Thoughts on Law School

By James Kwak

A number of friends have asked me what I thought about David Segal’s article in the Times a couple weeks ago on law schools, so I thought I would share my thoughts here. The short answer is that I thought it was pretty silly.

I admit that law schools aren’t perfect. The simple fact that many (no one really knows how many) law school graduates can’t find jobs as lawyers is a problem. Now, it’s not obvious that that’s the fault of law schools as a group: when you pile a severe recession on top of an ongoing shift among law firms away from first-year associates and toward contract lawyers, the number of entry-level jobs is going to go down, and no matter how good a job the law schools do, that isn’t going to increase the number of jobs. Furthermore, you could make exactly the same criticism about all of higher education: it leaves people with large debts, and many don’t get jobs; imagine the article you could write about humanities Ph.D. programs! Still, Segal’s earlier article pointed out some of the ways in which rankings pressure has pushed some law schools to be less than candid about their graduates’ job prospects, which can’t be good. (And people like making fun of anything that has to do with lawyers. It comes with the territory.)

Segal’s latest article, however, goes for laughs at the expense of substance. It opens, for example, with a scene in which three first-year associates are stumped by the question of how to “accomplish a merger.” The answer, it turns out, is that you file a form with the secretary of state. “What they did not get, for all that time and money,” Segal moralizes, “was much practical training. Law schools have long emphasized the theoretical over the useful, with classes that are often overstuffed with antiquated distinctions.”

There is a kernel of substance here, but Segal manages to bury it behind this over-the-top example.* Is knowing what form you need to file where really the difference between a good legal education and a bad one?** Procedural details are the kind of thing that is best learned on the job. Knowing how to clear a jam in the copy machine is probably one of the most important skills a first-year associate needs to know (judging from my experience at McKinsey), but that doesn’t mean there should be a skills class on using photocopiers in law school.

Although I am nominally a law professor, I haven’t taught a day of law school in my life (I’m on leave now), so my impressions on mainly based on being a law student and a summer intern. My first summer, when I was doing legal services, I learned a tremendous amount that I hadn’t learned in law school. I learned how to use those funny folders that have two metal prongs sticking up, and how to use the two-hole punch so you could put paper in those folders. I learned that if you want an exemption from a filing fee because you can’t afford it, your statement of financial condition has to be on pink paper. Perhaps most importantly, I learned which person you should avoid in the clerk’s office because he was certain to give you a hard time about your forms. These are all necessary skills of any good lawyer in that office—but that doesn’t mean they should be taught in law school.

This shouldn’t be surprising. Our economy runs on the premise that some things are best learned in school and some things are best learned on the job. You learn basic math in school; you learn how to use a particular piece of actuarial software on the job. If the only thing you needed to know to be a lawyer were procedural skills (by which I don’t mean “procedural” in the legal sense), then we wouldn’t need law school at all; we would just have apprenticeships, which is the way it was in the eighteenth century.

But it isn’t. Back to me. Despite not knowing how to use those two-pronged folders, I did some valuable work that first summer. In particular, I wrote large chunks of a brief and reply brief that, largely unedited, were submitted to the state supreme court. We won. (I’m not saying that my sections were the difference—they weren’t—only that experienced lawyers who were good enough to win a state supreme court case thought my sections were good enough to include alongside theirs.) I could not have done that without my first year in law school.

The most fundamental thing you need to do legal work, I believe, is an understanding of what the law is (which is more than knowing what the laws are), how it works, how courts make decisions, and how to make legal arguments. That is something that, based on my own limited experience, law school does a decent job of teaching. “Antiquated distinctions” matter, too. For example, whether your client is convicted of murder or manslaughter can depend on whether he exhibited “malice”—but to know what malice means in a legal context, you have to know the case law, some of which dates back to the nineteenth century if not earlier. But that’s not the whole story.

On top of that foundation—let’s call it “theoretical”—you need to have the ability to get things done. Not only do you have to identify legal issues—something that a traditional legal education does include—you have to be able to research them, come up with your own arguments, and write them down (and, in some cases, argue them aloud). This is an area where traditional law school classes may not do that well. Looking back, the most valuable classes for me—the ones that gave me the ability to write memos and briefs—were probably my first-semester small group (which included a legal research and writing component) and my clinics. Law schools in general are moving toward more and more clinics; I believe at Yale something like 80 percent of students do at least one clinic, and many students do them throughout school (I did six semesters). But you can still graduate from law school without doing a clinic.

So I think it’s true—and this is the kernel of truth in Segal’s article—that there are things that are better taught in school than on the job and that law schools could do a better job teaching. (Knowing what form to file where, however, is not one of those things.) There’s a valuable discussion to have, and many law schools are having it now, about how to make law school more practical and give students more of the skills they will need to be successful lawyers. Better writing, which Segal does mention, is something that could probably use more attention. (Although one could also ask how people are making it through the American educational system—and most law students did very well in college—without learning how to write well.) More exposure to real or simulated cases and documents also falls into this category.

Bear in mind, however, that these things require closer supervision (clinics in particular, since you’re dealing with real people’s real lives) and hence are much more expensive than traditional classes. And you can’t simultaneously say law professors are overpaid and that there should be more practical education. Law professors make more than professors in many other fields for the same reason that med school professors make even more: it’s compensation for foregone income in practice (which starts at $170,000 for a first-year associate in a big corporate law firm—almost twice as much as the average faculty starting salary). It’s true that there are some people, like me, who never considered working at corporate firms; but if you think law schools should offer more practical training, you will need even more people with significant firm experience, and they aren’t going to work for free.

So before we start teaching Forms 101 and Forms 201, let’s try to remember what school is for—even a vocational school. (Would you want your internist not to know, say, how the immune system works, but just how to order blood tests and write prescriptions?)

* And this isn’t the silliest example. As others (I forget who) have pointed out, he makes fun of an article entitled “What Is Wrong With Kamm’s and Scanlon’s Arguments Against Taurek”—but doesn’t point out that it is a philosophy paper written by a philosophy professor and published in a philosophy journal. That seems to me like the kind of error that requires a correction—the Times is basically our paper of record, after all—but there still isn’t one.

** Besides, how to “accomplish a merger” is a vague question. My first thought was that there are different ways: one is to do a straight-up merger between the two companies; one is for the acquiring company to create a shell subsidiary and merge the target into it; one is to create the shell subsidiary and merge that into the target. Which one you choose depends on various factors—in particular, whether you want to avoid a vote by shareholders of the acquirer. This is the kind of thing you do learn in law school, and is a lot more important than where you file what form.

85 responses to “Thoughts on Law School

  1. The simple fact is that lawyers are pure leeches on productive society. Only financiers are paid more for contributing less.

    Anyone who voluntarily becomes a lawyer (except for public defenders) is a sociopath.

  2. I don’t think law schools should offer more practical training. They should require fewer credits to graduate. Two years would be plenty, and a whole lot cheaper. Columbia Law School alumnus.

  3. Most degrees should be treated as licenses to learn.

    Trades where graduates shouldn’t be allowed to practice without further training in the use of virtual and actual sharp objects:
    Medicine
    Aviation
    Law
    Law Enforcement
    Teaching
    Mechanical Engineering
    Etc.

  4. Thanks Nemo. We love you too.

    I became a lawyer primarily for self defense after a series of bad experiences with the system. Turned out I was better at it than the things I had done previously, so I stuck with it.

    Americans need more help navigating the system than people in other countries because Americans voted (over a many years) to have an overly complex system. I think they did it because they simply aren’t willing to take “no” for an answer, so they always wanted to have an exception or an angle or an appeal available.

    You can blame lawyers if you want, but I bet you won’t mention it when something in the overly complex system doesn’t fall your way and you are looking for an exception or an angle or an appeal.

  5. The first story on this week’s This American Life is about a lawyer, a chicken and something she never learned in law school.

    http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives/episode/452/poultry-slam-2011?act=1

  6. “Bear in mind, however, that these things require closer supervision (clinics in particular, since you’re dealing with real people’s real lives) and hence are much more expensive than traditional classes.”

    More expensive, sure. But is there a reason that the cost of providing these services has grown at breakneck pace for decades, even at less competitive schools? Is there no theoretical way to train a lawyer in America for less than $150,000? Gimme a break.

  7. Someone did write an article like this about humanities and higher ed in general: . As a science grad student myself, I disagree with you. I’ve seen a major shift in the landscape of academia over the past several years. I worked in a government research lab prior to joining the PhD program I am currently in. At that lab, it was becoming standard practice to hire a rotating group of 3 post-docs to do jobs that used to merit the hiring of a career engineer. It’s cheaper to solve problems “by committee” and offer smaller benefits, smaller pay, and less vacation. What is lacking in direct incentives is usually covered up with a prestigious sounding name; post-docs are often called fellowships or awards.

    It was particularly surprising for me to learn just how little a PhD’s starting salary is above a person with a master’s degree in an equivalent field. For my field, applied mathematics and computational science, it’s only about 3%. Since the master’s student would have more years of experience, their lifetime earnings are actually higher. Thus, economically, a PhD in applied math only makes sense if it opens up career doors that a master’s degree won’t open. This really only means being a professor, which of course is unlikely even for the best candidates due to the attack on tenure.

    All of this is much worse in law school and the humanities, of course. It has a real, systemic effect on innovation. Perhaps check out this book: one premise of which is that we should stop pretending that non-STEM degrees actually produce beneficial external results. Another source of interest is here: which outlines concerns in Europe at the way that post-docs are becoming principal investigators for research grants.

  8. My apologies, I don’t know why the links were broken. But in any case here they are:

    Economist article
    Book link
    Rise of the Post-doc as Principal Investigator

  9. @ James Kwak,

    Thanks for another narcissistically masturbatory article on yourself.

  10. How does this differ from the NFL model? It can’t be said that colleges don’t teach their teams how to play football skillfully, and not theoretically – so why are so few of them able to go right out and be successful playing as professionals?
    More to the law school point, most students don’t know what area of law practice they’ll choose later – so, the guy who does learn how to do a merger might end up choosing to be a criminal prosecutor. Should the law school be faulted for that?

  11. The traditional domain of women in society was in providing the critical primary education necessary to raising a functioning and productive human being who would then be capable of living an ethical life in a civilized society.

    Trade Unions used to pick up the task of continuing education and provide the exacting skills and the context to perfect the *details* and *practice* needed before a person could fly on their own, so to speak, as a professional…

    Learn something new everyday :-)

    PhDs used to be pursued simply for the love of a subject like theoretical mathematics, as an example…it’s a luxury only a few could afford then and now…

  12. NCAA colleges don’t require a 6 figure investment from their college football players, their only investment is their health, which they’re trading – in theory – for a college education. That’s a problem, but an entirely different problem.

  13. @EMS: It sounds like you’re saying that Ph.D.’s outside the humanities are also not necessarily worth the cost. That doesn’t surprise me, and I imagine you’re right. But is that a disagreement? Unless I’m missing something, you’re saying that what holds in the humanities also holds in the sciences, not that it doesn’t hold in the humanities.

  14. James, I know you haven’t started, but I think you can still answer this:

    Do you believe that an overwhelming majority of UConn first year law students come in with a realistic view of their prospects at graduating with a 6-figure big law position? Do you believe the institution has the incentive to give them a realistic view of their prospects?

  15. @James The difference is that at least in the sciences you don’t come out of it with massive debt: degrees are almost universally funded by grants. Another difference is that with an advanced degree in the sciences it is *much* more possible to find a job afterwards, especially if you desire anything resembling an average American salary or if you desire to “contribute” to doing good in the world. People are lining up around the block to get law degrees and what will they do? I’m willing to believe that a sound law education could prepare you for a number of fields, especially ethics and interesting emerging tensions with scientific progress and intellectual property. But I don’t see law schools funneling people into these positions. I just know a lot of law school grads from prestigious universities who are trying to figure out how to get a business loan to open their own brewery or bakery etc.

  16. I disagree with your contention that procedural rules do not matter when in reality those make or break most cases. Most cases are not decided by knowledge attained in law school because that knowledge is easily attainable by reading a study guide or outline or one of thousands of other easily googlable sources. You don’t need to go to law school to learn the difference betwee involuntary manslaughter and murder. One google search, or one half hour watching commentary on the Michael Jackson trial can teach you that. You do, however, need to know the procedural steps involved in trying such a case – from the jury selection process, to the evidentiary process, to the argument process, to the deposition process, to the post trial process, to the appeals process — I could go on and on. Cases are decided based on knowing these procedural rules, and these are not taught in law school. They are taught on the job, if you’re lucky enough to work under a competent attorney.

    But going back to your article Mr. Kwak. What’s most astonishing and troubling about your piece is the author, specifically your hypocricy. Here you are, a person who chastises the financial industry for lack of transparency and fraud, yet when your industry – the people who butter your bread – do it you turn a blind eye, or you attempt to deflect the blame onto US News. Why are you allowed to blame a law school’s fraudulent career placement numbers on US News rankings, when financial institutions are not allowed to blame fraud on the need to get investors? (Something that – unlike you – no financial institution has had the gall to do, ever).

    I hope the public remembers this, and reminds you of it the next time you run your mouth about the problems in the financial industry. Even assuming you are right and that they are stealing, at least they steal from the wealthy. Your industry – law school – steals from poor 22 year olds looking for a job.

  17. For those who do not know, Mr. Kwak teaches at Connecticut Law School – a low ranked law school.

    http://www.law.uconn.edu/people/4388

    His law school charges about $45,000 in annual tuition (not including living expenses, books and such) – tuition that students pay based on their fraudulent claim that 87% of its graduates are employed with an average salary of almost $90,000. See the statistics here

    http://www.law.uconn.edu/career-planning-center/current-students

    However, if you dig into the numbers, you see that about one half the respondents did not report a salary. Those who did are clearly a ***biased sample*** and should not in any way be used to represent the group. The true average salary for the group is much less than $86,000.
    See more here at Law School Transparency, an organization designed to combat law school job placement numbers fraud. http://www.lawschooltransparency.com/clearinghouse/?school=uconn

    This is as outrageous as an investment manager claiming to earn 20% per year, as measured by half of his investments! It is such blatant and despicably misleading analysis that it brings shame to Bernie Madoff. Yet Professor Kwak’s school – Professor Kwak Mr. “stop financial crime” – Professor Kwak Mr. “the banks steal” – Professor Kwak’s school does this shamelessly, as do all low ranked law schools.

    You should be ashamed of yourself Mr. Kwak. A wise man once said that only God has the wisdom to spot the hypocrites. But in some cases it’s so easy that even us mortals can do it.

  18. In the eternal debate about which came first, the chicken or the egg, Economists have sold us a bill of goods on globalization. The chicken side of this argument is that we surely can export all of our jobs in return for cheaper goods. We are told that we will all be better off, including the people in third world countries as they will have the jobs that we used to do. The egg side of this argument is that if we export all of our jobs, then we won’t have the income in order to buy any goods at all. We were told that new jobs would surely come along, jobs of the future, and if we were highly educated that we could do these new high tech jobs. History has proven out that the economics profession seemed to count their chickens before they hatched in downplaying these concerns.

    The more I read about the economy, the more think of it as a living ecosystem. With dollar bills equating to the basic food in the system, and the different aspects of our society representing different habitat or populations. The majority of americans comprising the poor and middle class I always think of as being the herbivores in this system. And the people higher up in the economic ladder are basically the predators of the system, not that they are necessarily predators in the deragotory sense of the word, but just in the sense that they really rely on the rest of us for their income (or food). In our current situation, it is no secret that the herbivores have taken a lot of stress. It is only natural now that the higher ups in this system will soon feel the effects, and law students not finding jobs are good examples of how this will play out. In twenty years time, you are not going to simply be able to go to law or medical school and ensure that you have an upper middle class lifestyle. All of that income comes from the lower wrungs eventually. This coming from somebody who has been doing a fair amount of work for lawyers recently serving as an expert witness.

  19. @river I agree with you very much. These effects are not unique to the humanities either, as I mentioned above. Web development and scientific computing for venture capitalists are the flavor of the month right now for science workers, but it’s the same thing. You’re being underpaid to make some “predator” (as you put it) wealthy. In the limit, all work becomes commodity work. I think too much attention is being paid to the recent recession… this trend of commodity work taking over all sectors has been coming since the 70s. It’s just been a slow rise and we’re in the bend of the curve now where it starts to hurt. At least in the sciences, you’ll come out with a chance at a job that gives you mobility and time to adapt to whatever comes next. That’s not very true in humanities / law anymore, and it’s becoming less and less true all the time. Americans have been pretty dumb at making good purchase decisions for a long time, so it’s not surprising that they are so slow to respond to the clear market signal that $45k/year law school tuition is a super bad idea.

    Some links that might be of interest: (1) An interesting video about job displacement in the future due to nanotech or AI development. Give it a chance. Around the 18 minute mark, a very useful graph appears that makes the analogy between displacing of jobs and a rising water level. I wish more people cared to understand what that graph depicts. (2) A recent rant linked from Hacker News about the suckerdom of being a tech startup worker. I think it applies equally well to law school students.

  20. I would adopt the medical school model and require a post-schooling residency period. The formal classroom time could probably be reduced to two years as a result. Med school grads have to accept modest pay during their four year residency, but employment is just about guaranteed. Given that only about 5% of law grads make the eye popping first year salaries mentioned in this article and many other cannot find any work, I think the majority of grads would accept lower pay in exchange for employment with organized on-the-job training.

  21. AG,

    Don’t forget that University of Connecticut’s numbers are self reported and not audited in any way. In reality, only about 50% of a low ranked law school’s graduates find jobs. The rest are sh*t out of luck and saddled with $150,000 of nondischargeable student loans. I repeat, nondischargeable loans. They can’t get rid of the loans by sending jingle mail in the way a homeowner can get rid of a mortgage. The loans are also guaranteed by the federal government. Why are these loans nondischargeable and guaranteed by Uncle Sam? Because no private bank would ever lend tuition money to a student wishing to attend Mr. Kwak’s scam institution without these two characteristics.

    Isn’t Mr. Kwak’s chosen profession an astonishing statement about academics? Here is a person who claims to want to protect the common man and consumers from financial fraud, yet he teaches at one of the biggest financial predators in existence today: the low ranked law school racket.

    Visit http://insidethelawschoolscam.blogspot.com and http://www.jdunderground.com for more honest information about law schools.

  22. “I would adopt the medical school model and require a post-schooling residency period.”

    That’s impossible. As it is there are about 10,000 to 15,000 full time legal job openings each year, being chased by 50,000 graduates. There’s no way you will be able to find enough “residencies,” not even if they were unpaid!

  23. Gees, and I thought that 5 years at the dental school was tough, at least there’s plenty of work to go around.

  24. Exactly owens. I’ve heard dental school and medical school can be grueling, both in terms of work and costs, but at least there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

    Incidentally, you should know that the rate of depression (something that’s notorious in dental school) increases from 4% in 0Ls (those who have applied but not yet started law school) to 40% in 3Ls (the third year of law school). Thus not only is Mr. Kwak’s institution robbing poor kids of tuition money, that they borrowed from the federal government, but something about law school also destroys his students in a fundamental way that they will never recover from. The rate of depression is still around 17% two years after students leave law school.

    Here is one of many studies on the topic (by they way, why did the ABA suddenly stop doing these studies?):

    http://www.law.fsu.edu/academic_programs/humanizing_lawschool/images/benjamin.pdf

    Here is a prominent biglaw partner talking about it.

    http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2011/11/18/anderson-kill-partner-talks-depression-among-law-students-and-lawyers/

    I know the rate of depression in dental/medical school is also high (I think around 15%) but it’s still much better than law school.

  25. Well as a consultant, my long term goal is to wind down the need for dental work to begin with, does the depression come from a financial side or the mechanical side? As for lawyers, until the law becomes straight within itself, there is no hope for interns or start up firms of any type, its the current jungle from hell you don’t want to be involved with.

  26. Mr. Kwak, the issue has always been very simple. There are too many law schools producing too many law students at too high a cost to the students and taxpayers in the form of high interest non-dischargable debt.

    I don’t think anybody really cares whether we spend days on antiquated doctrines of personal jurisdiction in civil procedure and don’t learn a thing about discovery or service of process. I don’t think anyone cares that law schools stress reading appellate cases (which best prepares you for a specialty very few lawyers will every focus on but is intellectually pleasurable for law professors and requires very little work in terms of feedback or grading) far more than they teach research and writing, client intake and negotiation, business development, or regulatory and transactional aspects of law. And we don’t care what esoteric topics you write about in law review articles that are impossible to read because half the text is in the footnotes. Law students have been dealing with these problems for decades now.

    In the end, it all boils down to this. A third to half of the law schools in America need to close. The rest will, with some exceptions for elite schools, have to bring tuition down to levels approaching what they were in 1970 adjusted for inflation. This means professors will lose some of their perks, students will lose most of their useless services, a ton of extraneous administrators will be laid off, maybe a year of law school will be eliminated, and salaries will go down. This is what MUST happen, because schools cannot keep lying to students about job prospects and academia cannot keep taxing young people.

  27. I’m not sure what causes the depression in law students, whether it’s the material, the finances or what. I’m not a psychologist but I wish someone who understands these things would investigate it. But it exists.

  28. About getting a PhD in the sciences… since you normally do not go into debt getting a PhD, really the worst-case scenario is that you end out getting the same sort of job you would get without the PhD at all. This doesn’t mean you’ve wasted your time; one of the biggest reasons people do go for a PhD is the chance to study and research their favorite subject for several years. I have a PhD and I struggled for a while afterwards in the academic job market, and never did I regret the years I spent in graduate school. What I did regret was not having a plan B as I should have, but I view this as my own fault since I had plenty of time to do so. Law school is entirely different due to the huge expense nowadays and the fact that it is a professional school, whose purpose is to prepare you for a career in law. People do not assume the kind of debt they assume nowadays because they feel a law degree might be useful elsewhere, or for the enjoyment being in law school brings. This is what makes striking out in the job market after law school so much worse than for a science PhD.

  29. @Schottky Unfortunately, for me, the sole purpose for leaving a reasonably good algorithm developer job at a government research lab was specifically to make a career out of doing academic research. I felt like it was an entire bait and switch when I learned in the first year of my program that almost no one gets an academic job, almost everyone feels chronically depressed about doing work they didn’t sign up for nor particularly care about, and the university pushes us very hard to go into “alternative industry” careers, i.e. consulting, finance, or even patent law.

    I very much regret the time I have wasted in grad school. The work is so difficult that I never sleep, exercise poorly, suffer relationship problems, and yet no matter how efficiently I work, the work never stops coming. I don’t have decent health insurance and have incurred (admittedly small) debt due to unexpected dental work. I have no time for recreation of any kind. And to boot, everyone keeps telling me that the best I can hope for is to land right back into an algorithm developer job at a government research lab, earning what I consider to be too little pay for the significant frustration that that sort of jobs brings to me.

    Additionally, your claim that the time spent in a PhD is not wasted is very subjective. If you were to leave early with a master’s degree, you’d be promoted faster, have more relevant experience, and ultimately earn more. So if you must resign yourself to accepting a job you don’t like (in my case, as a government researcher) then you’re better off maximizing your pay. The grad school years are not “fun” years of doing “neat” research. They are often brutal years doing tedious programming to advance the career of academic faculty without yourself benefitting from it.

    I agree that for some people, just tinkering around with research for a few years before getting serious about a career might be viewed as something to “not regret.” However, I don’t think that’s typical for most PhD students. That sounds like a bit of rationalizing a poor life decision; and indeed, most students will just feel unhappy. I liken graduate school to joining the service academies for college. You shouldn’t look at the service academies like a free ride for college. You should only consider them if you’re serious about becoming an officer in the armed services. Otherwise, the cost they actually extract from you will leave you bitter and psychologically damaged. It’s the same in grad school. Don’t do it unless you know what you want out of it, you’ve carefully researched exactly how your particular chosen school/program/adviser will lead you to that goal, and you have tremendous confidence that the only thing standing in between is your hard work. I made the mistake of thinking that if I worked very hard, an opportunity that makes me happy would present itself. Thus far, this has not been remotely true.

  30. @AG: Well I have my best blue jay on the operating table right now, [I have had him goin on 25 years]. He was a sick bird a few years back, and I thought he was a suicidal bird but then his cousin came around and said he wasn’t “give us one more chance”. So I did the math and crunched the numbers for more time, but it seems that’s all i’ve been givin him for 25 years. So I could see where law students might get lost in their own jingle, but that’s not your problem, and the shrink gave up long ago about it, so don’t worry yourself, be happy.

  31. Public Defender

    Sorry for the o/t, but I have a question for Nemo. I’m a public defender, though I practiced civil law before becoming a PD. It’s quite a relief to know that my colleagues and I are at the top of the attorney hierarchy (in your sophisticated estimation, at least.) AFAIK, my personality is more or less the same as when I was a civil lawyer. How come I get a pass on the sociopath diagnosis as a PD — and how come other public interest attorneys, at least, don’t get the same pass? Cheers!

  32. @EMS My experience was pretty much the opposite of yours. I went to graduate school straight out of college and my advisor was actually very good to his students. Unfortunately the job market for research jobs was (and is) pretty awful, and I am not much of a teacher. The field I was in (math) might have something to do with it; there aren’t big labs with lots of gruntwork for graduate students to do. In general if you are willing to relocate and want to go for a teaching-oriented job, a math PhD is generally able to find something. Contrast that with law… you are restricted to the state(s) where you pass the bar, and the job market is flooded with several times as many candidates as there are positions. Personally I just couldn’t imagine teaching precalculus and calculus to disinterested students for the rest of my life. But I certainly look back at my years in graduate school fondly, especially when I compare it with the years of unemployment and uncertainty that followed.

  33. @Schottky I am in a mathematics PhD program (I work in machine learning and probability theory) and my adviser is actually quite a nice person. It’s just that every grad lab is like this, as far as I can tell. I already transferred schools once out of dissatisfaction with opportunities to work on interesting problems / have a decent chance at a research or teaching job. It’s odd to me that you see grad school fondly in light of following unemployment. To me, that would be more reason to be unhappy with grad school. I do agree that law students have it worse though. I at least have the option of depressively resigning myself to work a job I hate. They won’t even have that chance.

  34. To an outsider it appears that the purpose of law school is to qualify graduates to take and pass the bar exam. No more, no less.

    As in every other trade, it is the newly qualified graduate’s responsibility to find a job realizing that his/her qualifications to practice actual real world law are marginal.

    It is my understanding that graduates of certain prestigious schools are sought after and recruited for entry level positions at large and important firms where they receive training in the practice of law and are paid a fine salary. Gaining entry to these prestigious schools is … difficult.

    Graduates of less prestigious schools find entry level positions in less prestigious firms, the prosecutor’s office, government agencies, non-profits or legal departments of large (and occasionally small) corporations/businesses. Some teach. Some go to work for and become a partner in dad’s firm or work hard (some would say “struggle”) and start a solo practice. OJT is the norm and wages are low.

    My grandfather managed a large regional industrial sales office. He had a law degree and passed the bar but never practiced. Never wanted to.

    It has been this way for generations. It is not a secret and any law student, entering or graduating, that is surprised by this is a fool.

  35. @Speed If your remarks are correct, then almost all of the law students that I am friends with in a prestigious East coast law school are fools by your standards. Also, the scenario you describe seems to make it straightforwardly obvious that accepting the large debt associated with law school is only worthwhile for that small percentage of elite students at elite universities. Someone wishing to do what your father chose to do would not be well served by getting a modern mega loan and going to law school. Not at all. Thus, it’s unlikely that anyone obtains these loans with any inkling that they may need to follow a career path like the one your father chose. That’s why it’s so easy to make money on them. Young people are rubes and we prefer to use legislation to protect them in a lot of ways, but apparently not in this particular way.

  36. The tricks of the trade commonly cherished by lawyers are more economically imprinted in America’s prisons.

  37. @Speed Law school is not a 150,000 dollar exam prep course, obviously. Law students expect their investment of time and money will translate into a career.

  38. @Speed And, no one should think it reasonable for students to make that kind of investment of time and money for a 50/50 chance of becoming a lawyer. Things are different from when your grandfather was young.

  39. Speed, your grandfather probably paid tuition by working a part-time job during school or a low wage non-law job during the summers. He probably did not have $100,000 or more in high-interest federal loans that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy. Now you can’t work your way through law school, since the cost of law school has tripled even after accounting for inflation. Furthermore, the ABA caps the number of hours you can work during the school year at 20 and if you cannot find a high paying firm job during the summer, you will work for free or a small stipend because if you do not work in a legal setting during your summers people will question your commitment to the profession and you will be at a disadvantage in interviews.

    And if what you are saying is well-known, why do schools fudge their employment statistics and engage in deceptive marketing practices?

  40. What might be at the core of this discussion is the value of education in a democracy.

    For a democracy to be effective you need citizens who are educated.

    And you need citizens who can be effective in both the private sector and in public service.

  41. Moi, I have a glorified highschool diploma (B.A. First Class Honours :)

    So perhaps I have some leeway in being a bit naive.

    I absolutely love Michael Sandel and what he has to say about civic engagement. Interesting to note that he and Charles Taylor (a famous Canadian philosopher) are both considered “communitarians.” I did a bit of reading today on Wikipedia (yes Wikipedia :) on Sandel and Taylor, and there is a CBC five-part series on Taylor that I listened partly to.

    I could not help feeling that education is a luxury. Most people do not have the privilege of thinking so deeply and profoundly about life and society as professional philosophers.

    Charles Taylor was deeply influenced by his discovery Merleau Ponty. (About all I know about Merleau Ponty is that it is a beautiful name.) On a more serious note though. Taylor says we live in a Cartesian paradigm that is still so deeply entrenched. But the world is not made of disembodied ideas that we observe. Rather, if I understand Taylor correctly, we understand the world through our experience, and it is this “experience” that shapes our lives and engagement in the broader world.

  42. So what value is there to education besides a monetary value (eg, $150K to become a lawyer)?

    When does education move outside academe formally and informally?

    Is the internet a vehicle for education?

    Hat tip to Baseline Scenario for introducing me to the Kahn Academy :)

  43. correction:

    Merleau-Ponty

    (A beautiful sounding name :)

  44. I think law students should all be made to read ALL THE KING’S MEN each year of school and asked to memorize the part where Willie Stark describes the law as a blanket that’s never big enough to cover the world it is meant to.

  45. EMS — your reading comprehension needs work. I wrote, ” … graduates of certain prestigious schools are sought after and recruited for entry level positions at large and important firms where they receive training in the practice of law and are paid a fine salary.” It does not follow that that students in “a prestigious east coast law school are fools.” They are the smart ones.

    On “getting a modern mega loan” … Harvard law, tuition only, three years for JD is $142,800. Cleveland State University John Marshall College of law, tuition only is $68,760. This is not a comprehensive survey but shows that prospective students have options and need to decide what will work for them. CSU John Marshall has plenty of part time (evening and weekend) students who work full time. Some even get tuition help from their employers.

    You wrote, “Young people are rubes … ” A broad and sweeping, unsupported statement that is not true in my experience. Some are. Many are not.

    Schottky wrote, “Law school is not a 150,000 dollar exam prep course … ” with no supporting evidence. He then wrote, “Law students expect their investment of time and money will translate into a career.” In fact, law school is a necessary but not sufficient step on the way to a law (or other) career. If it is followed by additional, well known steps it can lead to a career. This is not unique to law.

    Schottky then wrote, ” … no one should think it reasonable for students to make that kind of investment of time and money for a 50/50 chance of becoming a lawyer.”
    “No one” is a lot of people. Clearly some found it reasonable and their reasoning paid off. This country is well populated with successful lawyers who attended and graduated from law school.

    Jon wrote, “Now you can’t work your way through law school, since the cost of law school has tripled even after accounting for inflation.” Please see my comment to EMS above.

    Jon further wrote, ” … if what you are saying is well-known, why do schools fudge their employment statistics and engage in deceptive marketing practices?” Why is the term “used car salesmen” synonymous with “shady business practice?” Because they have to? Because they can get away with it? Caveat emptor.

  46. Interesting piece.

    However for me, it once again raises the question as to why the product of this profession can’t be outsourced, in particular to foreign countries.

    The kind of mind necessary to navigate a legal system is not unique to US citizens. The economic benefits of outsourcing are obvious, at least theorically – lower cost. In fact, I’m incline to argue the same for every other professional and semi-professional product that hasn’t been outsourced. (Think about it, even if you had to cover the cost of airfare and living expenses to bring an individual in from some foriegn country, you’d potentially stand to save a bundle.)

    Given the fact there is such a glut of lawyers, yet the cost of their services remains very high really needs to be addressed. ‘Unions’ come in many forms, but it appears that only some unions are to be broken. Curious? Perhaps a piece on what keeps ‘professional’ bubbles like the law, or medicine, full of ‘gas’ would be interesting.

    Also, forgive me, but even the introduction of the notion that a law degree is somehow on par with a Phd. is a little naive. Or, perhaps I should write, exploits the naivte the ‘jury’… but heck, its not about clarification, its about winning the argument, right? And that’s a ‘local’ matter. So maybe I’m the one being naive.

    kc

  47. kc wrote, ” … I’m incline to argue [outsourcing overseas] for every other professional and semi-professional product that hasn’t been outsourced.”

    Factors that have led to the increasing popularity of medical travel include the high cost of health care, long wait times for certain procedures, the ease and affordability of international travel, and improvements in both technology and standards of care in many countries. The avoidance of waiting times is the leading factor for medical tourism from the UK, whereas in the US, the main reason is cheaper prices abroad.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Medical_tourism

    There will be questions of quality of foreign medical care for years to come.

    Few Americans have the expertise necessary to evaluate US lawyers. Doing so in a foreign country would be very difficult. And there are regulatory problems.

  48. I wonder why we turn out such a supply of lawyers (or at least law school grads) when it appears that the demand for lawyers (at least to work at law firms – frankly, everyone should have a lawyer handy, but few can afford one) is far less. I guess the subsidy in the form of student loans has something to do with this. But it comes down to who benefits from the subsidy. So the student who becomes a successful lawyer benefits, and the law schools (and their professors) obviously benefit. Now that’s two out of three (as the old joke about wall street goes) although certainly it’s nothing like two out of three students.

  49. @Anonymous, “The tricks of the trade commonly cherished by lawyers are more economically imprinted in America’s prisons.”

    Rich and deep topic for analysis, Anonymous, the *business* of applying massive physical (law) and psychic force (religion) to the erection of Global Institutes of Injustice.

    http://www.extremelysmart.com/humor/lawyerjokes.php

    I asked on the Huntsman thread – who *owns* the un-exploded ordinance littering the planet…? Law school bottom line is the study of property rights….but it’s not your Grandma’s *macro* law anymore, is it?

    @Tippy, People born with high IQs are always *learning* something new. Massive physical and psychic force has to be employed to make it otherwise for them. Make no mistake about it, that’s the secret function of *colleges* these days – keep the good people down.

    The search for *justice* is turning out to be more pesky than the *elites* assumed…

  50. @Speed: Well, if you want supporting evidence you can do a poll of law graduates who spent 150K or higher on law school and just ask one question, “For you, was the sole purpose of law school to prepare for the bar exam?”. For me, besides the absurdity of spending this amound of money on a test prep course, the evidence is the fact that the answer is “no” for every person I know who spent a large amount on law school. Unfortunately, for you this would be hearsay and therefore doesn’t qualify as supporting evidence.

    And no, people do not shell out that kind of money and spend 3 years of their life in law school for a 50/50 chance of becoming a lawyer. Again, you can claim I don’t have written proof of what was going through their mind when they decided to go to law school. But the issue here is not what law schools can get away with due to lack of evidence, but rather what they are actually doing, which is using misleading advertising to sell at inflated prices a product whose value has greatly reduced in recent years and which nowadays leaves many new law grads heavily indebted and with limited job prospects.

  51. @Speed In case you want to claim my 150K price is unrealistic, do the poll for people who spent 100K or more on law school.

  52. Schottkey — I wrote, “To an outsider it appears that the purpose of law school is to qualify graduates to take and pass the bar exam.” To disprove this hypothesis you must document one or more things beyond qualifying graduates to take and pass the bar exam that is a purpose of law school.

    A bar examination is an examination conducted at regular intervals to determine whether a candidate is qualified to practice law in a given jurisdiction.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bar_examination

    In most states, a JD degree is required to sit for the bar exam.

    Graduate from law school –> Pass the Bar –> Practice law

    I don’t know where the 50/50 number comes from but the 2009 Raw Data Law School Rankings show that out of 185 law schools, 183 had bar pass rates greater than 50%.

    http://www.ilrg.com/rankings/law/index.php/4/desc/Bar

    When you pass the bar, you become a lawyer.

  53. @Speed “The purpose of law school” is not well-defined and is not something that can be documented. People go to law school for reasons other than passing the bar exam, as you are well-aware. The only documentation that can be provided with regards to intentions are things such as sworn statements, which obviously don’t exist in this case. This does not change what people’s intentions are in going to law school.

    The definition of “become a lawyer” that I am using here is “eventually work full-time in a position requiring either a JD or bar passage”. The 50/50 number comes from this, and yes it is not a precise figure. If you feel my word use is inaccurate, then just replace the appropriate words in my postings accordingly. My point by now is abundantly clear: the purpose of law school, as well as the intent of people who spend large sums of money on law school, is not merely for students to pass the bar exam, but to also have the option of a career in law. I don’t think I need to make my point any clearer. If you truly believe that people typically make this kind of sacrifice for exam preparation purposes, with no expectations beyond that, then I suggest asking around. While I recognize this isn’t documentation admissible in court, it does determine whether or not what I am saying is true.

  54. @Schottky, “But the issue here is not what law schools can get away with due to lack of evidence, but rather what they are actually doing, which is using misleading advertising to sell at inflated prices a product whose value has greatly reduced in recent years and which nowadays leaves many new law grads heavily indebted and with limited job prospects.”

    Agreed.

    Elites control – tightly – who gets to practice law – or as you observe with recent data – the 50%. It’s well-known who the 50% are going to be upon entrance. I was fortunate enough to arrive early for an interview to hear the decision being made about me – “….yeah, we’ll take her money and then we’ll take her house when she stays unemployed….”. Saved my life to eavesdrop on that one – yes, they are KNOWINGLY financially destroying 50% of students.

    Men controlling education for – ahem – *SHAREHOLDER* profit has definitely produced a horse of a different color – and it’s not *education*.

    However, the CURRENT CROP of unemployed 50% need to get together and hang up a shingle and start balancing the scales of justice – there’s JOY in pushing back against Global Criminal Inc.

    Start with who *owns* the un-exploded ordinance littering the planet – that’s expensive stuff, ain’t it? Certainly more expensive than a house in Las Vegas…

  55. Duncan Kennedy of Harvard Law School used to put out a little book on his thoughts regarding law school: “Legal Education and the Reproduction of Hierarchy: A polemic against the system.” Worth reading if you can get your hands on it.

  56. good subject, looks like you hit a raw nerve. Being a trained economist you must have some sense on whether all these lawyers raise our GDP or just bite off chunks and re-distribute it. Having 4 siblings with law degrees from “lesser” universities I question the how the prestige of the top ranked schools churn out more valuable lawyers. People in power hire people from their economic club. Ivy leaguers like to hire Ivy leaguers. It reinforces the pecking order and the value of their own degree. Hard to measure the skill of a lawyer objectively. The wealthy ones simply hang around rich people and clean their dirty laundry.

  57. Law school does not prepare an individual to practice law. Any literate person can practice law. Attending law school is a fee; the cost of entering the guild.

  58. Speed- Even at John Marshall- Cleveland, living expenses will be $10-15,000 over three years.
    You point to Cleveland’s John Marshall College of Law. Cleveland’s John Marshall is actually one of three law schools named after John Marshall in the third or fourth tier of US News. John Marshall- Illinois boasts a $35,000 per year tuition bill and among the highest student debt loads of any school at $124,000.

    http://www.top-law-schools.com/john-marshall-law-school.html

    Atlanta’s John Marshall is a similar school. For obvious reasons they don’t announce the full sticker cost of attending the law school on the page. You have to calculate it using their figure per credit hour * number of credits required during the first year. They charge about 1,110 for 30 hours of work. That gives us a figure of $33,000.

    Now the education and job prospects at John Marshall Cleveland are not any worse than at the other two John Marshall’s. So why the price disparity?

    “Jon further wrote, ” … if what you are saying is well-known, why do schools fudge their employment statistics and engage in deceptive marketing practices?” Why is the term “used car salesmen” synonymous with “shady business practice?” Because they have to? Because they can get away with it? Caveat emptor.”

    I absolutely despise this argument. Law professors and deans are not used car salesmen. Higher education enjoys not only federal loan backing but also a a unique public trust and enormous cultural capital built up during a time when law schools was affordable and degrees weren’t doled out like candy. Students are pushed into higher education from birth by parents, teachers, counselors, relatives, and politicians. If law professors and deans want to turn around and shield themselves with caveat emptor, then they’re inviting students to treat them like used car salesmen and attach an immediate presumption that their “product” is a lemon. They’re also asking the federal government to eliminate their loan guarantees, research grants, and bankruptcy protections, and Attorney General’s offices to open up prosecutions on behalf of consumers for false advertising and fraud. They don’t want this, which is why they should bit the bullet, decrease costs, cut class sizes, and try to regain some of that cultural capital they are fast losing.

  59. As a physician and, lets face it-we have a bias against the law profession, lawyers have a rough row to hoe. Almost twenty years ago my wife and mother in law were shopping at a local supermarket. As they exited after shopping the grocery store they were greeted by a well dressed young man who handed them a business card. As you now could surmise from the topic of the thread he was a new law school graduate.

    Has anyone crunched the numbers as far as how many lawyers we have per capita and what the actual need is?

  60. Another thing about the caveat emptor argument.. even if you do shift the blame on the consumer, who you feel should have known better, the fact remains that the money law schools receive, and law professor salaries is particular, is based on the sale of an drastically overvalued product. Furthermore, the lives of many of the consumers are seriously damaged by their decision to buy. Is this a desirable state of affairs, where law professor salaries are artificially inflated by the sale of an overpriced product which causes so many people such grief?

    A lot of people are outraged at executives at cigarette manufacturers making huge salaries. Wouldn’t this be similar… and the consumers are less aware of the dangers of the product they are buying? (Of course, they aren’t addicts either, I’ll admit.) In the case of cigarettes, there are pretty prominent warning labels, and people know from an early age the dangers of smoking. The situation with law schools is less well-known. I think the solution would be to really publicize the current job situation in the legal profession, and also possibly cap the growth rate of tuition, which has spiraled out of control recently.

  61. Why is the ocean salty? Because sperm whales are to half to blame..

  62. “it’s compensation for foregone income in practice (which starts at $170,000 for a first-year associate in a big corporate law firm—almost twice as much as the average faculty starting salary)”

    I’ve spoken with several chief attorneys who oversee large corporate divisions. That 170k figure you cite is garbage, it’s a lie, it something academics use as a carrot to lure more into the field.

    Mr. Kwak- you are either grossly uninformed or part of the problem. Check your facts.

  63. I would agree. I’m not sure in what city a starting salary would be that high, but certainly not on average.

    The average starting salary for physicians is not even that high.

  64. Law school graduates, even at lower tier schools, have among the best starting salaries, lifetime incomes and employment rates of graduates of any higher educational degree that doesn’t require calculus or chemistry, which is the only kind of higher educational degree available to a very large share of college students.

    Also, we don’t have too many lawyers. We have too many of some kinds of lawyers, and too few offering their services at a price the market can bear in other kinds of law. We have far too many people well equipped for participating in the legal work of an initial public offering, and far too few providing services in domestic relations cases (where 60% of cases have no lawyer for either party with dismal results), bankruptcy, and non-work visa related immigration cases. I’ll believe that there is a real lawyer glut when the hourly rate that lawyers charge drop significantly.

    I don’t think anyone serious doubts that some kind of specialized training is necessary to be a good lawyer. But, it is harder to make the case that three years of predominantly classroom instruction following a prerequisite undergraduate degree in no major in particular, combined with almost no mandatory clinical experinece, delivered by professors most of whom have little or no experience practicing law (mode zero experience practicing law, mean one year practicing law) is the optimal way to go about doing that. There is a great deal of middle ground between what is taught in law school, and office equipment skills and particularlized rules particular to a given county. Associates reviewing contracts are rarely familiar with the ordinary and customary terms of those business relationships and interests of their parties. Negotiation training and client interviewing/management training is modest. Precious little time is spent discussing what tactics actually work and what don’t, or how to market a law practice. Very little time is devoted in law school to the generally applicable approaches to developing evidence to support a case, both within and outside the formal discovery process. We would be no worse with half as much classroom work, and at least a semester of “how to” training that is not doctrinal.

    Even more importantly the nature of law school misrepresents the nature of law practice. Lawyers are more superbureacrats than they are scholars or academic experts. Law school admissions practices and bar exams screen almost purely for strong proxies to IQ, but legal practice even at the pinnacles of the profession (outside the professoriate) is not nearly such a heavily IQ-weighted activity. Interpersonal skills and conscientiousness are profoundly important in legal practice, but given almost no weight in law school admissions, law school success or bar admission.

  65. @ ohwilleke You say, “Law school graduates, even at lower tier schools, have among the best starting salaries, lifetime incomes and employment rates of graduates of any higher educational degree that doesn’t require calculus or chemistry, which is the only kind of higher educational degree available to a very large share of college students.” This is patently false due to skewed reporting, which was covered well in earlier comments, replete with useful links.

    @Speed You completely misunderstood my comment. You seem to suggest that people who attend prestigious law schools have better employment options. This is utterly false. What is the case is that some students at prestigious colleges earn far above the average and many students earn far below the average. It follows a Zipf’s law type of distribution. At my university, which happens to be Harvard [link], many many students in the law school struggle finding jobs and coping with enormous debt. Yet year after year people are lining up around the block to get in. The reported employment stats are very skewed and not an accurate representation of what real students experience. You then said: ” It is not a secret and any law student, entering or graduating, that is surprised by this is a fool.” By this reasoning, most students who attend Harvard Law are fools according to your definition; and presumably this holds at other prestigious schools similarly.

    Thanks for calling out my reading comprehension abilities, though. That was fair, balanced, appropriate, and added useful insight to the discussion.

  66. As a boss of mine told me years ago: “Everyone hates lawyers until they need one.”

  67. @Bill I don’t think that has anything to do with this thread at all. I respect lawyers, for example, but still believe that law school is a massive scam. At the very least, it is a poor investment for about 90% of the people who choose to pursue it and it is not in the law school’s interest to help those 90% become better informed. This says nothing about character or quality of person who wants to practice law; like any single demographic, I am sure most of those people are fine, honest, hard-working folks who worked hard to pursue a needed, hopefully lucrative career. But this doesn’t excuse the borderline malicious practices that law schools engage in.

  68. Higher Education in America is a lottery, if you are successful you reap your awards. You flaunt your degree and the social status. But when you failed, no one care to look at you. You are as good as with no degree at all. Hence, you are included with the people who never had a degree.

    It is a similar case as survivor-ship bias in the financial world. For calculation, you only take the investment that has done well and discard all the losers.

    A law student before joining a law school will interact with a successful lawyer who will talk about the excellent education he received in the institute and the monetary benefits associated with it. Admission Seminar scheduled by the college brings the best/ successful alumni to talk with the prospective students.
    Does anyone remember bringing an unemployed/ underemployed lawyer to talk to the students. Again similar to the financial industry where the financial analyst tells only about the best fund/ adviser.

    If intelligent people argue about the not so successful people, counter argument from the college is that unsuccessful people were not good and they are aberration. But truth is that now this aberration is close to 50%.

    Education is important for the growth of any nation, no doubt about it. But if education, generates slaves with 150k loans not worth it. Education is a commodity good like many other good/ services so it should be provided in a standardized way and let the market honed the skills of the commodity. A standardized education should reduce the cost to around 30% of the current cost.

    Let people invest in themselves once they get out of the college to survive. And as the Darwin would have said; Lets the best species survive

  69. EMS wrote, “You seem to suggest that people who attend prestigious law schools have better employment options. This is utterly false. What is the case is that some students at prestigious colleges earn far above the average and many students earn far below the average.”

    Here is what I wrote, “It is my understanding that graduates of certain prestigious schools are sought after and recruited for entry level positions at large and important firms where they receive training in the practice of law and are paid a fine salary. Gaining entry to these prestigious schools is … difficult.”

    It may be that your understanding is different from mine. My information is anecdotal and comes from several lawyers at “large and important firms” who actively recruit from “certain prestigious schools” and sounds reasonable and rational. What is your source?

    Your arguement is a truism. In any set of real humans there will be members far above average and many members far below average — for some values of above, below and far.

    Harvard Law class of 2010 Preliminary Employment Figures (percent):
    Private Practice 64
    Judicial Clerkships 22
    Business and Industry 2
    Government 3
    Public Interest Organization 8
    Academia <1
    Military <1

    http://www.law.harvard.edu/current/careers/ocs/employers/about-our-students/student-statistics.html

    I wrote, "As in every other trade, it is the newly qualified graduate’s responsibility to find a job realizing that his/her qualifications to practice actual real world law are marginal.

    It has been this way for generations. It is not a secret and any law student, entering or graduating, that is surprised by this is a fool."

    EMS wrote, "By this reasoning, most students who attend Harvard Law are fools … "
    That may be true but I doubt it. Harvard Law received 7,610 applications in 2010 and offered admission to 883.

    http://www.ehow.com/info_8382004_average-salary-harvard-law-graduate.html

    Maybe Harvard selects for fools but the above stats indicate that their kind of fools get jobs.

  70. @Jon, “I absolutely despise this argument. Law professors and deans are not used car salesmen. Higher education enjoys not only federal loan backing but also a a unique public trust and enormous cultural capital built up during a time when law schools was affordable and degrees weren’t doled out like candy.”

    Yup, the “not everyone deserves to own a house” argument that is made AFTER the *customer* is sucked in to a loan. There is always a SINGLE business model scam that is deployed when it comes to debt, isn’t there?

    And can we get back to 700 trillion in fiat debt – or wha’ever – swaps, derivatives, CRAP….?

    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37560195/#45573599

  71. Jon wrote, “I absolutely despise this argument. Law professors and deans are not used car salesmen.”

    Jon earlier wrote, “And if what you are saying is well-known, why do schools fudge their employment statistics and engage in deceptive marketing practices?”

    Until the fudging and deceiving are eliminated, my warning stands: Caveat emptor.

  72. If everything is *caveat emptor* then everything is PREDATORY.

    Again, shouldn’t the focus on this ECONOMIC blog be about 700 trillion – MACRO economics instead of how many different ways can you screw your average “Annie”…?

    The DARK 700 trillion market is SECRET, Annie’s stuff is wide open for Timmy to paw through thanks to the Patriot Act.

    And what a revealing thread – all this yaddayadda about Law School, nothing about JUSTICE – not even about property rights which is what law school teaches first year when most people drop out because of how mind numbing BORING that convoluted pharisaism is…rigging the game…

    Again the questions to all the legal geniuses gracing us with their free *opinions* – Who *owns* the un-exploded ordinance….? Expensive stuff….they (Vietnam et al) should start charging USA corporate person *owner* some rent for *storing* the land mines, bombs, etc on THEIR farm land….and how about issuing insurance for when somebody gets blown up – place your bets.

    Face it – the *insanity* of the whole situation…go *hurt* the Annies….easy pickin’ because *they are so stupid*

  73. @ Speed: You just used reported statistics to argue that Harvard grads get good jobs, and then you say, “Until the fudging and deceiving are eliminated, my warning stands: Caveat emptor.” This makes no sense. My evidence comes from knowing several graduate students in law school and asking them what their real job outlook is. Also, one expects average universities to have graduates with Zipf-distributed starting salary. Statistically, one should not expect this from a university like Harvard.

  74. OKAY, its all gang up on Annie time. I’m plumb out of ammo, what the rest of you guys got?

  75. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/12/07/michele-zagaria-mafia-boss-captured_n_1134049.html

    “Police have seized about euro2 billion ($2.7 billion) worth of assets allegedly illegally gained by its members over the last few years.”

    2.7 billion over the last few years….get it? over the last few years….

    Quick, send him your JD/PhD business card…

  76. A law student before joining a law school will interact with a successful lawyer who will talk about the excellent education he received in the institute and the monetary benefits associated with it. Admission Seminar scheduled by the college brings the best/ successful alumni to talk with the prospective students.
    Does anyone remember bringing an unemployed/ underemployed lawyer to talk to the students. Again similar to the financial industry where the financial analyst tells only about the best fund/ adviser.

    cialis

  77. Unsympathetic

    James,

    People with significant firm experience may not work for free, but there’s zero proof to your assertion that law professors should be paid more simply for having experience. Given that the number of legal FTE’s in the US is actually decreasing, those lawyers with experience should be happy they were able to find a job rather than complaining about the pay.

    Your answer sounds just like financial firms attempting to justify their outrageous bonuses: “Someone else would surely hire them, so we need to pay more” – while ignoring the thousands of qualified resumes their HR department receives. The option isn’t that “some other school” would hire them.. realistically, the option is that they would be receiving $0 instead.

  78. i will try to descripe law and economics friendship! if in a country law doesnt ave power this country’s economics will be so bad!

  79. i will try to descripe law and economics friendship! if in a country law doesnt ave power this country’s economics will be so bad! because in countries economic system seend law oreders!

  80. Wow – you have some really evil readers.

  81. This is at least a balanced and temperate response to the article, in contrast to Brian Leiter’s typically foaming diatribe over on his law schools web site. Which reminds of something…..Has anyone ever noticed how Leiter insists that comments include names and verfiable email addresses as part of his oft-repeated insistence that everyone must “own” their words? Well, when it comes to his “reporting” on what he calls the NYT’s “hatchet job,” Leiter steps in a big pile of hypocrisy. Thus, on 11/28/11, he passes on nasty comments from a source he identifies only as “a famous former Times reporter” and a set of supposed opinons by an unidentified “colleague at Michigan.” I guess that so long as you agree with him, Leiter doesn’t make you own your words (assuming you exist at all).

  82. dennisgbc@hotmail.com

    Law Professors dont work 2000 billable hour requirements dear professor.

    If given the chance the vast majority of Big Law associates would happily be professors. Unfortunately what you forgot to mention in your defense of Law Schools was the importance of credential-ism. The reason you are employment by Connecticut Law as a professor is the simple fact that you went to Yale. An equally intelligent and hard working person who had a bad day on the LSAT might have ended up at Michigan or Georgetown and unless they then proceeded to be *the* top law student of their class, win valuable faculty support and rack up impressive Federal Appellate level clerkship they would never be looked at seriously.

    You might have been able to easily glide into a 170k big law salary but the vast majority of your potential students at U Conn will never touch that (without a family connection of course.)

    And yet tuition at places like your employer are not proportionally lower to the opportunities your education will provide.

  83. You have far too many lawyers in the USA already, adding a huge cost overhead to your economy.

  84. On balance, I thought this post was a useful counterbalance to the Times piece. But you need to be fair, too: you keep returning to this example of “knowing what form to file where,” as if the new associates in question were being grilled on who gets the blue copy of form THX-1138, and whether it’s okay to use green-colored ink on it.

    And this is not true: they really did not grasp what sorts of things you might want to do to bring about a merger. I mean in terms of “you go to the government and say, ‘please take these two companies and make them one company.’” I think the anecdote was perfectly fair, well-chosen, and illustrative of the larger trends in the article: that powerful clients are refusing to be billed for first-year associates’ time, and that law firms are obliged to put those associates in remedial classes.