Thursday, July 25, 2013
Following up this morning's post, Tamanaha: Why the 'Million Dollar Law Degree' Study Fails (Final Post):
- Frank Pasquale (Maryland), Why Tamanaha's "This Time is Different" Critique Fails:
Professor Tamanaha's post today expresses deep skepticism about the predictive value of the article "The Economic Value of a Law Degree." Unfortunately, his caution about extrapolation is mainly reserved for academic work he disagrees with. For Tamanaha, the prophets of lawyers' doom are far more credible than this empirical study. I don't think that's fair, for several reasons I'll give below. ...
- As far as I know, most of the "ReInventLaw"/Disruptive Innovation crowd does not share Tamanaha's views of the future of lawyers in the job market. ...
- However, I also try hard in my scholarship and popular writing to resist technological innovation that undermines the rule of law or otherwise disserves vulnerable populations. ... Before jumping on the "massive technological change is making lawyers obsolete" bandwagon, Tamanaha may want to think critically about the interests it is serving. ...
- Labor economist Mark Price has observed that it's always in employers' interest to characterize applicants as unqualified--it's just one more excuse not to pay. ... The narrative of constant, disruptive technological change fuels this attitude. I would also hazard a guess that at least some of the "law is being disrupted" crowd have consultancies that profit, like McKinsey, from devising plans to cut the pay of average workers and further enrich those at the top (or the multinational corporation client).
- This is not to say that "all is well in BigLaw"--nothing could be further from the truth. ...
- All my points above are part of a broader challenge to Tamanaha: consider larger economic dynamics, not just the legal market. Mike Konczal at the Roosevelt Institute has often noted that, if we were really experiencing widespread structural unemployment, there would be much greater disparity in employment rates between occupations. But that's not developing: instead, "underemployment has risen due to a lack of aggregate demand, not a mismatch between workers’ skills and available jobs."...
What we're seeing here is less a law problem, than a capitalism problem. Too much wealth is concentrated at the top, and has stopped flowing through the economy generally. The answer here is to beef up programs like income-based repayment, funded by more progressive taxes on the lucky and successful in today's winner-take-all economy. That was part of the funding mechanism for the Affordable Care Act, and should apply in education as it has in health care.
For someone who thinks and writes only about law schools, every problem for law graduates may seem like a pathology of legal academics. Take a broader view, and a more accurate picture emerges.
- Michael Simkovic (Seton Hall), Brian Tamanaha’s Straw Men (Part 2): Who's Cherry Picking?:
BT Claim 2: Using more years of data would reduce the earnings premium
Response: Using more years of historical data is as likely to increase the earnings premium as to reduce it
We have doubts about the effect of more data, even if Professor Tamanaha does not.
Without seeing data that would enable us to calculate earnings premiums, we can’t know for sure if introducing more years of comparable data would increase our estimates of the earnings premium or reduce it.
The issue is not simply the state of the legal market or entry level legal hiring—we must also consider how our control group of bachelor’s degree holders (who appear to be similar to the law degree holders but for the law degree) were doing. To measure the value of a law degree, we must measure earnings premiums, not absolute earnings levels. ...
There is nothing magical about 1992. If good quality data were available, why not go back to the 1980s or beyond? Stephen Diamond and others make this point. ...Our sample from 1996 to 2011 includes both good times and bad for law graduates and for the overall economy, and in every part of the cycle, law graduates appear to earn substantially more than similar individuals with only bachelor’s degrees.
This might be as good a place as any to affirm that we certainly did not pick 1996 for any nefarious purpose. Having worked with the SIPP before and being aware of the change in design, we chose 1996 purely because of the benefits we described here. Once again, should Professor Tamanaha or any other group wish to use the publicly available SIPP data to extend the series farther back, we'll be interested to see the results.
Prior TaxProf Blog coverage:
- What Is the Economic Value of a Law Degree -- $1 Million? (July 17, 2013)
- More on The $1 Million Value of a Law Degree (July 18, 2013)
- NY Times, WaPo, Others Debate The $1 Million Value of a Law Degree (July 18, 2013)
- What Is the Economic Value of a Law Degree -- $1 Million or $100,000? (July 19, 2013)
- More on The $1 Million Value of a Law Degree (July 20, 2013)
- Merritt on The $1 Million Value of a Law Degree (July 21, 2013)
- Diamond on The $1 Million Value of a Law Degree (July 22, 2013)
- Tamanaha: How 'The Million Dollar Law Degree' Study Systematically Overstates Value (July 23, 2013)
- Tamanaha: How the 'Million Dollar Law Degree' Study Understates Risk (Part I) (July 24, 2013)
- Tamanaha: Why the “Million Dollar Law Degree” Study Fails (Final Post) (July 25, 2013)
- Rasmusen: Critics of The Economic Value of a Law Degree Are Making the Paper Better (July 25, 2013)
- The American Lawyer: Paper on Law Degree's Economic Value a Non-Sequitur (July 26, 2013)
- Tamanaha: Short Term Versus Long Term Perspective (July 27, 2013)
- Harper, Diamond: The $1 Million Value of a Law Degree: Distraction, Astronomy, or Astrology? (July 28, 2013)
- Simkovic Responds to American Lawyer Op-Eds (July 29, 2013)
- Diamond Responds to Tamanaha (July 29, 2013)
- Rasmusen: The Economic Value of a Law Degree and the 'Typical' Law Student (July 29, 2013)
- Simkovic Responds to Tamanaha (Part 4) (July 30, 2013)