TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Temperature Rises In Law School Crisis Debate

The posts have attracted a lot of commentary, including by Michael Risch (Villanova), Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.), and John Steele (Legal Ethics Forum).

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2015/04/the-temperature-rises-.html

Legal Education | Permalink

Comments

Except that Campos' critique has, by and large, proved out.

Posted by: mike livingston | Apr 14, 2015 4:13:46 AM

You wonder, at what point will law schools actually begin to address the underlying problems that are the source of the criticism instead of just lashing out at critics. All of this country's major newspapers have run stories with similar criticism of low employment rates and high debt. Just make faculty teach 3 classes per semester, cut administration and reduce class size and this problem is largely done. Why aren't schools just doing it?

Posted by: JM | Apr 14, 2015 5:50:42 AM

What part of Campos's critique "proved out"? Simkovic and Diamond argued that the recent downturn is cyclical, that the proper measure of the value of a law degree is not nine months after graduation, and that the only relevant question is what to do instead of getting a JD, given that a JD is a better financial investment over the long term than merely having a BA. All these points have been proven, and Campos, partly because he can't follow the statistics and econometrics, has had nothing to say. (And thanks to the fiasco in the NY Times last week, the whole country knows he's incompetent with data analaysis.) So what part of Campos's "critique...proved out"?

Posted by: Reader | Apr 14, 2015 7:41:43 AM

I went to a California school ranked much higher than Santa Clara. I can't tell you how many peers and colleagues have been crushed by debt and have never found any form of employment. I have friends who get denied for loans for a $3,000 used car because of debt-to-income ratio. And I know many others that will never be able to buy a home. I just don't know what Diamond is talking about, as his own school, Santa Clara has abysmal placement rates and job outcomes for its students. Even with the rosiest color of glasses, Santa Clara is saddling 100 students a year with so much non-dischargeable debt that these students will remain indebted for 25 to 30 years.

Posted by: armand | Apr 14, 2015 9:07:15 AM

Why aren't there legions of law students, newly minted lawyers, and veteran lawyers touting the greatness of law school and the legal profession? It really seems like insulated professors getting paid off of student loan money are the only ones touting law school. If Simkovic and Diamond are right, wouldn't every lawyer you speak with praise the legal profession and encourage students to enter law school? This doesn't happen. The opposite does. Every lawyer I know, and most law students (at least the ones who have already gone through OCI), discourage everyone they meet from going to law school. Instead of taking surveys from volunteered information from NALP or the law school, pick up a phone and call 10 grads or practicing lawyers at random. I doubt the responses would be positive.

Posted by: Mandingo | Apr 14, 2015 9:19:33 AM

I would venture to guess that as time continues to pass, applying the Simkovic & McIntire model to law grads will yield lower and lower returns and eventually yield a net negative number. Once data from the class of 2009 onward goes into the S&M statistical model I think we'll see the value of the degree decrease and cross below zero. There are just going to be too many students with 200k of debt at 7 or 8% weighing down the premium of a JD. This is especially true if you factor in IBR/PAYE because many graduates will make minimum payments for years on end while the balance on their loans increases. So the fortunate few to land jobs will make payments for 5 or 10 years under IBR/PAYE and their student loan balance will stay the same or increase. Once they start making enough to reduce principal, they will have already sunk thousands into interest only payments.

Posted by: Jazelious | Apr 14, 2015 10:12:03 AM

"What part of Campos's critique "proved out"? Simkovic and Diamond argued that the recent downturn is cyclical, that the proper measure of the value of a law degree is not nine months after graduation, and that the only relevant question is what to do instead of getting a JD, given that a JD is a better financial investment over the long term than merely having a BA. All these points have been proven."

Proven? Simkovic and Diamond are pretty much the ONLY observers left arguing that we are in a cyclical and not structural change in the profession. Even the ABA and NALP admit that this time is different and the market isn't ever going back to what it was in 2000-2006/07. Nine months after graduation, people without jobs are part of the long-term unemployed, and there have been dozens of labor economics studies conducted by people with actual masters and PhDs in economics that detail just how bleak their futures are. S&M provide no counter narrative to long-term unemployment or how JDs might be unaffected by it, and in fact their more recent study - that economic downturns have no effect on earnings - runs afoul of more than a half dozen studies I have read on the subject, all written by people with far more economics training than they possess. And it's funny how the only choices are a "BA" or a "JD." I guess STEM folk don't go to law school, and there are no such things as MBAs, MDs, MPHs, MS in Economics, etc. You have a very interesting definition of "proven"; it appears to be one that would also verify a geocentric model of the universe.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Apr 14, 2015 10:30:10 AM

JM: "You wonder, at what point will law schools actually begin to address the underlying problems that are the source of the criticism instead of just lashing out at critics."

They won't. Some of the schools will eventually go under (likely with face-saving mergers). Some few professors, after being booted into the legal market they so long touted, will admit what's happened, when they are in bankruptcy.

Posted by: Barry | Apr 14, 2015 10:37:42 AM

Reader: " Simkovic and Diamond argued that the recent downturn is cyclical,"

I have seen nothing on this, and I note that you are using the word 'argued', rather than, say, 'proved'.

No supporter of the present system has even tried to make that case, because they'd have to compare the grads:jobs and debt:salary ratios of the present to former times, and the latter ratio is something which they'd rather not admit.

"... that the proper measure of the value of a law degree is not nine months after graduation, "

Law schools do not think this, law schools want the money up front. A lot of money.

"...and that the only relevant question is what to do instead of getting a JD, given that a JD is a better financial investment over the long term than merely having a BA."

Which is a BS argument. They didn't compare it to any other professional degrees, and most of their data came from a time when it was harder to get into a JD program than now, which means that the selection effect over BA holders would have been strong.

Posted by: Barry | Apr 14, 2015 10:42:35 AM

"The posts have attracted a lot of commentary, including by Michael Risch (Villanova), Ted Seto (Loyola-L.A.), and John Steele (Legal Ethics Forum)."

Michael Risch's 'commentary' on Prof. Merritt's article adds up to reading an article which lays out a strong case for substantial bias, and then being somehow unable to comprehend it.

Posted by: Barry | Apr 14, 2015 10:58:37 AM

“Why aren't there legions of law students, newly minted lawyers, and veteran lawyers touting the greatness of law school and the legal profession?”

I don’t think your point is probative of what you claim it to be.

Setting aside for a moment the core issue relating to oversupply of law schools, why would anyone want to invite more competition for themselves in the employment market? Good time or bad, it is in my self-interest to discourage others from following in my path to compete with me for jobs later. This applies even if you aren’t an attorney.

Posted by: mojavewolf | Apr 14, 2015 12:22:37 PM

"If Simkovic and Diamond are right, wouldn't every lawyer you speak with praise the legal profession and encourage students to enter law school?"

Not necessarily, if they are being shouted down in the irresponsible mass media who give much more time and space to irresponsible demagogues and frustrated hotheads. Since Mandingo sounds rather like one of the latter, I suspect that this consideration will continue to elude him.

Posted by: Rob T. | Apr 14, 2015 3:07:34 PM

The "responses" are typical of the idiotic level of discourse in cyberspace. The critics of Simkovic etc. don't read the research, if they do read it, they don't understand it, and they respond with anecdotes instead of data and econometric analysis. Campos was just a symptom of the stupidity of the blog commenters, but he has the misfortune to have his name attached to his incompetent analysis, whereas the blog idiots are safe.

Posted by: Reader | Apr 14, 2015 3:34:11 PM

I just don't see how this works. Thousands of law school students are unemployed and crushed under mountains of debt. That's real. How does Simkovic or any of these other studies change that? All the academic talk aside about statistics and what not, aren't law schools still failing an unacceptable amount of grads?

Posted by: Cornelius | Apr 14, 2015 6:16:49 PM

Reader, you just either don't really understand the critiques, or you do and are desperately hoping the rest of us don't either. Simkovic and McIntyre don't "prove" it's cyclical -- they assume it. You launch ad hominem attacks but refuse to address the detailed criticisms of the S&M work, because you know you can't.

Posted by: muscovy | Apr 15, 2015 6:07:39 AM

Simkovic responded to all the "detailed criticisms," and showed quite clearly that they were mistaken. You obviously haven't followed Simkovic & McIntyre's work since the original article if you don't realize that they have demonstrated what held for the previously 20 years continues to hold since the current recession. The Simovice & McIntyre paper was published in a peer-refereed journal. The critics publish on blogs, for a reason.

Posted by: Reader | Apr 15, 2015 6:45:51 AM

As an observation, I must say that some of these Million Dollar truther posts, a few of which are real gems, remind me of nothing so much as the half-dozen trolls who have invaded the Chronicle of Higher Education of late and attempt to turn every article that even mentions race as an excuse to parade Bell Curve as some sort of Holy Scripture. It got peer review from somebody somewhere at some point too, and it has a bunch of numbers in it, so its racist assumptions (example: there are meaningful genetic differences between races (no, there aren't)), conclusions, and policy recommendations must be true, despite the mountains of evidence against and criticisms of Bell Curve. Similarly, a few posters are convinced of S&M's absolute truth in its assumption, methodology, conclusions, and recommendations, which is a pretty reductive position for a (probable) law professor to take about anything, really. And yes, S&M run contrary to other labor economics studies that were written by folk with MS and PhDs in Economics.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Apr 15, 2015 7:58:03 AM

It's hilarious that Simkovic doesn't feel it is fair for people to point out Seton Hall's terrible employment statistics when discussing the value of a JD. Apparently, this is some sort of ad hominem attack. Of course his rejoinder is that the earning power of a JD comes later in life. My guess is that one would have a real hard time finding examples of successful attorneys who have mysterious prolonged gaps in employment on their resume. I think it's fair to say if you don't have a job as a lawyer 9 months post graduation that you are out of this profession. How many Seton Hall grads does that apply to?

Posted by: JM | Apr 15, 2015 8:21:03 AM

Unemployed Northeastern: you've never been able to make a cogent argument. Is this why you're unemployed? Can you cite a piece of scholarly literature that takes issue with the analysis in the Simkovic paper? What other studies of the labor economics of the market for JDs are out there that you're thinking of?

Posted by: Reader | Apr 15, 2015 8:56:41 AM

So while S responded to all detailed criticisms, he is just ignoring criticisms (https://lawschooltuitionbubble.wordpress.com/2015/03/11/71-percent-of-lawyers-work-in-the-legal-services-sector/) of the work that aren't detailed because of the determination that the research isn't serious enough to be bothered with.

Posted by: detailed criticisms | Apr 15, 2015 11:51:19 AM

As Paul Krugman pointed out in a blog post recently (http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/04/11/matter-over-mind/) from an older paper he'd overlooked... [W]e argue that in about the year 2000, the demand for skill (or, more specifically, for cognitive tasks often associated with high educational skill) underwent a reversal. Many researchers have documented a strong, ongoing increase in the demand for skills in the decades leading up to 2000. In this paper, we document a decline in that demand in the years since 2000, even as the supply of high education workers continues to grow. We go on to show that, in response to this demand reversal, high-skilled workers have moved down the occupational ladder and have begun to perform jobs traditionally performed by lower-skilled workers.

Posted by: detailed criticisms | Apr 15, 2015 11:58:38 AM

How about this, the problem will be cyclical if the schools respond but closing or drastically cutting seats. But to continue to add supply to a market that is already experiencing a downturn will exacerbate the problem.

Posted by: Pierre | Apr 15, 2015 5:16:09 PM

So, gentlemen,what if you have fiduciary duties to your prospective students as regards employment statistics?

Corinthian Colleges just found out that publishing false and misleading employment stats to prospective students is a violation of their fiduciary duties under the Higher Education Act. Fined 30 million dollars and it appears the losses to the federal government on loan forgiveness will be much greater.

34 CFR 668.82. May all your employment statistics be audited.

Posted by: Employment Stats Don't Matter? | Apr 15, 2015 5:50:37 PM

Professor Diamond and other honest scholars have pulled back the curtain on Paul Campos and his fellow Wizards of Odds and Ends, exposing the stunning extent of their self-serving hypocrisy. As a former law professor who grew up in a working-class family, attended an elite school (Harvard) on an Air Force program, and then taught at non-elite institutions (Roger Williams, Charlotte, and Appalachian), I've seen the legal academy from all sides. It's refreshing to witness the truth at last revealed behind the Campos costume ball mask.

At least 99% of the people in this nation could never dream of being coddled in the luxury that Campos has enjoyed for so long. Regular folks who work long, hard hours every day just to pay the rent or mortgage and keep the lights on would laugh at the pampered life such academics lead. Working people would be astonished that someone like Campos can skip the years of actual, real-world experience and dues-paying they endured, and leap directly into the soft bed of the elite pundit-wannabees with virtually no law-practice experience. Short hours, huge amounts of free time, lavish salaries, generous Summer Research Stipends, abundant funds for travel, books, furniture, and equipment, occasional sabbaticals, incredible pension plans and medical/dental benefits...the list would make Louis XIV envious.

Within this cocoon of comfort, it has been so easy for critics like Campos to bite the hand that feeds him with a silver spoon. The supposed scandals in higher education, the alleged corruption, the self-interested practices--Campos has been free to point his finger at all of them, while enjoying a life of ease and luxury. Now, reality therapy has begun. The hard facts are that the overwhelming majority of people have to claw and fight for every opportunity. We have to scramble for even a slight chance, a slim opportunity. For people of color, people of limited means, folks who need to earn money while going to school, life is anything but a bed of thorn-free roses.

The normal people Campos has so long derided make their own lucky breaks. They work to have a chance to realize their dreams at any school that will give them that opening. They can't worry about U.S. News rankings, reputation, and the opinions of self-appointed elitist critics. They only want even a tiny chance to earn a slender sliver of the good life Campos has marinated in for decades. A law school that truly values diversity, serving the underserved, and giving a chance to non-traditional students may be scorned by Campos and those of his ilk, but it is a true lifeline to so many worthy, hard-working individuals for whom this is their one chance for a better life. It's about time we saw the Wizard for what he really is. The charade is over.

Posted by: John Charles Kunich | Apr 16, 2015 3:18:07 AM

"Detailed criticisms': your first link doesn't work, probably just as well, given that Leichter is an amateur. Your second link is to a study that is not even relevant to the work Simkovic has done on the labor economics of the market for JDs. Par for the course with you people.

Posted by: Reader | Apr 16, 2015 6:53:46 AM

"Working people would be astonished that someone like Campos can skip the years of actual, real-world experience and dues-paying they endured, and leap directly into the soft bed of the elite pundit-wannabees with virtually no law-practice experience. Short hours, huge amounts of free time, lavish salaries, generous Summer Research Stipends, abundant funds for travel, books, furniture, and equipment, occasional sabbaticals, incredible pension plans and medical/dental benefits...the list would make Louis XIV envious."

This is true of every tenured/tenure track law professor. Again the problem is the price required to support the select few lucky ones in the legal academy. That price, as many have argued, is far too high at places like Charlotte law school. Professors are indebting the many for the benefit of a few. That model only works for top 5 or top 10 law schools.

Posted by: Cornelius | Apr 16, 2015 7:25:32 AM

Prof. Kunich, peddling this diversity and hard work line to first generation college students, minorities, and working class people is just stunning, considering only 34% of 2014 graduates of your former employer, Charlotte law, found full time long term lawyer jobs at any salary - this for $41,000 in tuition a year, much of which I'm sure finds its way to Infilaw's private equity investors in Chicago.

What Charlotte and institutions like it are doing is saddling a huge number of young people with life ruining, non-dischargeable debt and poor employment prospects to the benefit of the benefit of faculty, administrators, and in Infilaw's case, investors.

Posted by: Lonnie | Apr 16, 2015 7:55:10 AM

Paul Campos should just stop writing about the law school crises. I say that even though I enjoy his analysis and agree with almost everything he has ever written on the topic. The issue is that he is not the agent of change everyone thinks he is. Prospective students are looking into employment stats themselves and calculating debt projections and deciding that law school isn't worth it. So many profs/administrators think that if they can get Campos to shut up, this decline will all end. I bet you 1% of propsectives can even tell you who Campos is. Once there are no critics to argue with, law schools will be left with nothing to do but talk openly about the problem and address it.

Posted by: JM | Apr 16, 2015 8:40:13 AM

"For people of color, people of limited means, folks who need to earn money while going to school, life is anything but a bed of roses."

So you go ahead and tout the virtues of pathetic, predatory schools like Charlotte whose admission standards rank around cosmetology schools.

How do you live with yourself Professor, err Pawn Shop Dealer Kunich

Posted by: Cent Rieker | Apr 16, 2015 11:10:14 AM

I don't know anyone in legal academia who thinks Campos has anything to do with the decline in applications to law schools. To the extent people pay any attention to Campos, he is mostly an object of derision. Everyone realizes that the decline was brought about the NY Times series four years ago and the Senators forcing the ABA to force law schools to report more detailed employment stats, which made clear the effects of the recession.

Posted by: AnonProf | Apr 17, 2015 2:06:02 PM

AnonProf: if the recent decline was caused by the new detail in employment stats what caused the similar declines in law school applicants in 1985 and 1998? See LUN for stats.

Posted by: Steve Diamond | Apr 17, 2015 5:25:37 PM