Damn, I just found another Unicorn/LawProf who "gets it," and it brightens my day.
Readers of this blog have heard me go on about this before, for example, but outside of a Campos or a Tamanaha, ScamDeans and LawProfs would often brush the concerns and complaints of working-class-JDs aside, even those who hold these allegedly gold-plated "JD Advantage" jobs, such as yours truly. Nope, instead of listening to the anecdotes of people "living the dream," it's better to opine about things one actually knows nothing about in reality and then proffer those speculations as valid evidence, somehow. Thus, the scambloggers were historically relegated to the dustbin, as is the usual fate for those who have the temerity to voice messages that are unpopular with the Establishment, because Federal Student Loan Dollars.
Remember folks, for those keeping score at home, "JD Advantage" jobs comprise approximately 15% of law school graduate outcomes in the aggregate, depending on how you fiddle the numbers. This is easily verifiable for those law schools who are willing to publish accurate employment statistics, or from those Heroes who study this sort of thing (nice chart below). Approximately one grad out of seven actually "gets" and/or "wants" these positions, meaning the other six have vastly different plans for their JD like, oh, I don't know, actual practice or something. The non-legal (or, hell, legal for that matter) marketplace doesn't seem to be wanting JDs as fast as the Law School Cartel seems to be producing them, but, hey, whatevs.
Chart from The Law School Tuition Bubble - Note the so-called popularity of JD Advantage and Professional Positions over, say, Bar Passage Required Jobs over the last 13 years.
Professor Bernard Burk at UNC Law dives in:
I explained in my last post that there are essentially three ways to think about the relationship between a course of graduate or professional study and any employment the prospective student may obtain.....[o]ne way is to posit that...you are pursuing the course of study for its own sake without expectation of any practical benefit[.] This is perfectly valid, but highly personal and idiosyncratic, and not typical[.] The second way of thinking about the relationship [is that] there must be a relationship between the two such that the education is justified by the worldly benefits that it creates...this Practical Justification Test is met if either the postgraduate position requires the degree as a condition of employment, or the course of study provides dramatic and substantial advantages in obtaining or performing the job...[t]he third way of thinking about the relationship [is] that the course of study transforms you into such a Smokin’ Bucketful of Awesome [(tm) -Ed.] that the degree alone routinely opens doors to countless jobs unrelated to the course of study that would otherwise be closed to you[.]
Sounds pretty rational and reasonable. Typical ScamDeans and LawProfs love to harp on Number One, as if everyone has a trust fund and goes to school for pure funsies and "to avoiding working hard," to hear some Boomers tell it. Perhaps that was true for some ScamDeans and LawProfs, but most mere mortals have to work for a living, thanks. Number Two is the classic "Law School" explanation that doesn't rely solely on "defending liberty" and "pursuing justice" platitudes (again, insert trust fund here if you want to be a "do-gooder," sadly, but these are the times we live in). Number Three is our favorite oft-proffered "JD Advantage" claim - yessuh, serve me up some o' dat Smokin' Bucketful of Awesome! Who doesn't want an outcome that sounds like your favorite barbecued-ribs recipe?
But the Establishment has to get a word in edge-wise, because Federal Student Loan Dollars, so here we go:
In response[,] [an] admissions officer suggests..."a fourth way to think about the relationship between seeking an advanced degree and the employment a student may obtain afterward":
I think many students see the versatility of the law degree as a form of risk insurance. Their intent in attending law school may be to practice law and they'd be disappointed not to. But if they don't find "traditional" legal employment, they still might be able to make use of their law degree. It's common to run into law graduates who have ended up outside of traditional legal practice, but in a field for which the JD has some benefit. Is it wrong to point to such outcomes?...So while it may be overselling to say that a PhD is perfect for someone seeking to become a high school teacher, or a JD is perfect for someone looking to do compliance, I think it's fair to point out to prospective students that these degrees might be beneficial in ways that are not obvious.
BWAHAHAHA, yes, (sniffle) because (giggle) "law degree as risk-insurance" and "law degree as something that might be beneficial in ways that are not obvious" is CLEARLY the SAME THING! Yes, I would like my insurance policy that I paid good premium for to be beneficial, maybe, in some vague, ephemeral, and non-obvious ways, thanks. Because if my house catches on fire, I'm willing to roll the dice and "see where things go" instead of, say, getting real value from the policy.
Thankfully, Professor Burk doesn't let the ScamDeans of the world get away with such tripe:
Let’s apply this insight (assuming you can dignify it with that title) to the decision whether to buy a particular car...[t]he used-car salesman is touting the value and utility of the car, assuring you it has everything you need to take you where you want to go. You are understandably worried that the car may not live up to your needs. One thing that the used-car salesman does not say is, "No worries, pal. You should buy this car because, even if the engine implodes the minute you drive off the lot, the smoking pile of scrap that’s left will have measurable salvage value." We generally don’t buy cars for their salvage value[.]
If you have your wits about you, you consider whether to go to law school taking into account the likelihood that the degree will take you where you want to go—at the very least, a job that justifies that course of study under the Practical Justification Test[.] But what if the degree (car) blows up the minute you drive it off the lot (graduate)? And what if the car costs $150,000, and there’s a 50-50 chance (or worse) that’s it’s going to blow up as soon as you hit the open road? What’s the value of what’s left? Should you buy a law degree for its salvage value?
Ah, yes, the wonders of the "open road." But I digress.
Here is where the wish is all too often father to the thought. Law-school apologists assume very high salvage value for a law degree...[u]nfortunately, there is simply no empirical evidence that [these] assumed benefits exist for the typical person in any measure substantially greater than could be achieved by paths other than law school that require much less time and money[.] So does a law degree have any salvage value? Undoubtedly. Is that salvage value materially greater than what you could get (and the costs you could avoid) doing something else for three years instead of law school? There’s no evidence that it is for many if not most people...
In other words, touting the salvage value of a law degree as "a form of risk insurance" without offering a clear-eyed assessment of how likely it is that the risk insurance will be needed, what its coverage limits are, and how cheaply you could get the same benefit another way is inexcusably incomplete. It’s a failure to accept the difference between a Smokin’ Bucketful of Awesome and smoking pile of scrap.
Damn straight, Professor Burk, and thank you for being willing to express the truth. Friends, we've been saying this for some time now, but don't take it from the scambloggers, take it from a LawProf. Would that many, many others in the Establishment would pull back the curtain in so frank a manner. We all might actually get somewhere, then, rather than enticing the next crop of 0Ls to make pipe-dream decisions that are really not in their best interests, because Federal Student Loan Dollars.