Paul L. Caron

Friday, January 4, 2013

Case Western Dean: There's No Oversupply of Lawyers

Bloomberg Law:  Dean: There's No Oversupply of Lawyers:

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects there will be 74,000 new lawyer jobs this decade, while American law schools will produce more than 400,000 graduates. Despite those numbers, "it's not clear to me there's an oversupply problem at all," says Case Western Reserve Law School Dean Lawrence Mitchell. With so many legal needs of the poor going unmet, "finding different paths for people who truly want to be lawyers opens up all sorts of possibilities" for law graduates to find jobs, he maintains.

"We're running a business" that's grown more expensive every year because of clinics and smaller class sizes, he tells Bloomberg Law's Lee Pacchia. Contrary to popular wisdom, "I don't turn over a big chunk [of law school tuition dollars] to the university, and I'm not teaching 150 kids in a class," he says.

Mitchell wrote an op-ed in the New York Times in late November, taking to task the many critics of legal education. "The attack on law school disregards . . . we're working hard in good faith" to help students find employment, he says. "That's why I schlep all over the country for two months every summer, like Willie Loman, talking to hiring partners at law firms trying to get my kids jobs."

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"The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects there will be 74,000 new lawyer jobs this decade, while American law schools will produce more than 400,000 graduates.

Despite those numbers, "it's not clear to me there's an oversupply problem at all," says Case Western Reserve Law School Dean Lawrence Mitchell. With so many legal needs of the poor going unmet, "finding different paths for people who truly want to be lawyers opens up all sorts of possibilities" for law graduates to find jobs, he maintains."

George Orwell said "Some ideas are so stupid that only intellectuals believe them." The only other possibility - with the BLS projecting jobs for 18.5% of the graduates - is to question the man's integrity. Please - what other option is there?

Posted by: air65cav | Jan 4, 2013 1:32:28 PM

As Niro played his fiddle...

Posted by: Todd | Jan 4, 2013 1:58:09 PM

I'm going to defer this one to Wikipedia:

"William 'Willy' Loman is a fictional character from Arthur Miller's 'Death of a Salesman,' which debuted on Broadway on February 10, 1949. Loman is a 63-year-old travelling salesman from Brooklyn with 34 years of experience with the same company who endures a pay cut and a firing during the play. He has difficulty dealing with his current state and has created a fantasy world to cope with his situation."

Posted by: RMM | Jan 4, 2013 2:11:51 PM

it feel like i've seen him before, but i just can't place it. oh, this might be it:

Posted by: just kidding | Jan 4, 2013 4:54:16 PM

This guy is just embarassing himself.

When asked about his schools terrible nine month job placement stats, this is his response:

"I haven't myself taken a snapshot a year out,but from ... I have talked to my admissions staff a lot, and I suspect if you look a year out things would change dramaticall. I'm really confident if you look a year-and-a-half out they would." @4:11

So he doesn't actually have any numbers, but he does suspect (and even feels confident) that his students usually find a job of some sort ... eventually.

And his rambling answer to the question about rising tuition is just hilarious. He brings up the rising first-year salaries at BigLaw, but fails to mention that less than 10% of Case Western Grads end up in BigLaw. He mentions that med school cost 4x what law school did back in 1985, but doesn't mention that law school is now, on average, more expensive than law school.

Then his response to the oversupply of lawyers is to serve the underserved. Who of course are underserved because they can't pay.

But the absolute best quote of the whole thing -- in response to the comment that you can't serve low-income clients and service huge debts:

"You can and you can't," followed by some rambling BS about how education shouldn't be judged by cost, and return-on-investment.

Posted by: john | Jan 4, 2013 5:11:10 PM

Yes, it's true that there are millions of people who are either unserved or underserved. But that does not mean that there is not an oversupply of lawyers. Rather, it means that there are millions of people who simply cannot get legal services because there's no way to pay reasonable compensation to lawyers to provide those services.

The issue, of course, is not whether law school education is overpriced. Rather, it's whether the cost is justified based on the ability to get a reasonable economic return on the investment.

What is striking about the interview is that Mitchell never addresses the core issue: Is there an oversupply of lawyers? The statistics cited by the previous commentator make it clear that there is such an oversupply.

Posted by: Stuart Levine | Jan 4, 2013 7:51:18 PM

“I have had a job, jobs, where it was hard to get out of bed in the morning and I didn’t like going to work. My own personal solution was to take a 2/3rds pay cut and go into teaching, where I didn’t mind going to work any day. I was happy every day of my career.”

“Unfortunately somehow in higher education—and I admit that it’s someone quite expensive—we’ve gotten into a situation where we measure the worth of higher education by the dollar return on investment…. But it’s not passive investment … It’s an investment in a career, in a life, it’s an investment in hopefully a fulfilling, challenging job.”

“You’re talking about people, all of who have significant opportunity costs, that have gone into this business for the sake of trying to do something good…. I didn’t have to become a dean, I resisted becoming a dean, I ultimately decided to become a dean because I thought I had a great career, I like to be able to give back and create opportunities for other people that had been created for me.”

So, the dean is suggesting law students shouldn't try to quantify higher education in dollar terms, but the legal academy needs to be compensated for opportunity costs, which apparently can be quantified in dollar terms?

Posted by: Carl Epstien | Jan 4, 2013 7:54:59 PM

this interviewer really softballed him

point by point:

1. "im confident that if you look 1 year or 1.5 years down the road you would find a diffrent employment picture"

uh ok-so take they survey for your students-which you have the ability to do...then post the numbers and lets talk. without the numbers, your statement you are confident the numbers will come out your way is worht nothing. I am two years out with 1.5 years of litigation experience and licensed in the three jurisictions near DC. I'm still waiting for that first full time job. So-I'm not confident. yes I'm anacdotal but where are your numbers

2. There is no oversupply b/c there are plenty of low income people who want legal servaces that don't get it-must be we need more lawyers.

uh there are always lots of people who want services they can't pay for. unless there is money to pay more lawyers to do this work, making more lawyers won't help. and yes I know the price of services can come down with more lawyers but the reality is-lawyers wont take cases that requires 30 30 hours of work for $1000 (about 30/hour) and most clients don't even have 1000 to pay a lawyer. if you want more services for the poor you want more taxpayer subsidies-i think law schools already have enough of that being tax free, eligable for students to borrow unlimited money for their tuition, and not on the hook for the IBR forgiveness.

3. there is no oversupply becuase lawyers do other things

um ok-probably mostly becuase they can't get real lawyer jobs. but in any case-whats the evidence they cant do these things without law school.

4. we are doing lots to address this problem becuase i personally talked to a firm about hiring students from my school

uh-so you are doing lots to address the issue by begging a firm to do you a favor and hire your students instead of another-thereby simply redistributing jobs from one school to another

5. we are doing lots to address this problem becuase we left our jobs elesewhere to go into academia to do good...

yes but what you really mean is you left to feel like you were doing good and to advocate for other instituions to make policy changes...(except the ABA who you will not tell to drop its demand for tenured faculty ratios which drive tuition)

6. yes we are a buisness so we have to act like one

-then why do you take donations? especially from recent grads


Posted by: bobm | Jan 5, 2013 2:17:04 AM

Larry Mitchell was my corporations prof at GW. He was very big on teaching us the evils of corporations; the horrors of conflicts of interests amongst corporate boardmembers; and how badly minority shareholders could be treated due to a lack of voting power. The final exam was a joke - something to the effect of, "if you were going to rewrite Delaware corporate law, how would you do it?" But the evils of Big Academia? Conflicts of interest between university administrators and law students? How badly those law school administrators are treating their potential and actual students? Blinders...

Posted by: Deeg | Jan 5, 2013 4:38:07 AM

Say, Dean, is there any particular reason your law school needs all those clinics? When I was in law school, back in 1994-1997, I noticed that the clinics (at least at my school in Seattle) were exclusively focused on advancing liberal political and policy objectives. Isn't it kind of wrong to force law students to bear the cost, with ever-increasing debt, of the faculty's pet projects? How selfish of you to bamboozle those kids with your lies. You pretend to be so altruistic, while loading up your marks with crushing debt burdens. Shame on you.

Posted by: Brendon Carr | Jan 5, 2013 4:38:35 AM

I recommend "Tin Men" (1987) directed by Barry Levinson, starring Richard Dreyfuss, Danny DeVito, and Barbara Hershey.

Its about fraudulent aluminum siding salesmen. But, I don't see any difference between the them and law school deans.

Posted by: Walter Sobchak | Jan 5, 2013 5:13:37 AM

"I don't want to be flip about it, but [if lawyers would work for less there wouldn't be a problem.]"

So your students expectations are the problem, are they? Prove you're not a hypocrite:

"I don't want to be flip about it, but if law schools charged cosmetology school prices lawyers could afford to work on a barber's salary."

If students should choose the law profession for the fulfillment that comes from being a lawyer, maybe you should teach law for a reward in kind. Graduates wouldn't be in debt and could work for less and you'd be setting a good example for them by teaching law for the fun of it. Win-win!

The uncomfortable truth, which he's admitted, is that there is not enough demand to support lawyers at the salaries they expect to make. He's right that lawyers need to lower their expectations. But they can't do that from $200,000 in the hole, and if anyone needs to make sacrifices it's the people who dug that hole. Smells like hypocrisy.

Posted by: Piltdown Ghost | Jan 5, 2013 5:33:29 AM

He still has a job, another clueless lawyer. Shakespeare was right all 500 years ago.

Posted by: John Kinstle | Jan 5, 2013 8:44:23 AM

I had the choice of going to law school at Case or Cincinnati, and I chose Cincinnati.

Looks like I made the right call.

Posted by: MPM (UC Law '89) | Jan 5, 2013 9:03:18 AM

Wouldn't an increase in the amount of pro bono work required of lawyers address the Dean's concerns, a bit? Of course, some want complete resolution of every problem we face instead of a incremental improvement.

Posted by: tom beebe st louis | Jan 5, 2013 9:20:52 AM

And who would Dean Mitchell have pay for the services of the lawyers who meet the needs of the under-served poor? Never mind, I think I know.

Posted by: SukieTawdry | Jan 6, 2013 12:47:46 AM

Law school deans everywhere need a reality check. They need to cut costs, reduce enrollment, and offer more scholarship dollars. For example, why is it that Case Western offers clinics in international criminal law? How many graduates actually pursue careers in this field? My guess is that 1-2 graduates might get a job in this field once every few years. (My guess is as good as Dean Mitchell's gut feelings on 18 month job placement.) Is that where resources should be deployed? Let's face it, law schools--almost all of them--have a lot of fat.

Posted by: HTA | Jan 7, 2013 8:05:00 AM

There are many jobs for which a law degree is an advantage. Being a lawyer is only one of them.

The number of lawyer jobs tells us little about the value of a law degree.

Posted by: Anon | Jan 7, 2013 10:15:13 PM

"There are many jobs for which a law degree is an advantage."

What are those jobs? How many lawyers can actually get those jobs (remember, we have about a 2-1 oversupply of law grads to new jobs, so if you answer isn't around 20-25,000 JD advantage jobs per year, we still have an oversupply problem)? How much of an advantage does a law degree provide over people without the degree? Does this advantage justify three years and $125,000 in debt? How much do these jobs pay?

"The number of lawyer jobs tells us little about the value of a law degree."

The number of doctor jobs tells us little about the value of a medical degree. The number of dentist jobs tells us little about the value of a dental degree.

See how silly that really sounds. Among professional schools, it's only the law schools that try this smoke and mirors act.

Posted by: john | Jan 8, 2013 1:51:00 PM