Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Bi-Modal Distribution: A Picture of the Melting Right Mode (LWB Farewell Series)

The biggest break I ever got in my academic career occurred nearly ten years ago when I attended the Council meeting for the Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar at the August 2007 ABA Annual Meeting.  I was one of the people who sat along the wall and listened to the proceedings.  There was zero audience participation, though we were allowed to drink their coffee.  I was an untenured professor trying to understand how these complex institutions worked.  

LeipoldI vividly remember Jim Leipold entering the room and handing out a graphic to everyone (including the wall folks) showing the distribution of entry-level salaries for the class of 2006 -- the now famous bi-modal distribution. Jim used the graphic as the centerpiece of his NALP report to the Council.  Totally shocked by what I was looking at, I remember thinking, "Can I write about this chart?" I subsequently asked Jim for permission. The first bi-modal post was titled "Distribution of 2006 Starting Salaries: Best Graphic Chart of the Year."  See ELS Blog, Sept 4, 2007.  I have a hard time arguing with the maxim, "the most important thing in life is showing up"  (permanent H/T to NALP and Jim Leipold). 

Below is a detailed analysis of the bi-modal distribution from July 15, 2012 -- five years after the original graphic was published.  The right mode was in the process of melting. Suffice it to say, a decade has changed nearly everything in legal education because so much has changed in the entry-level market.  There remains a lot of work to be done on understanding the legal labor market, if for no other reasons than to enable law schools to make better decisions on strategy and operations.  For the record, I believe the demand for legal education is shifting rather than shrinking. 


A Picture of the Melting Right Mode

I created the graphic below to depict the shrinking right mode of the bi-modal distribution since its 2007 high water mark (measured in February 2008). 

Nalp07_11comparisons

[Note: The difference between the mean and adjusted mean in the 2011 distribution is due to the fact that law grads who fail to report their salaries tend to have have less lucrative employment; so NALP makes a prudent statistical correction --basically a weighted average based on practice settings.]

From a labor market perspective, the class of 2007 entry level salary distribution was extraordinary and anomalous.  Why?  Because we can safely assume that legal ability, however it might be defined, is normally distributed, not bi-modal.  So when such a distribution appears in a real labor market, something is significantly out of kilter. 

Why did the entry level market become bi-modal? As the legal economy boomed from the mid-90s through the mid-00s, many large law firms (NLJ 250, AmLaw 200) were trying to make the jump from regional dominant brands to national law firms.  For decades, going back to the early to mid-20th century, these firms followed a simple formula: hire the best and brightest from the nation's elite law schools. As they continued to enjoy growth, they reflexively followed that same formula.  Yet, by 2000s, the demand for elite law graduates finally outstripped supply. 

This micro-level logic ("let's not tinker with our business model") produced a macro-level bidding war.  This is how the right mode came to be.  Yet, because it was a macro-level phenomenon, clients, led by industry groups such as the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC), reacted by saying, "Don't put any junior level lawyers on my matters --they are overpriced."  Outsourcing and e-discovery vendors have also eaten into the work that used to go to entry level lawyers.  So the volume of BigLaw hiring has collapsed, hence the melting of the right mode. For a more detailed overview, see NALP, Salary Distribution Curve.

Long Term Structural Change in Big Law

That said, it is not just the entry level market that is under stress -- the fundamental economics of Big Law are also changing.  Consider the chart below (from Henderson, Rise and Fall, Am Law June 2012), which shows that revenues per lawyer at AmLaw 100 firms has gone flat and moved sideways since 2007, breaking a pattern of steady growth that dates back to the pre-Am Law 100 days.

Amlaw25 years

Stagnant revenue is a source of enormous worry for law firm managers.  Without higher profits to distribute--and growing the top line is the usual profitability fomula--their biggest producers might leave, causing a run on the bank ala Dewey, Howrey, Wolf Block, etc.  So the dominant strategy now has nothing to do with entry level hiring.  Rather, the goal is to keep and acquire lateral partners with portable books of business.  After all, clients aren't protesting the value of most senior level lawyers. And seniors lawyers are plentiful, thanks to the excellent health of baby boom lawyers and the poor health of their retirement accounts. 

This strategy may work fine for this fiscal year, but over the middle to long term, BigLaw is going to get older and dumber.  Further, this dynamic produces substantial ripple effects on legal education -- albeit ripple effects that feel like tremors.

Endgame

The long term solution -- for both law firms and law schools -- is for the price of entry level talent to come down to the point where young lawyers are more cost-effective to train.  And that price point is not $160,000.  This inflated pay scale (which has supported ever higher tuitions at law schools) only persists because large firms are deathly afraid of adjusting their salary scales and being labeled second rate.  So the solution is keep the entry pay high but hire very few law school graduates.  This is not a farsighted or innovative business strategy.

It's been 100 years since law firms engaged in sophisticated business thinking. And that last great idea was the Cravath System, which was method of workplace organization that performed expert client work while simultaneously developing more and better human capital.  See Henderson, Three Generations of Lawyers: Generalista, Specialists, Project Managers.   According to the Cravath Swaine & Moore firm history, published in 1948, the whole point of the Cravath System was to make "a better lawyer faster." 

I think the next great model for a legal service organization (law firm may not be the right term) likewise will be based on the idea that there is a large return to be had by investing in young lawyers. As my friend Paul Lippe likes to say, "When it appears, it will look obvious."

April 25, 2017 in Blog posts worth reading | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Jerry Organ's First Post Using Enrollment Trend Data to Understand and Prepare for Future (LWB Farewell Series)

JerryorganI have great enjoyed my LWB affiliation with Jerry Organ as I greatly admire his character and intellect.  Below is Jerry's first post on the Legal Whiteboard (from Aug. 8, 2012).  Jerry is informing readers about very negative trend lines in enrollment patterns.  In hindsight we know that the enrollment trough was still, at best, a few years away.

An UPDATE written by Jerry a few days later revealed his characteristic doggedness to always be thorough, accurate, and balanced.


Comparison of 2010 and 2011 Enrollment and Profile Data Among Law Schools

A recent posting by Paul McGreal at The Faculty Lounge and an article in the National Law Journal by Matt Leichter (discussed in July here on the Legal Whiteboard) raise issues about the enrollment challenges law schools began facing last year, are facing now, and likely will face next year.  This post summarizes the comparative data for the 2010 and 2011 entering classes covering the 197 schools ranked by USNews.

PROFILES IN DECLINE -- Between 2010 and 2011, 111 law schools had a decline in their LSAT/GPA profile, 59 had an increase in profile, and 27 had a mixed profile.  (A decline means across six possible data points, 75th, median, and 25th for LSAT and GPA, more scores went down then up; an increase means more scores went up than down; a mixed profile means the same number of scores went up as went down.  For example, if a school had an LSAT/GPA profile in 2010 of 160/156/153 and 3.82/3.65/3.45 and an LSAT/GPA profile in 2011 of 160/156/152 and 3.83/3.64/3.43, this would be a decline in profile – down on three parameters and up on one parameter.)   The average 75th LSAT has dropped from 160.2 to 159.9, while the average 25 LSAT has dropped from 155.2 to 154.3.  The median scores for the 75 and 25 fell from 160 and 155 for LSAT to 159 and 153.

ENROLLMENT IN DECLINE – Between 2010 and 2011, 141 law schools had a decline in enrollment (of which 63 had a decline of 10% or more), 30 had an increase in enrollment (of which 6 had an increase of 10% or more), and 26 had flat enrollment (within +/- 1% of 2010 enrollment).  This means over 70% of schools had a decline in enrollment and that nearly one-third had a decline in enrollment of 10% or more.  The decline in enrollment totaled roughly 4000 students or roughly 8 percent.

ENROLLMENT AND PROFILES IN DECLINE – Most significantly, 75 schools (roughly 38%) saw declines in enrollment and in their LSAT/GPA profiles, of which 37 schools saw declines in enrollment of greater than 10% and saw declines in their LSAT/GPA profiles.  These 37 schools are highlighted here -- (original chart has been deleted and replaced by an updated chart reflecting 39 schools as described in post on August 16).  Four of the schools are ranked in the top-50, while the other 33 schools are relatively evenly divided between the second-50, the third-45 and the alphabetical schools.  There is some geographic concentration, with five Ohio schools (plus Northern Kentucky), three Illinois schools and four of the six Missouri and Kansas schools on the list.  Notably, 16 of the 37 are state law schools, several of which are relatively low-tuition schools that should conceivably fare better in the current climate in which prospective students are increasingly concerned about the cost of legal education.

FORECAST FOR 2012-- Given that LSAC has estimated a decline of roughly 14.4% in the number of applicants for fall 2012, from 78500 to roughly 67000, and given that the decline has been greatest among those with higher LSAT scores, one should anticipate further declines in enrollment and further erosion of entering class LSAT/GPA profiles for fall 2012.  The admit rate will be the highest it has been this millennium, probably exceeding 75% and possibly exceeding 80% (after increasing from 55% to 71% between 2004 and 2011).

IMPACT FELT ACROSS THE RANKINGS CONTINUUM, BUT WORSE FOR LOWER-RANKED SCHOOLS -- While the decline in enrollment and in profiles was experienced across the board, it was more pronounced among lower ranked schools. 

-Among the top 100 schools, 55 schools (over one-half) had a decline in profile, while 67 (two-thirds) had a decline in enrollment, with 27 experiencing a decline in enrollment of 10% or more.  Notably, 35 schools saw a decline in enrollment and in profile (over one-third) of which 15 schools saw declines in enrollment of 10% or more and a decline in profile.  Overall enrollment was down roughly 6%.

-Across the bottom 97 schools then, 56 saw a decline in profile while 74 (more than three-quarters) saw a decline in enrollment, of which 36 (nearly 40%) saw a decline in enrollment of 10% or more.  Notably 40 schools saw a decline in enrollment and a decline in profile, of which 22 saw a decline in enrollment of 10% or more and a decline in profile.  Overall, enrollment was down nearly 10%.

[Posted by Jerry Organ]

April 23, 2017 in Blog posts worth reading | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Different Power Rules Apply to Men than to Women (LWB Farewell Series)

Originally published on the LWB on April 28, 2012


A just released study by the Yale Law Women documents that class participation at Yale Law tends to be disproportionately male (H/T to Jeff and Lior Strahilevitz at Prawfblawg).  Although the report offers prescriptive advice for Yale faculty and students on how to close the gap, it does not offer an empirically grounded explanation for why the gap exists in the first place.  Coincidentally, I recently read another empirical study that appears to offer an answer. 

BrescollIn an article in the 2012 volume of Adminstrative Science Quarterly, Yale School of Management professor Victoria Brescoll provides compelling evidence that different power rules apply to women than men.  Brescoll's article, "Who Takes the Floor and Why: Gender, Power, and Volubility in Organizations," found that when women possess the same objective measures of power as men, they are reluctant to use that power to speak up (i.e., be voluble) in organizational settings. 

Why are powerful women less likely to speak up? Because of fear of backlash.  Further, the fear is justified.  Specifically, holding the objective measures of power constant, Brescoll found that when women were more voluble in meetings, they tended to be viewed as less likeable and deserving--and here is the kicker, less likeable and deserving at roughly the same levels by both male and female peers.  In contrast, when powerful men were more voluble, their peers--both males and females--viewed them as more likeable and more deserving.

Wow.  This is quite a problem.  Brescoll observes that "the presciptions for powerful men's and women's behavior may be much more comprehensive than originally hypothesized (i.e., power men should display their power, while powerful women should not)."  This differential in power rules is not something amenable to a quick, simple fix.  Its root cause appears to be buried deep in both the male and female subconscious. It's hard to fix what we don't understand.

Over at Work Matters (H/T), Bob Sutton posted the perfect cartoon to summarize the Brescoll study:

Suttoncartoononbrescollstudy

It is worth noting the Yale Law Women describe social norms at Yale that essentially mirror Brescoll's results.  On page 24 of the report, a YLS professor is quoted, "I think there’s an in-group dynamic where when women are gunners, they get punished more than men for doing it. Their classmates’ reactions are harsher.”   The report continues, "This observation finds widespread support in the student survey among both men and women. Multiple students mentioned that there are norms about participation and women are either more likely to abide by the norms or are more likely to receive criticism for breaking them."  The Brescoll study lends substantial support to this explanation.  Again, not an easy problem to solve.

Some readers might be interested in a more in-depth description of Brescoll's research design.  So here it goes.  Brescoll results are based on the findings of three interconnected empirical studies.  She starts with the established empirical fact that powerful people tend to assert their power through commanding more time--i.e., being voluble--in organizational settings.  As a historical matter, most power has been held by men.  Now that women have obtained some measure of social/organizational power, we want to know whether women, holding objective measures of power constant, are equally voluble.

  • Study 1.  Is volubility a function of power alone, with equal volubility among males and females with comparable power?  According to Study 1, which studied patterns of floor time among male and female U.S. Senators (2005 session, controlled by Repulicans and 2007 session, controlled by Democrats), the answer is no.  The connection between more power and more volubility was observed only among male Senators.  In contrast, more power was not associated with more floor tiime taken by female Senators.
  • Study 2.  Following up on Study 1, Study 2 essentially asks, "why are equally powerful females more reticent than their male counterparts?" Using a controlled experiment format with male and female participants with workplace experience (average age 38, most with at least "some college" education), participants were asked to simulate an organizational meetings in which important decisions needed to be made.  Holding levels of power constant, female participants were much less likely to speak-up.  The primary explanatory variable was fear of  social backlash. 
  • Study 3.  The question that flows from Study 2 is essentially, "Is the female fear of backlash justfied?"   Study 3 used a similar controlled experiment design to ascertain how male and females reacted to powerful CEOs.  The only two variables were volubility in meetings and gender of the CEO.   Remarkably, for both male and female study participants, male CEOs who dominated a meetings were viewed as competent and deserving.  In contrast, for female CEOs, the opposite was true--more volubility led study participants to view powerful female CEOs as less competent and less deserving.

Very important research.

April 22, 2017 in Blog posts worth reading | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, April 17, 2017

Legal Whiteboard Ceasing Publication

LawProfBlogOn April 30th, The Legal Whiteboard will cease publication.  During our 5+ years of operations, we generated some very good content, focusing on facts, trends and ideas affecting the legal industry. We made the ABA LawBlawg 100 in 2012 (year 1) and 2016 (year 5).  In particular, some of the most widely read posts were written by Jerry Organ, who focused on legal education.  Jerry painstakingly built numerous datasets to answer important questions related to conditional scholarships, the transfer market, and bar passage. It was a privilege to be associated with this work. I am personally grateful to Blog Emperor Paul Caron for providing us this platform and graciously agreeing to continue to archive our content on the Law Professor Blog Network.

I was the primary editor who launched The Legal Whiteboard. It was also my decision to shut it down.  The reason is not lack of interest in the blogging medium — in fact, the opposite is true.   For the last several years, mediums that started as blogs have been siphoning off readership – and thus power and influence -- from traditional media.  Online publication also facilitates connections with people outside one’s academic silo.  For over a decade now, my online writing has connected me with numerous professionals in law firms, legal departments, bar associations, and legal start-ups. In most cases, I am trading information with my readers, collecting local experience in exchange for macro-level observations. These connections produced countless friendships, enriched my teaching and research, and changed how I viewed the world. 

There is a tension between what counts as serious work inside the academy (e.g., placement and citations in prestigious journals; mentions in the New York Times, etc.) and how serious people in and outside of the academy are accessing information to help them do their work. This is an observation, not a complaint.  Professional and social norms evolve slowly, often to the point of feeling static.  But they do evolve, and generally in the right direction.

Legal Ev 1 - Transparent (PNG)I am shutting down The Legal Whiteboard so I can make a more ambitious investment in online publishing.  For the next year or so, and perhaps longer if the experiment works, virtually all of my professional efforts outside of teaching will be focused on building an online publication for my core research on the legal industry.  The publication will be called Legal Evolution.

At this point in my career, I am very interested in doing applied research – i.e., research targeted at solving practical, real world problems. Examples of applied research include rural sociology (agricultural production), industrial/organizational psychology (worker productivity), public health (health outcomes). Online publication drops the cost of doing this type of work while increasing its potential impact – that is a powerful reason to give it a try.

Legal Evolution will be focused on the practical problem of lagging legal productivity in a world of rapidly increasing complexity.   Lagging productivity among lawyers is a serious industry-level issue because it means that solving legal problems is becoming, in a relative sense, more expensive over time.  In the individual client market, more citizens are going without access to legal services.  In the corporate market, heavy reliance on fee discounts is straining client-lawyer relations, as they have yet to see that the only long-term solution is to improve productivity through better systems and more sophisticated sourcing. The second-order effects of lagging legal productivity are now impacting legal education through stagnant entry-level salaries and historically low enrollment levels. I don't think the law professoriate fully appreciates this linkage. 

We lawyers and law professors lack the skills and expertise to solve the legal productivity problem by ourselves.  Whatever form the solutions take, we can be 100% certain that the inputs will be multidisciplinary.  Lawyers and law professors who collaborate with professionals from other disciplines will move a lot faster than those trying to stay at the top of the food chain. The ultimate goal of Legal Evolution is to accelerate this transition by curating examples of what is working in the field, including contextual knowledge to help readers make better decisions within their own organizations. 

An-exploration-of-massive-open-online-course-adoption-using-the-diffusion-of-innovation-theory-6-638Applied research needs to be driven by theory.  Legal Evolution’s editorial strategy will be grounded in the research of the late sociologist Everett Rogers, whose seminal book, Diffusions of Innovations, is one of the most cited books in all of the social sciences.  The first edition of Rogers' book was published in 1962.  In turn, he spent much of his 40+ year career updating subsequent editions with ever richer examples that (a) supported a general theory of innovation diffusion, and (b) demonstrated how knowledge of diffusion theory could be used to accelerate the adoption of innovation, often for important, socially beneficial ends.  

In my own career, shutting down The Legal Whiteboard feels like the end of era, albeit it is necessary to make room for something new.   In the fall of 2008, as I assembled my tenure file at Indiana Law, I remember creating a final attachment ("Attachment 7") that summarized my “internet writings.”  It was a list 216 blog posts I had published between April 2006 (when I joined the Empirical Legal Studies Blog) and Labor Day 2008. For visual effect, I created a hyperlink for all 216 posts. I can remember one of my advisors telling me that I didn’t need the summary and besides, it wouldn’t count toward tenure.  I replied, “I know I don’t need it.  I know it won’t count.  But I am putting it in because I think this work is valuable.  At some point in the future, it ought to count.”

I wrote that nearly 10 years ago. I have learned a lot since then.  With some luck, maybe I can nudge legal academic norms in a positive direction. 

Over the next couple of weeks, we will be reposting some of our favorite LWB stuff.  After April 30th, I hope to see you on the other side.  Many thanks for your readership.

April 17, 2017 in Blog posts worth reading, Current events, Innovations in law, Scholarship on legal education, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (2)

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

"He probably listened to lawyers too much."

BookcoverI apologize for this in advance, but as much as everybody, from the late-night monologues to the left-hand editorial column of the Wall Street Journal, is getting a nice piece of United Airlines right now (I like the clip from Airplane! used as a training film), I'd like to slip in a plug.  

Oscar Munoz, United's CEO, has now done what he should have done straight, which is grovel publicly, but not until a full day after issuing what the Journal (see above) called a candidate for the Euphemism Hall of Fame ("re-accommodating," a word I believe is only properly used when the Ritz-Carlton puts you in Suite 304 rather than Suite 302).  

It happens that, just yesterday, I was a guest professor in our business school's capstone class for the accounting degree, there to participate in a discussion about how chief lawyer officers and chief financial officers do and ought to interact, particularly in the management suite of a public corporation.  One of the topics for the CFO-hopefuls was "how do you know if you are getting good legal advice?"  

As if on cue, the Wall Street Journal reported this morning as follows:

Mr. Munoz "bent over too far to support his employees," said a person close to the discussions this week among United executives. "I think he got bad advice. He probably listened to lawyers too much."

Oy. Whether the reported statement is true (and we could unpack those seven words for some time), the situation and the sentiment are at the heart of Beyond Legal Reasoning: A Critique of Pure Lawyering.  

April 12, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Beyond Legal Reasoning: The Video

I was fortunate to be able to talk about Beyond Legal Reasoning: A Critique of Pure Lawyering at the Harvard Law School's Center on the Legal Profession.  By the magic of YouTube...

 



 

April 5, 2017 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, March 31, 2017

The GRE and the Revised US News Ranking Methodology

When I initially learned that Harvard Law would start accepting the GRE as an alternative to the LSAT, I viewed it through the prism of the US News & World Report ranking and concluded that it was a very good thing for Harvard and all of legal education. Aggressive rankings management has led to tremendous over-reliance on the LSAT. By using on the GRE, I reasoned, Harvard would have sufficient test score information to assess a candidate's intellectual capacity while also obtaining the freedom to use other admissions methods to explore the larger and more diverse universe of candidates who are destined to become great leaders and lawyers.  

My thinking is crudely sketched out in the diagram below.

Hls_strategy

Yet, in making admission decisions, did Harvard Law really feel constrained by US News?  Was the move toward the GRE motivated by something else? I failed to ask myself these questions. My thinking was too small.

If Harvard Law was trying to get around U.S. News rankings formula, the USN chief strategy officer, Bob Morse, saw it coming.  Harvard got a lot of favorable attention on March 8 when it announced its new GRE policy.  A few days later, when US News released its 2018 law school rankings, something that got zero attention was a very significant change in the USN rankings methodology. Here is the description of the selectivity factor that was previously limited to the LSAT:

Median LSAT and GRE scores (0.125): These are the combined median scores on the Law School Admission Test of all 2016 full-time and part-time entrants to the J.D. program. For the first time, U.S. News used median GRE scores in combination with LSAT scores for this indicator if they were reported for a law school's 2016 entering class. The University of Arizona was the only school that reported both LSAT and GRE scores to U.S. News for its 2016 entering class.

This is the same methodology that US News uses for colleges that admit based on both the ACT and SAT.  USN converts the medians to their percentile equivalents and weights them based on their proportion in the total enrolled student population. This year, only the University of Arizona had such a combined median. If so, which GRE median was being factored in -- the verbal, the quantitative, or both?  

Regardless, this methodology change means that the GRE strategy won't be an effective way to break free of the ranking's powerful influence on admissions decisions.  Which led me to ask, "Is Harvard Law's move on the GRE still a game-changer for legal education?"

I think the answer is yes, but for reasons that are not as obvious as a potential bump in a school's USN ranking.   The contours of a potentially powerful GRE strategy are laid out in an article I wrote for Law.com, titled "Underestimate Harvard Law's New Admissions Strategy at Your Own Risk."

March 31, 2017 in Current events, Data on legal education, Innovations in legal education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

New Learning Outcomes Database -- A Searchable Clearinghouse of Law School Learning Outcomes

The Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions at the University of St. Thomas School of Law (Minnesota) is pleased to announce the availability of a new, searchable, web-based clearinghouse of information regarding law school learning outcomes – the Learning Outcomes Database: https://www.stthomas.edu/hollorancenter/resourcesforlegaleducators/learningoutcomesdatabase/  

The Holloran Center has compiled all law school learning outcomes that have been published and are accessible on law school websites and is making them all available in one location.

The Learning Outcomes Database is organized in three categories structured around the language of ABA Standard 302. To the extent that law schools have identified learning outcomes more robust than the minimum required by Standard 302, each category lists the full array of learning outcomes with an identification of the law schools that have adopted such learning outcomes along with a delineation of where, within each law school’s learning outcomes, one can find the specific language associated with a specific learning outcome.

The database of learning outcomes also is searchable by law school.

The Holloran Center plans on doing quarterly updates.  The Center will “sweep” law school websites looking for more law schools with learning outcomes and checking to see whether law schools change their learning outcomes.  The Center anticipates updating the Learning Outcomes Database in May, August, November, and February.  To the extent that law schools change their learning outcomes, the Center will be maintaining an archive that will allow those interested to see how law school learning outcomes evolve over time.

 

March 29, 2017 in Current events, Data on legal education, Innovations in legal education, Scholarship on legal education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Revisiting the Market for Transfer Students Based upon the 2016 Standard 509 Reports

This blog posting updates my blog postings of December 2014 and December 2015 regarding what we know about the transfer market. With the release of the 2016 Standard 509 Reports, we know have three years of more detailed transfer data from which to glean insights about the transfer market among law schools.

NUMBERS AND PERCENTAGES OF TRANSFERS – 2011-2016

The number of transfers dropped to 1749 in 2016, down from 1,979 in 2015, and from 2,187 in 2014 and 2,501 in 2013. The percentage of the previous fall’s entering class that engaged in the transfer market also dropped to 4.6%, the lowest it has been since 2011. In other words, there is no reason to believe the transfer market is “growing” as a general matter. It has been consistently in the 4.6% to 5.6% range for the last six years.

 

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

Number of Transfers

2427

2438

2501

2187

1979

1749

Previous Year First Year Enrollment

52,500

48,700

44,500

39700

38600

37900

%   of Previous First-Year Total

4.6%

5%

5.6%

5.5%

5.2%

4.6%

SOME LAW SCHOOLS CONTINUE TO DOMINATE THE TRANSFER MARKET

The following two charts list the top 15 law schools participating in the transfer market in descending order in Summer 2014 (fall 2013 entering class), Summer 2015 (fall 2014 entering class), and Summer 2016 (fall 2015 entering class). One chart is based on “numbers” of transfers and the other chart is based on the number of transfer students as a percentage of the prior year’s first year class.

Note that in these two charts, the “repeat players” are bolded – those schools in the top 15 for all three years are in black, those schools in the top 15 for two of the three years are in blue.   Ten of the top 15 have been on the list all three years. The top six for 2016 have had pretty consistent transfers numbers for each of the last three years.

Largest Law Schools by Number of Transfers from 2013-2015

School

Number in 2014

School

Number in 2015

 

Number in 2016

Georgetown

113

Georgetown

110

Georgetown

111

George Wash.

97

George Wash.

109

George Wash

106

Arizona St.

66

Arizona St.

65

Arizona St.

66

Idaho

57

Harvard

55

Columbia

50

Cal. Berkeley

55

Emory

51

Emory

49

NYU

53

NYU

51

UCLA

43

Emory

50

Cal. Berkeley

49

Loyola Marymount

43

Columbia

46

Rutgers

45

NYU

43

American

44

Columbia

44

Florida

36

UCLA

44

Miami

44

Houston

36

Wash. Univ.

44

UCLA

43

Harvard

35

Texas

43

Texas

37

Cal. Berkeley

33

Minnesota

37

American

33

Miami

31

Northwestern

35

Florida St.

32

American

30

Harvard

33

Minnesota

31

Florida St.

30

 

817

 

799

 

741

 

37.4%

 

40.4%

 

42.3%

Largest Law Schools by Transfers as a Percentage of Previous First Year Class - 2014-2016

School

% 2014

School

% 2015

School

% 2016

Arizona State

51.6

Arizona State

45.5

Arizona State

30.3

Idaho

51.4

Emory

22.9

George Wash.

21.6

Washington Univ.

23.3

George Wash.

20.2

Emory

20.9

Emory

22.9

Miami

19.2

Georgetown

19.3

Georgetown

20.8

Georgetown

19

Florida St.

17.1

George Wash.

20.2

Cal. Berkeley

17.9

Houston

16.7

Cal. Berkeley

19.4

Florida St.

17

Loyola Marymount

16.0

Florida St.

18.2

Florida Int’l

16.7

Southern Cal

14.7

Rutgers – Camden

17.1

Minnesota

16.1

UCLA

14.7

Southern Cal.

17.1

Utah

16

UNLV

14.2

Minnesota

16.7

UNLV

14.3

Columbia

12.9

Utah

15.9

UCLA

13.7

SMU

12.0

Northwestern

15.3

Texas

12.3

Northwestern

11.8

UCLA

15

Chicago

12.1

Florida Int’l

11.8

Seton Hall

14.5

Rutgers

12.1

Florida

11.6

Interestingly, the number of law schools welcoming transfers representing more than 20% of their first-year class has fallen from nine in 2013 (not shown), to six in 2014, then to only three in 2015 and 2016.

Nonetheless, as shown in the following chart, we are continuing to see a modest increase in concentration in the transfer market between 2011 and 2016 as the ten law schools with the most students transferring in captured an increasing share of the transfer market, from 23.5% in 2011 to 33.3% in 2016. 

Top Ten Law Schools as a Percentage of All Transfers

 

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

2016

Total Transfers

2427

2438

2501

2187

1979

1749

Transfers to 10 Law Schools with Most Transfers

570

587

724

625

623

583

Transfers to 10 Law Schools with Most Transfers as % of Total Transfers

23.5%

24.1%

28.9%

28.6%

31.5%

33.3%

NATIONAL AND REGIONAL MARKETS

Starting in 2014, the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar began collecting and requiring law schools with more than twelve transfers in to report not only the number of students who have transferred in, but also the law schools from which they came (indicating the number from each law school) along with the 75%, 50% and 25% first-year, law school GPAs of the students who transferred in. This allows us to look at where students are coming from and are going to and to look at the first-year GPA profile of students transferring in to different law schools. The following chart focuses on the ten law schools that have been among the top-15 in terms of transfers in for each of the last three years, presented in descending USNews ranking. It indicates the extent to which these law schools were attracting transfers from their geographic region and also identifies the law school(s) that provided the largest number of transfers to each listed law school in 2016 as well as the percentage of transfers that came from that school.

Percentage of Transfers from Within Geographic Region 2014-2016 and Top Feeder School(s) for 2016 at the Ten Law Schools Among the Top-15 for Transfers in 2014, 2015 and 2016

School

# of Transfers

2014/2015/2016

Region

Regional # of Transfers

14/15/16

Regional % of Transfers

14/15/16

School from Which Largest Number of Transfers Came in 2016

#/% of Transfers from Largest School 2016

Harvard

33/55/35

NE

6/15/13

18/27/37

GWU

3/9%

Columbia

46/44/50

NE

19/19/24

41/43/48

Fordham

6/13%

NYU

50/51/43

NE

20/15/16

40/29/37

Fordham/GWU

6/14%

Berkeley

55/49/33

CA

43/29/22

78/59/67

Santa Clara

5/15%

Georgetown

113/110/111

Mid-Atl

49/43/36

43/39/32

John Marshall

10/9%

UCLA

44/43/43

CA

31/26/25

70/60/58

Pepperdine/GWU

7/16%

Emory

53/51/49

SE

40/31/25

75/61/51

Atlanta’s   John

Marshall

11/22%

GWU

97/109/106

Mid-Atl

78/70/77

80/64/73

American

51/48%

Arizona St.

66/65/66

SW

51/48/57

77/74/86

Arizona Summit

48/73%

American

44/33/30

Mid-Atl

14/6/10

32/18/33

Univ. Dist. Col.

6/20%

For these top 10 law schools for transfer students in 2016, five law schools (Berkeley, UCLA, Emory, George Washington and Arizona State) obtained most of their transfers (51% or more) from within the geographic region within which the law school is located during each of the last three years. On the other hand, five law schools (Harvard, Columbia, NYU, Georgetown and American) had fewer than 49% of their transfers from within the region in which they are located in each of the last three years. 

Moreover, two of the ten law schools had a significant percentage of their transfers from one particular feeder school.  For George Washington, roughly 48% of its transfers came from American University, while for Arizona State, 73% of its transfers came from Arizona Summit.

The chart below shows the tiers of law schools from which these 10 law schools in the transfer market received their transfer students.  Five of the ten law schools that consistently have high numbers of transfers are ranked in the top 15 in USNews, while nine of the ten are ranked in the top 25. Only five had 75% or more of their transfers from schools ranked between 1 and 99 in the USNews rankings – Harvard, Columbia, NYU, UCLA and George Washington.  Two additional schools, Berkeley and Georgetown, had at least 50% of their transfers from law schools ranked between 1 and 99.  The remaining two law schools ranked in the top 25 in USNews (Emory and Arizona State), along with American, had at least half of their transfer students from law schools ranked 100 or lower, with two of those law schools (Arizona State and American) having 85% or more of their transfers from law schools ranked 100 or lower. 

 Percentage of Transfers from Different Tiers of School(s) for 2014, 2015 and 2016 at the Ten Law Schools Among the Top-15 for Transfers in 2014, 2015 and 2016

(Bolded data indicates the modal response for each law school.)

 

# of Trans

14/15/16

Top 50

# --------- %

14/15/16

51-99

# ------- %

14/15/16

100-200

# ------- %

14/15/16

Harvard

33/55/35

23/41/28

70/75/80

10/13/7

30/24/20

0/1/0

0/2/0

Columbia

46/44/50

29/30/33

63/68/67

14/10/16

30/23/33

3/4/1

7/9/2

NYU

50/51/43

41/40/35

82/78/81

7/10/8

14/20

2/1/0

4/2/0

Berkeley

55/49/33

17/15/11

31/31/33

27/26/8

49/53/24

11/8/14

20/16/42

Georgetown

113/110/111

27/30/32

24/27/29

38/30/41

34/27/37

48/50/38

42/45/34

UCLA

44/43/43

15/15/18

34/35/41

23/23/21

52/53/49

6/5/4

14/12/10

Emory

53/51/49

3/5/3

6/10/6

7/8/17

13/16/35

43/38/29

81/75/59

GWU

97/109/106

13/21/15

13/19/14

73/63/68

75/58/64

11/25/23

11/23/22

Arizona St.

66/65/66

4/0/3

6/0/5

5/6/7

8/9/11

57/59/56

86/91/85

American

44/33/30

2/0/0

5/0/0

14/1/2

32/3/7

28/32/28

64/97/93

If one focuses just on the reported GPAs from these ten schools, one quickly sees that the six law schools ranked in the USNews top-20 have a 50th GPA for transfers in 2016 that is a 3.6 or above (except for UCLA at 3.56), and a 25th GPA of 3.52 and above (except for NYU at 3.41). Once you drop out of the top-20, however, the other four law schools have a 75th GPA that drops below 3.5, a 50th GPA that drops below 3.3, and a 25th GPA that drops below 3.05 for three of the four law schools. Harvard clearly is accepting transfers who could have been admitted to Harvard in the first instance. While they make a less compelling case, Columbia, NYU, Berkeley, Georgetown and UCLA likely are accepting transfers whose entering credentials largely would have made them possible candidates for acceptance at those law schools. By contrast, Emory, George Washington, Arizona State and American are welcoming as transfers students whose entering credentials likely are sufficiently distinct from each of those law schools’ entering class credentials that the transfers they are admitting would not have been admitted as first-year students in the prior year.

First-Year Law School 75th/50th/25th GPA of Transfers at the Ten Law Schools Among the Top-15 for Transfers in 2014, 2015 and 2016

 

GPA 75th

GPA 50th

GPA 25th

 

14/15/16

14/15/16

14/15/16

Harvard

3.95/3.98/4.0

3.9/3.92/3.94

3.83/3.85/3.88

Columbia

3.81/3.82/3.84

3.75/3.76/3.71

3.69/3.66/3.6

NYU

3.74/3.76/3.72

3.62/3.68/3

3.47/3.52/3.41

Berkeley

3.9/3.87/3.92

3.75/3.81/3.8

3.68/3.69/3.75

Georgetown

3.77/3.77/3.76

3.67/3.66/3.63

3.55/3.59/3.54

UCLA

3.73/3.7/3.67

3.58/3.58/3.56

3.44/3.46/3.52

Emory

3.42/3.45/3.41

3.27/3.3/3.16

2.93/3.06/3.02

GWU

3.53/3.46/3.45

3.35/3.32/3.26

3.21/3.15/3.14

Arizona St.

3.51/3.5/3.4

3.23/3.17/3.09

2.97/2.95/2.96

American

3.25/3.04/3.17

2.94/2.89/2.99

2.78/2.74/2.81

STILL MANY UNKNOWNS

As I noted in each of the last two years, the more detailed transfer data that law schools are now required to publish should be very helpful to prospective law students and pre-law advisors, and to current law students who are considering transferring.  The more detailed data give them a better idea of what transfer opportunities might be available depending upon where they go to law school (or are presently enrolled as a first-year student).

Even with this more granular data now available, however, there still are a significant number of unknowns relating to transfer students, regarding gender and ethnicity of transfer students and regarding performance of transfers students at their new law school (both academically and in terms of bar passage and employment).

March 18, 2017 in Data on legal education, Scholarship on legal education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Location, Location, Location Revisited -- Most Law Schools Have a Regional Employment Footprint

One of the first blog posts I had on The Legal Whiteboard focused on the location of employment for graduates in the Classes of 2010 and 2011.

I have now updated this data by looking at the regional employment outcomes for the two most recent classes for which results are available, the Classes of 2014 and 2015. These calculations are drawn from the Employment Summary reports for each law school, which indicate the top three states in which graduates were employed in descending order.

For both the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2015 – 152 law schools saw 67% or more of their employed graduates take jobs in the state in which the law school was located or an adjacent state or states. Of these 152, more than 75% (roughly 60% of all law schools) saw 67% or more of their employed graduates take jobs in the state in which the school was located. 

 
Thumbnail

The numbers for the Classes of 2014 and 2015 (76% in region and 60% in state) are remarkably consistent with the numbers for the Classes of 2010 and 2011 (76% in region and 60% in state). This means there has been relative stability in the geographic markets in which graduates are employed for the vast majority of law schools over the last five to six years.

The vast majority of law schools are, in fact, regional law schools in terms of employment outcomes.

For the Class of 2014, 132 law schools saw an even higher percentage -- 75% or more of their employed graduates -- employed in the state in which the law school was located or adjacent states, with 85 of those having 75% or more just in the home state of the law school. For the Class of 2015, that increased to 134 law schools and 96 law schools, respectively.

In 2014, 47 law schools, and in 2015, 48 law schools, saw 90% or more of their employed graduates employed in the state in which the law school was located or adjacent states.

By contrast, for both the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2015, only 17 law schools had fewer than 50% of their employed graduates located in the state in which the law school is located or adjacent states, and 13 of these 17 law schools were ranked among the top 25 law schools in US News and World Report.

For those considering law school, geography should be an important consideration, given that the vast majority of law school graduates who find employment tend to take jobs in the state in which the law school is located or in an adjacent state.

Posted by Jerry Organ (I am grateful to Scott Norberg for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this post.)

March 5, 2017 in Data on legal education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Announcing Beyond Legal Reasoning: A Critique of Pure Lawyering

I'm delighted to be able to say that my book, Beyond Legal Reasoning: A Critique of Pure
Lawyering
, is now available for pre-order in hardcopy or e-book through Routledge's website.  Here's the description:

9781138221307The concept of learning to ‘think like a lawyer’ is one of the cornerstones of legal education in the United States and beyond. In this book, Jeffrey Lipshaw provides a critique of the traditional views of ‘thinking like a lawyer’ or ‘pure lawyering’ aimed at lawyers, law professors, and students who want to understand lawyering beyond the traditional warrior metaphor. Drawing on his extensive experience at the intersection of real world law and business issues, Professor Lipshaw presents a sophisticated philosophical argument that the "pure lawyering" of traditional legal education is agnostic to either truth or moral value of outcomes. He demonstrates pure lawyering’s potential both for illusions of certainty and cynical instrumentalism, and the consequences of both when lawyers are called on as dealmakers, policymakers, and counsellors.

This book offers an avenue for getting beyond (or unlearning) merely how to think like a lawyer. It combines legal theory, philosophy of knowledge, and doctrine with an appreciation of real-life judgment calls that multi-disciplinary lawyers are called upon to make. The book will be of great interest to scholars of legal education, legal language and reasoning as well as professors who teach both doctrine and thinking and writing skills in the first year law school curriculum; and for anyone who is interested in seeking a perspective on ‘thinking like a lawyer’ beyond the litigation arena.

And from the reviews:

'Jeffrey Lipshaw combines acute legal and philosophical analysis with prodigious legal experience to explain to us both how lawyers do think and how they should think. He makes clear why lawyering needs a fundamental transformation, and starts us down the path to achieving it. Anyone perplexed or angered by the role of lawyers and lawyering in modern society should read this book.'

Professor Barry Schwartz, author of "Why We Work" and co-author of "Practical Wisdom".

'Jeffrey Lipshaw draws on long experience, first in corporate legal practice, then in teaching, to offer a unique and invaluable guide to legal reasoning: its use in practice and, more importantly, its limits. I would advise all law students who are considering a career in transactional law to read it right away.'

Professor Brian Bix, University of Minnesota, USA.

'Professor Jeffrey Lipshaw, who practiced law for more than 26 years, has written a great and timely book—calling to mind Karl Llewellyn’s efforts to champion "the grand tradition" of law as against "the formal style." Lipshaw leads the reader to recognize that if lawyering is to have any real value, it must shed its narrow self-image as weaponized reason, and achieve self-awareness to understand its language within broader moral, social, and philosophical contexts. It must in short understand itself as not merely a technical profession, but a liberal arts vocation.

This is a distinctive and learned book with a breezy earnest style all its own. Law students should read this after the 1L year, lawyers and academics at any time, and judges right away.'

University Distinguished Professor Pierre Schlag, University of Colorado, USA

December 8, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Friday, September 23, 2016

Building Your Personal Legal Brand -- Some Thoughts For Law Students (and Others)

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Lawyers for People versus Lawyers for Business

The work of lawyers is increasingly the work of businesses rather than people.  This conclusion flows from recently released Economic Census data, which is the U.S. Government's "official five-year measure of American business and the economy."

For the two most recent years (2007 and 2012), the Economic Census data includes an analysis called Revenues/Receipts by Class of Customer for Selected Industries.  The chart below compares these two years for Offices of Lawyers (NAICS 541110).
Slide13

From 2007 to 2012, the share of total law office receipts shifted by about 5% away from individuals toward businesses. Revenues for Offices of Lawyers grew during this period from $225 billion to $246 billion.  However, when we run the numbers, the total receipts for lawyers serving people declined from $65 billion to $59 billion.  That is a relatively large absolute decline in just five years.  It suggests an actual contraction in the amount of legal work for people. Yet during this same period, the nation grew from 288 million to 302 million people

These fairly stark results continue the trendlines of the Chicago Lawyers I and II studies.  Chicago Lawyer I showed that roughly half of lawyers in Chicago in 1975 were working for people and half were working for corporations. This was the basis for the Heinz-Laumann two-hemisphere theory.  When the study was replicated in 1995 (Chicago Lawyers II), the data showed twice as many organizational lawyers versus people lawyers, so hemi (as in half) no longer applied.  Further, among lawyers in solo and small firms -- the primary practice setting for people lawyers -- income had dropped significantly in inflation-adjusted dollars. In contrast, lawyers in large firms and in corporate legal departments experienced significant gains.

If during the 2007 to 2012 timeframe the proportion of people work dropped from 29.1% to 23.9%, what does that number look like today?  We will not know definitively until 2020 or 2021 when the Census Bureau releases the class of customer data from the 2017 Economic Census, yet a further decline certainly seems likely, particularly as services like LegalZoom and RocketLawyer continue to target the retail market.  Separate and apart from these new entrants, to what extent is the diminution in people lawyers driven by declining real incomes within the middle class?  

It is possible that the archetypical images of private practice lawyers are becoming more and more out-of-sync with what is happening in the actual market.  For those creating law school curricula or setting policy around access to justice, we are going to need new mental models of what it means to be a lawyer.

September 14, 2016 in Current events, Data on the profession, New and Noteworthy | Permalink | Comments (3)

Monday, September 5, 2016

Building a Portfolio of Court Cases the Way a Quantitative Hedge Fund Buys Stock

For the last couple of years, Dan Katz has been telling me and anyone else who would listen that law will eventually be a subfield of finance. Following Dan's reasoning, this will occur because legal risk can be modeled and quantified like financial risk, thus enabling parties to allocate time, money, expertise based on probabilities. If the modeling is accurate within a fairly predictable range, it facilitates an investment strategy where the business side of legal risk is equally predictable. Add leverage and/or other people's money, and basically you have a hedge fund with legal claims as its primary asset class.

Based on a story in Sunday's Boston Globe, Katz may be on to something.  The story reports the launching of Legalist, which funds lawsuits based on the size and probability of recovery. This concept is not new, as companies like Burford Capital have moved into this market and are growing rapidly. 

Legalist is potentially different, however, because it pools together smaller and medium-sized legal claims that are likely to paid out.  Case evaluations are made using data algorithms that draw upon "a database of 15 million court cases from all over the United States." So, in theory, the company can generate a strong return by building a diversified portfolio of claims that are likely too small for the high-end litigation financiers like Burford. 

ShangOne of the co-founder of Legalist is Eva Shang (photo right), who is pursuing the idea thanks to a $100,000 grant from the Thiel Foundation.  This is the Peter Thiel organization that encourages undergraduates to drop out of college in favor of pursuing a promising start-up idea.  After forgoing her senior year at Harvard, Shang also earned a spot in Y Combinator, the famed Silicon Valley accelerator that has a strong record of picking and nurturing successful start-ups. The other co-founder is Christian Haigh, who is a master's degree student in computer science at Harvard.

The core idea here is that with the right quantity and quality of data, computers can be extremely useful in valuing legal claims on several dimensions: size of payout, likelihood of payout, total time to reach a resolution, etc.  Lawyers provide the same service, but with a sample size limited to their own experience.

The most intriguing part of the Boston Globe story is that Shang and Haigh originally thought that law firms would pay for their service in order to improve their own case assessments. But "about a month in, we realized that attorneys weren't all that interested in legal analytics."  The dialogue with lawyers, however, enabled them to learn about the field of litigation finance.

Based on these insights, the Legalist decided to pivot.  In the June 2016 press release from the Thiel Foundation, the company was described as "a legal analytics and alert platform that helps lawyers keep track of new developments in case law so that they can represent their clients more effectively." Today, Shang's LinkedIn page describes Legalist as an "Algorithmic litigation financing for small businesses with meritorious lawsuits" -- a description with a Y Combinator polish.

I have no idea whether Shang or Legalist will be successful.  However, the story provides another striking example of the reluctance or inability of lawyers--I don't know which--to consider data as a tool to better serve their clients and, perhaps as a result, to earn a higher income.  Conversations with lawyers on this topic often stall on what the data cannot effectively model and thus the mistakes that might result. The mindset seems to be, "find an example where it may not work and kill the concept." I really do believe that there are a handful of behavioral economics biases that apply with special vengeance to lawyers. 

Katz is likely right to think of law as a powerful use case for finance.  The goal is not about getting something right this time, but instead getting it right more often than not with a high degree of certainty.  In short, it's probability with reliable estimates of risk.  And for clients, that is valuable.  

If we pull on this string long enough, eventually it will be possible to quantify how, all else equal, particular law firms and lawyers affect the odds of winning a case.  When that happens, there will be strong incentives to deconstruct the skill sets and backgrounds of the most bankable lawyers.  Law will become less a credence good and accordingly the utility of longstanding signals of quality that law schools and law firms are built around will get tested by data and repriced.

I have no idea if this future will actual emerge.  Certainly a case could be made that were are better ways to resolve disputes than protracted litigation where armies of lawyers are hired to advance only one side of an argument. Regardless, I am confident that the practice of law is definitely going to change.

September 5, 2016 in Current events, Innovations in law, New and Noteworthy, Structural change | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Pierre Schlag and the Catharsis of "Why?"

61Ecj1ljuAL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Pierre Schlag, with whom I’ve maintained a friendly correspondence for a number of years, was kind enough to pass along a draft of his article The Law Review Article and his new novel American Absurd: A Work of Fiction (Bowen Press, 2016).

I may be the last person others would expect to appreciate critiques with CLS or post-modern or absurdist perspectives. When I was a senior in high school, my honors English project was a paean to rationality, structured as a Gemara-like commentary on Rabindranath Tagore’s poem Where the Mind is Without Fear. That was the idealism of a seventeen year old. With the limited maturity I’ve been able to achieve in the ensuing forty-five years, I’ve come to believe that any reasonable view of reason entails understanding its limits. (That is an underlying theme of my book Routledge will be publishing next year: Beyond Legal Reasoning: A Critique of Pure Lawyering.)

Here’s what I appreciate so much about Pierre’s work. He wants you to question the extent to which your thinking has settled into (or never left) a comfortable or conventional frame. Some of us try to provoke that introspection by force of reason, but that’s the very point.  Reasoning your way to questioning reason is about as difficult as that sounds.  Hume didn't think it was possible: reason is just the slave of the passions. Nevertheless, even Kant, who wanted to counter that aspect of Humean skepticism, conceded we’d never be able to be able to judge for sure when it was or wasn’t. So Pierre makes the point about reason in the community of law professors by way of form as well as substance. If reading The Law Review Article makes you uncomfortable (as it did me!), then it has doubly achieved its goal of exposing the “deeply stylized form, structure, and vexations” of this particular artifact of our narrow neck of the intellectual woods.

There's an additional timeliness here, given that the theme of the upcoming AALS meeting is “Why Law Matters.” Another friend commented about the theme: “If this were an actual academic learned society instead of a trade group/booster squad, wouldn't the proper title be, ‘Does Law Matter?’ or ‘How Law Matters?’” (Full disclosure: I agreed to be an organizer of a discussion group entitled “Why (Transactional) Law Matters” but I have made it clear to my fellow organizers that I intend to be a contrarian on the subject. I’m no Johnny-come-lately to this: years ago, I presented at a law and entrepreneurship conference on Why the Law of Entrepreneurship Barely Matters and last year at a contract theory conference on Does Contract Theory Matter?)

Pierre’s essay should be required reading.  I hope they put copies in the registration materials, particularly this paragraph:

Yes, indeed, why? In fact why is this colloquium happening? Why are you happening? Why am I? Hell, why is anything happening? Point being, of course, that the question (why is this happening?) immediately points to the impossibility of the answer. The ‘why?’ in the question will only be answered within a frame that everyone pretends is already stabilized (when, of course, it is not) for a subject presumed to be universal (but could not possibly be) from a limited set of vantages and specified orientations (which, of course, are neither).

If there’s an answer to the why? questions, it’s likely to be a little depressing, and that’s the subject of Pierre’s novel, American Absurd, one of whose characters, Prof. Max Stein, earns a citation in The Law Review. American Absurd asks us to question what in our lives is meaningful - how much of what we do is "going from A to B over and over again, without, it seems, actually getting anywhere." American Absurd is a hoot, with its background of L.A. drivers going from point to point forever for its own sake and writers with writer’s block walking the streets of Manhattan for the same reason. The banality of it all gets interrupted by David Madden’s journey from ordinary upscale Mercedes driver to public urinator to cultural icon, the subject of Professor Stein’s typology and analysis of going from A to B.

I reflect on my own repeated travels from A to B. In microcosm, it is my relationship with the New York Times crossword puzzle. On Mondays and Tuesdays, it is too easy to bother with printing, so I do it on my iPad and work against the clock (goal: Monday in under seven minutes; Tuesday in under eight). From Wednesday through Sunday, it’s on paper and in ink, and accuracy is more important than speed. I can rationalize my behavior as a prophylactic against hardening of the cranial arteries, but even that rationalization is proof that I’ve tried to impute meaning into nothing more than repeated trips from A to B. My wife made the mistake once of suggesting that we do the Sunday puzzle together on a Saturday during a drive somewhere; she hasn’t made that mistake again.

It would be easy to dismiss Pierre’s message as cynicism. I don’t believe it is. If it were, he wouldn’t keep at it. We have to aim for a catharsis of “why”, one that acknowledges the futility of it all (in the long run) but still, against all rational hope, refuses to give up. My friend, Susan Neiman, in her masterful reflection on coming to terms with evil, said,

At times the most hopeful gesture we may be able to manage is not to answer whether life is justified but merely to reject the question. Meaning is a human category, and must be won against a background. A life that was inevitably meaningful would defeat itself from the start. Between the adult who knows she won’t find reason in the world, and the child who refuses to stop seeking it, lies the difference between resignation and humility.

That’s me at seventeen and sixty-two. If it’s going from A to B, so be it. But it’s also why I like Pierre’s provocation.

July 17, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

International Legal Hackers Summit in Brooklyn this Weekend

Legal-Hackers-Logo-2The 2nd Annual International Legal Hackers Summit takes place this weekend in Brooklyn, New York. The event includes an impressive array of keynotes, panels, workshops, demos, and cultural activities from leaders of the legal hacking, legal technology and civic innovation communities.  U.S. legal education has a surprisingly strong showing. Full details here.

LearOne of the organizers, Dan Lear (@rightbrainlaw), Director of Industry Relations at Avvo, is offering weekend passes for a small number of law students interested in attending.  If you drop my name, Dan will feed you and help you network, starting with the Welcome Party tomorrow night at 61 Local Cafe & Public House.  If you are a law student in NYC this weekend and want to attend, please send me an email (wihender@indiana.edu) and I will connect you with Dan. 

I guarantee a learning experience that will be inspiring and fun.

July 14, 2016 in Current events, Innovations in law, Innovations in legal education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Student Opportunity to Learn about Agile Legal Project Management

CKTo law students in the Chicago area, here is a great opportunity to learn about cutting-edge innovations and methodologies affecting modern law practice.

I am pleased to offer up to ten slots for a program tomorrow, July 13, at Chicago-Kent offered in conjunction with SeyfarthLean Consulting and Janders Dean.  The program has two half-day sessions:

  1. Quantified Law Primer (8 to 12 pm) led by Professor Dan Katz, an expert on AI and quantitative methods as applied to legal problems. 
  2. Agile Legal Project Management Workshop (1 to 5 pm) led by very experienced professionals from SeyfarthLean and Janders Dean, two organizations that are pioneering process and technology for law firms and legal departments.

Full event details are online here.

Thanks to a scholarship subsidy from Lawyer Metrics and the Access Group, our friends at Chicago-Kent have agreed to waive the $450 registration for up to ten students.  If you are a law student interested in one of these slots, please send an email to Jennifer Sons at jennifer@lawyermetrics.org.  Jennifer will let you know immediately if you got one of the spots. 

Bar

July 12, 2016 | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, May 2, 2016

Changes in Reporting and Classifying of Law-School-Funded Positions Result in Decline in Number of Graduates in Full-Time, Long-Term Law-School-Funded Bar-Passage-Required Positions

This blog posting summarizes how recent changes in the definition and reporting of law-school-funded positions have impacted the number of law-school-funded positions classified as full-time, long-term or full-time, short-term bar-passage-required positions for graduates in the Class of 2015. Comparisons between results for the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2015 show a significant decline in the number of full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions that are law-school-funded (from 831 to 398) and a significant increase in the number of full-time short-term bar-passage-required positions that are law school funded (from 184 to 277). Overall the number of law-school-funded bar-passage-required positions declined by one-third, from 1015 to 675, as a result of these changes.

Changes in Reporting Framework and Definition

In March 2015, the Council for the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar approved a change in the reporting of law-school-funded positions to take effect this spring with reporting of employment outcomes for the Class of 2015. Previously, law schools included law-school-funded positions within all other employment categories “above the line” and then delineated “below the line” the number of law-school-funded positions in each category. Under this approach, between the Class of 2012 and the Class of 2014, the number of full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded increased from 517 to 831, an increase of more than 60%.

With the change, however, the Council added “Employed – Law School Funded” as a separate “above the line” category such that law-school-funded positions no longer are included in other categories (e.g., Employed – Bar Passage Required or Employed – JD Advantage), although law schools are still required to provide more detailed information about the different categories of law-school-funded jobs “below the line” on the employment summary report.

In July 2015, the Council also approved a change in the definition of when a law-school-funded position may be classified as a “long-term” position, requiring that it be a position the employer expects to last at least one year with a salary of at least $40,000 per year.

Long Term. (OLD DEFINITION) A long-term position is one that does not have a definite or indefinite term of less than one year. It may have a definite length of time as long as the time is one year or longer. It may also have an indefinite length of time as long as it is expected to last one year or more.

Long-term. (NEW DEFINITION) A long-term position is one that the employer expects to last one year or more. A law school/university funded position that the law school expects to last one year or more may be considered long-term for purposes of this definition only if the graduate is paid at least $40,000 per year. . . .”

This change also took effect with the reporting of employment outcomes this spring for the Class of 2015.

An example might help explain how these changes might impact classification of a given position. Assume you have a graduate of Law School A in 2014 who took a one-year position as a lawyer with a public interest law firm as part of a “bridge-to-practice” program, working on a full-time basis and receiving a stipend of $24,000 paid partly by the law school. Law School A agreed to subsidize a portion of the stipend for a year but the law school continued to support the graduate’s ongoing effort to seek other gainful employment during the year.

In the Class of 2014 reporting format, this graduate could have been classified and probably would have been classified “above the line” in the full-time, long-term Employed – Bar Passage Required category because the job had a defined duration of one year even though the student might not be planning on staying in the position for the entire year. (This graduate also would have been listed separately “below the line” in the law-school-funded category as having a full-time, long-term bar-passage-required position).

Following the March 2015 changes, a Class of 2015 graduate in the same job, working as a lawyer with a public interest law firm on a full-time basis and receiving a stipend of $24,000 paid partly by the law school, would have been classified “above the line” in the full-time, long-term Employed – Law School Funded category and not in full-time, long-term Employed -- Bar Passage Required. (As was the case with the Class of 2014 graduates, this graduate also likely would have been listed separately “below the line” in the law-school-funded category as having a full-time, long-term bar-passage-required position).

Following the July 2015 changes, a Class of 2015 graduate in the same job, working as a lawyer with a public interest law firm on a full-time basis and receiving a stipend of $24,000 paid partly by the law school, would be classified “above the line” in the full-time, short-term Employed – Law School Funded category because under the new definition of “long-term” either or both the lack of an employer expectation that the job would last for one year or more or the lack of a stipend of at least $40,000 would mean that this job would not qualify as “long-term” and therefore would be classified as “short-term.” (This graduate also would be listed separately “below the line” in the law-school-funded category as having a full-time, short-term bar-passage- required position).

Consequences of the Change in Reporting Framework and Definition

With the ABA’s release of its Employment Summary report reporting employment for graduates of the Class of 2015 ten months after graduation, we can compare law-school-funded positions for the Class of 2015 with law-school-funded positions for the Class of 2014. The following table includes results from all law schools listed in the ABA’s Employment Summary spreadsheets for the Class of 2014 and for the Class of 2015.

Law School Funded Bar Passage Required, Full-Time, Long-Term and Full-Time, Short-Term Positions for the Class of 2014 and Class of 2015

YEAR

FTLT BPR LSF

FTST BPR LSF

TOTAL BPR LSF

Class of 2014

831

184

1015

Class of 2015

398

277

675

Full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded declined by more than 50% from 831 to 398. Meanwhile, full-time, short-term bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded increased by roughly 50% from 184 to 277. Overall, however, law-school-funded positions that were in one of these two categories declined by 340 or by roughly 33%, from 1015 to 675.

Although it is not easy to know for sure, the most plausible explanation for these changes is that some of the jobs previously classified as full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions had a stipend or salary lower than $40,000 per year and that law schools offering such positions could not increase the salary sufficiently to continue to have such positions classified as full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions under the new regime. Alternatively, or additionally, some positions may not have been classified as full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions if the employers with graduates with law-school-funded positions did not expect that the position would last for at least one year. These possibilities would explain the shift of some positions from full-time, long-term to full-time, short-term, but they would not necessarily explain the complete loss of so many law-school-funded bar-passage-required positions.

The loss of roughly one-third of the law-school-funded bar-passage-required positions might be explained partly by the decline in the number of graduates passing the July 2015 bar exam compared with July 2014.

Additionally, a portion of the loss of roughly one-third of the law-school-funded bar-passage-required positions also might be explained by the reality that there was more perceived “value” in a law school being able to claim a law-school-funded positon as a full-time, long-term bar-passage-required position than a full-time, short-term bar-passage-required position. With the change in reporting framework and definition, some law schools may have concluded that further investment in law-school-funded positions was not justifiable, particularly given how USNews accounts for these positions in its rankings (a point highlighted by Derek Muller in his post about these changes in law-school-funded positions).

Different Responses across Different Law Schools

  • The Top-25 Law Schools for Full-Time, Long-Term Law-School-Funded Bar- Passage-Required Positions for the Class of 2014

The decline in law-school-funded bar-passage-required positions was manifested most particularly at several law schools. The top-25 law schools for full-time, long-term, bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded for the Class of 2014 (those schools with 10 or more law-school-funded positions classified as full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions), are responsible for the vast majority of the decline in such positions for the Class of 2015. Across these 25 law schools, the number of graduates in full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded fell from 676 to 295, a drop of 381 out of the total decline of 440 or nearly 87% of the total decline in such positions. Across these 25 law schools, the number of graduates in full-time, short-term bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded increased from 11 to 213, far exceeding the actual increase in such positions (which was counter-balanced by several schools greatly reducing the number of full-time, short-term bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded).

  • 14 Law Schools in the Top-25 for Law-School-Funded Positions that Saw Significant Changes in Law-School-Funded Bar-Passage-Required Positions Between the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2014

There was a subset of 14 law schools within this group that saw the most significant changes between the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2015, being responsible for 359 of the 440 decline in full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded and being responsible for an increase from 8 to 202 in the full-time, short-term bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded. These 14 law schools are set forth in the following table in descending order of the full-time, long-term bar-passage-required law-school-funded positions in the Class of 2014.

School

2014 LSF FTLT

BPR

2015 LSF FTLT

BPR

2014 LSF FTST

BPR

2015 LSF FTST

BPR

2014 Graduates

2015 Graduates

George Washington

78

6

0

19

584

465

Georgetown

64

35

0

53

626

678

Emory

52

0

0

20

268

308

American

44

4

0

40

460

464

Michigan

33

2

5

21

390

354

Southern California

31

7

0

20

217

213

Texas

23

11

1

1

351

354

Vanderbilt

22

0

0

12

194

185

Notre Dame

22

4

1

0

179

179

California-Berkeley

20

11

1

2

287

278

William and Mary

19

0

0

3

215

178

California-Davis

19

9

0

0

169

185

Washington Univ.

14

2

0

10

258

228

Cornell

11

2

0

1

191

183

TOTAL

452

93

8

202

4389

4252

Notably, across these 14 law schools, the total number of bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded declined from 460 (of which only eight were short-term) for the Class of 2014 to 295 (of which 202 were short-term) for the Class of 2015. At these 14 law schools, therefore, there not only was a decline of 165, over one-third, in the number of full-time, law-school-funded, bar-passage-required positions, there also was a dramatic shift in the ratio of full-time, long-term to full-time, short-term bar-passage-required positions, from over 98% to less than 33%.

  • 11 Law Schools in the Top-25 for Law-School-Funded Positions that Did Not See Significant Changes in Law-School-Funded Bar-Passage-Required Positions Between the Class of 2014 and Class of 2015

At the other 11 law schools among the top-25 for law-school-funded positions that were bar-passage-required in the Class of 2014 there was not a significant decline in law-school-funded positions that were bar-passage-required for the Class of 2015. These 11 law schools are set forth in the following table in descending order of the full-time, long-term bar-passage-required law-school-funded positions in the Class of 2014.

School

2014 LSF FTLT

BPR

2015 LSF FTLT

BPR

2014 LSF FTST

BPR

2015 LSF FTST

BPR

2014 Graduates

2015 Graduates

New York Univ.

36

30

0

2

479

485

Virginia

33

30

0

0

349

367

UCLA

31

31

2

0

336

335

Columbia

31

28

0

0

468

413

Harvard

24

20

1

0

586

589

Illinois

15

10

0

2

185

181

Boston University

12

12

0

0

246

208

Brigham Young

11

9

0

0

138

133

Chicago

11

6

0

5

210

196

California-Irvine

10

20

0

0

93

110

Stanford

10

6

0

2

187

195

TOTAL

224

202

3

11

3277

3212

These law schools either already had salaries of at least $40,000 for most of their law-school-funded bar-passage-required positions for the Class of 2014 or made the decision to make sure that the vast majority of their law-school-funded bar-passage-required positions for the Class of 2015 had salaries of at least $40,000, as the number of full-time, long-term law-school-funded positions that were bar-passage-required across these 11 law schools only declined by 22 while the number of full-time, short-term law-school-funded positions that were bar-passage-required increased only by eight. The ratio of full-time, long-term to full-time, short-term bar-passage-required positions across these 11 law schools changed very little, from over 98% to nearly 95%.

  • The Remaining Law Schools

Across the remaining law schools, for the Class of 2014, there were only 57 law schools across which there were 155 law-school-funded positions that were full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions. For the Class of 2015, there were only 46 law school across which there were 103 full-time, long-term positions that were bar-passage-required. Across this set of schools, therefore, there was a decline of 52 positions or roughly one-third in the number of full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions.

Across all the remaining law schools, for the Class of 2014, there were only 24 law schools with a total of 173 full-time, short-term bar-passage-required law-school-funded positions. For the Class of 2015, there were only 19 law schools with a total of 64 full-time, short-term bar-passage-required, law-school-funded positions. Thus, full-time, short-term bar-passage-required positions that were law-school-funded declined across these law schools by over 100.

In total, then, these other law schools saw law-school-funded bar-passage-required positions decline from a total of 328 for the Class of 2014 to only 167 for the Class of 2015, a decline of nearly 50%.

Total Changes in Law-School-Funded Bar-Passage-Required Positions

Between the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2015

 

2014 LSF BPR FTLT

2015 LSF BPR FTLT

2014 LSF BPR FTST

2015 LSF

BPR FTST

Top 25 (10 or more LSF BPR FTLT in 2014)

676

295

11

213

11

224

202

3

11

14

452

93

8

202

Other Schools with LSF

155

(57 schools)

103

(46 schools)

173

 (24 schools)

64

 (19 schools)

Total

831

398

184

277

(I am very grateful to Janelle Chambers for her research assistance in compiling this data and am very grateful to Scott Norberg and Bernie Burk for helpful comments on earlier drafts of this blog posting.)

May 2, 2016 in Data on legal education, Scholarship on legal education | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Mixed Signals from the Legal Employment Market – Preliminary Results for the Class of 2015

THIS BLOG UPDATES THE EARLIER BLOG POSTING TO INCORPORATE DATA FROM THE ABA's EMPLOYMENT SUMMARY SPREADSHEETS FOR THE CLASS OF 2014 and CLASS OF 2015 AS OF MAY 3, 2016, WITH DOUBLE-COUNTED DATA FOR MITCHELL|HAMLINE IN THE CLASS OF 2015 REMOVED AND WITH ALL LAW-SCHOOL-FUNDED POSITIONS FOR BOTH YEARS REMOVED FROM THE CALCULATIONS.  THE 2015 NUMBERS NOW MATCH THOSE ON THE ABA's 2015 LAW GRADUATE EMPLOYMENT DATA SHEET RELEASED ON MAY 3 WHILE THE 2014 NUMBERS NOW MATCH THOSE FOR 2014 ON THE ABA's 2015 LAW GRADUATE EMPLOYMENT DATA SHEET ONCE LAW-SCHOOL-FUNDED POSITIONS ARE REMOVED.

The Class of 2015 employment summary reports have been posted by all ABA-accredited law schools, resulting in reporting of results for some states or regions.  The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar released the complete Employment Summary spreadsheet for all law schools on its website yesterday (May 2) and updated it today (May 3) and likely will be updating it again tomorrow (to eliminate the double-counting for Hamline, William-Mitchell and Mitchell|Hamline).

In this initial post I provide a brief summary of the Class of 2015’s employment outcomes compared with the Class of 2014’s employment outcomes based on data from these spreadsheets as of described above.

In a subsequent post (posted on May 2) I provide a summary of changes in the reported number of law-school-funded, bar-passage-required positions between the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2015 as a result of changes in the classification and reporting of such positions.

Changes in the Percentage of Graduates and Number of Graduates in Full-Time, Long-Term Bar-Passage-Required and JD Advantage Jobs

Across all law schools for which the ABA has released employment summary data for the Class of 2015, the percentage of graduates in full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions and full-time, long-term JD advantage positions increased from 69% for the Class of 2014 to 70.1% for the Class of 2015. This would appear to be modestly good news. When you disaggregate the two categories, the full-time, long-term bar-passage required positions went from 58% to 59.2% while the full-time, long-term JD advantage positions went from 11% to 10.9%.

Because there was a significant decline in the number of graduates across these law schools between 2014 and 2015, however, this modest increase in the percentage of graduates in these positions masks an actual decline in the number of graduates in such positions. There were 39,984 graduates in the Class of 2015 compared with 43,832 graduates in the Class of 2014, a decline of 3,848 graduates, or 8.8%. There were 28,029 graduates in the Class of 2015 with full-time, long-term bar-passage-required or JD advantage positions, compared with 30,234 graduates in the Class of 2014 with such positions, a decline of 2,205, or 7.3%.

When these totals are disaggregated, full-time, long-term bar-passage-required positions declined from 25,417 for the Class of 2014 to 23,687 for the Class of 2015, a decline of 1,730, or 6.8%. For full-time, long term JD advantage positions, the total went from 4,817 to 4,342, a decline of 475, or 9.9%.

(Please note that numbers for both 2014 and 2015 exclude law-school-funded positions from both categories.  The ABA's 2015 Law Graduate Employment Data sheet compares Class of 2014 INCLUDING law-school-funded positions with CLASS of 2015 EXCLUDING law-school-funded positions, which leads to slightly different results showing a more exaggerated decline in the number of graduates in full-time, long-term bar-passage-required and JD advantage jobs that also results in a decline in the percentage of graduates in such positions.)

Comparison of Full-Time, Long-Term Bar-Passage-Required Positions and JD Advantage Positions for the Class of 2014 and Class of 2015

 

Graduates

# FTLT

BPRJDA

% FTLT

BPRJDA

# FTLT

BPR

% FTLT

BPR

# FTLT

JDA

% FTLT

JDA

Class of 2014

43,832

30,234

69%

25,417

58%

4,817

11%

Class of 2015

39,984

28,029

70.1%

23,687

59.2%

4,342

10.9%

Change

(3,848)

(2,205)

 

(1,730)

 

(475)

 

Changes in the Number and Percentage of Graduates Whose Employment Status is Unknown or Who Were Classified as Unemployed Seeking or Unemployed Not Seeking

Looking at the other end of the employment outcomes continuum, however, both the number and percentage of graduates who had unknown employment outcomes, or who classified as unemployed seeking or unemployed not seeking, declined slightly between the Class of 2014 and the Class of 2015. For the Class of 2014, there were 5,778 graduates whose employment status was unknown or who were classified as unemployed seeking or unemployed not seeking. This represented 13.2% of the 43,832 graduates. For the Class of 2015, however, there were only 5,200 graduates whose employment status was unknown or who were classified as unemployed seeking or unemployed not seeking. This represented 13% of the 39,984 graduates.

Searching for Explanations

In the coming weeks and months, there likely will be a number of commentators offering suggestions for why the Class of 2015 might have seen a decline in the number of graduates obtaining full-time, long-term bar-passage-required or JD advantage positions.

Part of the decline likely is attributable to the decline in the number and percentage of graduates passing the July bar exam, as reported by the NCBE in its annual statistics publications for each of the last three years.

Year

First-Time Bar Takers in July from ABA-Accredited Law Schools*

First-Time Bar Passers in July from ABA-Accredited Law Schools

July Pass Rate Among First-Time Takers from ABA-Accredited Law Schools

2013

47,465

38,909

82%

2014

44,282

34,333

78%

2015

39,955

29,772

75%

*Note that the NCBE’s classification of first-time takers is over-inclusive in that it reflects not just graduates from May who are taking the bar exam for the first time in July, but also graduates from a prior year who might be taking the bar exam for the first-time in a given jurisdiction even if they have previously taken the bar exam in another jurisdiction. Thus first-time bar passers includes some people who are not part of the graduating cohort in a given year.

In the two-year period, then, between 2013 and 2015, the number of first-time takers from ABA-accredited law schools taking the July bar exam who passed the exam and became eligible for jobs requiring bar passage declined by roughly 9,100 and by nearly 23.5%. Moreover, the percentage of all first-time bar takers taking the February exam rather than the July exam also increased slightly between 2013 and 2015 from 18.7% to 19.7%, which might mean slightly more May 2015 graduates might not have been positioned to accept a full-time, long-term bar-passage-required or JD advantage position as of March 15, 2016, because they may have been studying for and taking the February 2016 bar exam.

Part of the decline also likely is attributable to market conditions in some parts of the country. For example, a recent story about graduates of Texas law schools noted that the decline in oil prices and tort reform may have impacted hiring in the Texas legal market for graduates of the Class of 2015. Once the full set of employment outcomes is available, it will be easier to assess the extent to which certain states or certain regions might have seen better or worse results than other states or regions.

Part of the decline also may be a manifestation of the impact of technology on the legal services market, with the possibility that the legal services market will have slightly fewer entry level positions over the near term.

One Possible Counterpoint

If this decline in the number of full-time, long-term bar passage required positions is a manifestation of a weakening job market law graduates, then one would expect that salary data also would demonstrate weakness. Once NALP publishes its report on the employment results for the Class of 2015 later this summer, we will have a chance to assess the extent to which salary trends are consistent with a weakening legal services market or suggest that the market remains somewhat competitive. If this decline in graduates taking jobs that are full-time, long-term bar passage required or JD advantage jobs is counterbalanced by a continuation of the year-over-year modest increases in mean and median salaries in recent years for  law graduates, it might suggest that that there is less market weakness than this initial employment summary might indicate.

Concluding Thoughts

For those thinking that the recent news about the improving situation with respect to applicants to law school is the beginning of an upward trend that will gradually return law schools to first-year class sizes in the 45,000 to 46,000 range, this employment outcomes data provides a cautionary tale. The fact that the employment market for law school graduates appears to have stagnated and even declined to some extent over the last two years may mean that risk averse potential law school applicants who focus on post-graduate employment opportunities when assessing whether to invest in a legal education may remain skittish about applying, such that this year’s good news on the applicant front may be somewhat short-lived.

(I am very grateful for the research assistance of Janelle Chambers in gathering data for this blog posting prior to the release of the ABA Employment Summary spreadsheet and for very helpful comments on earlier drafts of this blog posting from Scott Norberg and Bernie Burk and for the helpful insights of Debby Merritt as we worked on reconciling data in the ABA spreadsheets.)

May 1, 2016 in Current events, Data on legal education, Scholarship on legal education | Permalink | Comments (1)

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Projections for Law School Enrollment for Fall 2016

In this blog posting I am doing two things. First, I provide a detailed analysis to estimate the likely total applicant pool we can expect at the end of the current cycle based on trends from March through the end of the cycle in 2013 and 2014 and 2015. Second, given the increase in the strength of the applicant pool, I suggest that law schools in the top 60 or 70 of USNEWS ranking will see more enrollment growth and profile stability in comparison with law schools further down the rankings continuum.

ESTIMATES OF THE TOTAL NUMBER OF APPLICANTS

Reviewing the 2013, 2014, and 2015 Cycles to Inform the 2016 Cycle

The table set forth below shows the number of applicants in the admissions cycle as of early March in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 along with the projected total applicant pool (based on percentage of applicants at that point in the cycle in the previous year) and the actual total applicant pool at the end of each cycle (with an estimate of the 2016 total applicant pool).

2013 Current Volume Summary Date

Applicants

% of Cycle in Previous Year on This Date

Applicant Pool

Mar. 8, 2013

46,587

84%

55,460 Projected as of March 8 based on % of Cycle

End of Cycle

   

59,400 Actual

2014 Current Volume Summary Date

Applicants

% of Cycle in Previous Year on This Date

Applicant Pool

Mar. 7, 2014

42,068

79%

53,250 Projected on March 7 based on % of Cycle

End of Cycle

   

55,700 Actual

2015 Current Volume Summary Date

Applicants

% of Cycle in Previous Year on This Date

Applicant Pool

Mar. 6, 2015

39,646

76%

52,160 Projected on March 6 based on % of Cycle

End of Cycle

   

54,500 Actual

2016 Current Volume Summary Date

Applicants

% of Cycle in Previous Year on This Date

Applicant Pool

Mar. 4, 2016

42,981

76%

56,553 Projected on March 4 based on % of Cycle

End of Cycle

   

57,500 Estimate

In each of the last three years, a modest surge in late applicants meant the final total applicant count exceeded the March projections by more than 2000, with the amount by which the actual total applicant count exceeded the projected total applicant count getting smaller each year (dropping from roughly 4,000 in 2013 to roughly 2,300 in 2015). This “late surge” would suggest that the projection for fall 2016 based on the applicant pool as of March 4, 2016 (for just over 56,500) likely understates the end of cycle total applicant pool. To be somewhat conservative, I am estimating that the final total applicant pool in 2016 will exceed the early March projection by roughly 1,000, the smallest such increase in the last four years, resulting in an estimated total applicant pool of 57,500 (up about 5.5% from 2015). This would be the first increase in applicants since 2010.

ESTIMATES FOR ADMITTED APPLICANTS AND MATRICULANTS

The chart below shows the number of applicants, admitted applicants and matriculants over the last four years along with an estimate for fall 2016 based on the assumption above that we have a total of 57,500 applicants this cycle. With 3,000 more applicants than in 2014-15, I am assuming 2,400 more admitted applicants (roughly 80% of the additional applicants), and then assuming the number of matriculants will reflect close to the four-year average for the percentage of admitted applicants who matriculate – 87.6%. This would yield a first-year entering class of 39,150, up about 5.6% from 2015. (Using this process last April, I estimated a first-year enrollment of 36,975, 83 less than the actual first-year enrollment of 37.058.)

Estimates of Admitted Students and Matriculants for 2016 Based on Trends in 2012-2015

 

Applicants

Admitted Students

Percent of Applicants

Matriculants

Percent of Admitted

2012

67,900

50,600

74.5%

44,481

87.9%

2013

59,400

45,700

76.9%

39,675

86.8%

2014

55,700

43,500

78.1%

37,924

87.2%

2015

54,500

42,300

77.6%

37,058

87.6%

2016 (est.)

57,500

44,700

77.7%

39,150

87.6%

DIFFERENTIAL IMPACT ON ENROLLMENT AND PROFILES ACROSS DIFFERENT CATEGORIES OF LAW SCHOOLS

Earlier this year Ian Ayres noted that lower-ranked law schools have benefited from the rankings concerns of higher-ranked law schools. In the last few years, as higher-ranked law schools admitted fewer applicants in an effort to maintain their LSAT/GPA profiles, they left more applicants for lower-ranked law schools to admit. In this admissions cycle, the strength of the pool of applicants means things likely will swing the other way. Higher-ranked law schools likely will be admitting more students, leaving fewer students for lower-ranked law schools to admit.

INCREASES IN APPLICANTS WITH HIGH LSATs BODE WELL FOR HIGHER RANKED LAW SCHOOLS

For the first time in the last five years, we are seeing a year-over-year increase in the number of applicants with LSATs of 165 or higher. As of the April 15 Current Volume Summary, there were a total of 7,054 applicants with LSATs of 165 or higher, compared with 6,519 on April 17, 2015. Another 130 with LSATs of 165 or higher ended up applying during the balance of the 2014-15 admissions cycle, resulting in a total of 6,649. I am presently assuming there will be another 146 applicants with LSATs of 165 or higher in the balance of the 2015-16 admissions cycle for a total of 7,200. On average, over the past four years, 82.6% of these applicants have matriculated. I think it is going to be slightly higher this year as I think there are a number of top-60 or top-70 law schools dealing with revenue pressures from decreased enrollment in recent years that are going to take advantage of the stronger quality in this applicant pool to increase their first-year enrollment without seeing too much erosion in their entering class profile. Thus, I think we will see roughly 6,000 matriculants this year with LSATs of 165 or higher, an increase of nearly 500 from fall 2015.

Five-Year Trend in Applicants and Matriculants with LSATs of 165+ and Estimates for 2015

 

Applicants with LSATs of 165+

Matriculants with LSATs of 165+

Percent of Applicants Matriculating

2010

12,177

9,477

77.8%

2011

11,190

8,952

80%

2012

9,196

7,571

82.3%

2013

7,496

6,154

82.1%

2014

7,477

6,189

82.8%

2015

6,649

5,505

82.8%

2016 (est.)

7,200

6,000

83.3%

In addition, the number of applicants with LSATs of 160-164 also has increased in this cycle, from roughly 6,500 at this point in 2014-15 to over 6,800 in 2015-16. This likely means that at the end of the cycle there will be at least 300 more applicants with LSATs of 160-164, which likely will generate an additional 240 matriculants (roughly 80% or the 300 more applicants) in this range than in the 2014-15 admissions cycle. Combining these categories, when this admissions cycle ends, there likely will be 740 more matriculants with LSATs of 160 or higher in the 2015-16 applicant pool than in the 2014-15 applicant pool – from roughly 11,200 to nearly 12.000.

This increase in quality in the applicant pool means law schools ranked in the top 60 or top 70 or so (those with median LSATs near or above 160), collectively could be able to welcome more than 1,200 more matriculants than last year without meaningfully impacting their profile. (If the top 70 law schools garner 600 of the 740 additional applicants with LSATs of 160 or higher, they also could admit almost as many additional applicants with LSATs below their median without impacting their profile. For top-70 law schools focused on profile AND revenue, every additional matriculant with an LSAT above 160 who helps the law school maintain its median LSAT allows the law school to add a matriculant with an LSAT of less than 160.)(Of course, not all law schools are going to have the financial strength to continue to use scholarship resources to attract top applicants, so there likely will be some variability among top 70 schools in terms of enrollment growth/decline and in terms of profile retention/erosion.)

Continuing But Slowing Declines in Applicants with LSATs Between 150-159 Likely Will Present Challenges for Some Law Schools with Median LSATs Between 150-159 

Year

LSAT of 140-144

LSAT of 145-149

LSAT of 150-154

LSAT of 155-159

2013

6114

9439

11430

10920

2014

5893

8428

10587

9919

2015

6214

8665

10518

9681

2016 (est.)

6500

9000

10400

9600

Based on the numbers of applicants with LSATs between 150-159 as of the April 15 Current Volume Summary, the pool of applicants in this range is likely to remain flat or continue to show a modest decline as reflected in the table above. If law schools in the top-60 or top-70 do take advantage of the increase in applicants with LSATs of 160 or higher to increase their enrollment, then fewer of these 20,000 applicants with LSATs between 150-159 will be available to law schools with median LSATs in those ranges. This will put pressure on law schools with median LSATs of 150-159 to admit fewer applicants or to dip deeper into the applicant pool to fill their classes. (Note that while the pool of applicants with LSATs between 150-159 is flat to slightly down, the pool of applicants with LSATs between 140-149 appears to be increasing again this year, for the second year in a row.) Once again, enrollment results and profile results are likely to vary somewhat widely across law schools depending upon their relative financial strength and their ability to continue to use scholarship assistance to compete for qualified applicants.

CONCLUSION

If the estimates regarding applicants and matriculants above are accurate we will see roughly 2,100 more matriculants in the 2015-16 cycle. The increased strength of the applicant pool and the anticipated admissions strategies and efforts of top-ranked schools dealing with revenue pressures from reduced enrollment in the last few years likely will mean that most of the increase in matriculants, perhaps as many as 1,200 or more, will be among law schools that are relatively highly ranked – perhaps the top-60 or top-70.

This anticipated increase in enrollment among top law schools likely will decrease the number of applicants in the 150-159 LSAT range available to lower-ranked law schools, particularly given that the number of applicants with LSATs of 150-159 already looks like it could be slightly smaller this year. This likely will leave law schools outside the top-60 or top-70 facing challenging decisions of shrinking enrollment further to hold profile (and dealing with further revenue declines) or accepting declines in profile in exchange for stable or larger enrollments (and the corresponding revenue).

With continued growth in applicants between 140-149 to go along with the projection of a slight decline in the number of applicants with LSATs of 150-159, many law schools ranked outside the top-60 or top-70 may find it difficult to maintain their LSAT profiles as the pool of applicants from which they can draw their matriculants will be weighted more to the lower end of the LSAT distribution.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER

First, what might explain the growth in the number of applicants with LSATs of 160 or more for the first time in the last several years? This group had been the “market leaders” in walking away from legal education in recent years. Is this a one-time bounce or is this group going to continue to return to legal education in larger numbers?

Second, why is the middle group – those with LSATs of 150-159 -- not showing an uptick in applicants, when there is growth among those with LSATs of 160 or higher AND growth among those with LSATs of 140-149? The group of applicants with LSATs of 150-159 is more likely to be able to pass the bar exam upon completing law school than the group of applicants with LSATs of 140-149. With bar passage rates falling significantly, particularly from those graduates of law schools with lower LSAT profiles, one might have expected that fewer people with LSATs of 140-149 would be applying to law school (as they are most at risk of bar passage failure), but this cycle shows continued modest growth in that pool of applicants while the group of applicants with LSATs of 150-159 is flat to down slightly.

Third, will this strengthening of the quality of the applicant pool portend an improvement in bar passage results in July 2019? It is too early to answer this question. Once actual enrollment profiles are available in December, it will be easier to analyze the possible impact on bar passage results.

(I am very grateful for thoughtful comments from Bernie Burk and Scott Norberg on an earlier draft of this blog posting.)

April 24, 2016 in Data on legal education, Scholarship on legal education | Permalink | Comments (0)