Friday, August 2, 2013

The Economic Value of a Law Degree: Last Posting in the Debate

I've enjoyed the blog-based debate about the new report -- The Economic Value of a Law Degree -- which I summarized here.  Michael Simkovic and Frank McIntyre, its authors, have explained their methodology, which to my untrained eye, appears robust.  They have successfully responded over the last several weeks to the points made by Brian Tamanaha, author of Failing Law Schools.

Simkovic's last blog post appears here.  It goes into further detail about the methodology used to compare the two populations -- first, law school grads and second, bachelor degree earners most like law school grads.

I am curious why this report has generated this type of debate.  Are we so accustomed to hearing bad news about law school that some good news seems automatically suspect?  Have the scambloggers so occupied the field for so long that we cannot easily make a shift in how we view the value of a law degree in today's market?

Yes, getting a legal education continues to be a huge investment in yourself.  And, what are we comparing it to?  As the report notes, most students who attend law school obtained bachelor degrees in areas not rewarded in the job market -- history, political science, and other humanities.

Typically, law graduates have not gotten degrees in science, math, engineering, or technology (SMET), which might offer a much different career path, and which might be rewarded with jobs straight out of college.  Then again, the SMET college graduates may also need to attend graduate school to see a significant impact on future earnings?  I have no idea what those additional degrees might cost these days.

If the students with a humanities degree do not attend law school, what else will they do?  How much money can they expect to make over a career with their humanities degree?  Will they find that career intellectually stimulating and an on-going source of personal and professional growth?

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