Sunday, August 4, 2013

Simkovic and Leiter Are Firing Shots From Their Ivory Tower

Since the execrable paper "The Economic Value of a Law Degree" was publicized, Michael Simkovic and noted anti-reform advocate Brian Leiter have been firing potshots at anyone who dares to post anything negative about the paper.

The list is long, but worth reading through.

Money Quote: “A peculiarity of the cyber-ranting about "don't go to law school" is that it never explains, or even seems to care, what happens or would happen to those who forego the JD.”

Brian Tamanaha Says We Should Look at the Below Average Outcomes (And We Did)
Money Quote: “These numbers are pre-tax and pre-tuition.”

Above the Law Needs to Read More
Money Quote: “How profitable varies from person to person.  There are surely a few individuals who do not benefit at all or even do worse.  If we had a way to identify these unlucky people before law school we would encourage them to avoid law school.    Judging from student loan default rates, this is a relatively rare outcome.  Further, income based repayment of loans should substantially mitigate this downside, even as it makes it difficult for us to nail down exactly how much a given person pays for law school. “

Brian Tamanaha’s Straw Men (Part 1): Why we used SIPP data from 1996 to 2011
Money Quote: “Had we used earlier data, it could be difficult to know to what extent changes to our earnings premiums estimates were caused by changes in the real world, and to what extent they were artifacts caused by changes to the SIPP methodology.”

Brian Tamanaha’s Straw Men (Part 2): Who's Cherry Picking?
Money Quote:   To measure the value of a law degree, we must measure earnings premiums, not absolute earnings levels.

Brian Tamanaha’s Straw Men (Part 3): We use better (and more) data than studies Tamanaha praised in his book
Money Quote: “We certainly are not claiming to have uncovered hundreds of years of data on law school earnings premia.  But, ultimately, we are not sure how valuable such a retrospective would be for today's graduate.”
Money Chart: As you can see, they only show default rates up to 2010. The default crisis hasn’t even begun yet.


Brian Tamanaha’s Straw Men (Part 4): We would have to be off by 85 percent for our basic conclusion to be incorrect
Money Quote: “We estimate the present value of a law degree at the median as $610,000 as of the start of law school.  This figure is pre-tax and pre-tuition, but includes opportunity costs and financing costs.
In other words, some combination of the student and the federal government could pay up to $610,000 for the law degree and break even.  The government might contribute to the cost through debt forgiveness through Income Based Repayment, or through some other method.”

Reflections on "The Economic Value of a Law Degree" and the Response to It
Money Quote #1: It all reminds me why, as I said long ago, blogs are bad for legal scholarship, since they provide a voice, sometimes--as with the ATL cesspool--a loud voice for people who literally have nothing to say because they have no relevant competence or skill.
Money Quote #2: “We have had a massive downturn in applications to law schools the last three years, primarily as a result of ABA-induced better reporting of employment outcomes and New York Times coverage of the bad job market for new JDs.  That's fine, some of these individuals may have made the correct decision by foregoing law school.  But we've also had an hysterical cyber-reaction by miscreants and charlatans (like Campos), as well as by unemployed law school graduates desperate for someone to blame for the latest crisis of capitalism.  Journalists have generally done a poor job sorting the wheat from the chaff, though there have been honorable exceptions (I think especially of Debra Weiss at the ABA journal).”

I see fear and nervousness through the veil of arrogance and pomposity that Leiter puts up. He knows he will soon be out on the street and is holding on to Simkovic's conclusions like a person holding on to a tree branch to avoid going down a waterfall. Mr. Leiter, the tree branch will eventually break and you will be swept away by change. Trying to resist it will only make you look more foolish than you already do.


  1. "Night Scent"
    By Maurice Leiter

    I dream of a flower,
    something beautiful, purple in the ultraviolet of the evening.
    Through cut grass and grilled meat I smell its perfume,
    light and captivating like the contrails of a beautiful girl in a sundress.

    Then I wake.

    The smell, turns out, is Brian's cockhead,
    purple and throbbing close to my sleeping nose.
    Cheesy, moist from spit as he thwaps himself.
    He leaves cumtrails over my face.

  2. Fuck leiter. We have the truth on our side. The liars will burn.

  3. Both Above the Law and Paul Campos on Lawyers, Guns and Money critiqued the paper.

    There are not enough legal jobs for at least half the people who graduated from ABA accredited law schools in the last 40 years. There is still huge overcapacity in the legal profession (translate - shortage of jobs) according to a very recent Georgetown Law School study.

    In light of the high risk of not being able to use a law degree to practice law, and the absence of any indication that there are good jobs out there using a law degree for the bulk of lawyers who do not have legal jobs, this piece is pure puffery.

    What leads them to believe they have a representative sample of what is going on today or that their regression analysis is a proper scientific method so to speak?

    1. One thing that I find especially pitiful is their claim that there is an earnings premium even for law school graduates who don't practice law. So, if someone goes through a low-ranked law school, can't find a legal job, and, against all odds, has a successful career in another field, they want to claim credit for that performance for law school. Instead, they should acknowledge that law school was just as likely, if not moreso, to be a hindrance rather than a help in that person's career.

    2. The oversupply of lawyers has becone so bad that in some practice/ geographic areas half of those leaving big law leave without jobs. That is a change in the job market that is not reflected in this report, which is historical. Each year the oversupply of lawyers is getting worse as demand for legal services is flat or dropping.

  4. "He [Leiter] knows he will soon be out on the street"

    Nah, Leiter is a tenured faculty member at the University of Chicago. He isn't going anywhere.

    A lot of his toadies will be losing their jobs soon, however.

    Seval Yildirim wrote at The Faculty Lounge about her summer vacation, er, I mean her legal research trip to Istanbul, and got quite upset that a number of commentators noted that her salary was paid by Whittier Law School, which funds itself through high tuition ($41,560 sticker) while ruining the finances of most of its graduates. It is apparently bad form to note this.

    "Brian" wrote in Seval's defense that anonymous commenters were "the scum of the earth". Big talk from a guy who uses "aduren", "matt", "Pushkin", "ecnasialp", "Brian", "Gangner" and "PhiloStudent" as aliases.

    1. Fortunately, "Pushkin" noted in May that mass firings of law school professors won't be a problem:

      "The problem with Tammany Hall’s argument is that law professors at most schools (it used to be true of only the elite schools), can make a lot more money in practice, and did so before joining the academic ranks.  (Anyone who thinks law profs come directly from clerkships is 20 years out of date.)  Law profs have the best credentials, so they will get the best jobs, and they are smarter than most lawyers, so they will rise in the ranks over time.  There will be individual exceptions to this, of course, but it will be true as a general pattern.  They will take less money to teach in law school but, like almost everyone, there is a point at which they will go for the big bucks.  Law schools compete for staff in the most competitive law labor market there is in other words, and as a consequence, they have to pay something akin to a going rate to compete successfully.  Law school dean salaries are over the top, but most law professor salaries are quite modest compared to what the profs could be making in the Biglaw market."

      Law schools are therefore free to engage in mass firings of faculty (including the tenured ones) without concern or remorse, secure in the knowledge that the fired faculty will immediately land lucrative Biglaw jobs, since law professors are the superstars of the legal profession, and Biglaw firms are just aching to hire them.

      Who knew that it would be so simple and so easy to lay off thousands of law professors, and bring the production of law school graduates into balance with actual demand?

      Thanks, "Pushkin"!

    2. Professor Yildirim apparently didn't have a high paying big law job. It seems a lot of professors in lower ranked schools are hired purely because they graduated from a Top 10 or so law school as this looks good to prestige-obsessed 0Ls (Yildirim graduated from NYU).

      Other than a prestigious degree, I'm not sure what gets them hired as professors. Many don't seem to have any meaningful professional experience. Luck, personal contacts. And perhaps their specialization in some esoteric but interesting legal field. Professor Yildrim's is "Law and Minority Studies" or something. Perhaps the special snowflakes want to learn about such things other than more practical subjects, as it keeps the illusion alive they'll be practicing in such fields, instead of doing document review, conveyancing and wills (if they can get a legal job at all).

    3. I'm amazed Leiter/Pushkin cares, because as stated above he's not going anywhere. U of C has a $7b foundation. If anything, I would expect him to laugh maniacally as the lower-tier ships sink, thus reinforcing and confirming his professorial prestiege.

    4. Leiter is that sort of guy.

      "Law schools compete for staff in the most competitive law labor market there is in other words, and as a consequence, they have to pay something akin to a going rate to compete successfully. "

      Where 'most competitive law labor market there is in other words' means 'many, many highly qualified applicants for each position, or even for one-year temp jobs which might lead them to such a position.

    5. Adjuncts and the top 25 or so schools aside, most law professors should be quaking in their boots.

      The life of a law professor is the easiest freaking job I can imagine. My brother-in-law is a tenured law professor at a T10 and he spends half his summers on a boat and half the school year going off on one-on-one vacations with his kids to exotic locations.

      Going from academia to business terrifies these people, and for good reason. They won't be able to belittle or intimidate others, they'll actually have to draft short, concise letters and briefs, they'll have hard deadlines, will have to navigate boring yet important procedural rules, and they can't spend hours daydreaming deep thoughts about their next useless law review article.

      I want to see them get kicked to the curb and spat upon. Then I want their assets seized and returned to their former students as a form of restitution. Then I just want to forget about them.

      No, actually, I'd love to see them face more comeuppance. It's been a long time coming and I want to see it all.

    6. Most law professors will not get hired in big law. There is severe overcapacity in big law. They have no room for highly paid law professors without portable business, and portable business is what you need to get a job today if you are 8 or more years out of law school.

    7. I have been reading some comments on the Faculty Lounge, and come to think of it I don't think the opinion of students are considered at all when hiring law professors. Graduates from top ranked schools are hired because that's what faculty want. Professors with cloud-cuckoolander specialities are chosen because that's what interests faculty.

  5. The law schools remind me of those cons you see on the CNBC hit series American Greed where investors get fleeced by very sophisticated Ponzi Schemes. Except the law school ponzi scheme has lasted much longer than your average ponzi scheme.

  6. Exceent takedown (or roundup)!

  7. Happy Days will soon be here!

    Matt (another of Leiter's aliases) on The Faculty Lounge:

    "All of you obviously do not understand basic economics. The legal profession is simply going through a cyclical downturn. As the Mikhail/Simlovic paper proved, a law degree is a solid investment even for a below average law student (i.e. students at the 25th percentile). I pity anyone considering law school who listens to you. When the economy turns up there will be a severe shortage of lawyers and those who started law school today won't know what to do with all their jobs offers. Remember what it was like at schools like Santa Clara in 2005, 2006 and 2007? Big law firms were getting into bidding wars for Santa Clara grads. That's what it will be like in a few years when people who apply now will graduate."

  8. That faculty lounge comment was pretty obviously sarcastic, right? (a) next comment gives it the "best trolling" award; (b) "bidding wars for Santa Clara grads" -- not even a real anti-scammer would write that. Your tone-o-meter is broken bro.