James Leipold, a representative from the NALP wing of the law school cartel considers this blog (and others) to be the equivalent of talk radio. At least that's the charge he lobs at us in the most recent edition of the National Jurist.
Is Esq. Never the Rush Limbaugh of the anti-law school movement? I guess it could be true - As long as you take into account that I don't have a multimillion dollar contract, my own Lear Jet, any interest in discussing politics (unrelated to law school), a large waistline, or you know, a radio show.
Given the context of his remarks, I think it's safe to say that Leipold isn't an enthusiastic "dittohead" trying to flatter the anti-law school community. Instead, the strong implication is that we're conspiracy minded hotheads looking for a scapegoat on which to pin our woes.
The National Jurist piece itself is authored by the magazine's own head honcho, Jack Crittenden. Crittenden, you may recall, authored an editorial in a previous edition of the National Jurist in which he implied that it was selfish for law students to go to school with the intention of actually having decently paying careers as, well, lawyers. Instead, we were informed that the recession had a silver lining because it forced us money grubbing J.D.'s to turn our attention to the "bountiful" supply of public interest jobs.
Now, to be fair to Crittenden, the current piece is much more even-handed than his last. He not only focuses on the law blogs (particularly Third Tier Reality and Esq. Never), but he also turns to critics of the law school "investment" from within the walls of legal academia - namely Prof. William Henderson of Indiana University and Prof. Herwig Schlunk of Vanderbilt University.
Of course, for every point he's willing to address from the anti-law school perspective, he finds some way to dismiss or undermine it with some apology for the cartel. Nevertheless, I guess you can't expect much more from a magazine that has about as much in the way of content as it has in the way of advertisements for studying law abroad in things like aborigine law in the Australian Outback.
Crittendon does make an interesting and fair point that the number of law schools has hardly exploded over the past few decades. Nevertheless, given the changes that legal education has gone through (not everyone used to make it through to graduation) and the reduced demand for many traditional legal services, I'm not sure this proves anything. Furthermore, it does not necessarily follow that just because there were numerous law schools in the 80's there are not also too many law school today. (Certainly, the recent spat of new schools - particularly low ranked, for-profit schools - offer some reason for concern.)
Crittendon furthermore recognizes that the cost of attendance at most law schools has become absurdly high. Nevertheless, he hails the ABA for taking the problem seriously and trying to rectify the situation.
What is the ABA's bold plan to tackle the outrageous tuition charged by its schools? Is it to cap the cost of attendance? Lobby for an end to federal student loans for professional schools? Limit the compensation for faculty and administrators? Prevent universities from using law schools to subsidize their other operations?
No! Instead, they have included some milquetoast disclaimer in some guide to law school that nobody reads warning that salaries may be slightly lower than expected. That should take care of the problem.
Still, after cutting through the apologist spin for the industry found in this article, it does appear to admit (albeit through gritted teeth) that - going to law school is a bad investment, the law school marketing materials are replete with distortions, the COA is too high, and that, for the most part, the law schools/legal establishment don't really care.
One of the best examples of this are the aforementioned comments by the NALP's James Leipold.
From the article:
"It's so uninformed [criticism that 90% of students find full time jobs] that it's hard to get upset," said NALP's Leipold about the bloggers. "It's like talk radio."
Leipold points out that NALP collects a very large sampling of recent graduates - 93.1 percent reported their employment status for the class of 2008. Even if everyone who did not report - a statistically unlikely scenario - 84 percent of the class of 2008 still found employment.
Well, that's interesting. As the Wall Street Journal reported (as recently as 2007), schools were reporting salary data based upon only partially reported data:
Tulane University, for example, reports to U.S. News & World Report magazine, which publishes widely watched annual law-school rankings, that its law-school graduates entering the job market in 2005 had a median salary of $135,000. But that is based on a survey that only 24% of that year's graduates completed, and those who did so likely represent the cream of the class, a Tulane official concedes.
A glossy admissions brochure for Brooklyn Law School, considered second-tier, reports a median salary for recent graduates at law firms of well above $100,000. But that figure doesn't reflect all incomes of graduates at firms; fewer than half of graduates at firms responded to the survey, the school reported to U.S. News.
Furthermore, Mr. Leipold's colleague even admitted:
"We can't validate the figures; we have to rely on schools to report to us accurately," says Judy Collins, NALP's director of research.
Of course, the employment statistics are worthless regardless of whether they're based upon responses of 100% or 10% of graduating law students.
The definition of full time employment is pretty liberal. First of all, full time employment doesn't mean full time, legal employment. Everyone that can't find a job in the law but that lands positions elsewhere that don't require a law degree are still considered employed even if it's no thanks to their graduate education. This also includes taking positions in retail or at call centers.
Even the definition of "full time" is questionable. A large swath of graduating students only find employment in temporary document review, which may have full time hours, but only last for a few weeks to a few months at a time. Moreover, the law schools game the 9-month employment figures by offering "full time" but temporary stints for students who may be unemployed at 9-months out to work at the law schools. Even T-14 Georgetown stoops to this tactic.
There's more to be said about Leipold's dishonest assertion, but look at what even he admits in his next breath...
But Leipold does agree that some law schools can better [sic] with reporting salaries.
"The schools don't do a good job with real disclosure," he said. "There is no incentive for them. Some still report an average. There is 20 percent that earn at the top and then 80 percent earn far less than that. The average is not a useful number."
Well, that's pretty much the freakin' point, Leipold! What good does it do anyone if the law schools (allegedly) accurately collect the data if they then fraudulently report the data!?
The biggest complaint most of us have about the law school statistics is that they create the impression that while the the best students will be absolutely rolling in the dough, the average student will still earn a respectable salary in the law.
Instead of insulting us, perhaps you could help urge some reform in regard to these misleading figures. Of course, keeping the scam going is far more important to the NALP.
I've given Crittendon a hard time, so let's let him have the last word (from the National Jurist article). Remember, the guy who's conceding this relies on the law school cartel's glossy advertisements to pay for his supper. If he's willing to recognize this, maybe you pre-law's should take a second or third look before going to law school:
Starting salaries for entry-level attorneys used to fall into a single bell curve...Today there are two bells - one group that earns between $140,000 and $160,000 and one that earns between $35,000 and $60,000.
That results in a median of $72,000, which few law students earn.
The discrepancies between the two bells are significant, and have led many to point out that students who rely on a school's median or average, may be disappointed when they graduate and land a job far below that.