an unanticipated consequence of
Jack M. Balkin
Jack Balkin: jackbalkin at yahoo.com
Bruce Ackerman bruce.ackerman at yale.edu
Ian Ayres ian.ayres at yale.edu
Mary Dudziak mary.l.dudziak at emory.edu
Joey Fishkin joey.fishkin at gmail.com
Heather Gerken heather.gerken at yale.edu
Abbe Gluck abbe.gluck at yale.edu
Mark Graber mgraber at law.umaryland.edu
Stephen Griffin sgriffin at tulane.edu
Bernard Harcourt harcourt at uchicago.edu
Scott Horton shorto at law.columbia.edu
Andrew Koppelman akoppelman at law.northwestern.edu
Marty Lederman msl46 at law.georgetown.edu
Sanford Levinson slevinson at law.utexas.edu
David Luban david.luban at gmail.com
Gerard Magliocca gmaglioc at iupui.edu
Jason Mazzone mazzonej at illinois.edu
Linda McClain lmcclain at bu.edu
John Mikhail mikhail at law.georgetown.edu
Frank Pasquale pasquale.frank at gmail.com
Nate Persily npersily at gmail.com
Michael Stokes Paulsen michaelstokespaulsen at gmail.com
Deborah Pearlstein dpearlst at princeton.edu
Rick Pildes rick.pildes at nyu.edu
Alice Ristroph alice.ristroph at shu.edu
Neil Siegel siegel at law.duke.edu
Brian Tamanaha btamanaha at wulaw.wustl.edu
Mark Tushnet mtushnet at law.harvard.edu
Adam Winkler winkler at ucla.edu
"Fundamentally Changing the Conversation about the Economic Value of Legal Education"
Like any educators, law professors need to be open to criticism. We need to find ways to make legal knowledge more accessible and effective, to serve the public interest. To the extent the costs of education are too high, we need to address that, too.
However, we also need to fully understand the data fueling calls for cost-cutting. A paper co-authored by a former colleague of mine is a major step toward such clarification. In fact, I agree with Brian Leiter that it should "fundamentally change the conversation about the economic value of legal education." From the abstract:
[G]iven current tuition levels, the median and even 25th percentile annual earnings premiums justify enrollment. For most law school graduates, the net present value of a law degree typically exceeds its cost by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
We improve upon previous studies by tracking lifetime earnings of a large sample of law degree holders. Previous studies focused on starting salaries, generic professional degree holders, or the subset of law degree holders who practice law. We also include unemployment and disability risk rather than assume continuous full time employment.
After controlling for observable ability sorting, we find that a law degree is associated with a 60 percent median increase in monthly earnings and 50 percent increase in median hourly wages. The mean annual earnings premium of a law degree is approximately $53,300 in 2012 dollars. The law degree earnings premium is cyclical and recent years are within historic norms.
I plan on blogging about various aspects of this paper in coming weeks and months. At the outset, I just want to note: I don't share Simkovic's outlook on many matters, including, say, his proposal for risk-based student loans (which is a bit too close to Rick Scott's education agenda for my comfort). I am much closer to the Bady/Konczal view of the role of education (and the state in funding it). I think Simkovic & McIntyre may be too sanguine about the politically drivenchanges in demand for legal services. (Regardless of how well law schools teach and train, there will be less demand for lawyers in an era of corporate impunity.) Nevertheless, I am deeply impressed with the paper (and the authors' PowerPoint presentation anticipating many critics' concerns). This is important work that should be carefully considered by anyone proposing deep changes in legal education. Posted
by Frank Pasquale [link]