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Monday, August 24, 2015

Simkovic Calls For 50%-100% Increase In Law School AALS Dues To Change Public Perception Of Legal Education

AALS (2017)Michael Simkovic (Seton Hall), Law Schools’ Four Billion Dollar Collective Action Problem:

Earlier this month, I charted the overwhelmingly negative press coverage of law schools and the legal profession over the last 5 years and discussed the disconnect between the news slant and economic reality. To the extent that news coverage dissuaded individuals from attending law school for financial reasons, or caused them to delay attending law school, newspapers will on average have cost each prospective law students tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The total economic harm across all prospective law students could easily be in the low billions of dollars.*

What can we learn from this?

Accurate, informed, and balanced news coverage does not happen of its own volition, particularly in a world where sensationalism and negativity attract eyeballs and sell advertising. ...

Collective action problems precluded any individual law school from acting unilaterally to correct the record and from bearing all of the associated costs for a small fraction of the benefits. ... Worse yet, some law schools unwittingly contributed to the press’s anti-law school excesses. ...

Law schools are competitors, but they need not compete in ways that are mutually destructive. Competition should drive progress, innovation, and value, not mud slinging. Law schools have a great deal in common, make important contributions to society, and can and should pursue shared goals and values together. ...

For years, misinformation accelerated while the AALS failed to respond effectively. ... The AALS now has new leadership with new priorities and there have been welcome signs of progress. ... However, there is still a great deal of work to be done. ...

[T]he AALS needs to become a valuable resource for journalists, helping them provide higher quality coverage and guiding them toward greater accuracy when they err. If this effort is to succeed, it will require more resources. ...

Many law schools, facing deficits of their own, may feel as if they cannot afford to invest in a collective communications effort. But law schools cannot afford to wait longer to make this investment. As time goes by, resources will become even more constrained, and misunderstandings will become more entrenched. Law school budgets may be tight, but that is all the more reason to use limited resources prudently.

I propose the following:

  1. The AALS should commit to shifting as many of its own resources as possible from less pressing needs to focus on public outreach efforts
  2. Member schools should temporarily provide additional funds earmarked specifically for public outreach efforts
  3. These efforts could be funded by a 50% to 100% increase in annual dues (roughly $5,000 to $10,000 for the smallest law schools and $15,000 to $30,000 for the largest) for the next 3 years.

A few thousand dollars extra per year per AALS member school—the equivalent of a few hundred dollars per faculty member and administrator—could fund several highly qualified fulltime communications professionals. ...

Providing more accurate information to the public could benefit law schools, but the greatest beneficiaries would be the students whose lives law school can change for the better. For many college graduates, the $30,000 to $60,000 extra per year that they can typically earn with a law degree will mean the difference between living in a safe and clean neighborhood or one that is dangerous and polluted. The expected boost to earnings can improve the healthfulness of their food, the quality of their healthcare, and the quality of education they can afford to provide for their own children. For most law graduates, the extra earnings will affect when and whether they can afford to retire. One of the best things law schools can do to help the middle class is to educate more of them.****

Contrary to popular belief, there is little evidence that larger law school graduating class sizes predict worse outcomes for law school graduates, nor is there evidence that smaller graduating class sizes predict better outcomes—at least not within the range of changes in class sizes we’ve seen over the last 50 years. ...

Artificially driving down law school class sizes through misinformation, in the hope that smaller classes will have better outcomes, is misguided. Moreover, misrepresenting law school as high-risk provides fodder for those who wish to scale back federal student loan programs, reduce protections for those unlucky few individuals who do have poor outcomes, and drive up the costs of financing higher education.

Many attacks on law schools are thinly veiled attacks on the legal profession itself—on the quality of the training lawyers receive, on their intelligence and their ethics. If these attacks turn good people away from attending law school, and if the legal academy and the legal profession fail to respond effectively, they risk the critique becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2015/08/simkovic-calls-for-50-100-increase-in-law-school-aals-dues-to-change-public-peception-of-legal-educa.html

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Comments

"The other important piece of the jobs picture for the Class of 2014 is that the class was substantially smaller than the class that preceded it. (Indeed, according to the ABA it was nearly 3,000 graduates smaller than the Class of 2013, which will likely stand as the largest class to ever pass through the American legal education pipeline, at least for the foreseeable future.) And, importantly, that smaller class found fewer jobs than the class before it. The overall number of jobs secured by law school graduates had grown in each of the three preceding years, with the Class of 2010 holding the low post-recession watermark for the actual number of jobs found. For the Class of 2014, the overall number of jobs secured was three percent fewer than the Class of 2013, but because the size of the graduating class itself was more than six percent smaller than the previous class, the overall employment rate went up." From NALP (http://www.nalp.org/2014_selected_pr).

Posted by: Morse Code for J | Aug 24, 2015 3:37:55 PM

Doesn't a coordinated sales pitch by law schools smell of "scam"? How will using student debt dollars to "talk the book" of law faculty change perception?

Simkovic fails to appreciate that the Achilles heal of every business - legal Ed included - are dissatisfied former customers. The problem is not the ny times. The problem is that your recent grads feel exploited and indebted and with few options.

Posted by: Jojo | Aug 25, 2015 4:10:18 AM

Simkovic’s methodology: A single research assistant reviewed newspaper articles published from 2005 to 2015 and decided whether each article made him/her more or less likely to attend law school. He doesn’t disclose whether he included major op-ed features, such as former Case Western Law School Dean Lawrence Mitchell’s 2012 marketing effort in the NY Times, or UC-Irvine Dean Erwin Chemerinsky’s similar 2014 piece.

His data: The number of net-negative articles spiked, beginning in 2011. First-year enrollment began to drop from its 2010 record high of 52,488.

His conclusion: The negative articles – led by the Wall Street Journal as the worst offender – contributed to the recent decline in law school applications. (The Chicago Tribune placed second.)

His assumed fact: That most prospective prelaw undergrads read the Wall Street Journal or any daily newspaper. According to a 2012 report from the PEW Research Center, only 24 percent of the WSJ’s readership is under 30; 71 percent of all WSJ readers are men. Only 12 percent of all daily newspaper readers are under 30.

His key omitted fact: Beginning in 2011, the ABA required law schools to disclose the types of jobs their graduates were actually getting. That prevented schools from touting phony 95+ percent employment rates. The truth was unpleasant for many schools: almost half of law graduates weren’t getting full-time long-term jobs requiring a JD.

His bottom line: When reputable newspapers reported the ongoing story of actual law graduate employment (and debt), the result was not transparency that produced better decisions. Rather, the media itself became responsible for irrational prelaw student behavior – assuming that those students actually read the stories.

His current proposal: Law schools should unite in a campaign to would increase enrollment.

Sometimes, simply stating a proposition is sufficient to refute it.

Posted by: Steven J. Harper | Aug 25, 2015 8:04:34 AM

Oh, so many risible statements here. I’ll just pick a few:

“To the extent that news coverage dissuaded individuals from attending law school for financial reasons, or caused them to delay attending law school, newspapers will on average have cost each prospective law students tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The total economic harm across all prospective law students could easily be in the low billions of dollars.”

And of course, law schools have been estimated to be the recipient of $4.5 billion per year in federal student loans per year, so there’s the economic harm which matters here. Let’s reword S’s prior statement: “To the extent that news coverage dissuaded individuals from attending law school for financial reasons, or caused them to delay attending law school, newspapers will on average have cost each LAW SCHOOL tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars.” Let’s not forget that the most recent class entering Seton Hall is 167 students, a mere 46% of the 358 students who entered in 2010. Total school size dropped from 1,053 students to 688 students over 2011-14. 365 missing students at a sticker price of $50,034 per year (tuition alone)…. Oof. That’s a big hit. Let’s say that half of those missing students would have paid sticker, which is generous, as only 485 of those 1,053 received discounts. 182 students by $50,034… that’s $9,106,188 in missing revenue. Per year. Plus the additional revenue of those other 182 students who did receive some manner of discounting. So we are easily talking north of $10 million in missing revenue per year just at S’s employer.

“Providing more accurate information to the public could benefit law schools”

You’re too late; Law School Transparency already exists and is an excellent source of accurate information to the public, despite what my unauthorized doppleganger on Wikipedia says.

“For many college graduates, the $30,000 to $60,000 extra per year that they can typically earn with a law degree”

Someone appears to be unaware that the median salary on his very own law school’s last NALP report (Co2013) was… $54,231. So much for that extra $60k/year premium, unless S is implicitly saying that the average Seton Hall Law student had a negative income before they matriculated. $54,231 is less than a $10k/year premium over the nationwide (!) average starting salary for four year college graduates in 2013. Mind you, Seton Hall could barely get salary info from 2/3 of its graduates that year, so the true median is certainly lower than $54k. And funny how none of the 34 of 309 unemployed graduates (11% of the class, which is higher than the nationwide percentage of unemployed Co2013 four year graduates) had their $0.00 included in the salary data. Just as their $0.00 payments under PAYE won’t count against Seton Hall as defaults. As much as we would all like for the student debtloads and earnings outcomes of the Class of 1994 to be in any way relevant in 2015, well, they simply aren’t.

“For many college graduates, the $30,000 to $60,000 extra per year that they can typically earn with a law degree will mean the difference between living in a safe and clean neighborhood or one that is dangerous and polluted. The expected boost to earnings can improve the healthfulness of their food, the quality of their healthcare, and the quality of education they can afford to provide for their own children. For most law graduates, the extra earnings will affect when and whether they can afford to retire. One of the best things law schools can do to help the middle class is to educate more of them”

For someone who chides Lumina’s rhetoric and motivations with some frequency, Simkovic mirrors them almost to the letter. How ironic.

“misrepresenting law school as high-risk provides fodder for those who wish to scale back federal student loan programs, reduce protections for those unlucky few individuals who do have poor outcomes, and drive up the costs of financing higher education.”

You people need to own that your marketing behavior over the last several years is exhibits A-Z for the neoliberal think tanks trying to cut income-based repayment plans and GradPLUS loans. How many law schools have trotted out IBR/PAYE as the failsafe? That the balance doesn’t matter because the payments will be small? That you shouldn’t worry if you start out defending traffic offenders in Camden for $30k/year because you’ll probably make a cool million over that engineer in the long run? That PSLF combined with school LRAP will effectively mean that you never have to pay anything? We all know that most, if not all non-Biglaw, non-public sector law school grads are only constructively solvent and not in default SOLELY because of IBR and PAYE. Someday the DOE will respond to a FOIA request and corroborate this. New America et al thoroughly and conclusively outflanked law schools’ survival strategy (keep pumping tuition despite stagnant-to-declining professional salaries and tout IBR plans as a hedge against miserly salaries); you have absolutely no one to blame except yourselves. No one. Own it.


“Many attacks on law schools are thinly veiled attacks on the legal profession itself—on the quality of the training lawyers receive, on their intelligence and their ethics”

As much as some quarters would love to paint this as some grand conspiracy of the lamestream media and diabolical think tanks, here’s what happened. Applications plummeted after Senators from each side of the aisle used implicit force to make the ABA come up with semi-realistic employment accountings in 2011. All of a sudden, schools that were previously saying “95% employed at graduation with $160k average salary” were admitting that only 45% or 50% of graduates were finding full-time, long-term legal jobs at any salary within nine months of graduation. Being rational actors, many prospective students stayed the heck away – particularly those with 165+ LSAT scores, as the data has shown. At Seton Hall, for instance, applications dropped from 3,439 in 2011 to 1,625 in 2014. That change in employment reporting is also the catalyst for the majority of the bad press law schools have received over recent years. Once again, law schools are blaming everyone else for reaping what they and they alone have sown. Own it.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Aug 25, 2015 9:42:53 AM

Taxpayers should not be subsidizing law school tuitions especially given the fact that we have way too many lawyers already; more than Japan, Germany, England, France and Italy combined. Also, unless the student is at an Ivy League or comparable school or has a family member who is an atty and can give him a job upon graduation the chances of him/her getting a job is very poor. Finally, too many lawyers means, in the absence of losers pay rules, lots of frivolous law suits.

Posted by: texjudge | Sep 3, 2015 10:02:44 AM