Thursday, February 22, 2018

Scambloggers Weren't Making Stuff Up, After All

Hard to believe, but it's true!

In a Gallup poll of over 4,000 American adults who earned a postgraduate degree between 2000 and 2015, just 23 percent of law school graduates said that their education was worth the cost and only 20 percent said that their schooling prepared them well for post-grad life...

"While both medical and law degrees are expensive, law degree holders may be less likely to say their degree was worth the cost because of the weak job market for those with a law degree in recent years," hypothesizes Gallup.

Well, it's a hard-knock life for the average law graduate, yes, but surely law school prepped these graduates for the road ahead...

Another reason that law school graduates have such a negative view of their education is their relationships — or lack thereof — with their professors. Just 24 percent of J.D. holders felt that their professors cared about them as a person and only 19 percent said they had a collegiate mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams.

These negative experiences were not consistent across other types of graduate students.

I'm sure career services has something more positive to add...

Law school admissions and career counselor Laura Hosid says students should consider the job market, their career goals and their ability to get into a top-tier program before they take the law school plunge.

"Yes, technically you can do anything with a law degree," she tells CNBC Make It. "But that doesn't mean you should."

Wait, what?  That's just scamblog crazy-talk!  What happened to public service?  Or JD-Advantage?  I thought law was all models and bottles!  Or so the deans said...!  Wait, let me dig back through the hundreds of posts here on OTLSS, I *know* they said it somewhere...

Never-mind folks, it looks like there has been a stunning reversal in the law school market.  Apparently the scambloggers were wrong all along, but it is only as of 2018 that there is vocal discontent among graduates and law schools are now counseling restraint against taking the plunge.  No one could have seen this coming, not even a bunch of debt-burdened, bar-licensed malcontents, I guess.

0Ls, pay heed.  Let this be fair warning.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Law School Applicants Update 2018

A quick update:  we are 12 weeks into the new application cycle, and according to LSAC applications are up approximately 10% from last year.  When you look at the data closely and compare "Week X" last year to "Week X" this year, however, it is closer to 1-2% by my review.  In fact, Week 12 is falling on essentially the same value for last year and for 2014 prior.  It is still not clear how LSAC is doing their supposed apples-to-apples comparison, but that will remain a mystery, I guess.

Because I am a self-professed data wonk, I also noticed that the applicant data tends to follow a very particularized curve very well, better than the polynomial functions I used previously (the logistic function, for anyone who is interested).  For example, when you look at 2017, it's pretty easy to get a near 1.0 r-squared value for "goodness of fit," and this makes experiential sense - applicant count starts off, accelerates for a while, and then tapers off later in the cycle.

The only reason this matters, in my book, is that I like to look at the rate of change of applicants in each cycle.  In my opinion, this is a proxy for "applicant enthusiasm", and is a better indicator that percent change from year to year.  If the rate of change spikes quickly and is sustained ("Applicant Velocity"), you get a high applicant count at the end of the cycle. (e.g. 2012).  If the rate of change is slow and lethargic (e.g. 2016), then people aren't applying in droves and the law schools are keeping the application window open longer to get the trickle of applicants to get up to prior-year levels.

I've included a prediction for 2018 based on the data so far, and it looks as though 2018 is basically shaping up to be 2017 all over again.  How this is 10% higher than last year is still not apparent, but "enthusiasm" seems to be back at 2014 levels.  We haven't seen 2011-2013 levels of applicants, or applicant rates, for several years now.  One can only hope that most people are getting the message, and only those who really, really, really, want to got to law school are doing so.  Anything to help correct the legal graduates market has to be a good thing, except perhaps for the law schools themselves.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

"Values" explain why law schools are still lobbying to eliminate the reporting distinction between actual jobs and law school-funded make-work.

Last year, the ABA decided to eliminate a significant feature of the annual recent graduate employment survey--namely the requirement that any school-funded position must be classified as "Employed – Law School/University Funded" rather than as "Employed – Bar Passage Required." 

Disgracefully, the ABA made its decision without providing an opportunity for notice and comment. In response to fierce criticism, the ABA subsequently postponed implementation of this change pending further discussion. In so doing, the ABA issued a hilariously brazen memo explaining that it had dispensed with its customary rulemaking procedures in good faith anticipation of "universal or near universal acclamation. . . as to both process and substance." 

Why consult the public in advance when you are sure that the public will approve anything you cram down its throat, all the more enthusiastically in that it comes as a complete surprise? Yes, this is the same ABA that purports to tutor the world in rule of law.  

Unfortunately, the proposal to merge the categories of "employed" and "employed/ law school funded" is far from dead. Indeed, it was the main item on the agenda of the ABA Section on Legal Education council meeting, which was held from February 8th through 10th in San Antonio. In anticipation of the meeting, 187 law professors signed a letter to the ABA in support of the proposal. William Treanor, long-time Dean of Georgetown Law, felt so strongly about the matter that he submitted his own letter. To quote from these delightful missives:
"The exclusion of school-funded public interest fellowships from the calculation of full-time, long term, bar passage required employment has had the direct and immediate effect of harming our students who aspire to careers in public interest law. The current reporting format punishes law schools by treating their year-long fellowships differently from other year-long opportunities, such as clerkships, and incentivizes decreased school support for such fellowships. . . . Why would the bar seek to chill schools who seek to encourage students to pursue public service? Why close off avenues to public service when the state courts, judges, and bar leaders urge that we redouble our efforts to provide legal representation to those who cannot afford it? The spirit of the current reporting format is directly contrary to the values that we, as legal educators, seek to instill in our students." -- signed by 187 values-instilling lawprofs.
* * * 
"An argument I often hear for distinguishing law-school funded positions from others is transparency. This argument is at odds with reality. Far from being a negative, our public interest fellowships are a selling point to prospective students. . . . We tout our partner fellows because they reflect our law center’s social justice mission and because students find them attractive. . .Far from hiding our program, we celebrate it. . . . Treating law-school funded public interest fellowships differently than other legal positions devalues public service and sends a signal to prospective law students that public interest fellowships are not as good as other types of positions. Such treatment undermines our profession’s core commitment to justice."  -- William Treanor, Dean and Executive Vice President, Georgetown Law School. 
These letters constitute discouraging evidence that law schools intend to chip away at transparency protections by aggressively lobbying an accomodating-to-the-point-of-regulatory-captured ABA.

A law school-funded position is a highly artificial creation in that it is supported by tuition money already paid by the recipient, a compensation structure more akin to a partial refund than to a salary or even a run-of-the-mill grant. So a clear distinction ought to be made between these make-work programs and real jobs.

I do not doubt that the many law professors who signed the first letter instill values as generously as mosquitos instill mosquito bites, but it is still a shame that they are so eager to conceal or obfuscate highly relevant information about employment outcomes from the very idealistic young people who have paid huge sums of money to prepare for a career in public service. It may be presumptuous to challenge law faculty in their expert domain of "values," but I seem to recall from kindergarten that honesty is a pretty important value. 

Interestingly, the ABA Law Student Division Council opposes changing the reporting requirement. These selfish souls are clearly in dire need of innovative remedial values instruction from their law professors. 

The professors complain that the reporting format unjustly "punish[es]" law schools that are seeking to do the right thing in offering fellowships. But the punishment, such as it is,  merely consists of preventing law schools from claiming unearned success in their placement stats or conveying a false impression of what the public sector/public interest job market is really like. (See e.g. Yale Law School Career Development webpage, updated Sept., 2017: "Getting a permanent public interest job is more challenging than getting a large firm job").

The related disincentivization argument advanced by the academics is especially galling in its hypocrisy. It is similar to some wealthy brute arguing that he would be disincentivized or chilled from throwing a few conscience-easing scraps to his victims if the public, including intended or potential future victims, were clearly informed about the number of persons in need of such charity.  

Maybe worse is Treanor's point that his school serves transparency by "celebrat[ing]" school-funded fellowships in promotional and recruitment material, making it unnecessary and counterproductive to tabulate these fellowships separately from actual jobs. Treanor  boasts in his faculty bio that he has been formally designated a "Champion" by the National Law Journal because of his commitment to the "core values" or the legal profession. One might have hoped that a values champion-- I mean Champion-- such as Treanor would have acknowledged the difference between public relations and transparency. 

But I suppose that simply looking at cold columns and rows of segmented data muffles the celebratory "signal" that law schools wish to transmit, the same deceptive signal that predators often convey to their prey. 

Thursday, February 1, 2018

A Game of Law Reviews

The candidates review their chances of being published in Braavos Law Review - what will the Essos News & World Report rankings show?  Stay tuned...!

I was not on law review - I didn't even try to write-on. 

"Why of course, that is why you are a scamblogging los3r rather than a models-and-bottles LawProf, yo," I hear some say. 

In some respects I'm guilty as charged, though that is not the point.  I agree that research and scholarly writing is the bread-and-butter of academia, and is the work product that hopefully drives other changes and advances in society. 
I did have to do a legal writing class in lieu of being on law review - I don't recall what it was about that much, but I remember thinking "hey, I did a decent job."  We also had to do a presentation based on our work, not unlike a seminar.  At the end, my legal writing professor complemented me on my work product, and said those oh-so-fateful words with twinkles in her eyes while looking off to the far horizon, as if a golden opportunity had just materialized:
"You should try to get this published!!!" 
Really?  I mean, thanks, I appreciate what you are trying to say and all, but come on.  This is not a barn-burner, nor is it introducing some supremely novel idea.  I was a law STUDENT, after all, at the time.  And this is not some sense of false-humility...the legal world will roll on, with or without my grand contribution.  I mean, really.
But then I recalled - what else do the majority of LawProfs do besides "teach?"  Publish.  Riiight...that is what it is all about.  Raises, promotions, preftige - all of it - based on how much you write, who blesses it, and how widely read it is, who invites you to speak about it, etc. etc. etc.
Yep, not my kind of game.  Major advances in a field do not come with production-line regularity on a semi-yearly basis, at least in my book.  But then again, my prior experience was in the engineering world, where you may only publish something after years and years of research, experimentation, and analysis. 
The real-world counterpart to LawProfs would be folks like Michael Cicchini, who is a full-time practicing attorney who also enjoys academic writing on the side.  His interest in law reviews comes down to the nuts-and-bolts of practice, and I find his view illuminating: