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

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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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