Friday, November 15, 2013

What the Washington and Lee Law Salary Survey Says.

In 2011, the ABA amended its Standard 509 to require each law school to conduct an annual nine months out segmented survey of its graduates to determine employment rates and categories of employment. From the Class of 2011 and 2012 surveys, we learned that the overall percentage of recent law grads who obtain full-time nonsolo law jobs is barely 50% overall, and for some schools much lower, a rude awakening from the sweet law school narrative of 95% employment rates and hefty starting salaries.

In deference to the findings of various courts, I will not use the word "fraud" to describe the behavior of the law schools in luring bright but naïve kids into massive debt by marketing a beautiful mirage. So here are some other words in lieu of "fraud": false, deceptive, deceitful, unethical, unprofessional, disgraceful, a sickening betrayal of trust, a forfeiture of the moral right to instruct students on professional values, a scam.

Unfortunately, the ABA has rejected proposals to require the law schools to conduct salary surveys. Therefore, the inflated salaries touted by the schools remain uncorrected and unapologized-for. [1], [2]

In this regard, I want to somewhat commend Washington and Lee School of Law, an overrated mid-first-tier trap. The school has conducted an annual salary survey of employed grads, nine months out, since 2006. The sample size for its salary surveys is higher than one might expect-- the vast majority of employed grads reported their salaries. So the survey is useful, though hardly perfect. The employed grads who did not report their salaries (employed nonreporters) would probably have dragged down the medians, and needless to say the unemployed grads would have. What I think is valuable here is that the W&L salary survey has been ongoing for the better part of a decade, permitting a year-by-year comparison and a window into the dramatic decline in the market value of freshly minted lawyers, at least those graduating from this non-T14 Tier One school. 

For instance: the W&L Classes of 2007-2009 reported median starting salaries of $75,000-$90,000. The Classes of 2010-2012, by contrast, reported median starting salaries of $57,404-$60,998. (And, again, these numbers are skewed upwards because the survey excludes unemployed grads and because the salary nonreporters likely had lower salaries the salary reporters).

At the 25th percentile, the reported median salary has declined from $55,000 (2009) to $48,000. (2012) (Although had the survey included unemployed grads, the 25th percentile salary would arguably have been $0).

In the subcategory of "private practice," the median declined from $135,000-145,000 (2008-2009) to $72,500 (2012).  At the 25th percentile of private practice, the decline was from $90,000 (2008-2009) to $52,000 (2011-2012).

But the most dramatic result was at the 75th percentile overall, where the salary declined, collapsed is more like it, from $160,000 (2009) to $70,000 (2012). What happened? Perhaps instead of getting jobs as associates in NYC big law, as in years past, some of W&L Law's magna cum laude graduates wind up litigating slip-and-falls in Roanoke. Again: that is the outcome for the top of the class at the 26th ranked school out of over 200. Many will ride the law school misery-go-round, but few grasp the brass ring.

Law students: There is a good chance that you will never obtain a full-time law job. But even if you do, you may be unpleasantly surprised by the numbers on your paycheck. You already know that your professional opportunities and economic rewards will not match those enjoyed by your Boomer parents, who went to law school in a different era, a comparative economic Arcadia. But you may not yet have grasped the lesson to be drawn from W&L's salary surveys: even the lesser payoff obtained by your slightly older siblings, who got their JDs in 2007, 2008, or 2009, will probably elude you. 


 Selected from: http://law.wlu.edu/admissions/ninemonthdata.asp (scroll down)

[1]  See Christopher Polchin, Comment, Raising the "Bar" on Law School Data Reporting: Solutions to the Transparency Problem, 117 Penn St. L. Rev. 201, 216 (2012) ("However, the new standards are lacking in the crucial area of school-by-school graduate salary information, which suggests that the ABA may be more concerned with protecting law schools' reputations than in protecting prospective students").

[2] Consider, for instance, the following extended excerpt from the Complaint in Casey et. al. v. Florida Coastal:
"For the class of 2010, Florida Coastal concedes that the mean salary information is based on the responses of 29 percent of students who are actually employed, or 23 percent of the total class. . . Florida Coastal also inflates salary information by specifically directing -- through a barrage of phone calls and follow-up emails -- the choice few graduates in high-paying jobs to respond to its job survey while ignoring all other graduates. Florida Coastal. . . omits the salaries of graduates who have secured only temporary or part-time employment from its official marketing material. This material nondisclosure has the effect of "goosing" the numbers, making it appear their graduates earn substantially more money than the reality of the situation. In actuality, many Florida Coastal graduates are in dire financial straits..." Compl., ¶ 67-70.
Or, consider that, as recently as 2009, bottom-of-the-barrel Golden Gate School of Law was touting an average starting salary of $86,166. (h/t Third Tier Reality)


 

33 comments:

  1. Well, you have to appreciate W&L's "honesty", as compared to many other law schools. If everyone was required to publish this information it would result in a more efficient market. Other markets, like, oh, I don't know, the U.S. Stock Market, are regulated for precisely this reason.

    Once it could be demonstrated that all law schools are largely in the same boat, we could stop with the preftige shell game and talk about reality and reform, jointly. As it stands, no one wants to go first (with the possible exception of schools like W&L), so misinformation and outright lies will continue to abound to the detriment of all. Honesty comes at a high price, unfortunately, and those summer homes don't pay for themselves.

    "a forfeiture of the moral right to instruct students on professional values" - brillant.

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  2. In the end, for the typical law student without connections or wealth, it does not matter if he attends the 24th best or 41st most wonderful - or even the 60th greatest and most marvelous - law school in the country. The job prospects are about the same.

    Plus, we already know that even third tier toilets and fourth tier trash cans are charging about the same tuition rates as first and second tier schools. This is is sickening and revolting.

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  3. There's a very good article on the law graduate bi-modal salary in the Above The Law:

    http://abovethelaw.com/2013/11/dont-you-love-it-when-recent-law-grads-become-the-test-case-for-income-inequality/

    The bi-modal salary distribution did not exist 20 years ago. Now that it is apperant the opportunities clearly don't exist for students who don't attend a Top 14 school, there is absolutely no justification for lower ranked schools to charge the same tuition as schools where the students have a fighting chance at getting a job with a salary that will allow them to service their loans.

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  4. I attended the Colorado Bar Association Board of Governors meeting last week. The deans of CU and DU Law Schools made a joint presentation in which they asserted that 92% of CU grads and 87% of DU 2012 grads were employed at 9 months. They also discussed the great opportunity for grads in JD preferred positions. It did appear that they both counted any employment in the numbers - I guess that includes baristas. No questions were asked by those attending (who represented every local bar association in the state).

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    1. I shouldn't be surprised but that is disturbing since there is absolutely no way their grads are even coming close to those employment percentages, unless we're counting seasonal jobs stocking shelves overnight at Target.

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  5. Great post and good research.

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  6. Washington and Lee is not a good school to look at for salary comparisons because it has such terrible overall placement figures. For instance William and Mary has a 73% employment score on LST compared to Washington and Lee's 49.2. Actually Washington and Lee's Employment Score for 2012 on LST is below Touro, Albany, Campbell, Chicago-Kent, CUNY, Mississippi College, Nova, Ohio Northern, Samford, South Texas, St. Mary's, Texas Tech, West Virginia, etc. As far as job placement is concerned Washington and Lee is a third tier law school.

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    1. I know, but the W&L salary survey excludes the unemployed. I recall that when W&L was profiled on TTR, the school had defenders who acknowledged the school's poor placement performance, but asserted that those W&L grads who did find jobs were more likely than grads elsewhere to find plum jobs, such as federal judicial clerkships.
      This post is a warning to those who anticipate being among the comparative law school winners-- those who attend a first-tier and get jobs.

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    2. It's weird but I noticed same thing. W&L has prestige, but very regional (like Roanoke, Richmond). UVA has national and mid-Atlantic dominance (as far as positioning). Richmond and W&M are lower ranked on USNews but seem to have better results. Strange.

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    3. That is the most pulling thing about W&L. In reality it looks and walks like a tier three school, but it has a tier one ranking. How does a mediocre school like this stay ranked so high year after year, when it is anything but a top school? I just don't get it.

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    4. Anon@ 11:11AM, it's because of the flaws of the USN ranking, which should be taken with a grain of salt and serve to reaffirm the elites' stranglehold on "prestige."

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    5. Perhaps their undergrad is well regarded? Whiff of the Old South Aristocracy?

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  7. Very good research.

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  8. 8:41 on William and Mary -- before you get too excited about their employment score, check out this footnote to their salary survey:

    *All salaries reflect full-time employment. Salary information does not include information for the 40 employed graduates in the Class of 2012 who are receiving stipends at an annual rate of $20,000 through the William & Mary Law School Post-Graduate Public Service Fellowship Program.

    http://law.wm.edu/careerservices/documents/Location%20-%20Salary%20profile%20class%20of%202012.pdf

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    1. You hit the nail on the head. According to Law School Transparency, a full 20% of W&M's 2012 graduating class was "employed" in school-funded jobs compared to only 1.5% at W&L. Take these bogus jobs out of the equation and its six of one, half dozen of the other as far as the job placement rates go at these two schools. That said, I agree with 8:41 that W&L is vastly overrated. Once you leave the DC/Virginia market, most people have never even heard of the place.

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  9. Another scary fact about that overrated institution is that not even 5% of its graduating students can find jobs in DC. That's far worse then the Wmsburg institution, and worse than Syracuse or Case Western.

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  10. A couple of years ago, Brian Tamanaha said this about the veracity of law school salary figures,

    "The problem is not just that prospective students are unlikely to grasp all of this, but that the actual employment results and earnings for the entire class cannot be reconstructed from the information provided. Law schools with low response rates are hiding the ball under the guise of providing a lot of detailed information. A bunch of law schools are doing this. Seattle and Hofstra have alluringly high salary numbers based on low response rates. Loyola of Chicago looks really good at $108,376 (25th percentile), $112 ,000 (50th percentile), $152,981 (75th percentile), although only 29 percent of the graduates in private full time jobs provided salary information. Numbers like these are bait for the unwary." http://www.jdunderground.com/all/thread.php?threadId=21020

    Since the dean of Hofstra (Nora Demleitner) in 2011 is now the dean of Washington and Lee, how can we trust W & L''s current numbers?

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    1. The bottom 25% of Loyola law school earn +100,000k per year?

      Scam deans expect us to believe that?

      Even worse, students do?

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  11. dybbuk, you use the term "brass ring", which is a clearly a disgusting term for the sexualization of a yellow-skinned female's asshole, your intent being to instill fear of rear-door rape from your male dominant intellectual position to stifle female-centric viewpoints.

    I shall have to write a four part article about this, complete with sneaky screenshots of other posts I made myself anonymously which support my conclusion and make me look like a victim.

    - Nancy Leong, professor, feminist, and recent graduate of diapers.

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    1. If I see a post such as 11:06 on my own site, I intend to take it down. Not before, however, I've though about whatever point the poster was trying to make, and whether I can make it in a different way.

      Here's an insight about satire, or in this case attempted satire: some parts are the essence of the satire, such as one character being a professor, making absurd arguments, and deriving unearned status from research that no one ever reads. Other parts of the satire are accidents, such as the content of an imaginary absurd argument made by that overpaid and underworked professor. Don't use the fiction and the accidents as an excuse to write the crap that's running through you're head. It's too distracting to others, and it says too much about you.

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    2. You know what satire is, right?

      "Satire is a genre of literature, and sometimes graphic and performing arts, in which vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, corporations, and society itself, into improvement."

      In which case, the post at 11:06 was on the money. The point was not to ridicule her scholarship, but to ridicule her attempts to turn everything into a racial or sexual attack against her. (Luau train being about her ethnicity? No, it was clearly about the location of the conference and she knows it.)

      So ridiculing this by highlighting an innocuous term in Dybbuk's post and turning it into a non-existent sexual and racial attack is exactly what satire is all about. It's a perfect comment highlighting her academic dishonesty, her ivory tower feminism, her ivory tower racism, all of which has absolutely no relevance to the real world.

      But that's what happens when an English and violin major decides she wants to be a law professor.

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  12. Take this crap down. Last comment offensive, unnecessary, and lacking taste. I'm down with the message on this site but not this jack-off's sad attempt at humor.

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    1. Complaining about 11:06's comment?

      Did you read Nancy's latest blog post? 11:06 nails her MO. (And Nancy, that is not a "sexual" reference, but a reference to doing something perfectly.)

      Tired of listening to academics living in ivory towers with no common sense.

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    2. Note to mods, stuff that pointlessly profane and disgusting shouldn't be posted.

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    3. No, it wasn't a smart or funny post, but the answer isn't to "take this crap down." The scammers want to use censorship to stay in their unearned positions of power and prosperity, and we don't ever want to start doing their work for them.

      As for being "offensive," did it ever occur to you that the damage caused by the scam is offensive beyond anything you've ever read on this site? We need to do what we can to take the scam down.


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    4. I went and read the good Prof's Nov. 12 post at the feminist profs site, and it was pure propaganda; nothing surprising about that. I noticed her frequent, excessive, and monotonous use of a certain tactic to drive genuine ideas out of whatever space she occupies. That tactic is to make any disagreement about her identity, meaning race or gender identity, to avoid considering what ideas may have provoked the disagreement.

      Was her "Open Road" paper shoddy and unconvincing? Does it represent a waste of her excessive pay and abundant downtime from work? By the way, who pays for everything about her charmed existence, and that of other professors who don't teach anything that can assist their indebted students in finding good jobs? That was the substance of the thread she referenced, but she went ahead and hijacked the thread to another site where no one ever disagrees with her about anything.

      Those professors are pampered in ways we can't imagine. And the worst pampering is by other professors, who encourage the younger members of their tawdry movement to assert that any disagreement whatsoever is a form of harassment. That's where they're going with this.

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  13. The salary surveys - in all of their non-objective varieties - are simply a solicitation for the unwary to participate in a propaganda campaign. It's a classic biased poll, where the people who constructed the survey/study know exactly what result they want and set up the survey/study accordingly. So instead of randomly selecting a sample of graduates, they call for voluntary participation. They frame the categories and questions with an assumption of employment and a bias towards prestigious employment. They use intentionally vague categories to mask bad data and reinforce their institutional biases. And then they parade the results as objective reality.

    That's how 45% employed with an average salary of $46,000 becomes an 85% employed with a median salary of $75,000.

    These people are number masseuses. Always have been, always will be. The only thing that stops number masseuses is auditing. So, I guess, fuck you, ABA?

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  14. Dybbs, once again a post that combines fact with ridicule in a healthy balance. Salary surveys are prime evidence of the scam, right there in black and white. Exceptions, exemptions, exclusions, everything of value is taken away and only the meaningless trash is left. Like taking nice fresh fruit and turning if into a sugary, sticky mess. But marketing it as being healthy.

    When will law schools just learn to either publish ALL the figures or NONE of the figures? Why is this so hard to do?

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  15. Can you please link to nancy leong's recent post? Perhaps this deserves a new entry?

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    1. I may post a response later this week.

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    2. Please do. nancy leong's 11.12 post is just too self aggrandizing to stand. I hope her students know they're paying 150k to let her drawl on about some perceived sexism. It's certainly ironic that she does the exact thing she accuses us of doing in her post: not engaging the real argument.

      Nancy, none of what I wrote just now is intended to imply sexism or racism. If it did im sorry. You're a strong, successful (monetarily) person.

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  16. I was looking at the public bulletin outside the local grocery today. It's full of ads for gardeners, house cleaners, house-sitters, dog walkers and the like. One of the ads was for someone who would do writing of various sorts, such as college applications or speeches. The person listed "Ph.D., J.D." as her qualifications.
    So that's what 9-10 years of post-graduate education in fuzzy things like humanities and law is worth -- about the same salary as a dogwalker.

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  17. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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