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The first rule of law school employment statistics



Louisiana senator David Vitter gave a very interesting talk last week about how the nation’s capital is grappling with an increasingly critical shortage of high-end hookers who are willing to let their clients indulge in diaper fetishes.

Oh wait that didn’t actually happen.

Why? Because while he may be the most contemptible member of the US senate, David Vitter is not a grade A moron:

How in the world did he survive that hooker business? Not only did he admit he was a client of Deborah Jeane Palfrey’s escort service. She then went and hanged herself. Not over him personally. Over the whole mess, and staring at serious jail time. But still. Extramarital relations are one thing, with a staffer or a woman of accomplishment; politicians almost always slog their way through that. But here we had the guy calling on hookers, and the dead body of the madam. And Vitter skated through it and sailed to reelection two years later. How?

“He hid for a year and a half,” says my operative. At first, when his name was revealed by Hustler in connection to the case, Vitter acknowledged it. He said he’d asked for and received his wife’s and (somewhat presumptuously) God’s forgiveness. After that he would say no more—“out of respect for my family.” Nice touch.

Steve Diamond on the other hand . . .

Diamond just can’t stop writing about the “myth” that, under current conditions, choosing to go to the average law school at the average cost of attendance is at best a very risky proposition for the average law student.

But forget about averages. Let’s talk specifics. Specifically, let’s talk about Santa Clara University’s law school, where Diamond teaches.

Under the circumstances, Diamond’s decision to write repeatedly about how critics of contemporary legal education don’t understand what a great deal American legal education really is can be analogized to David Vitter holding weekly press conferences on the DC high end hookers with no standards shortage, or Bernie Madoff calling for less intrusive SEC regulation, or Bill Kristol lobbying for Dick Cheney to get a promotion.

That’s because the employment outcomes for Diamond’s own students are almost indescribably catastrophic. Almost, but I’m going to give it the old college try:

Ten months after graduation, 93 of Santa Clara’s 261 class of 2014 graduates had a legal job, very liberally construed. Nearly a year out, only 35.6% of the class had acquired full-time non-temporary positions requiring bar admission. Note that isn’t the percentage of graduates who got good legal jobs, i.e., jobs that hold some reasonable prospect of launching a legal career that will justify Santa Clara’s cost of attendance (about which more shortly). That’s every kind of lawyer position, including getting paid $35,000 per year with no benefits to handle a giant stack of penny-ante litigation for a three-person firm that will let you go the second business slows down a bit. (36 of the 68 Santa Clara grads who got jobs with law firms were working for tiny outfits, which typically feature low pay, high work loads, and zero job security.)

And that’s assuming all these grads are working for real firms, as opposed to a couple of grads banding together and calling themselves a firm. As the data from this paper suggest, such arrangements are not rare.

What about those members of Santa Clara’s most recent graduating class that, as of last month, hadn’t gotten legal jobs of any sort? Ten months after graduation, more than one third of the entire graduating class was completely unemployed. This stat includes 77 graduates who were seeking employment, and four graduates who were not, along with four graduates whose status couldn’t be discovered by the school. (It doesn’t include five currently unemployed grads who had future commitments from employers to start work. Nor does it include nine grads who were working in jobs funded by the law school itself, that were both part-time and temporary).

Here I’ll note again what an egregious fraud Diamond’s employer was committing back in 2011, when the US News rankings still allowed schools to exclude unemployed graduates who were supposedly not seeking work from a school’s calculation of its graduate employment rate. That year, Santa Clara categorized 55 of its 61 2010 grads who were unemployed nine months after graduation as “not seeking employment.” US News changed its metrics and started counting all unemployed grads as simply unemployed, and suddenly almost all of Santa Clara’s annual multitude of unemployed grads were looking for work after all.

Indeed, barely half (132 of 261) of Santa Clara’s 2014 grads had full-time non-temp employment of any kind, nearly a year after graduation. Such employment would include working 35 hours per week at Starbucks etc.

The 83% of the Santa Clara class that took out federal educational loans during law school took out an average of $136,990 in such loans. This means their actual educational debt at the putative beginning of repayment, six months after graduation, was much higher. That’s because this figure doesn’t include interest accrued during school and origination fees. Those two factors alone push the average debt above $160,000. Nor does it include private loans to cover summer expenses and bar review courses, or undergraduate debt.

Conservatively, the five of every six non-trustifarian grads in Santa Clara’s 2014 class who have educational debt are probably averaging at least $175,000 in such debt, at an average interest rate of around 7%, which means they will have to pay around $1,000 every month simply to cover the accruing interest on those loans, without even touching the principal. This is going to be fairly challenging, given that a third of them don’t have a job, and most of the rest are probably taking home less than $3,000 per month after taxes. (According to this, the average monthly rent for an apartment within ten miles of Santa Clara is $2,738, although you can get a one-bedroom for just $2,356).

In fact Santa Clara’s employment stats are hardly better than those sported by the infamous Thomas J. Cooley School of Law (there should probably be an equivalent to Godwin’s Law for internet threads about law school employment statistics, with Cooley playing the role of youknowwho). While Santa Clara noses out Cooley in regard to the percentage of grads getting legal jobs (35.6% to 30.0% respectively), Cooley’s graduate unemployment rate is actually better, as only 32.6% of the 2014 class was unemployed ten months after graduation, even counting all 62 of the graduates Cooley wasn’t able to track down as unemployed.

In all seriousness, I can’t understand the mentality of someone like Diamond. Is he simply indifferent to the dire situation facing such a large proportion of the students who pay his salary? Is he in some sort of deep denial? Beyond this, how can he fail to understand that, for someone who teaches at a law school like Santa Clara and who wants to protect the status quo, the first rule of law school employment statistics is that you don’t talk about law school employment statistics?

. . . In comments, Unemployed Northeastern points out that Santa Clara’s enrollment has been cratering, despite a significant cut in admissions standards aimed at stemming the tide. Specifically, over the past five years the school’s JD enrollment has gone from 1001 to 643. Diamond, who styles himself a fierce opponent of libertarian economics, nevertheless loves to talk about how “the market” more or less magically “corrects” itself — and here we have an example of how something resembling such a correction can take place, as a consequence of even a tiny bit of transparency regarding employment outcomes. (That transparency, it should be unnecessary to point out, came about as a consequence of concerted political action, not because some abstract “market” made it inevitable that SCU couldn’t keep defrauding potential admits with fake employment stats).

Of course as UNE also notes, a “market” for law school admissions that didn’t feature the federal government loaning nearly $220,000 to literally anyone not currently in default on an educational loan who Santa Clara decides to admit would have far more devastating consequences for SCU’s already-collapsing admissions.

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  • Andrew

    Textbook cognitive dissonance. He needs to believe it or else his “noble seeker for truth law professor image” shatters.

    Diamond and his ilk (professors at lower-tier law schools) need him to be right because the alternative is terrifying; maybe one or two superstars at Santa Clara will be able to lateral to another law school, but those types will be the last to go so they probably won’t need to.

    A mid-career law professor has very, very few options once they lose their job. Absent decent practice experience private law firms are pretty much out of reach. Even if you have a PhD like Diamond, other academic departments at 4-year colleges prefer to bring on earlier-career faculty. Community colleges are not going to hire people who they know will bolt at the first opportunity.

    I’m guessing a lot of law professors will try to set up boutique appellate shops with each other, and if that fails (and a lot of them will), end up at low-level bureaucratic jobs in fed and state governments, and teaching high school social studies (which is a perfectly legitimate and useful job, though I suspect many of them won’t think so).

    • Barry_D

      I disagree. The evidence is there, and frankly anybody who actually stops to consider it would not go there.

      The school is a 100% fraud, morally if not legally, and Diamond is somebody making a good living off of that.

      Never be surprised when somebody making their living from something refuses to examine it, no matter how bad.

    • Barry_D

      “…end up at low-level bureaucratic jobs in fed and state governments, and teaching high school social studies (which is a perfectly legitimate and useful job, though I suspect many of them won’t think so).”

      No. We’ve got lots of evidence that government legal/paralegal/JD would be nice jobs are in very, very short supply. Why hire a nobody from a noname school, when recent grads from better schools would die for the job?

      Hire a nice, young 30 year old from a top 10 school with five years in a a law firm (IOW, more than 90% of law professors), who will see the job as a massive step upwards in their career. Also, that person would be used to a brutal workload, and pleasing superiors and clients.

      Somebody like Diamond would be used to working far less, under far less stress, and lording it over law students. For him, he’d have to take a 2/3 pay cut, up his hours a bit, and have to please others and produce real work.

      As for high school teaching, hiring has been down for five years now (I believe), while the teaching colleges and Ph.D. programs have been cranking out grads, and older teachers are presumably retiring much later in life.

      It’s got to be a buyer’s market for teachers.

      • 4jkb4ia

        From the example of my high school history teacher a trained lawyer can teach the Constitution. Hopefully, a wide range of schools understand that to be a valuable skill that an ed school graduate may not have.

        Congratulations to Paul for making the NYT most emailed list last week, although most things that concern universities can do so.

        These statistics are so appalling that I am afraid to look up what might be the equivalents for St. Louis U law school.

        • 4jkb4ia

          63% of the graduates last year were in a full-time position requiring bar admission. I sigh in relief. Also I learned that SLU is starting a bioinformatics MS in the fall. Not that I can afford it.

          • ricegol

            take that St. Louis number with a grain of salt:
            1. that’s 63% of graduates who reported their employment status or the school could find on a google search. unemployed folks tend to be reluctant to report their status and don’t exactly trumpet themselves on the interwebs.

            2. you have to peel the onion on the “full time positions requiring bar admission” – the vast majority of these positions will not pay enough to service the debt, which can be well in excess of 100k for many grads – the only jobs that allow you to adequately service that amount of debt and still live in something nicer than a highway underpass are in biglaw – of course you know that biglaw only hires about 5k to 8k new grads each years – out of 45k total law grads.

        • Barry_D

          “From the example of my high school history teacher a trained lawyer can teach the Constitution. Hopefully, a wide range of schools understand that to be a valuable skill that an ed school graduate may not have.”

          No – remember the key skill is *teaching*. To high school students. This is two tiers away from the people that professor was teaching.

    • Snarki, child of Loki

      Well, there’s always a career in right-wing grifting. Looks like Diamond has the qualifications for it.

      • Barry_D

        Yes, starting with absolute lack of shame.

  • witlesschum

    Kind of a messy analogy…

  • Peterr

    From the “About” page of Diamond’s website (linked in the post above):

    At Santa Clara my teaching covers corporate law and governance, capital markets, corporate finance, international finance and international labor rights.

    A fast look at the descriptions of the two courses he’s teaching this term make it clear that he’s not interested in critiquing the financial system, but making it work for you.

    He also goes out of his way in describing his Corporate Finance course to offer a disclaimer along the way (emphasis added):

    Topics to be covered include: valuation, debt, equity, corporate governance and, to a limited extent, mergers and acquisitions. The course is aimed at students who intend to represent corporations either as outside counsel or in house counsel. If you are in the JD/MBA program note that this is not the same course as the Business School offers. That is a quantitative course that compliments this course which relies more heavily on qualitative analysis. A prior background in accounting, business or finance is helpful but not essential. Pre-requisite: Business Organizations (248).

    Not talking about actual numbers seems to be a regular part of Professor Diamond’s scholarly approach.

    I think this explains a lot.

    • sibusisodan

      That is a quantitative course that compliments this course which relies more heavily on qualitative analysis.

      “I say, Prof. Diamond’s Corporate Finance course, you’re looking incredibly well today. Love the new font!”

    • Malaclypse

      They discuss “valuation, debt, [and] equity” without doing qualitative analysis.

      I wonder how many times they discuss leveraging synergies? My guess is at least six times an hour.

      • Give me law school tenure and I will leverage the synergies!

  • Scott Lemieux

    He also implies that the fact that “only 57%” of recent law school graduates obtained full time legal jobs is indicative of the oversupply problem


  • Crusty

    I suppose he’s just a guy who needs to believe he’s a good guy (and I don’t think being a law professor in the age of the scam makes you a bad guy). But he’s awfully tone deaf.

    Its like the guy who’s an accomplished partner at a big law firm that represents say, big corporations that are responsible for environmental disasters that maim people in third world countries and is obsessed with pro bono and the adversary system and all kinds of other noble junk, while the rest of his colleagues just say yes, this is what we do, because it pays well and we’re too complacent to do anything else.

    • Unemployed_Northeastern

      Obligatory “Merchants of Doubt” reference. You know, the guys at think tanks who get grants from O&G and then create anti-anthropogenic climate change studies, or money from Lumina and then create “Student loan debt is good debt” and “Every college graduate is an immediate and lifelong financial success” studies, or in earlier times, money from Big Tobacco to create “Smoking isn’t that bad” studies.


  • Unemployed_Northeastern

    35% LT/FT/license-required within TEN months? Holy ****! SCL is barely outperforming Suffolk an unranked school in a hyper-saturated market where the median LSAT has dropped 10 points in 5 years. I mean, SCL is in the “Top 100” law schools, right? That is an abysmal performance.

    It’s probably worth nothing that SCL’s class size has more than halved since 2010, from 314 1Ls to 152 1Ls, and despite this, the median LSAT has still dropped over that time, from a 160 to a 157. Assuming 2010 had a historically normal matriculating class, that would mean that the law school student body has dropped from 942 to 635* – not factoring in transfers out and other sources of attrition. The law school is almost certainly hemorrhaging money because of this nearly 1/3 smaller student body, and I am sure it is putting no small share of stress and fear on its faculty, some of whom possibly cope by projecting their fears and anxieties upon their perceived critics.

    *The last three entering classes were 152, 246, and 237.

    • Scott Lemieux

      It’s probably worth nothing that SCL’s class size has more than halved since 2010, from 314 1Ls to 152 1Ls, and despite this, the median LSAT has still dropped over that time, from a 160 to a 157.

      “See! The market is taking care of the problem, and only a libertarian could think otherwise.” — Steve Diamond

      • Unemployed_Northeastern

        Ha! Now if we would make federal and private loans dischargeable in bankruptcy like every other consumer debt in America and get rid of no-questions-asked unlimited GradPLUS loans in favor of something requiring at least a modicum of risk analysis and due diligence, we’d have some real market dynamics going on.

        • Craigo

          And pull the cord on the gravy train?

          But what will highly-compensated law professors and administrators with no more professional litigation or regulatory experience than the average 3L do then?

    • Barry_D

      “Assuming 2010 had a historically normal matriculating class…”

      It’s worse than that – somebody on a blog analyzing these things showed that the class of 2010 actually had poorer stats. The word had been getting around a bit, and the financial crash did not produce quite the bump in applications which it did in 2001 and the following few years.

  • JL

    I’m not convinced that there was any reason to bring Vitter, his kink, or sex workers into this, or to quote a piece that degrades full-service sex workers by using a demeaning name for them and treating their job as mutually exclusive with being a “woman of accomplishment.”

    • shah8

      believe that was an allusion as to the putative base nature of Steve Diamond.

      • ricegol

        I think Paul was trying to draw an analogy in terms of Vitter and Diamond both being quite detached from reality. But at least Vitter is smart enough not to make a ridiculous statement about a shortage of sex workers.

  • Snarki, child of Loki

    Louisiana senator David Vitter gave a very interesting talk last week about how the nation’s capital is grappling with an increasingly critical shortage of high-end hookers who are willing to let their clients indulge in diaper fetishes.

    Oh wait that didn’t actually happen.

    Sez you.

  • NewishLawyer

    I think he is consciously or unconsciously looking out for himself. There is nothing super wrong with Santa Clara (or USF) but they have a hard time competing with Stanford, Berkeley, Hastings, and everyone else who wants to live in the Bay Area.

    They are schools from a pre-Internet and pre-tech era.

    Now the question for people is how long do you try and what else can you do. I know people who had their own firms for a bit and were able to cobble together enough experience to get hired by government or another firm. I know a lot of people hired by relatives and seemingly the third of my class with real legal jobs. I know a few paralegals and lots of people in contract/grant admin.

    • CSI

      I think he and Simkovic both sincerely believe what they write. He’s smart enough that if he didn’t he would be keeping his mouth shut, like Ritter. A couple of sayings come to mind. Well it looks like in Ritter’s case “if you’re in a hole stop digging” actually trumps “in politics you don’t want to be found with a dead hooker or a live boy”.

      In any case Diamond and Simkovic both absolutely believe going to law school is something like 99% guaranteed to be a very good idea for anyone. And this is regardless of what school you attend apparently. Whether its Harvard or Cooley or St Clara, just go to law school and you will end up doing very well indeed, thanks to that law degree. Don’t hesitate, just do it. You’ll be grateful you did.

      What about all these disgruntled law grads you read on the “scam blogs”? They are either lying, delusional, one of the 1% or so who are so useless they can’t even make a law degree work for them, or simply impatient.

      Because according to Diamond if you’re struggling 1, 2 even 3 years out of law school just you wait because within a couple of years things will turn around very sharply, like magic, and you will be thanking your lucky stars you didn’t listen to all the naysayers and did get that law degree.

      • NewishLawyer

        “Because according to Diamond if you’re struggling 1, 2 even 3 years out of law school just you wait because within a couple of years things will turn around very sharply, like magic, and you will be thanking your lucky stars you didn’t listen to all the naysayers and did get that law degree.”

        The issue here is that the are not entirely incorrect. As a general truism, careers and lives do not unfold in a uniform incline upwards most of the time. There are probably people who are going through various temp jobs right now that will even out. I’ve gone from doing temp doc review to doing temp substantibe work. All projects being long-term. Maybe I will get an associate position, maybe not.

        The issue of course is that it is impossible to predict who is or who is not going to succeed after a few years of struggle.

        • CSI

          Good luck. Although Diamond seems to believe long term success from having a law degree is guaranteed, practically 100% chance.

          Perhaps I’m misrepresenting him here, but his beliefs are quite radical. He simply seems to be saying if you can go to law school you should. Your grades, connections, LSAT score, all irrelevant. The reputation of the school is only a small factor. Any law degree from any school leads to sure success.

          Even debt is ultimately irrelevant. Theres IBR, PAYE and what’s a couple hundred k debt when a law degree is worth at least a million dollars, guaranteed.

    • Stan1

      If he is really trying to look out for himself, he is doing about as good a job at that as he is at defending law schools.

      I can think of no other critic save Leiter who does a better job of embarassing himself via the internet.

      Granted, it is highly unlikely that 22 year-olds spend much time here at LGM, the most prestigious blog on the internet, much less TFL, JDU, TaxPrawf, etc.

      But if they do, I can only imagine their overwhelming shock at realizing that their dear law professor of Bizniss, Inc. is indeed an actual, bona fide, grade A, fool.

      A more likely scenario is someone higher up is sick of the attention he is garnering for himself and for the employment outcomes of SCU. Diamond might know that Stanford and SCU outcomes are the same, but no one else does. Better to say nothing at all.

    • Barry_D

      “There is nothing super wrong with Santa Clara (or USF)…”

      Except sky-high prices for lousy outcomes.

  • andrew

    A lawyer who is a Sociopath? Who would have thought?

  • MacK

    I have seen a few people get their career on the rails after a “failure to launch” – indeed you could say it happened to me (two big firms closed the offices/practices I was supposed to join) – but it is pretty damn rare – and you can end up struggling for a long time. A lot of the classes of 1991-3 (a big legal recession) found that jobs offers evaporated or their tenures were very short as associates.

    Diamond is a grifter (and in my personal experience an asshole) but a big factor in his situation is that he graduated from Yale in 1994, when that legal recession ended – and managed to get a job at Latham which was expanding heavily and then Wilson Sonsini which was also growing heavily – and bailed out of legal practice in 1999. So he was an associate in the years where a pulse and a law degree from a T-10 law school was a pretty sure thing. Being somewhat moronic, self absorbed and myopic, Diamond thinks 1993-99, the years of the Greedy Associate phenomenon was normal, or that Yale employment is the same as employment from any other school – he was also a junior associate in at least his late 30s and early 40s (BA 1977), which would have made him an unlikely candidate for advancement to partner.

    Inter alia, a skim of Diamond’s online CV is itself interesting, since it appears that he does not have the 5 years of private practice experience he claims. He lasted 1 year at Latham (’94-’95) – then went to some institute at Stanford, then went for an alleged 4 years to Wilson Sonsini (where he was very very under the radar is he was there ’95-’99) and somehow in the middle of all that was a visiting scholar at Stanford (’96-’97) – the years don’t add up – and by the way, nor does the apparently leading roles claimed in experience for what would have been a very junior associate.

    Given that Diamond graduated from college in 1977 – his JD was 1994, he went to law school in his late 30s after futzing around for a decade and a half in Poli Sci in such a way as to make it clear he was fairly well off. He did not get tenured until 2005, when he was close to 50.

    • From The Grifters: “…you’ve got these businessmen, they were making money when everybody was making money, they think that means they’re smart.”

  • observer

    Northern California may be the most saturated entry-level legal market in the country. You can tell from the bad employment stats at all the non-elite Bay Area law schools.

    On top of that, for the third time in 15 years, housing is in a bubble and rents are unaffordable. A juiced stock market, means a juiced Silicon Valley, until it crashes. Silicon Valley is an attractive nuisance to new lawyers from all over the country.

    Harvard’s 2013 class was 598, and 106 of them sat for the California bar.

    In light of all that, schools that should close: Hastings, Davis, USF, Santa Clara, McGeorge, Golden Gate. They are destroying lives, costing lives, literally. They need to be cut off and shut down. They kill.

    • Unemployed_Northeastern

      I’ve never seen the employment data on a region-by-region basis, probably because it isn’t available at such a granular level, but it would be interesting to see which metro market is the worst of the worst for new lawyers in terms of # of jobs to # of schools and # of applicants for those jobs (since grads come from all over to compete in a handful of markets). Housing and transportation costs could be added for bonus points. The candidates:

      – San Francisco and Silicon Valley
      – Metro NYC
      – Metro Boston
      – DC/Southern MD/Northern VA
      – Chicagoland
      – Twin Cities
      – SeaTac and environs

      • observer

        It is probably too complex to sort out.

        But, check it out:

        July 2014 Bar
        1st-timers, ABA-approved, CA school: 3,796.
        1st-timers, ABA-approved, non-CA school: 1,306.
        General bar, out-of-state (less than 4 yrs admit): 378.

        February 2014 Bar
        1st-timers, ABA, CA school: 474.
        1st-timers ABA, non-CA school: 262.
        General bar: 358.

        I don’t think they’re coming for the Los Angeles/ San Diego market. It’s lawyer Grapes of Wrath.

        Edit: there’s no way a UC will ever shut down. I’m sure the attitude is, California is our state. The reality is, there’s no such thing as ‘our’ jobs. Can’t compete with Harvard, sorry. That’s the way it is.

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