So You Want to Be a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star?

March 3rd, 2011

 Many law students enter law school with dreams of getting a job with one of the major law firms, but what are their chances of doing that?  The NALP Salary Distribution, Curve for the Class of 2009 suggests that about 25% of reported salaries fell in the $160,000 range.  But only 19,513 members of that class reported salaries.  Using data from the 2011 edition of the ABA-LSAC Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools (online version), those law schools granted 43,859 JDs in 2008-2009 academic year.  The 2009 Salary Distribution Curve included information on only about 44% of the members of the Class of 2009.  To what extent is there a selection bias in the NALP survey?  To what extent are graduates who get jobs with big law firms and high salaries disproportionately likely to report their salaries?

There is increasing evidence that there is a large selection bias in the NALP salary surveys.  First, as I discussed in The Market for J.D.s, the percentage of recent graduates employed varies widely  among the law school, but generally falls as the median LSAT of a law school falls. Second, the recent report on Go-To Law Schools suggest that there may be a lot. As I discussed in Go To Law, that report lists the top 50 law schools from which the National Law Journal top 250 law firms drew first-year associates in the 2010 hiring season.  According to that report, in 2009, the 50 Go-To law schools placed 30.3% of the Class of 2009 with NLJ-250 law firms, or about 4239 graduates (using the numbers for the Class of 2010), as compared to 4,878 persons (25% of the 19,513 persons included in NALP 2009 survey).

Second, if the sample included in the NALP 2009 survey represented the distribution of salaries for all 43,859 persons getting JDs from ABA-approved law schools in 2009, then about 10,965 persons in that class would have big-firm level salaries.  Taking out the 4,239 graduates of the Go-To law schools, 6,726 of the 29,870 graduates of the remaining ABA-approved law schools, or about 22.5%, would have received jobs with big law firms.  Yet the 5oth-ranked Go-To law school sent only 13.2% of its class to the NLJ-250 law firms in 2009 (10.57% in 2010).

Admittedly, these are back-of-the-envelope calculations.  I don’t know the size of the 2009 classes of the 2009 Go-To law schools, so I’ve used the size of the 2010 classes.  Most glaringly, different law schools were included in the top 50 in 2009 than were included in 2010.  Also, I don’t know whether the proportion of graduates of Go-To law schools who got jobs with the NLJ-250 law firms that responded to the NALP salary survey was higher–or lower–than students who did not get jobs with the NLJ-250.  That, of course is the point of those, including the ABA’s Young Lawyer’s Division (see Truth in Law School Education), who are calling for greater transparency in reporting job and salary information.

Go To Law

March 2nd, 2011

The National Law Journal Just released their annual Go-To Law Schools Report on hiring at firms in the NLJ 250 during 2010.  The report the top 50 law schools, based on success in placing class of 2010 graduates in NLJ 250 firms.  Two thing jumped out at me.  First, big-firm placement rates dropped off quickly from the top school, University of Chicago Law School, with 58.97% of its class of 2010,  to the 50th-ranked school, Washington and Lee University Law School, with 10.85%.  Second, two schools outside the top-50 law schools in the 2010 US News rankings, but located in or near major metropolitan areas, landed in the top 50 in the Go-To rankings:  Rutgers School of Law–Newark (Tier 2) and Howard University School of Law (Tier 3), which ranked 49th and 31st, respectively.

posted by Gary Rosin

Truth in Law School Education: ABA Young Lawyers Division

February 15th, 2011

In earlier posts, The Market for J.D.s and Law School Debt Loads, I talked about the bi-modal distribution of starting salaries for recent law graduates, and the problem of increasing student debt-loads.  Over the last year, there have been increasing calls for greater transparency in law school reporting of the types of  jobs, and salaries, of recent graduates.  At its meeting on Saturday, February 12, 2011, the Young Lawyer’s Division (YLD) of the ABA adopted a resolution throwing the YLD’s support behind the Truth in Law School Education resolution.  The introductory paragraph of the attached Report says it all: 

It is incumbent upon the legal profession and law schools to provide each and every potential and current law student with information that will accurately reflect the employment and financial realities that they will face upon graduation from law school. The American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (“ABA YLD”), as “the home for young lawyers,” believes that the Truth in Law School Education (“TILSE”) resolution is the first step towards achieving that goal. The ABA YLD strongly believes that there is a disconnect between law students’ perception of their employment prospects upon completion of their law school education and the reality of what law students will realistically achieve. Those entering our profession should have an accurate understanding of the employment opportunities and salaries available to recent law school graduates. There is a greater need for publicly-available, accessible facts for prospective law school students, so that these individuals are able to make a more informed decision regarding their future careers.

For more information,  read Karen Sloan’s National Law Journal article, available on on February 15, 2011.

Hat tip, Tax Prof.

posted by Gary Rosin

The Market for J.D.s

August 9th, 2010

In his article “Hungry for Jobs” (Inside Higher Ed ), Scott Jaschik notes a rash of blogs with comments by recent graduates about the dismal job market for recent J.D.s–and their discontent with law schools.  This on the heels of the release of the NALP Class of 2009 report, which shows an overall employment rate of 88.3% and the usual bi-modal distribution of starting salaries:

According to data drawn from the Official Guide to ABA-Approved Law Schools 2011, the distribution of the percent of graduates reported by law schools as employed varies from 66% to 100%: 


The comments reported by Jaschik are particularly critical of employment rates at lower-tier law schools.  As the following chart shows, the percent employed generally declines as a school’s LSAT median declines.  That said, there is still wide variation, in both the top- and the bottom half of law schools by median LSAT ( the median of median LSATs is 157).

     posted by Gary Rosin

ABA Standards & Student Outcomes

May 21st, 2010

This via Tax Prof:

The Standards Review Committee of the ABA Section on Legal Education invites comments on proposed revisions to Chapter 3 of the Standards for Approval of Law Schools dealing with student learning outcomes.  Comments are due July 1 to Charlotte (Becky) Stretch.

Law Review Survey

May 21st, 2010

Professors Lucy S. McGough (LSU), James W. Bowers (LSU) and Richard A. Wise (North Dakota, Psychology) are interested in thoughts on student-rum law reviews:

For the last several decades, there has been much controversy and discussion about how well the current system of student run law reviews and journals meet the needs of legal scholars, the legal profession, and its student members and how they can be improved. Despite the significance of this controversy, no one has determined the legal community’s opinions about them.

The purpose of the present survey is to assess:

     (1) What law professors, attorneys, judges, and law review editors think about the current system of student run law reviews and journals;

     (2) Whether reforms are needed; and

     (3) If reforms are needed, what they should be.

The present survey is completely anonymous and confidential and only takes about 15-20 minutes to complete. The results of the survey will be reported in a law review article. A link for the survey is enclosed below.

We are asking for your help with this important survey because the success of any survey depends in large part on the number of people who complete the survey. We would very much appreciate your answering the survey and then forwarding it to other law professors who may be interested in completing it!

Law-School Debt Loads

January 18th, 2010

In her article, “Linking Debt and Income,” Inside Higher Ed, January 18, 2010, Jennifer Epstein reports that the U.S. Department of Education recently proposed that vocational and for-profit colleges meet minimum standards for debt-to-income ratios for recent graduates.  The average debt repayment could be no more than eight percent (8%) of expected earnings in the field.  The presumptive expected earnings would be the 25th percentile of incomes in the field for which they had been trained. 

How would that work for law schools?  Going to law school is expensive, and often financed with debt.  The 2009 Survey Results of the Law School Survey of Student Engagement tells us that 29% of the students surveyed expected to graduate with law-school related debt of at least $120,000.   The following chart from page 14 of the 2009 Annual Survey of law students shows the law-school debt levels expected by current law students.

According to the May 2008 Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates of the Bureau of Labor Statistics (National Cross-Industry Estimates [.zip file]) the 25th percentile of annual income for lawyers was just under $75,000.  That would make the maximum annual payment just under $6,000.  Assuming a modest ten percent (10%) interest rate,* the maximum average school debt would be just over $45,000. 

But over two-thirds of students surveyed in 2009 by LSSSE expect to graduate with law school debt of $60,000 or higher.  According to Epstein, schools that don’t meet the eight percent (8%) of presumptive earnings could show

  1. actual-median earnings to average-debt ratios of 8% or below,
  2. a 75% loan repayment rate , or
  3. program completion and in-field placement rates of at least 70%.

The following chart from the National Association of Law Placement shows the distribution of salaries of the Class of 2008:

Class of 2008, Distribution of Salaries (NALP)

The overall median of $72,000 is just under the May 2008 25th percentile of lawyer salaries ($75,000), so there is no wiggle room there.

Should law schools start reporting salary and debt-load information for its recent graduates?

posted by Gary Rosin

*Interest rates on guaranteed student loans in repayment are now about 2.5%.  I’ll have to check on the current average for non-guarnateed loans.  In event, current interest rates are abnormally low.

First Year Associates and Big Salaries

January 6th, 2010

There’s an interesting article by Brenda Sapino Jeffries in a recent Texas Lawyer,Gardere Reduces First-Year Salaries and Billable Hours“.  The Dallas-based, 275-lawyer firm, Gardere Wynne Sewell is cutting first-year salaries form $140,000 to $120,000 (about 14%) and first-year billable hours from 2000 to 1700 (15%).  The rationale is that clients were starting to specify in engagement letters that no first-year lawyers could be assigned to the matter.  The associates will also get about 300 hours of training:

“I just think we are getting more focused. You understand you have an investment in these people and they get the right type of training,” [managing partner Steve] Good says, noting that training will include classroom sessions and more opportunity for the first-year lawyers to observe trials, depositions and negotiating sessions.

The problem?  Clients don’t want to pay for training:

[Stephen] Mims [Prescott Legal Search] says he has spoken to a number of general counsel who complain that many first-year associates are not prepared for the job when coming out of law school and would benefit from more training. Gardere’s plan addresses that client concern, he says.

Some have speculated that the economic downturn has accentuated the problems inherent in the traditional Big-Firm model of practice.  We’ll need to see many more swallows before we can tell if it’s Spring in Capistrano.

posted by Gary Rosin

Renaissance Report: A Journal of Education in Transition

November 6th, 2009

If you are interested in legal education, you should add Renaissance Report:  A Journal of Eucation in Transition to your list of resources.  Their website describes the Renaissance Report as follows:

Law school education is in transition and tools are available for changing the legal education system to better prepare students for the practice of law.

The Legal Education Renaissance Report is an online Journal of Legal Education in Transition.  It is a broad based, up-to-date resource of innovations in curriculum and teaching methods in law schools and K-12, college prep, undergraduate education, online learning, technology, and business training that can be applied to legal education. 

The Editors are also interested in “your comments and education innovations”.

It has a separate category for law-school education posts.

posted by Gary Rosin

Assessing Assessment

November 6th, 2009

Andrea A. Curcio (Georgia State) has a new article, Assessing Differently and Using Empirical Studies to see if it Makes a Difference:  Can Law Schools do it Better?, 27 QUINNIPIAC L. REV. 899 (2009) (SSRN).  Curcio argues that law schools–and law professors–need to start thinking not only about how we assess students, but also about how we assess our assessments:

This Article explores alternative law school assessment methods and suggests ways to engage in empirical study of alternative and existing assessments. In Part II, the Article provides some concrete suggestions for both incremental and larger changes to doctrinal class assessment practices with an eye toward developing assessments that begin to desegregate legal analysis, practical skills, and professional identity. What is not explored explicitly, but what is implicit throughout, is that, because professors should not assess what they do not teach, examining and changing assessment methods necessarily involves reflection about teaching methodology and coverage.

The Article then moves from a discussion of changing teaching and assessment practices to a discussion of studying the impact of those changes. Because empirical studies can be a persuasive tool in laying the groundwork necessary to develop institutional support for a change in assessment practices, Part III seeks to de-mystify the empirical study process. Written for those without a social science background, it briefly discusses basic issues in study design, methodology, implementation, and interpretation, providing an overview of how to develop and design an empirical research study. Part IV suggests some potential empirical research assessment studies that can be performed on both alternative and existing law school assessment methods. Finally, the Article concludes by arguing that if law professors give their teaching and assessment work the same scholarly scrutiny given to other research interests, they may discover ways to help students become more effective lawyers, lessen student disengagement and create the potential for a more diverse bench and bar.

Id. at 903.

To borrow from Curtis Mayfield, “[p]eople get ready, there’s a train a comin'”.  As Curcio suggests, we’re going to need more than faith.

posted by Gary Rosin