Home / General / They wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t true

They wouldn’t print it if it wasn’t true


Erwin Chemerinsky and Carrie Menkel-Meadow in the NYT on the “supposed” “crisis” “in” “legal” “education:”

According to the Association for Legal Career Professionals, as recently as 2007, close to 92 percent of law-school graduates reported being employed in a paid, full-time position nine months after graduation. True, the employment figures had dropped by 2012, the most recent year for which data is available, but only to 84.7 percent.

As my second all-time favorite tennis player would put it: You have got to be kidding me. You cannot be serious.

I don’t know what’s more egregious here, the laziness or the intellectual dishonesty.

As to the former, if you’re going to spin your stats in the most misleading way possible, at least bother to get them right in the first place. The claim that way back in 2007 92% of graduates “reported being employed in a paid, full-time position nine months after graduation” is wrong: NALP’s figures include part-time jobs and unpaid jobs (and part-time, unpaid jobs). 5% of law graduates with jobs reported their employment as part-time, while an unknown number weren’t being paid (the latter is an increasingly common arrangement in a world in which young people are expected to work for free in order to get their feet inside slamming employment doors). And even with all these caveats, the reported percentage of 2007 graduates with jobs of all kinds still wasn’t “close to 92%” — it was 85.3%, since NALP wasn’t able to ascertain the employment status of 2% of graduates, and another 4% of the graduating class attended schools that didn’t report their data.

Of course anyone who has paid the slightest attention to the supposed crisis in legal education will have noticed a far more egregious “oversight” in this analysis (which isn’t an oversight at all, since whatever else they may be Chemerinsky and Menkel-Meadow aren’t idiots): At this late date, EC and CMM still have the chutzpah to trot out the law school’s scam’s oldest and crudest trick, which is to imply that their employment statistics are referencing actual legal jobs.

But they’re not. Even in the halcyon days of 2007, just before one third of all big law entry-level jobs disappeared, only 68.9% of graduates were reported to have acquired full-time long-term jobs requiring bar admission nine months after graduation. That total has declined by 17% since, and goes even lower when you exclude law school-funded “jobs” and people who list themselves as having set up solo practices. Barely half of 2012 –and 2013 — law school graduates got a legal job, broadly construed, within nine months of graduation, rather than the utterly phony “84.7%” figure the authors cite to what they must hope is a profoundly naive readership (Note how even the latter wildly pumped up total employment figure is pretty grim, given that the current employment rate for 25 to 34 year olds, which includes everyone from high school dropouts to interdisciplinary JD/MPH/PhDs, is 93.2%).

The rest of the op-ed is if anything even worse, featuring a bunch of disingenuous tongue-clucking about how unfortunate it is that the cost of “college” (not law school, which has actually risen by much more) has gone up by more than 1100% since 1978 — as if a brand-new and (to put it mildly) superfluous law school in a hyper-saturated legal employment market just had to charge the $47,300 in resident and $53,900 in non-resident annual tuition and fees that Chemerinksy’s vanity project is charging this year, because of reasons. (These figures don’t include three years’ worth of living expenses in one of the most pricy areas in the country).

The most nauseating aspect of all this is the gelatinous patina of sanctimony the authors slather onto their exercise in profoundly anti-intellectual — if “intellectual” is taken to mean “minimally honest” — hucksterism. “Legal education is still an excellent choice for those committed to serving others in a rewarding career,” they primly observe. Yes, it’s certainly been an excellent choice for them. Let’s take a moment to contemplate how well these public-spirited scholars are doing for themselves by “serving others.”

The first person Chemerinsky hired onto the UC-Irvine faculty when he got this self-abnegating enterprise rolling five years ago was his wife. In 2012 this dynamic academic duo pulled down a combined salary of $597,000 from the University of California’s perpetually cash-strapped system.

Meanwhile Menkel-Meadow took home a salary of $320,000, so it’s safe to say a career in public service is working out OK for her as well.

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  • anonprof

    I disagree with a lot of what you’ve posted here and on your own blog . . . but you’re dead right with this criticism. What truly appalled me was that, while C&M-M mentioned law school debt, they never bothered to state the actual figure for average indebtedness. That’s the big indicator that this isn’t a serious attempt to defend law schools, or think through what their current problems actually are (and aren’t) — it’s just a snow job.

    • also

      Which of Campos’ views do you disagree with? I have to tell you that pretty much everything he’s written about the state of American law schools is 100% accurate in my experience.

      I’m curious, not being combative.

    • Another anonprof

      Agree completely on this being particularly appalling. I think Campos is 80-90% correct in his criticisms, maybe 10-20% overstating them, but regardless this is just wretched garbage.

      • Morse Code for J

        What bothers you about it?

        It wouldn’t be explicit reference to the salaries of the persons writing this editorial, would it?

        • Guggenheim Swirly

          I think if you read the comment this one responds to, you will see that what is being described as “particularly appalling” is the original NYT column.

          • Morse Code for J

            Noted. Thank you, and my apologies for misunderstanding.

    • BamBam

      Yes this post is 100% dead-on. These two carnival barkers ought to be ashamed of themselves.

      I too am curious as to your disagreements with Campos. I think almost all of his critiques are correct–especially the appalling rent seeking aspects of law schools, whose professors and administrators are paid (in many cases) outrageous salaries at taxpayer expense.

      I saw an article on ATL recently about law graduates purchasing tickets to their own graduation. I never would have imagined that a school would actually charge people to watch graduates get their pieces of paper. Then there are the endless fees that are tacked on to tuition. I’d like to see more about this.

      • Mary Rosh

        Who amongst us would NOT want to buy tickets, so that we could watch first-hand as young lawyers are laden with heavy chains of student debt, and then pushed off the high platform into the shark-infested employment pool?

        That’s entertainment!

        • Anonymous

          The New York Times editorial board should be ashamed of themselves as well. I’m close to canceling my subscription. That the paper of record should allow these two poseurs to use it as an instrument of the destruction, not only of young, promising lives, but, at this point, an entire profession is beyond troubling.

          • Former Editor

            In fairness to the NYT, Chemerinsky is (or was until today) a very well respected voice in the legal academy. It’s not irresponsible for them to give him an op-ed, even one taking a position as tenuous as this one.

        • Brendan

          I skipped my graduation and went to the Met Museum with my parents instead.

          Celebrating 3 years of being defrauded would have been too nauseating.

  • maxx785

    Definition of Sociopath:

    “This disorder is characterized by a disregard for the feelings of others, a lack of remorse or shame, manipulative behavior, unchecked egocentricity, and the ability to lie in order to achieve one’s goals.”


  • Wow. What a couple of con artists.

    • Not-edited-to-add: does NYT not fact-check op-eds? The ombudsman needs to see this post, and explain why the Times participates in this.

      Chemerinsky should have to do like BP and take out an ad if he wants to spread lies and half-truths via the paper.

      • JoyfulA

        And no comments!

        • Whiskers

          That was curious.

          • Former Editor

            Why? If there were comments permitted, the misleading data used in the article would be called out as such within 3 posts.

            • Whiskers

              There I go again, mistakenly assuming that respected institutions have some ethics.

              • Guggenheim Swirly

                Oh, Whiskers, will you ever learn?

        • Emily68

          I see 19 comments right now.

        • Unemployed Northeastern

          There are 19 comments on the NYT article page at the time of this writing, including well-known names like Morse Code for J.

          • Lee Rudolph

            For the sake of those of us like me whose careful plan to be unable to read comments at the New York Times renders us unable to read comments at the New York Times, could you (or Emily68) give an executive summary of what’s there so far?

            • Anonymous

              Almost every commenter is criticizing the piece. I haven’t read a single defense of the piece or the authors yet.

            • Unemployed Northeastern

              Most of the comments are indirectly or directly cross-posted by folk here, in fact.

          • Whiskers

            I’ve been waiting for yours, bro. Happy Passover, now have at it.

        • ChrisTS

          There are comments, now.

      • Scott Lemieux

        Chemerinsky should have to do like BP and take out an ad if he wants to spread lies and half-truths via the paper.

        Seriously. Chemerinsky could start doing those advertorials that “tort reform” hacks used to buy on the op-ed page.

  • MacK

    What I find astonishing about this op-ed is that given the swipe it took at you (i.e., Paul Campos), Brian Tamahama and for that matter Law School Transparency, not to mention the recent ABA statistics, did anyone at the New York Times fact check this? Because if it was supposed to be checked a sub-editor needs to be fired.

    • Opinion pages, by and large, are not fact checked, afaik.

      • Richard Hershberger

        Years ago, when newspapers were still much more of a going concern than they are today, a journalist of my acquaintance explained to me (in a ‘taking pity on this obviously developmentally challenged person’ way) that vast swaths of the newspaper should be assumed to be some combination of a pack of lies and reportorial incompetence. This included the sports section, anything considered (though not necessarily labeled) ‘soft’ news (which includes but is not limited to science, religion culture, fashion, etc.), and above all anything labeled as ‘opinion’ or ‘analysis’ or anything that falls into those two categories even if not so labeled. The remaining ‘hard news’ was, he assured me, strictly fact-checked and impartial.

        As I grow older and wiser I have come to realize that he was wrong on two counts: the accuracy of ‘hard’ news sections, and of the sports page. The paper would be crucified if they got the score to last night’s game wrong, but otherwise pretty much anything goes.

        • toberdog

          Exactly. The sports pages are the most “accurate” section of any given newspaper, even accounting for the chumminess between sports reporters and athletes.

          • Jojo

            Maybe I’m cynical, but the only things I believe in broadsheets anymore are the weather, the classifieds, and the death announcements.

            Sports box scores are reliable, and sports columns are entertaining, but they are no more reliable or insightful than an argument with the sports bar know-it-all.

            • Guggenheim Swirly

              they are no more reliable or insightful than an argument with the sports bar know-it-all.

              No, but they’re easier to stuff into a trash can when you realize how full of shit they are.

    • Vance Maverick

      I would ding you for “Tamahama”, but OP has “Chemerinksy” (rhymes with “Banksy” and “Alinksy”), so all’s fair.

      • Vance Maverick

        Or at least it did have. Now, obviously, you should edit your comment to read “Tamanaha”. Oh, wait.

  • But in Irvine the cost of living is 45% greater than the national average!:


    So that $597,000 is really only like $412,000, and that $320,000 is actually a near poverty $221,000 a year. We should all be thankful that we have public servants willing to rough it like that, and I’m pretty sure you’re violating their First Amendment rights by criticizing their shoddy work. For shame.

    • Scott Lemieux

      Yeah, but you’re within easy walking distance of the 25% filled ugly condo building of your choice, so it’s more than worth it…

      • BigHank53

        I see you’ve been. I spent three days there, and it felt like a week and a half.

    • burnspbesq

      Erwin’s a rock star, and he gets paid like one (albeit a small fraction of what he could make, starting next week, as head of a BigLaw Supreme Court practice if he were to choose that path).

      The market is what it is. Expecting people to not take the money that is on offer is deeply silly.

      • BoredJD

        Good luck to him then.

        Many lawyers gave up biglaw salaries to enter public service. They do it because they like it. Law professors shouldn’t be treated any differently.

        • BoredJD

          I should add that it’s not exactly giving up much to make mid-six figures, which is higher than some junior biglaw partners. The UC system especially seems to have a serious problem with overpaid administrators who think that they are bigshot corporate CEOs who deserve to get the “market” rate.

      • Whiskers

        I don’t know about that. Sure, the justification for legal academics taking large salaries is, well look what they could get in the private sector. Most of the time, they couldn’t get anything decent in the private sector. Sure, they could get something quite excellent at the entry-level, or post clerkship level, but they clearly don’t have the endurance to stick it out (not that that’s a bad thing, I’d rather teach than crank out billable hours and deal with clients), and quite often, next to no ability for rainmaking, which is where the real money is. Now, in Erwin’s specific case, yes, maybe he could get a good spot in a Supreme Court practice somewhere, but generally, Supreme Court practices are not money makers. Federal appellate practice is a different story. And then, he’d have to go to a practice where they either didn’t have one and they wanted him to build him, which is no easy feat. Why bother hiring him, when you could hire Ted Olson or Paul Clement, i.e., someone who’s been arguing cases instead of teaching for the last 25 years? And if he went to an already existing practice, whoever built that practice would like to keep the lion’s share of the dough. The fact is, there aren’t enough corporate supreme court cases for it to be a lucrative field for those that are not already doing it as part of a hugely profitable corporate practice.

        These guys are not working lawyers or rainmakers. They’re teachers. There’s nothing wrong with that, but its baloney that most of them could leave the academy tomorrow and double their salaries.

        • Ian

          These guys are not working lawyers or rainmakers. They’re teachers.

          Actually, “rainmaker” is pretty much a job requirement for any university dean at this point. (Much more than teaching is.)

          I too am not especially appalled by the salary Chereminsky is pulling down. I’m appalled by everything else, though.

          • Whiskers

            “Actually, “rainmaker” is pretty much a job requirement for any university dean at this point. (Much more than teaching is.)”

            Different kind of rain.

            • Ian

              Same mechanism, I think.

      • L2P

        How much business is he going to bring in? Unless it’s “lots and lots,” no one cares, and I don’t see a lot of Fortune 500 companies saying they really need a preeminent civil rights scholar to litigate their breach of contract actions.

      • also

        Blech. Let him go do that then. The money shouldn’t be on offer. This is the core of the problem.

      • maxx785

        “Expecting people to not take the money that is on offer is deeply silly.”

        Bu taking that much money when it comes from the proceeds of life-destroying non-dischargable debt is contemptible.

        If Chemerinsky is that good (and he probably is) why doesn’t he stop living off of a life-destroying scam and start earning a living in the private sector by working for clients who can afford to pay for his services?

      • Dwight

        The problem is not his pay, but that he is encouraging young people to “take money that is on offer” that has a good chance of leading to a bad outcome. As for a BigLaw Supreme Court practice, I can’t see him leading Verizon’s absurd and disgusting 1st Amendment claims such as they raised in the DC Circuit. I think he would find that distasteful.

  • Linnaeus

    A friend of mine recently completed his Ph.D., then applied to law school and got accepted by several, and I’m wondering if I should share any of this information with him. I don’t want to discourage him from doing something that he wants to do, but I get the impression that he applied to law school out of disillusionment with the academic job market, and I suspect that law will not pan out the way thinks it will.

    • Whiskers

      I assume his phd was in archaeology and he spent a lot of time on excavations, because clearly, he’s had his head in the sand. Get it- head in the sand.

      Anyway, leave your friend be.

      • Hayden Arse

        Your freind can apply for the Indiana Jones Lecturer in Law and Archaeology Chair at the University of Chicago and pursue a rewarding career in public service.

        • Linnaeus

          I read that like five times before I realized you wrote “Indiana Jones”. Nice.

    • Former Editor

      You should absolutely warn him about debt. You are a bad friend if you do not.

      • Whiskers

        The guy has a Phd. He knows how to do research and support a thesis with evidence, e.g., going to law school is a good idea. He can take care of himself and if he can’t, he deserves what happens to him. The world needs barristas too.

        • Lee Rudolph

          What constitutes “how to do research and support a thesis with evidence”—indeed, what constitutes “evidence”—varies wildly from field to field. If Linnaeus’s friend’s Ph.D. is in mathematics, nothing that he did to earn it is anything at all like legal “research” (as I imagine it to be), and little or nothing that he did is anything at all like “support[ing] a thesis with evidence” as it exists in (almost?) any other field. If his Ph.D. is in one of the sciences, he might (I suppose) have had to do some “research” not entirely unlike legal “research”, and very likely had to give some evidentiary support for his thesis in a manner more or less like that in the law.

          • Whiskers

            If this dude’s phd is in mathematics there is absolutely no way that he is considering law school. A math phd disillusioned with the academic job market will become a quant at a hedge fund and perhaps one day short securities backed by law school debt.

          • Linnaeus

            His Ph.D.’s in history – he’s from the same program I’m in.

            The funny thing is that he has a well-earned reputation among all of us who know him as one who does a cost-benefit analysis of just about everything. Which makes this latest career move of his a little strange because of all of the evidence that’s emerged in recent years about the prospects of law school graduates. That said, I believe he does have some decent financial aid packages being offered him, so that may change the calculus a little bit.

            • BoredJD

              Danger Will Robinson!

              It seems like he wants to jump into the legal academic market. That’s a terrible decision for obvious reasons. Even in a good market, law professors are so finely pedigreed that unless he’s gotten into HYS (more on the Y side of the equation) he should think about doing something else. Publishing isn’t the problem, it’s lining up the perfect school+grades+clerkship that is the hard part.

              • Linnaeus

                Given the bitterness he expressed after his dissertation defense, I would hope that the legal academic market isn’t what he has in mind.

                • BoredJD

                  I wouldn’t be surprised if he is, knowingly how much they get paid. The closest analogue to “dissertation defense” in the law review publication process is telling the 3L editors in chief of the law journal you are publishing in that they can just go ahead and fill in those footnotes themselves.

            • Joshua

              If you see him working as a barista in five years, will you feel guilty for not mentioning this to him? If you would, then just say something.

              • Linnaeus

                I don’t think he’ll be a barista (not that there’s anything wrong with that!), but I’m not sure he’ll be a lawyer.

            • Barry

              “The funny thing is that he has a well-earned reputation among all of us who know him as one who does a cost-benefit analysis of just about everything. Which makes this latest career move of his a little strange because of all of the evidence that’s emerged in recent years about the prospects of law school graduates. ”

              Society dumps all sorts of crap into our heads, starting from a very early age. One of the themes of the scamblog movement is that ‘society’ still believes and pushes the idea that a JD offers a reasonable career entry to a profession.

              It’s similar to how many undergraduates have no clue whatsoever about how hard it is to get a tenure-track academic position.

        • Former Editor

          Personally, I think it’s my obligation to warn my friends about potentially life altering concerns with their choices even if they ought to have been able to figure it out on their own.

          • Linnaeus

            I’ve made hints here and there, which he has acknowledged, but I’ve said nothing more than that.

            • Former Editor

              If it were me, I’d buy him a beer, start with “you probably already know this, but,” and tell him what you know, including the good parts. Friends are supposed to help each other and keeping silent on something of this magnitude really isn’t doing him any favors, even if the conversation is somewhat awkward (that’s what the beer is for).

              • Linnaeus

                Not a bad idea.

                • BigHank53

                  Tell him if he goes to law school his graduation present will be a cubic yard of Top Ramen. Because he’ll need it.

        • NewishLawyer

          People are still people and people are irrational even if they have PhDs.

          I imagine a science PhD can still make good money by going to law school and becoming a patent lawyer. I seem to see patent job after patent job.

        • Chocolate Covered Cotton

          How badly does the world need baristas saddled with 6 figure debt?

      • Guggenheim Swirly

        Agree. Warning him is the decent thing to do.

    • Grumpy

      If he got into some of the top 10 or 14 schools, and especially if he has good financial aid offers, law school may still be a good idea for him. But you should certainly share the information with him. If he wants to be a legal academic, however, that’s a rather different matter–not easy to pull off, even with a PhD.

    • TWBB

      I did my JD and now I’m doing a PhD, and the things people complain about in academia are so ridiculously easy to deal with in comparison to practicing law that I still laugh to myself when academics complain about them.

      • Linnaeus

        Some of the complaints can seem pretty minor, to be sure. But getting academic employment in our field (history) is no small matter. The market – already a tough one for years – has gotten even tougher.

        • Ahuitzotl

          the market for combat historians is shrinking?

    • BoredJD

      What exactly does he want to do? Does he want to be a corporate lawyer? A law professor? A prosecutor?

      • Whiskers

        After completing a phd and finding that the academic job market is bleak, I’m guessing what he wants to do is to be able to afford to go out to dinner with his friends who didn’t pursue phds. Seems like something a lawyer should be able to do, right?

        • BoredJD

          He might have a better opportunity to do that in law school, if he asks for a couple hundred in extra federal loan cash. Depending on the school/debt, “going out to dinner” might mean grabbing a meal off the dollar menu with your employee discount.

      • Linnaeus

        I’m not sure what he wants to do. He’s one of these folks who usually has his angle figured out before he does something, so I’m sure he has some idea. I just don’t know what it is yet.

        • BoredJD

          Uh oh.

          • Linnaeus

            I haven’t talked with him about his specific career plans, to be fair.

            • N__B

              Comic book super-villain? I’m not judging, just looking at the options.

              • Linnaeus

                I’ll suggest that one to him; he’ll think it’s funny.

        • Barry

          “I’m not sure what he wants to do. He’s one of these folks who usually has his angle figured out before he does something, so I’m sure he has some idea. I just don’t know what it is yet.”

          He’s gone through several years of getting a Ph.D., and likely a few more working like a dog before accepting that he’s not In, and never will be; he’s consigned to highly-educated temp labor.

          This is probably comparable to the breakup of a marriage.

    • timb

      Depends on what the PhD is in. I had a friend in law school whose PhD was in microbiology. He was snapped by Big Law in 2 seconds, decided it would take to long to make partner and accepted a gig near Boston for like 350K. Patents are valuable, especially in medicine and especially in China and Japan, etc.

      • Whiskers

        Certainly working in biglaw is a more worth endeavor than whatever else one might do with advanced scientific knowledge.

    • Just Dropping By

      If the PhD is something that qualifies him to sit for the patent bar, going to a decent law school isn’t a terrible choice. Patent attorneys have had better employment opportunities and higher average pay than other types of lawyers for decades, and as far as I’m aware that’s still true.

      • Barry

        “If the PhD is something that qualifies him to sit for the patent bar, going to a decent law school isn’t a terrible choice. Patent attorneys have had better employment opportunities and higher average pay than other types of lawyers for decades, and as far as I’m aware that’s still true.”

        It’s also starting to be said (how’s that for a cite!) that patent law is getting glutted, because many with solid outside degrees and JD’s are trying for it.

    • adamb

      Your PhD friend is probably too old to be competitive for the dwindling entry-level jobs out there for new law graduates. Also, I think that a lot of employers would be wary of hiring a person with a PhD for a number of reasons besides age (lack of employment for most of his adult life, for example).

      Warn him…

      Whether he heeds the advice is his own problem.

      • Barry

        “Your PhD friend is probably too old to be competitive for the dwindling entry-level jobs out there for new law graduates. Also, I think that a lot of employers would be wary of hiring a person with a PhD for a number of reasons besides age (lack of employment for most of his adult life, for example).”

        This is important; if his chances are substantially less than J. Random JD, then he’d be starting out consigned to the dumpster.

    • Denverite

      I was typing up a detailed list of various scenarios, but it struck me as overkill.

      The bottom line is that it isn’t a bad idea to go to law school after a history PhD if you (1) get into Yale, (2) get into Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, Columbia, NYU, Penn, Northwestern or maybe Boalt and are OK with the prospect of working 70-80 hours a week for five years doing horrible work before either moving on to a more enjoyable legal career (government, in house, etc.) or doing the same horrible work for obscene amounts of money, (3) get into one of the remaining top 14 schools with at least 50% of your tuition paid and are OK with the foregoing career outcome, or (4) want to work in a particular state or region, get into the best law school in that state or region, and can attend law school for free or close to it.

      Note that (2) and (3) entail a varying degree of risk of a disastrous career outcome (probably around 10% at Stanford or Harvard down to maybe 50% at Georgetown). If it was me, I’d really only consider attending Harvard or one of the small top ten schools (Yale obviously, but also Stanford, Chicago, Penn and Northwestern) that seem to do better than the bigger schools, or a good regional school (say like Texas or Minnesota or Washington) for free.

      • Linnaeus

        He’s gotten into Virginia, and I’m pretty sure Penn as well. I know he’s gotten accepted by other programs, but not sure which ones.

        • Denverite

          Penn normally performs pretty well with biglaw placement. Virginia hasn’t always in the past (relative to its rank); not sure if that’s changed.

          If he’s OK working in big law for 3-5 years and has a solid exit plan (in house if he’s a deal lawyer, government if he’s a litigator, maybe either if he’s a regulatory lawyer) going in, he wouldn’t be stupid to go to Penn.

    • BoredJD

      If you think we’re jumping all over you and your friend, you’re kind of right, but we don’t know the story. Maybe he’s choosing between the Rubenstein at Chicago and a half-scholly at Yale. But if he’s like most law school applicants he took the LSAT without enough prep, which might be enough to get him into a relatively highly ranked school (like GW) at sticker, so he’s pumped to go there just because of its BS USNWR ranking and supposed 80% employment rate. There’s a lot of holes that can trip up even well-educated and thoughtful people.

      • Whiskers

        The guy does have a phd so he can probably get into a T14. On the other hand, if he’s the sort of guy who obtained a phd without realizing that the employment picture for tenure track professor positions for phds in history is bleak, he’s probably very, very dumb. That may or may not be reflected in his grades and test scores.

        • Linnaeus

          he’s the sort of guy who obtained a phd without realizing that the employment picture for tenure track professor positions for phds in history is bleak, he’s probably very, very dumb.

          Heh, then I and a lot of my colleagues are very, very dumb.

          Seriously, I think he (and we) all knew that, but somehow convinced ourselves we’d find a way when we started. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of law students are doing the same thing.

          • Whiskers

            Yes, you are.

            • Linnaeus

              In my defense, it seemed like the best of my available options at the time. I can think of worse decisions I could have made and worse fates awaiting me.

      • Denverite

        Maybe he’s choosing between the Rubenstein at Chicago and a half-scholly at Yale

        I think this overstates the crappiness of the entry level legal hiring market. If you want to work at a big law firm (and there are reasons to — money, exposure to sophisticated deals/cases, resume credential, stepping stone to in house or government, etc.), then there are a handful of schools (at least five, and maybe as many as eight or nine) where you’d be justified paying close to sticker. There are a handful more where it wouldn’t be the worst idea to gamble, provided that you weren’t paying a lot to do so.

      • Linnaeus

        If you think we’re jumping all over you and your friend, you’re kind of right, but we don’t know the story.

        I don’t feel that I’m being jumped on at all. It’s good to get feedback like this from people who know from experience.

    • Barry

      If your his friend, you’ll let him know. From what people say, he also counts as ‘mid-career’ because he’s not a mid/early 20-something who is still ripe for burnout, so his job prospects are way worse than average.

  • Whiskers

    I read the Times piece this morning and read the stats and was kind of like really? Actually, I wasn’t like really. I knew it was total bs. But I was a little surprised because I thought that in the last year or so there had at least been some recognition that the method of reporting whereby in a class of 200 kids, 20 get jobs and report it, 180 don’t and are too bitter and embarrassed to report it, and the school reports 100% placement (*among survey respondents, wink wink) was not something that was done in polite company anymore.

    But anyway, these people have their heads so far up somewhere. There’s talk of a crisis and recent change and whatnot, but the fact is, this has been going on for quite some time. Prior to 2008, prior to 2007, etc. Yes, there was a boom for a while, where large firms in certain cities were dipping way down into schools and classes that they previously would not have, so yes, by anecdote, it seemed everybody knew some average kid from an average college and a toilet law school that was making six figures at say, Fulbright and Jaworski. And more and more firms started calling themselves top tier and trying to compete on pay, so that someone working in the Florham Park, New Jersey Office of a large Providence Rhode Island firm thought they were an international super star. But the fact is, at non-T14 schools, for a good long time, large swaths of graduates have not been getting good jobs that they could make careers out of. Yes, it varied with the times and with the region and the cost of living in that region. There were times when going to University of Iowa meant good prospects in whatever is the largest city in Iowa. But at other respectable on paper schools, somewhere between 1/3 to half of the graduates were not getting the types of jobs that the schools would brag about. All of this has been exacerbated by things like bi-modal salary distribution (it used to not be so bad to get a job at a mid-sized firm and make a little less than the going rate) changes in the profession whereby there are many fewer mid-sized firms, government hiring freezes, etc. But for a long time, the schools have simply been pumping out more grads than there were jobs. This went unnoticed for a while because the economy offered other options. Once upon a time, non-legal employers were impressed by a law degree. If law didn’t work out, people had options. And people who did things like went into family businesses or started sales careers spun it as if their law degree helped them somehow (and maybe it did, in terms of the things actually learned, giving them three more years of maturity and giving them an on-paper credential). I know I’m going on and on, but for quite a long time, law schools have been taking the EIC of the law review who gets a clerkship and a top firm job and sticking said student in the brochure as if he represents the average, and not the exception.

  • Lee Rudolph

    Or he might want to consider library science!

  • Tiny Tim

    Irvine truly believed its law would just be a money printing machine.

    • Ian

      That was certainly the way it was sold to the rest of the campus. In fact, I would guess that the majority of the campus still believes this to be the case.

  • Ajaye

    Will the NYT print an Op-Ed by one of the lazy intellectually deficient losers who cannot find a decent paying legal job? Or by anyone who has practiced law for decades and never came close to earning that kind of money because she actually does represent “the little people” and can’t charge $600 an hour or $5k for a will package? Or how about an Op-Ed discussing the morally repugnant practice of private for profit law firms offering “internships” to law school grads? Or how about a discussion of the thousands languishing in temp work as document reviewers? Or the folks who get a job for 40k in a foreclosure mill but have $200k in debt?

    • Hell, they won’t even print a comment.

    • BigHank53

      The Times is for closers.

  • ichininosan

    The real crisis in legal education is a jobs crisis for graduates. Here are Irvine’s public disclosures on the employment outcomes for its graduates. The first is the number of graduates, the second is the number of graduates who found full-time legal employment (excluding those reporting to be solo practitioners) and the third is the number who found jobs working in large law firms, or in federal clerkships.

    2012: 56 / 47 (84%) / 29 (52%)
    2013: 84 / 54 (65%) / 28 (33%)

    • MacK

      Please define large law firms i.e., >10, >20 ? Also any government?

      • ichininosan

        I define large as 100+ lawyer firms, but in fact 500+ in most cases. Irvine reports 9 graduates employed in “government,” which is a significant number given the class size. I don’t know what types of jobs this metric includes.

      • NewishLawyer

        No government. Government is a different beast.

        Large law firms are generally nation-wide or sometimes international. They have at least 500 lawyers in most cases. Generally they are on the business/corporate side of things but there are some large plaintiff’s firms.

    • Jojo

      This is very interesting. At UC-Erwin, it’s feast or famine. You’re either a Rolodex hire or you’re unemployed. Pretty high stakes for 0Ls if you ask me.

  • Jojo

    One good thing comes from this. Combined with the equally bankrupt editorial by Dean Mitchell, everyone in the legal academy cannot whine and bitch about how the mainstream media is out to get them. That includes you, Steve Freedman.

    • Barry

      “One good thing comes from this. Combined with the equally bankrupt editorial by Dean Mitchell, everyone in the legal academy cannot whine and bitch about how the mainstream media is out to get them. That includes you, Steve Freedman.”

      You wanna bet? These people will play the persecution card, and any other card. They are con men, pure and simple. They just wear nice suits, and have business cards, and have strong social myths backing them up.

  • Joseph Slater

    OK, somebody’s got to ask this: who is your #1 favorite tennis player?

    • catclub

      Pete Sampras is my guess. The quote was from John McEnroe.

      • Denverite

        I’d guess Federer.

      • Joseph Slater

        Yeah, I recognized the quote. But who was more, um, likeable?

        • Vance Maverick

          Perhaps he meant a non-professional? Like my own favorite, Arnold Schoenberg.

  • Hogan

    “Legal education is still an excellent choice for those committed to serving others in a rewarding career,”

    “I want to go to law school.”

    “My God, why would you do that?”

    “I want to help people.”

    “So you were pre-med and got a C in organic chemistry?”

    “D plus. How did you know?”

    “Lucky guess.”

  • njlawalum

    Hucksterism and used-car salesman ship at it worst. I have lost all respect for EC. The guy who literally wrote the book on con law is just a con. I still don’t understand who these hucks don’t get it, it is so expensive to get a JD and you will be a debt-slave. I mean I get that they are protecting their asses because they get paid a lot to do what they do. There is going to be a special place in hell for these people who cannot be self critical. Perhaps we are selling something not worth the money, or maybe we shouldn’t charge this much. It is just snake-oil sales. I am stupefied, if this hadn’t been in the Times I would have had to say that it was a fraud.
    I am so mad, I can’t even begin…

    • BoredJD

      Even knowing about UCI I had a lot of residual respect for the good dean because his ConLaw and Fed Courts treatises got me through some rough classes. That’s out the window now. This is like time traveling back to 2010.

      Now excuse me while I Biff Tannen this ish.

    • NewishLawyer

      I sometimes think the US has a snake-oil salesmen economy.

    • Barry

      ” I still don’t understand who these hucks don’t get it, it is so expensive to get a JD and you will be a debt-slave. ”

      Q: Why doesn’t the con man realize that the money he’s getting is gained dishonestly?

      A: He does.

  • JustRuss

    the gelatinous patina of sanctimony

    Mmmm….nothing like a well-turned phrase to start the day!

    Re Chemerinsky’s wife, I work at a state university, and it’s strictly forbidden to hire one’s spouse or family member…unless you happen to be near the top of the food chain. Our betters may be hypocrites, but at least they’re consistent.

  • Former Editor

    NYT now appears to have opened comments.

    • Jojo


      I’d encourage you to repost this blog entry in the NYT comments feed.

      • Former Editor

        Agreed, or at least post something making the same points with the level of vitriol dialed down a little.

      • MacK

        there is a word limitation. I’d seek a chance to do a counter pop-ed, perhaps with Tamahama.

      • Snarki, child of Loki

        I also encourage you do an entry on the NYT comments feed.

        And sign it “Brian Leiter”

    • Former Editor

      NYT comments section has now closed.

  • bobbo

    Sorry, have to step in here, someone is wrong on the internet.
    The correct catchphrase is “You cannot be serious.”

  • calling all toasters

    Dear lord, is the title a Joe Jackson reference????

    • jim, some guy in iowa

      would that be a bad thing?

      • rea

        Now – the mist across the window hides the lines
        But nothing hides the colour of the lights that shine
        Electricity so fine
        Look and dry your eyes.
        We’re – so tired of all the law school in our lives
        With no more angry words to say can come alive
        Get into a car and drive to the other side.

        Me babe – steppin’ out
        Into the night
        Into the light.
        You babe – steppin’ out
        Into the night
        Into the light.

    • JustRuss

      Joe was a god.

    • Guggenheim Swirly

      Side One of that album is one of the greatest album sides ever recorded.

    • calling all toasters

      Hey, I love Look Sharp!, but he hasn’t exactly been in the news or getting radio play since then.

  • Jerry

    “…and part-time, unpaid jobs..”

    That’s just sad. They won’t even let you hang around the office for 40 hours a week for free.

  • NewishLawyer

    In other news, my class (2011) might be the most screwed of all:


    I’ve been pretty lucky so far with the long-term temp but direct hire and have been paid well and treated well but my luck and connections might be running out. People are still hording work.

    The WSJ seems to be printing more honest reports on law school than the NY Times. I find this depressing that I can trust Murdoch more on this. Though to be fair this is op-ed, the actual news sections of the Times have printed real “it is tough out there” articles.

    The problem with my class is that we went in when the market was still good (but perhaps misleadingly so) and I had other reasons. I never wanted big-law. I always wanted to be at small or medium sized firms especially on the plaintiff side so I wasn’t aiming for the brass key of big law ever. During my first year, two major Bay Area firms collapsed. One was Heller Eherman, I can’t remember the other. I remember the panic that swept through my law school.

    There are times when I wonder if HR and lawyers have scanners to block anyone who graduated during 2011 because we are a bad year.

    • mike in dc

      Sometimes I think the snubbing of the Lost Generation by the legal job market will lead to the undoing of the current legal job market. If you have no incentive to support the status quo, and every incentive to think outside the box to create a new status quo, sooner or later you will(collectively) make it happen.

      • NewishLawyer

        Would this partially be the theory that elite overproduction leads to social unrest?


        I generally agree. The other issue is that older lawyers are eventually going to become too old to work and you will have a generation of lawyers who received inadequate experience before needing to take over the mantle. I am currently assisting an older and semi-retired lawyers who basically does one case at a time. He is in his mid-70s. My dad* will be 67 in the summer. These people cannot continue working forever. Though I suppose it is theoretically possible that lawyers with their own solo to mid sized firms can continue until their 80s.

        What do you think the new status quo will be?

        I can’t make heads or tails of the job market. Neither can my friend with a PhD in Economics.

        • Denverite

          The problem with this is that there are a lot of lawyers in their mid 30s to late 40s who can step in when the Boomers finally retire. If you assume the Boomers practice a bit longer than the preceding generation, and the Gen Xers do likewise, there’s really not much of a shortfall in the next 30-40 years.

          • Barry

            Most Boomers will have to work until they die. Between the stock market collapses, housing price collapses, and career setbacks (you lose your current job, you take a powerful and permanent hit), they are not doing well.
            (this will cause screams) add on to the the likelihood of at least partial living/tuition support for children, into their mid-20’s, and things look worse.

            Also, I’ve seen many, many predictions of ‘they’re going to retire, and JOB BONANZA!’ since the 1980’s. What happens is that (1) people don’t retire, (2) work is restructured and automated, and (2) work is put onto the remaining people.

            I’ve pointed this out before, but we are still in the infancy of legal offshoring. India and the Philippines have a lot of smart, English-fluent people who were trained in systems close to ours. And the US legal market has enough money that a year of retraining is worth it.

            $10/hr salaries are high there; probably $20-$30/shop hour is a very good rate for a business. Communications are trivial. There will be fewer and fewer legal barriers, because the elites in the law field want this.

            • NewishLawyer

              I can see how off-shoring is good for big business and law. I don’t see how it is good for real person law: wills and trusts, PI, bankruptcy, employment, real estate, patents filing, etc.

              We shall see though. Video conference litigation?

              This is where the Bar guild can help.

              • Whiskers

                Try making a good living in those areas and collecting fees from real people. Go ahead. I dare you.

                • LeeEsq

                  Thats the biggest problem with real people law. Plenty of people need lawyers but can’t afford it or try to find a way to avoid paying fees if possible. Certain legal traditions make collecting fees hard.

  • Morse Code for J

    Paul, thanks again for being so shrill and non-collegial in tone while saying things for which there is no factual rejoinder.

    • Former Editor

      The tone does make it somewhat harder to reference the blog post doesn’t it?

      • Morse Code for J

        I suppose it depends on who you are. My own tolerance for sarcasm in the service of pointing out hypocrisy is high.

    • maxx785

      Shrill?? How about “telling it like it is”?

      Non-collegial?? How about “speaking truth to power”?

      • Morse Code for J

        Going back to the beginning (when Campos was LawProf at ItLSS), the chief complaint was not that Campos’ accusations were untrue, merely that he could have found a more polite and professional tone in which to level them.

        Sorry if I wasn’t more clear.

    • HAH

      “No factual rejoinder.” How about Chemerinsky’s claim that employment statistics improve after 9 months? Somebody got a citation for that? Nope. He made it up.

      • Unemployed Northeastern

        Quite right. In fact, there have been numerous studies that show exactly how screwed the unemployed are after just six months, let alone nine. The onus is on sellers of JDs to show that law school graduates have some magical blade to cut the Gordian Knot that long-term unemployment creates for every other person afflicted with that perilous condition.

        • BoredJD

          It’s like they’ve never lived in the real world. How are the graduates supposed to pay rent? Eat? Never mind pay back any bar loans they took out to pay for the bar prep class or start making payment on their student loan debt. That’s even assuming that the person is some 24 year old K-JD with no expenses other than food and shelter.

          • Unemployed Northeastern

            I do believe that other studies, though more informal in construct and methodology than those unemployment studies, have concluded that most law school professors come from the high end of the family income spectrum. Which certainly makes sense, as 50% or more of the matriculants to the undergrad colleges (and law schools) of sufficient prestige to become a prawf come from household incomes north of $200k, which is the top 3% or so of household incomes. Or at least, 50% of HYP+S grads come from such backgrounds, and I’d wager at least as many students at Williams/Amherst/Swarthmore/Wellesley/other feeders to elite law schools have similar socioeconomic backgrounds.

            • MacK

              And if like Lisa T McElroy you also went to Choate and Dartmout, what income group do you think the person would be in….

              • Unemployed Northeastern

                Very true. However Choate and Dartmouth are like second-place badges for those who care about such things. Not quite the same thing, prestige-wise (and therefore intellectually, according to our elites’ reductive system of hiring) as Exeter/Andover/Deerfield followed by Harvard/Yale/Stanford. Frankly, most people associate Choate with academically mediocre PG-year athletes.

  • BoredJD

    You cannot make this stuff up. This appears to be legitimate, but I honestly don’t believe it.


    “I’ve watched as our culture has eroded now for almost three years. Everyone is in everyone else’s business, instead of their own. Everyone is worried about what everyone else is getting, not what they can personally contribute. If some professor or professors want to donate their raise to the students – or to some other worthy charity – that’s their business. (Personally, i give to Food for Lane Country, Planned Parenthood, and the United Way. I feel that having given up the chance at a seven-figure annual income is charity enough for the students, and I am particularly saddened by hungry children. Maybe I should move that
    the recipients of summer stipends donate those funds to the poor and needy?)”

    “And what are the sponsors of the proposal doing to raise law school income? My Summer Sports Institute – which the faculty voted wasn’t a priority – is already projected to bring profit into the law school, not to mention a reputational boost. I’ve got faculty from top 50 schools, plus students from places like Michigan and McGill. Our reputation has spread as far as South Africa and Turkey, with interested students there trying to raise the funds to come to Eugene. The students are also close to 50% minorities. And, again, it’s going to be profitable in its very
    first year.”

    “Telling me (or anyone else in this law school, whether they are faculty or staff) that I (or they) don’t deserve a raise approved by Johnson Hall is simply insulting. And going down that path starts to put us in the place of K-12 educators, where well-meaning teachers would like to do more but aren’t being rewarded to do more. It puts the teachers against the students. And without an occasional raise, where do you think I’m going to be incentivized to put my efforts?

    • BoredJD

      He’s in the comments section bitching about the million dollar NYC M+A job he gave up to deign to teach the plebs of Oregon about law.

    • RickScott

      This article and the comments are incredible. Maybe lawprof will give it its own post.

    • MacK

      Robert Illig graduated from Vanderbilt in 1996 – and took a job at Nixon Peabody in New York and was according to his resumé at Nixon Peabody 1996-2003 in New York and London. Nixon Peabody is a good firm, but not top of the pile. He is only admitted in New York which means that he did not take the QLTT (to qualify in England) which he should have done were he on path to be a partner. At Nixon Peabody the partnership track by 2003 was 9 years or so, so he jumped as at best a 6-7th year associate. Given that he stayed in BigLaw for more than the typical 18 months to 30 months, he probably was not planning an academic career – and as a 6-7 associate was told he was not going to be a partner. A non-partner at Nixon Peabody has zero chance of making $1mm p.a. A 6-7 year associate has perhaps a 20-50% chance of making non-equity partner, depending on how strong his practice area is when he is up for decision – M&A is notoriously volatile, with deep deep troughs.

      2003 was a cyclical trough in the M&A cycle – the value of M&A deals fell from a peak of around $3 trillion in 2000, having risen steeply from 1996-2000, to a little over $1 trillion – i.e., about 2/3s by 2003 – in 1996 if you had a pulse and a decent JD you could get a job in M&A law. The number of M&A deals fell from around three and a half thousand to close to two thousand by 2003. M&A partners were selling pencils in the street, associates were fired in droves, especially mid-level to senior associates. A 6-7 associate at Nixon was lucky to get a few months to find a job, or a faculty position. For any to have been a partner making $1mm would have been surprising.

    • ichininosan

      “I feel that having given up the chance at a seven-figure annual income is charity enough for the students”

      I’m sure those students have no idea how blessed they are.

  • HAH

    I sincerely hope that Mr. Chemerinksy believes that there is no crisis in legal education. He doesn’t, of course. He’s not drinking his kool-aid, he’s trying to serve it to others. He is Jim Jones, not Jim Jone’s dead consorts.

    Nonetheless, I hope the principals of UC Irvine, and every other government-sponsored sausage factory, really and truly believe there’s nothing wrong in the marketplace.

    I hope they continue to bond-finance opulence (through the Regents), pay themselves ludicrous amounts of money, and offer nothing of value.

    That behavior guarantees their bankruptcy. Then ol’ Erwin Chemerinsky can be the guy who managed to – with every unearned economic advantage one could ever pray for working in his favor – crash a University of California institution before it even got fully accredited, and in well under a decade!

    Well done Erwin!

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  • #ChemerinskysFolly

    Will be trending soon:


  • For anyone who is interested, here is my attempt at refuting some of the other nonsense in the editorial.

    • maxx785

      A nice post. Thanks.

      One small suggestion if I may – break your answer to each quote into a separate paragraph. It will make for easier reading.

  • Dick Caveat / Halcyon 9000

    “And even with all these caveats”

    Do you have ANY idea what “caveat” means?

    “in the halcyon days of 2007”

    Do you have ANY idea what “halcyon days” means?

  • Learner

    For any shill lawprof or dean who keeps insisting that attending law school is still an “excellent choice”, how about you put your compensation on the line and have skin in the game?

    Make your base pay, say, $50k and you only get bonuses based on how well your law grads do. It doesn’t have to be based solely on how much they make, it could be on things like loan default rates, IBR/PAYE partition, etc. The exact details can be worked out.

    Anyway the point is if law school is such a great choice, then you’d have no problem tying your compensation to how your students fare, right?

  • Bathsheba Boldwood

    Leiter begins to discuss the Chemerinsky article but can’t restrain himself from launching into yet another deranged diatribe against Campos. What a peculiar man.


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