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Adventures In Supply And Demand, With Prof. Steve Diamond

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In the midst of the pathetic but undeniably entertaining comments-section meltdown Paul referenced yesterday, master of self-refutation Steve Diamond asserted that the data showed that law schools “have in fact produced too few lawyers.”

How is this possible when more than 40% of law school graduates are not getting real jobs that require bar passage? It’s not, and Diamond has nothing to offer on this point but…not even hand-waving, more like briefly lifting a pinkie finger. However, the blog length version contains an argument that’s a must-read for connoisseurs of the farcical and the illogical. Remember, as you read this, that Diamond believes that critics of the current model of legal education like Campos and Tamanaha are agents for the Cato Institute:

Well, there were approximately 425,000 lawyers employed in 1997 and 600,000 in 2014. That means over 18 years we added, net, about 175,000 new lawyers. Every year – except 2008 – that annual number increased. That tells me society wanted to employ more lawyers and when we add in the fact that lawyer incomes increased each year in that period as well, from a low in 1997 of about 73,000 to a high in 2014 of 133,000 it tells me society was willing to pay lawyers more also.

That growth in the average (mean) annual wage paid to lawyers is significant, too, because it outstripped inflation and the growth in GDP. This suggests that lawyers have market power. No wonder Cato and the Koch Brothers are upset.

Where to begin?

  • I like the classics, and the use of mean (rather than median) incomes in this kind of context is bullshit from the school they burned down to build the old school.  I’m sure the next Santa Clara Law grad to get a job at Starbucks will be happy to know that he and Howard Schultz have a average (mean) income of more than $10 million a year.
  • The fact that more lawyers have jobs in 2014 than in 1997 is a compelling rebuttal to the zero people who have ever argued that every law school in the United States should be shut down.  As a rebuttal to the argument that there shouldn’t be dozens of law schools where an investment of $200K or more gets you a less-than-even chance of getting any job that requires a law degree and a tiny chance of getting a legal job that would justify the debt load, it’s neither here nor there.
  • But this isn’t even the best part.  According to Diamond, critics of the current legal educational model are stooges of Cato and the Koch Brothers (who also want to bring back Jim Crow.)  The reason that the plutocrats are critical of law schools, according to his new theory, is that lawyers have too much bargaining power. So they have sent Campos et al. out in the world to…substantially tighten the labor market for lawyers.  Producing many fewer law degrees would totally serve the interests of the Koch Brothers because…look, it’s Halley’s Comet!  The progressive position, conversely, is to flood a market (that by any relevant measure is already massively over-saturated) with JDs who owe massive amounts of money to banks, which would be great for labor interests because…hey, isn’t that Kohoutek?

It’s not exactly news that Diamond is a pair and a three of a kind short of a full house, but even by his standards this is awesome.

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