretty good odds of that) you will get a job paying at least 60K, and that is quite far from the truth. It is, however, precisely the kind of stat that fooled me. I never wanted to be rich, I was happy to make 60K and thought such jobs were plentiful based on data like this.

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  46. I would agree that people who make less money are less likely to report their salaries, but I don't think it's safe to assume that the 40% not reporting are the bottom 40%.

    I made $160,000 right out the gate, and I don't recall ever telling my school my salary, but maybe I did; it's not something I'd really remember. Some people will be too embarrassed to say, but other people will just be too busy to fill out the survey, or too lazy, or out of principle or manners don't like giving out their salary information. And, of the people embarrassed about the size of their salary, that's highly dependent on their initial expectations. If you thought you should have been at the top of the class, landing a big law job, then maybe $90k is embarrassing to you, same way the super nerds don't want to admit to getting a B+ in a class.

    It's also not a clear attempt to be dishonest. They are answering questions asked by US News. Now, there are certainly problems with US News, but the schools are not framing the question, and most schools do have a better response rate. Also, the response rate is being disclosed, right there next to the salary numbers, not hidden in some fine print.

    I think it's very easy for a 0L to see the numbers and not interpret them correctly, humanbeings suck at statistics. But, there's not too much more you can ask for in data other than the 25-50-75 spread and the response rate.

    It's more the culture that needs to be changed. For all the jokes about them, America still has a hard-on for lawyers. It's still seen as the ticket to respect and upward class mobility. The reality is it's becoming more like Dilbert and Office Space. I don't have a clue how to change that the perception though.

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  47. I admit I don't actually know what you're talking about when you refer to US News, so I apologize for that. The numbers you cited sound very much like the numbers I found on my own school's webpage, including a 25, 50, and 75 percentile of respondents in a group where 99% replied and only 40% of those listed salary.

    http://moritzlaw.osu.edu/careerservices/guides/gradstats/class2009.php?grp=prospective

    To me, this seems deliberately dishonest. It is a sin of omission, there is a lot more they could put and say on this page to paint a fuller picture. If you don't agree, then I won't be able to convince you.

    I do agree that the culture is the larger problem. Even if perfect transparency is achieved, students won't be that well equipped to interpret it and may be inclined to dismiss anything that conflicts with what "everybody knows" about law school and the big money and prestige that comes with a legal career.

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  48. This is from the link given above. I said earlier that if I were making the decision to go to law school solely on the basis of the salary I would get coming out, this would not be enough for me to make a decision. Once I saw that fewer than 50% of the people responded to the salary survey, I would know the story was incomplete and would not rely on the information.


    2010 Salary Information
    Salary information was reported by 43.56% of the 2010 graduates. Salaries vary widely within the private and public sectors. Examples of some salary ranges for our recent graduates are as follows:

    Median salaries for law firms ranged from $51,000 for firms between 2-10 attorneys (24 graduates reporting) to $160,000 for firms with over 500 (14 graduates reporting).
    Median salaries in the public sector ranged from $42,000 for local government (9 graduates reporting) to $60,000 for federal government (24 graduates reporting).
    All salaries reported ranged from $53,250 in the 25th percentile to $115,000 in the 75th percentile.

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  49. Yes, and I asked you earlier when the schools started reporting the percentage of graduates who bothered to respond.

    As for LawProf's idea that we, graduates, have an incentive to misrepresent our salaries so that our schools don't have shit stats to report, well, all I can say is that this is a load of shit. I'd be surprised to learn that anyone half as angry as I am cares at all about either practicing law or what some school that ripped us off has to report. If "Fuck you" were a valid survey respond, I'd give it. But since it's not, I've been too busy just trying to keep myself from jumping in front of a train to care about appearances, either mine or my former law school's. That ridiculous update is just another example of how you don't get it, my friend. Your heart is in the right place, you're doing some good, and you're certainly to be commended beyond reproach for putting your reputation on the line (It's incredibly great.), but I still have to stand by my criticism that this remains a very sterile effort on your part, and while you might argue that objectivity is what is needed to address the problem in a productive manner, I'd probably rejoin that objectivity - without an understanding of the tremendously debilitating effects this has caused - will come up with an inadequate response, if only because it will attract largely a group of people who don't understand how corrosive this has been for individuals' lives.

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  50. @None

    For some years before I retired I a taught a seminar that I specifically designed for students who might be in the situation in which you find yourself. I created and taught that seminar because I was aware of the problems that are being brought to light in this discussion. I was therefore thrilled to find this blog. LawProf has delineated the core issues and I would hope that more law school faculty would be willing to join this blog. It is not just a few academic outliers who understand your plight. I do believe the problems are endemic to American legal education in the 21st century because technology is taking the law practice in dynamic new directions. There is some hope that the problems can be addressed from within, but in my experience law schools are so insulated from the rest of the university as well as the bar that few know what is really going on and what is at stake. It is thus important to take the message to a a much larger community than law school faculties. If an old man may presume to be direct to someone probably 50 years his junior, I would say it is important to approach those whom you seek to convince with some decorum so that you might be heard over the loudness of others. Remember, all who wander are not lost.

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  51. Law schools may be "remote" from the universities to which they are attached. But they are connected to the extent that they turn over varying portions of their revenue to their affiliated university. I asked Law Prof in a previous post if a well- meaning law school could unilaterally decide to cut its tuition in half, thus lessening the stake it had available to pay to the university. He did not answer. Unless I missed it, and that is possible, this crucial issue has not been seriously addressed in this whole discussion.

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  52. U. Of Colorado is Tier One?

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  53. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  54. @LOC:

    Thank you for your direct response, and I do agree with your point in some part. I'm not here for to promote all-out chaos. I am here to encourage LawProf to understand, which I don't think he does except on an intellectual level. That's not the half of the issue. It strikes me as well that a healthy observance of decorum is what got us here in the first place: How can you tell whether sanding off the rough edges is acquiescence in a state of things which serves people quite well or whether it is an effort to make an problem legitimate and palatable to a constituency? I don't necessarily implicate LawProf in that last allegation, because he has his name and reputation (and job) at stake here. I am grateful. But, look, there's more than one way to do this, and I don't necessarily agree that it must be done "from within" or even that it should be. Frankly, if things like this should be done from within (in an ideal world), then the time for that - the time for the academy to honor its responsibility to its students - is now years past. What's more is that this is only a "within" issue because it first became a "without" issue. This is the result of media shining a light on law schools - that's what has motivated this. That's what has made it even marginally uncertain whether LawProf can out himself "safely." And, if it's the case that it was the "without" pressure over the last few years that started the momentum you see here and made this a front-burner issue for law faculties, law students, graduates and lawyers, then it seems to me that the outrage, in fact, is what is more palatable to a broader constituency than decorum might be. People are outraged. They should be. If outrage is what has motivated change, then I don't see decorum - as you have described it and as LawProf has exemplified it on this blog - as being useful or desirable; and, in the process, mind, it's more than a little insulting - if only by implication - to those of us who have lost their lives in one way or another as a result of what people are quite justifiably outraged about. I just disagree. That shouldn't be a surprised. Things look quite a lot different among well-intentioned people depending on whether they look up the hierarchy or down it.

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  55. Another thing to note about those stats from Ohio State: you can see how they report the number of graduates reporting salary for private and public sector. Well, in a class of 202 students, those numbers don't even add up to the 43% who reported. There are some reported salaries that were not published. I assume that these are the salaries that relate to jobs that aren't private or public sector law, such as that "business" category they have. Why are these salaries not also reported? According to their site, a full 20% of grads are working in "business" and yet there is not even one salary listed, although some must have been reported.

    There are a million holes in this data, its quite obvious that they aren't troubling themselves to fill any of them in, either.

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  56. I take the point, if it was being made, that they are actually improving the data by disclosing the percentage of respondants who included salary data (43% in the case of my school's last class). That is indeed helpful, but only helpful insofar as it makes it clear just how unhelpful the rest of the data is. I'd like it if they said something to that effect on the page. "Warning: these salary figures only represent half of the class, we have no idea what the other half is making and there is reason to believe the other half is probably making less than this" or some better sounding variation.

    If human beings are naturally bad at reading statistics, then the publishers of stats like these could help out by pointing out some of common errors a person might make in reading the data.

    There is a reason why they keep their words to a minimum.

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  57. This is Dumpy btw (too lazy to login to Google).

    A suggestion for how to get more thorough and accurate numbers as well as greater participation in post-rad employment surveys: why not do a brief, one-on-one person interview (like the finaid exit interview that schools are required to do for federal loans borrowers) and offer an incentive? Something like $50 or $100 to go in for a candid breakdown of a person's employment status, salary info, etc?

    The results would be confidential, it'd be a quick $100 dollars for the student and people are less likely to lie during an in-person questionnaire. You could also make room for the more subjective questions.

    And don't tell me it would be too expensive for the schools. When tuition is being jacked up $3000 a year for stagnant or decreasing quality of education, you'd better at least be giving people the full picture.

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  58. I would guess that a decent percentage of potential law students are reasonably rational.

    The problem I see is that there are plenty of irrational folks who are eager to step into the places of the first group.

    Perhaps it should be called the "no money down" principle.

    i.e. There is demand for any good or service, no matter how ridiculously overpriced, if people can buy it just by signing their name on a piece of paper.

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  59. You should check abovethelaw.com. There is a poll on there that should please you.

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  60. Would the true statistics reveal disparate impact in bar exam passing rates as well as hiring practices?

    If yes, then the law schools could face action from the US Attorney General.

    I am going to guess that they wish to hide the truth because it would severely damage them in terms of recruitment, compliance and credibility.

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  61. Interesting point anonymous 1231.

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  62. Above, you said this:

    "@BL1Y:

    The US News data is better, but this is not a complicated issue and, unfortunately, it is made needlessly complicated.

    "(1) How many people received J.D. degrees from this institution in the most recent class for which nine-month post-graduation employment information is available?

    95.2%"

    Case in point: What does that mean? The way I read this, it says somehow that 4.8% of the people who responded to the survey . . . don't have a J.D."



    For a law professor, your reading comprehension skills sure seem a bit off. It's not fantastically written, but 95.2% is quite obviously the number of 2009 J.D. graduates (i.e. not 2009 LLM graduates) who reported employment information, or for whom employment information was otherwise available.

    It's very hard to take you seriously when you keep firing off junk like this. It really makes me wonder whether you indeed never were cut out for academia, or whether your failed marriage simply addled your mental health to a point that you're carrying on a nervous breakdown here on the internet.

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  63. 12:56: You are confusing another commenter with me.

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  64. There was never any real confusion. The point was that monkeys could write something more coherent. How about:

    "What percentage of graduates responded to this survey?"

    "What percentage of graduates provided salary information?"

    Also, people know the difference between median and mean when you tell them what it is, so why not use those terms? "What was the median salary for those graduates who provided salary information?"

    What percentage of graduates do not work as lawyers?

    What percentage of graduates cry themselves to sleep at night?

    You know, that sort of thing. Not really that difficult.

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