Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Jane, You Ignorant Slut": Law Professors Debate Economic Value of a Law Degree


Michael Simkovic, one of the authors of the new report --The Economic Value of a Law Degree, is debating the author, Brian Tamanaha, of the 2012 book -- Failing Law Schools.  The debate began earlier this week and appears at Brian Leiter's Law School Reports.  It should be an interesting exchange that will go on for a while.

Both authors are law school academics. Simkovic serves as an Associate Professor of Law at Seton Hall University School of Law.  Brian Tamanaha, serves as the Dean of Washington University School of Law (my alma mater).

I summarized Simikovic's paper here.  Tamanaha's book is available here (yes, I am encouraging you to use Barnes & Noble, and not Amazon).

One of the factors affecting both authors' projections is the cost of law school tuition. Given the drop off in applicants to law school -- from about 100,000 in 2004 to about 50,000 this past recruiting season -- lower-tiered law schools have substantially reduced the sticker price of tuition.  Some schools are offering top students 100 percent merit scholarships, plus moving or book expenses!

Despite what all the spambloggers are saying, for the class of 2011, only 3,990 (or 9.6 percent) graduates were unemployed and seeking work.  Another 1,044 (2.5 percent) of graduates were unemployed, but not seeking work. 41,623 grads reported their employment status that year.

Preliminary data for 2012 grads shows a .07 percent increase in unemployment, partly or mostly because the class had more graduates in it.  But, the data disclosed so far does not split out the numbers for seeking or non-seeking grads.  And, as I reported earlier, the prospects for 2012 graduates showed an improving trend.

Yes, you might be under-employed directly out of law school for some period of time. But, that is just the next step on your career path, not the determining one.  In addition, other research suggests job prospects improve after the 9-month NALP reporting deadline, especially when the recessionary economy may make employers slower or more cautious in hiring.

Tomorrow: Would I recommend a law school education to new college graduates?

December 26, 2013 Update:  For more about the value of a law degree, see here.

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