Paul L. Caron

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Burk: Much Heat, Some Light In Resurgent Law School Eschatology Debate

Bernie Burk (North Carolina), Much Heat, Some Light in Resurgent Law-School Eschatology Debate:

There has been a flareup in the debate over the purpose and value of law school.  The new discussion has been prompted by a series of posts by Michael Simkovic on Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports in which he summarizes and elaborates on his work with Frank McIntyre in two recent articles, The Economic Value of a Law Degree and Timing Law School. (You can get Mike’s complete set of posts—there are, by my count, 14—on Leiter’s blog by starting here (posted March 19) and scrolling up.  Paul Caron has collected links to commentary on the commentary from both sides of the debate here, not all of which are subject to the objection I register below.) ...

[A]nyone with any intellectual honesty must appreciate the importance of Mike Simkovic’s recent contributions to the ongoing public discussion on the purpose and value of legal education.  His work ...  is by my lights the first serious, empirically grounded, methodologically thoughtful showing that things—at least some things for at least some people—may not be quite as bad as some of us have feared.

Predictably, extremists on both sides of this longstanding debate have popped up to demonize or deify Prof. Simkovic and his work, vilifying or vaunting his motives and methods in sweeping and categorical terms.  I have only one request of all of you—please stop.  Stop the toxic name-calling.  Stop erecting effigies of your adversaries’ graves so you can dance on them.  The subject is much too important to be obscured in petty rivalries.  You’re not enlightening anyone, and it’s way too early to claim a victory lap, let alone drag your enemy in circles at the back of your chariot for the next nine days.  (I, at least, perceive Mike as having managed to hold himself mostly above the fray thus far, with only an occasional descent into the snippy or snide when goaded a bit too much.  But that happens to all of us now and then—not least, I regret to say, your not altogether gentle scribe.  I hope we’ll both try harder from here on out.)

In order to keep length manageable, I propose to share several posts over the next couple of weeks with some thoughts on Mike Simkovic’s important contributions.  I’ll try to point out some of the questions I think his work addresses, and the questions we still need to explore.  ... I'll take issue with [his] conclusions in some respects regarding (among other things) their breadth and predictive value for reasons I hope to explain in coming posts.

Legal Education | Permalink


Law profs are so funny. Their attitude can be summarized as: "I just want my old life back." Meaning, the one where they focus on their research, get paid over $200k and teach a relatively light schedule, and the only students they really know or care about are the one's that assist their research and perhaps the ones on law review. Calling for a higher level debate won't help with that. If there were a call for papers from Larry Summer, Jeff Sachs and Ben Bernanke the basic conclusion that law school was a disasterous proposition for the great majority of enrollees would be unanimous. How would that help the profs? They don't want and end to the name calling, they want the student loan money back.

Posted by: JM | Apr 20, 2015 7:58:15 AM

Mike gave one heck of a response. I also think we can save the good professor some time writing additional posts and have her copy and paste UNE's posts that have repeatedly detailed the errors/questions with Simkovic's analysis. I am sure UNE will be more than willing to lend his words to the professor for a nominal fee.

Posted by: Daniel | Apr 20, 2015 7:25:17 AM

I think this kind of reasonableness is easier when you have a job.

Posted by: mike livingston | Apr 18, 2015 5:03:18 AM