Friday, April 17, 2015
I'm going to keep this one brief and provocative.
Six years ago, when Law School Transparency (LST) came into existence, law schools had some problems with transparency. The problems were not actionable. As Michael Simkovic details here and elsewhere (and I will have many more positive things to say about Simkovic's and Frank McIntyre's scholarship in later posts), law schools have always disclosed employment outcomes in accordance with federal Bureau of Labor Statistics categories of employment and unemployment. Now, all law schools include on their websites 509 disclosures that are far more detailed about employment outcomes, as well as lots of other useful information about bar passage rates and the scores of incoming students (new 1Ls only, alas).
The fight is now mostly over debt loads, but again, as Michael Simkovic puts it:
Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that law students, even at low ranked law schools, remain much less likely to default than most student borrowers. This is true even though law students typically graduate with higher debt levels.
While student debt loads are a huge concern, law students still are not defaulting on their loans.
So, at this point what exactly is the purpose of LST's campaign against law schools?
LST's website identifies its goals as Reform, Information and Accountability. I would say that LST has succeeded on Information and Accountability. Don't take it from me. Here is what Deborah Merritt, who has been quite critical of Simkovic and McIntyre, has to say on the subject:
[T]oday’s law schools publish a wealth of data about their employment outcomes; most of that information is both user-friendly and accurate.
As to LST's main claim on Reform: "American legal education is broken because it is systematically unfair and unaffordable," LST and I will have to agree to disagree. Still, two out of three ain't bad. LST can take credit for having contributed to an environment in which law schools are forced to provide information about student outcomes in a way that really helps students make more informed decisions about whether to go to law school or whether to choose a particular school.
Congratulations, LST. You've won. You've done some real social good. You and others have persuaded college graduates not to go to law school. Unfortunately, that might not be good advice, since Simkovic and McIntyre's research shows that students who go to law school are, on the whole, better off for having done so.
So you can now declare victory and move on to larger projects. Why not use your model to attack other sectors of the economy that, when compared with law schools, are much less transparent, much more important, far less inclined to self-criticism and far more resistant to outside calls for change?