Friday, December 17, 2010

Law Degree Burns

I'm sorry I haven't posted much lately. I've been pretty busy for the past two months but hope to start blogging again soon.

Anyway, enjoy watching this rather bittersweet video that implicitly protests the overproduction of college graduates. What would happen if angry JDs banded together to burn their law school diplomas in front of the ABA's headquarters as a publicity stunt?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pharmacy School Scam?

If you have a science degree and you are languishing in the science career graveyard, then you may have considered going to pharmacy school.  In the past, being a pharmacist was a solid, stable, perhaps rather boring occupation.  However, this field, too, may become glutted in the future, especially by the time someone who starts in the Fall of 2011 or 2012 graduates (four years later).

I have contemplated pharmacy as a career in the past and was bothered by my perception that the field was changing in a way that would be bad for pharmacists.  Increasing amounts of prescriptions are being filled by mail order, reducing the need for retail pharmacists.  Also, it's bothersome that employers for pharmacists almost have an oligopoly on the employment market; there aren't that many potential employers for you.  What happens if you piss off the Target or Walgreens chain for some reason, permanently barring yourself from employment in a large percentage of the market?  What if you get blackballed?  What if Congress decides to allow foreign pharmacists to fill prescriptions by mail order?  What if automated machines start dispensing medication instead?

I haven't really paid much attention to the field of pharmacy, so it's possible that what I am posting is naive and ill-informed.  However, I recently came across an article that confirms my suspicions and, worse, claims that the amount of new pharmacist production has increased dramatically: Pharmacists Face Challenges of Oversupply, Changing Roles.

The allure of graduating into a six-figure job has swelled the number of pharmacy schools and thus graduates.  In 2000, there were 81 accredited pharmacy schools and programs in the United States; today there are 111, data from the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy shows.
Does the dramatic increase in the number of pharmacy schools and thus new pharmacist production sound familiar?  A 30 school increase is a 37% increase in the number of pharmacy schools and perhaps a 37% increase in the number of new pharmacists.
On its Web site, Pharmacy Today posted a comment from a reader who likens the situation to the late 1970s "when pharmacy schools were utilizing capitation funds generated by greatly increased class size.  My class headcount went from 49 to 108 in the course of one year.  Wages were suppressed, opportunities absent, chains were in charge of our lives."  The writer concluded by saying, "We can see the full circle of supply, demand, and compensation issues completed."

I wouldn't be at all surprised if the universities opened new pharmacy schools so that they could become profit centers.  In the meantime:

The rise in interest and enrollments – though academic programs have expanded, they still only admit a fraction of applicants – collided with cost-cutting efforts by employers and technological innovations that have reduced the demand for pharmacists in some settings.
This sounds eerily like what happened to law schools and the legal profession.
Today's pharmacist, if he or she doesn't want to move away from the "lick and stick" role of prescription-filler, may soon find his job headed toward obsolescence, says one state leader.
Dennis Bryan, RPh, MBA, FAPA, a semi-retired former pharmacy store owner and president of the Illinois Pharmacist Association.  "Standing behind a counter and filling a prescription is going to disappear."

To illustrate what just might be on the horizon, Bryan points to some drug store chains exploring centralized filling – where prescriptions are filled in a regional facility and sent out to stores – and self-serve kiosks.  The latter are designed to remotely dispense prescription medications and soon may be rolling out in the United States and Canada, reports
Yup, I knew it.  I thought something about going to pharmacy school smelled funny.  It looks like another educational undertaking where you will end up going $120,000+ into student loan debt to enter a glutted, contracting field.  Of course, you can bet your bottom dollar that as vending machines start to replace retail pharmacists, pharmacy schools will eagerly advertise misleading employment and income stats to entice naive undergraduates, medical school rejects, and disgruntled scientists into going to pharmacy school.  Another car on the college-education-requiring jobs gravy train is falling off the tracks.

Monday, October 25, 2010

YouTube Video Parodying the Value of Going to Law School Goes Viral

Many of us enjoyed the "So You Want to Go to Law School" video and now it has gone viral.  (The video was produced by a guy who calls himself David and who has his own blog, The Corner.)

I think most of its publicity came from its being on CNN, though I can't find the video.  However, I was able to find a transcript. The hosts were discussing how easy it is to produce an Xtra Normal video:

LEVS: Now the next thing I'm showing you is what might become a new phenomenon.  There's a program out there called Xtranormal that will allow you to create your own animated video.


LEVS: By just typing in words, and watch what happens, here's an example of a guy.  This guy put one together called "You're sure you want to go to law school?"  Take a look.

I had seen "So You Want to go to Law School" before but didn't know it had gone viral.  I learned about it when I discovered that my own XtraNormal video (on YouTube) had started picking up thousands of new hits and I began searching for the reason.  Apparently my video is piggybacking on "So You Want to go to Law School", being listed as the second video reference for it.

David discussed his XtraNormal video in two posts on his blog, which does not appear to be a law school scambuster blog:

How a Video Goes Viral

So You Want to Go to Law School...

Congratulations, David, and awesome job with your video!

EDIT: I just found out that Elie Mystal cited my cartoon in one of his Above the Law posts. Thanks Elie!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Are Americans Giving Up on the Notion of the American Dream?

A few weeks ago NPR's Talk of the Nation show produced an interesting report about the American Dream: More Americans Giving Up on the American Dream.  Both the primary guest and the two callers made for an illuminating segment.

First, LA Times columnist Gregory Rodriguez discussed the role the illusion of the American Dream plays in maintaining social stability.

Mr. RODRIGUEZ: Well, I mean, if you imagine sort of freedom being sort of the ideological force behind the American experiment and democracy, lets say its the operating system, then the source of the glue, the social cohesion is that dream.  It's what really - as if we're - whatever indignities we may be suffering at any given moment, we'll put it aside.  We won't resort to violence. We won't give up hope.  We won't, sort of, lead to the behavior that'll shatter a society because we hope that things will get better.

The great diversity of this country has always struggled with, we could've done worse over time if people hadn't had that sense of moving forward.  I think it's that - it's the one thing that takes this hyper-individualism, these millions of competing separate dreams and puts them together in a collective enterprise.  It is, as I see it, the glue - and it is really odd, actually, when you think about it, this amazing nation, this extraordinary powerful nation that rests upon this nebulous, ephemeral notion that things will get better, whatever that means.

The role the illusion of the American Dream plays sounds similar to the role of the promise of higher education.  This promise of upward mobility in the future as a result of hard work and "doing everything right" prevents the proletariat class from rioting in the streets like they do in France when the government threatens to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62.  Perhaps if you are part of the French wealthy class, you don't mess with the French proletariat because you know that they aren't as stupid and as gullible as the Americans and that they have it within themselves to rise up and cut your head off.

Supposedly, studies show that Americans who are more highly-educated, or at least those who are doing well, think that the American Dream is still alive.  However, the callers to this show seemed to contradict that.

Wendy (caller): I think I feel more akin to the children of the '60s and the great disillusionment they wound up having with the kind of flower child movement than people in my own generation because I did all of the right things.  I worked in high school.  I went to college.  I worked hard.  I made great grades.  I got full scholarships.  And I am 35 years old and not able to find employment where I can afford to pay my mortgage.  So it's very like, I feel very disillusioned with America and the American ideals where you almost feel lost and like you grew up in a culture where you were just kind of fed a load of malarkey and lied to.  It's almost like when you find out that Santa Claus doesn't really exist.
Santa Claus doesn't exist? That realization reminds me of what law students must feel when they realize that they've been duped by the ABA and the law schools' fraudulent employment statistics and that the big law jobs and even mere entry-level shit-law jobs don't exist for them.
Mr. RODRIGUEZ: She's getting at the heart of it, the disillusionment, the sense of being lied to, the sense that it doesn't pay to play - what she said - do the right things.  And what do people do when the feel that it no longer pays off to do the right thing?  They no longer do the right thing.  And those are the type of behaviors, the type of sort of angry voting, the type of - sort of dismantling the system you don't - no longer believe in.  This is precisely pointing to the potential dangers when enough people don't believe.
When people no longer have an American Dream to believe in, when they no longer believe in economic mobility and meritocracy, do they riot like Frenchmen?

The next caller also graduated from college and reported that he earned more money before he dropped $30,000 on higher education.

KEVIN: Hi.  I just wanted to make a quick comment.  I graduated about a year and a half from college, so the dream is kind of going away for me.  I havent been able to find work.  I'm, like, I've been married for a little over a year.  I'd like to be able to have kids, pass the dream onto them but it's, like I said, without being able to even afford to have kids, it just seems harder and harder.

CONAN: And so, would you - do you have faith that with hard work, if you can find it, things will be better for you and your kids?

KEVIN: I'm hoping so I work everyday to find a job, but I made more money 10 years ago before I even went to college.  It's like I make less money now than after I spent $30,000 on college.

Yes, Virginia.  If you've been to college and were unable to find a job in your field and are now worse off than you were before (saddled with student loan debt), the American Dream is in fact dead for you.

Got Down Syndrome? Now you too can go to College!

Do you suffer from Down Syndrome or some other form of mental retardation? Good news! The Associated Press reports that now you, too, can go to college!

Decades ago attaining a college education meant that you had demonstrated that your IQ was probably above average. Today, everyone and even their brother with Down's Syndrome can go to college. Is it any wonder that college degrees have lost much of their economic value? Who's paying for all of this? Our tax dollars, of course.

That growth is partly because of an increasing demand for higher education for these students and there are new federal funds for such programs. The federal rules that took effect this fall allow students with intellectual disabilities to receive grants and work-study money.
At least one commentator gets it:
The infusion of federal money has generated some criticism. Conservative commentator Charlotte Allen said it's a waste to spend federal tax dollars on the programs and insisted that calling them college dilutes the meaning of college.
"It's a kind of fantasy," said Allen, a contributing editor for Minding the Campus, a publication of the fiscally conservative Manhattan Institute. "It may make intellectually disabled people feel better, but is that what college is supposed to be all about?"
Will for-profit, predatory colleges start offering associates and bachelors degrees for mentally retarded people? My guess is yes, as long as the federal dollars are available.


EDIT:  Apparently someone linked to my blog at a Down Syndrome forum or community website.  (How the hell did anyone even find this post on an obscure blog?)  Anyway, welcome to Fluster Cucked.  Please allow me to clarify the context which regular readers and the target audience of this blog would understand.

I only have sympathy for people with Down Syndrome and other cognitive disabilities.  The purpose of my post was not to mock people with mental disabilities, but rather to point out the absurdity of the notion that everyone should go to college and to publicize the fact that our government and colleges are bending over backwards to send everyone to college.

In my view, our nation is wasting a huge amount of economic resources--people's time and money--on higher education that has no real economic value.  The result is that our nation has a large oversupply of college-educated people who end up unemployed or underemployed-and-involuntarily-out-of-field, including people with PhD's and professional degrees.  In my opinion, only the brightest and most ambitious people should go to college, at least to traditional four year colleges, because the overwhelming majority of jobs make little or no use of college education.

Many jobs require people to have a college education in order to obtain employment, not because a college education is directly useful, but rather as a proxy for separating out candidates by IQ, a sense of ambitiousness, and responsibility.  Decades ago these very same jobs were filled with people who had mere high school diplomas and they received training and learned on the job without an expenditure of four years' worth of time and student loan debt.  I think our society would be wealthier and fewer people would be saddled with non-dischargeable student loan debt if unneeded college education were no longer required for employment that doesn't make direct use of higher education.  In my view, college graduate production in a certain field should correspond more closely to the real-world demand for college graduates in that field.

Thus, in my opinion people with Down Syndrome and other cognitive disabilities simply should not be able to gain access to college, at least not on the taxpayers' dime, nor should they feel a compelling need to do so.  I suspect that the kinds of work most people with cognitive disabilities would perform make little real use of a college education.  Perhaps I'm wrong, but I'm under the perception that they aren't going to become doctors, lawyers, engineers, scientists, accountants, or computer programmers--things that make real use of a college education and that have economic value.

Monday, October 18, 2010

John Stossel questions the value of college education on ABC's 20/20. Rare Mainstream Media report.

A poster on JD Underground reports that John Stossel did a segment for ABC's 20/20 questioning the value of college education. It is very rare if not unheard of that any mainstream media would ever question the dogma of the value of higher education. Hopefully Stossel will investigate this in greater depth and more media outlets will pick up on it.

You can find the video here:

Friday, October 15, 2010

Loan Fraud by any other name

I came across a great quote while reading an op-ed at AOL News (which was originally posted by Hardknocks at the But I Did Everything Right Blog). It was a quote from Brian Leiter, a law school prof and critic of the U.S. News rankings:

This [employment]data is entirely self-reported by schools, and should be treated as essentially fiction: it may have elements of truth, but basically it's a work of the imagination. Schools report it, and U.S. News has no way of checking. In addition, we know nothing about the nature of the employment-it could simply be as a research assistant, which is what Northwestern did a few years ago for its unemployed grads.

Since LSAT test takers rely on this kind of data to decide where to attend law school or whether to attend at all, could negligently inaccurate or outright fraudulent data be a form of indirect student loan fraud perpetuated by the law schools (and implicitly sanctioned by the ABA) against private lenders and the federal government?

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

2 million attorneys? Not as far-fetched as it might seem.

In a recent post I determined the year when our nation would surpass having 2 million attorneys and concluded that it would happen in 2035.  I used a year-to-year rate of increase in the amount of new JD production based on the average rate of increase over the past ten years and assumed that new graduates would work for 40 years on average.  Privately, I had thought that the increasingly large class sizes were a little far-fetched.

However, as evidence that this seemingly nonsensical scenario may not be as implausible as it may seem, consider the fact that several colleges are planning to open new law schools in the near future (and to presumably seek ABA accreditation).  Some of the new or planned schools are: Concordia University School of Law, Louisiana College School of Law, University of North Texas College of Law, a law school at Binghamton University, Southern New England School of Law (U. Mass), and Belmont University College of Law.

As long as students can continue to easily obtain loans and law schools continue to serve as university profit centers, more and more two-bit colleges will want to open their own law schools. Two million lawyers, here we come!

EDIT. I've also come across talk about the a school in Delaware's wanting to open up a new law school. Same for the Kaplan test prep company. Also, now the ABA is contemplating accrediting foreign law schools! You may soon also be able to add schools in Peking and one in India to the list.

EDIT May 16, 2011.  I've just read a post reporting that Indiana Tech is planning to open a new law school.  Since the time of the last edit, I've come across several similar reports about other new law schools.

EDIT July 17, 2011. According to this profound article in the New York Times about law school economics, the law schools pumped out 49,700 new JDs (either this year in 2011 or 2010; I can't tell which specific year was referred to). I had previously thought that the new JD production rate was about 45,000/year. That amount of increase in the rate of JD production makes the prospect of having 2 million attorneys increasingly realistic.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Professor X's Tale of Teaching at a College of Last Resort

The June 2008 edition of The Atlantic published an excellent article that helps illustrate the inanity of encouraging everyone to go to college.  Written by an anonymous adjunct professor of English at a community college, In the Basement of the Ivory Tower is an entertaining read.  The caption under the title reads: The idea that a university education is for everyone is a destructive myth.  An instructor at a 'college of last resort' explains why.

In the article Professor X describes what it is like teaching basic essay writing skills to people who probably aren't qualified for community college (and perhaps not even for high school).  The students are attending because their jobs require them to attend (apparently you need to go to college to become a police officer) or because they are hoping to improve upon their poverty-wage jobs by obtaining a college education.  One of his students, "Ms. L", is woefully unprepared and perhaps even barely literate.  Ms. L is proud of herself for having written a college paper, but Professor X feels obliged to fail her with an F.  (What if she were a plant from a newspaper and would go on to publish an article about how an incoherent, pathetically short mess of a paper garnered a C grade at the local community college?)

This narrative is profound because it is one of the few published articles that dares to question the dogma that everyone should go to college and that college will magically cure all of our social ills when in reality it merely creates new ones.  It also provides a memorable demonstration of just how ridiculous that notion is.  Here are a few excerpts:

The colleges and the students and I are bobbing up and down in a great wave of societal forces—social optimism on a large scale, the sense of college as both a universal right and a need, financial necessity on the part of the colleges and the students alike, the desire to maintain high academic standards while admitting marginal students—that have coalesced into a mini-tsunami of difficulty.
Sending everyone under the sun to college is a noble initiative.  Academia is all for it, naturally.  Industry is all for it; some companies even help with tuition costs.  Government is all for it; the truly needy have lots of opportunities for financial aid.  The media applauds it—try to imagine someone speaking out against the idea.  To oppose such a scheme of inclusion would be positively churlish.
America, ever-idealistic, seems wary of the vocational-education track.  We are not comfortable limiting anyone’s options.  Telling someone that college is not for him seems harsh and classist and British, as though we were sentencing him to a life in the coal mines. 
There is a sense that the American workforce needs to be more professional at every level.  Many jobs that never before required college now call for at least some post-secondary course work.  School custodians, those who run the boilers and spread synthetic sawdust on vomit, may not need college—but the people who supervise them, who decide which brand of synthetic sawdust to procure, probably do.  There is a sense that our bank tellers should be college educated, and so should our medical-billing techs, and our child-welfare officers, and our sheriffs and federal marshals.  We want the police officer who stops the car with the broken taillight to have a nodding acquaintance with great literature. 
Sadly, Professor X's narrative will probably fall on deaf ears.  For-profit colleges are springing up like dandelions and advertising aggressively, eager to devour federal student loan money and funnel it to Wall Street.  It's easier for our politicians to sell a panicky populace on the notion that higher education will magically solve our economic and social problems than it is for them to address foreign outsourcing, the displacement of Americans from jobs by foreigners on H-1B and L-1 visas, and mass immigration.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Does our nation's culture of promoting higher education fill a role akin to that of religion?

As I was typing up my last post, which was started as a submission to JD Underground, I had a thought that had not previously occurred to me.

Our nation's Education Arms Race and culture of promoting higher education essentially constitutes a de facto form of class warfare and is an essential tool for social control.  The rich (and our politicians and other powerful parties) have an interest in maintaining a widespread belief that people can work their way up and use education to lift themselves to a better economic state.  (This way, people will accept gross income inequality because they will think that it's fair and the result of meritocracy and justice.)  If someone goes to college and fails to attain a better life, our culture's belief in meritocracy leads people to believe that it is their fault.  You didn't study hard enough or network hard enough, etc.  If you didn't go to college then you are supposed to think that the reason why you are earning poverty slave wages is because you didn't go to college.

The promise of a better life through higher education almost fills the same role that religion did centuries ago. It helps maintain social control over the masses.  It assuages feelings of anger and resentment at the upper classes by replacing them with feelings of hope for those who haven't pursued higher education and feelings of guilt for those who have but couldn't find a job commensurate with their investments in higher education.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Why prospective law students will never get the message.

Recently on JD Underground, someone posed the question as to when or whether prospective law students would ever learn the truth about the legal job market and stop applying to law school in mass.

My answer is, No.  I don't think word will trickle down to enough people.  There will probably always be a perception among some people that becoming a lawyer will guarantee you an at least solid middle class quality of life and offer an excellent chance of attaining an upper middle class income, at least amongst enough people to fill the law schools.

Perhaps students from middle class and upper middle class families will get the message from their sisters, brothers, and cousins, but legions of students from poor and minority families who think that just gaining admission to a for-profit college is a huge achievement will continue to believe that going to law school is a golden ticket (just as they think that higher education in general and especially graduate degrees will guarantee a ride on the gravy train).  If the students from middle class and upper middle class families stop coming, the law schools will simply lower their admissions standards rather than deprive themselves of tasty tuition dollars, and students from lower class backgrounds will eagerly break down the doors, starry-eyed and giddy at the thought that they could become the first lawyer or professional in their families.

Our society has been indoctrinating people about the value of higher education for decades and people from poor and minority backgrounds are especially susceptible to that message because they often don't have any family members who can tell them otherwise.  As evidence, I cite the hordes of people who have no business going to college who are flooding into the community colleges and for-profit schools.  This notion that higher education is a guarantor of at least a solid middle class lifestyle is deeply, deeply entrenched in the American psyche and exactly zero voices are saying otherwise on a public scale.  (Little guys like you and me who gripe on blogs and specialized forums don't count. I want to see Oprah or the President or Brian Williams spread the message.)

Read this article about "Professor X" who teaches at a "College of Last Resort" to get a better sense of what I'm talking about.  Hordes of people, including people who have no business going to college, feel desperate to go, believing that higher education will give them a golden ticket on the gravy train.  Also watch the Frontline program College, Inc. and read the New York Times article about how well-intentioned people are being suckered into for-profit college debt.

Thus, even if a great many undergraduates learn the truth, a great many will still continue to succumb to the propaganda put out by the ABA, NALP, the LSAC, the law schools, Hollywood, politicians, pundits, and society in general.

Friday, October 8, 2010

ABA (Law School) Accreditation Chairman speaks.

The Minnesota Lawyer blog's JDs Rising blog recently published an article about a lawyer's interview with ABA (Law School) Accreditation Committee chair Jay Conison, who is the Dean of the TTT Valparaiso University School of Law.  It was reported that Conison doesn't have the authority to speak for the ABA or the Committee, but could speak based on his own experience.

The interview (or at least the article) produced few revelations other than standard claptrap about how the ABA can't really do anything to remove accreditation from law schools and how the ABA wants to increase the standards and transparency in employment statistics.

The article didn't seem to mention whether or not Conison addressed the real issue nor whether the interviewer asked any substantive questions:  Is the ABA at all concerned about the problem of lawyer overproduction?  If so, what is the ABA doing to address this humanitarian crisis of having tens of thousands of highly-educated yet student-loan-debt ridden and impoverished lawyers?

I suspect that the ABA is not concerned about it all.  The people who sit on these committees have done very well for themselves and many, such as Dean Conison, have a pecuniary interest in lawyer overproduction.  (What would Conison do if Valparaiso's law school closed because no one wanted to enroll at TTTs anymore?)

If the ABA were truly concerned, it could probably address the problem of lawyer overproduction without violating any antitrust consent decrees.  The ABA could probably increase the standards for accreditation and require a very detailed and transparent reporting of employment statistics.  Most importantly, the ABA could warn prospective law students about the reality of the legal profession and strongly recommend against going to law school.  If the ABA did this, it would send a loud message and might reduce the amount of JD production.

That the ABA has refused to do any of that is evidence that it is not sincerely concerned about lawyer overproduction, lawyers’ financial well-being, and the quality of lawyers’ lives.  Also, I doubt that the ABA's consent decree requires it to accredit foreign law schools and to approve the foreign outsourcing of legal work.

If Dean Conison were willing to discuss this further and face the scambuster blogger and JD Underground crowd, what questions would you want to ask him?

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2 million attorneys?

On the JD Underground forum a poster suggested that our nation would surpass having 2 million attorneys within 20 years.  So, I thought it might be fun to guesstimate when we might actually attain that number, assuming a consistent rate in the increase of JD production, that the federal government and banks will continue to loan students gobs of money for worthless degrees, and that ambitious but naive people will continue to want to enroll in law school (and burden themselves with $120,000-$185,000+ of debt that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.)  Also, as we have done in the past, let's assume that lawyers only stay in the labor market for 40 years.

First, let's determine the rate of the increase in JD production based on data from the past 10 years.  To determine the percentage increase, take the number of JD's awarded in one year (year A), subtract it from the number of JDs awarded in the next year (year B) and then divide by the previous year (year A).  Then we add up the differences from those ten years and divide by ten to obtain the average increase.  I calculate that the average increase is 0.01684 or 1.684%.

Year JDs Awarded Difference
2000 38,158 -0.0065
2001 37,910 0.0184
2002 38,606 0.0070
2003 38,875 0.0296
2004 40,024 0.0662
2005 42,672 0.0284
2006 43,883 -0.0083
2007 43,518 0.0016
2008 43,588 0.0095
Average Increase0.01684 or 1.684%

Without any year-over-year increase the amount of new JD production would be stuck at about 45,000 per year (the number for 2010).  At that rate the total amount of JDs in the U.S. would max-out at 1.8 million in 40 years.  However, since the ABA continues to accredit new law schools and is even considering accrediting foreign law schools, it seems unlikely that the amount of JD production won't increase.

So, assuming a consistent rate of increase of 1.684%, we can calculate future JD production.  (Multiply the previous year's amount of JD production by 1.01684.)  Then we need to gather the data in 40 year chunks and add it up.

Year JDs Awarded
1963 9638
1964 10491
1965 11507
1966 13115
1967 14738
1968 16007
1969 16733
1970 17477
1971 17006
1972 22342
1973 27756
1974 28729
1975 29961
1976 32597
1977 33640
1978 33317
1979 34590
1980 35059
1981 35604
1982 34847
1983 36390
1984 36688
1985 36830
1986 36122
1987 35479
1988 35702
1989 35521
1990 36386
1991 38801
1992 39082
1993 39915
1994 39711
1995 39355
1996 39921
1997 41115
1998 39456
1999 39072
2000 38158
2001 37910
2002 38606
2003 38875
2004 40024
2005 42672
2006 43883
2007 43518
2008 43588
2009 44000
2010 45000
2011 45758
2012 46528
2013 47312
2014 48109
2015 48919
2016 49743
2017 50580
2018 51432
2019 52298
2020 53179
2021 54074
2022 54985
2023 55911
2024 56852
2025 57810
2026 58783
2027 59773
2028 60780
2029 61803
2030 62844
2031 63902
2032 64979
2033 66073
2034 67185
2035 68317
I calculate that in 2034, the number of JDs will be 1,994,766 (JDs produced from 1995 to 2034).  We pass the 2 million mark in 2035 when the 39,355 produced in 1995 retire and are replaced by 68,317 freshly-minted JDs from 2035, bringing the number up to 2,023,728.
Thus, by 2035 the number of unemployed and underemployed-involuntarily-out-of-field JDs will be staggering and could conceivably pass the 1 million mark.  Will the ABA and/or the federal government ever stop this madness?  I highly doubt it.


EDIT. As evidence that this seemingly nonsensical scenario may not be as far-fetched as it may seem, consider the fact that several colleges are planning to open new law schools in the future (and to presumably seek ABA accreditation).  Some of the new or planned schools are: Concordia University School of Law, Louisiana College School of Law, University of North Texas College of Law, a law school at Binghamton University, Southern New England School of Law (U. Mass), and Belmont University College of Law.

As long as students can continue to easily obtain loans and law schools continue to serve as university profit centers, more two-bit colleges will want to open their own law schools. 2 million lawyers, here we come.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Trickle Down Tax Cut Fairy Tale

I really liked Mark Fiore's new animated political cartoon.  Enjoy!

Friday, August 27, 2010

60% of our nation's Law Schools need to Close. Actually, 75% of them should be closed.

If the law schools are producing 45,000 new JDs annually and our nation only needs 19,000 or 16,245 new attorneys to replace the 1/40 that retire, then 57.8% or 63.9% of the law schools need to close, assuming that they all produce the same number of new JDs each year.

So, now we finally have a number to use--60%. As in, "Cut the number of law school seats by 60%." Or, "We need to close 60% of the law schools."  However, since our nation already has a huge backlog of unemployed and underemployed-involuntarily-out-of-field attorneys, it would be better to cut the number of law schools by 75%.

Of course, if the ABA ever gets wind of this post it will fall on deaf ears; they are contemplating accrediting foreign law schools which will only further increase the number of new JDs produced every year. Of course, as the value of a JD decreases, the law schools will respond with tuition increases.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

45,000 New Lawyers every year and the Rate of Attorney Overproduction

It's possible that our nation only needs 16,245 new JDs per year, or at most 19,000 In that case, the law schools are pumping out 177% or 137% more JDs each year than we need.

If the law schools are producing 45,000 new lawyers per year, what is the rate of lawyer overproduction? Earlier I pointed out that BLS stats show that only about 759,200 people are employed as attorneys. Of course, that stat does not tell us how many have worthwhile jobs; many could be starving solos, low-paid document reviewers, or working low-paid part-time gigs.

Let's assume that the number 759,200 represents only 90% of "happily employed attorneys" with the other 10% having happily found jobs outside of the legal profession that pay $75,000 or more per year.  In that case, over a 40 year period of time, we need about 843,555 attorneys.  Now let's assume that 15% of those 759,200 people who are counted as "employed" attorneys are working in crappy jobs such as sporadic, low-paid temporary document review, low-paid part-time work, and struggling solos.

(759,200 / 90%) - (15% x 759,200) =  843,555 - 113,880 = 729,675.

We're about where we started.  For the sake of argument, let's just say that our nation's economy can happily employ 759,200 attorneys.  Besides, even if you are "happily employed outside of the legal profession" in all likelihood your job doesn't require or make much use of your legal education, in which case it was a waste of time and money.

At a rate of 45,000 new lawyers per year, how long will it take to replenish the 759,200 lawyers that our nation's economy actually needs or at least can employ with appropriate compensation?

759,200 divided by 45,000 = 16.87 years.

Assuming that a lawyer would want to work for 40 years, we are producing:

40 divided by 16.87 = 2.37 new JDs for every lawyer job available.

This means that our nations law schools are producing an excess of 137% more lawyers every year than what our nation needs, or almost two-and-a-half times more new lawyers than we need.  Conversely, our nation only needs about 19,000 new attorneys per year (45,000 divided by 2.37 = just under 19,000).

Assuming that our nation's population is 310 million, ideally we only need one lawyer for every 408 people.  Previously, I calculated that our nation has about one attorney for every 172 people.  Dividing 408 by 172 gives us 2.37.  This isn't profound; it just shows that my calculations are internally consistent since the number of 172 can also be obtained by dividing 310 million by 45,000 x 40.

For shits and giggles, let's discount attorneys who are "happily employed outside of the legal profession" and regard them as having suffered a loss of 3 years worth of time and law school costs.  In other words, let's just consider how many lawyers our nation really needs and can employ at compensation at least commensurate to the cost of becoming a lawyer.  If 85% of the 759,200 counted as employed by the BLS meet that criteria, then our nation's economy can support:

759,200 x 85% = 645,320 attorneys.

645,320 divided by 45,000 = 14.34 years.

Assuming that a lawyer would want to work for 40 years, we are producing:

40 divided by 14.43 = 2.77 new JDs for every lawyer job available.

This means that our nations law schools are producing an excess of 177% more lawyers every year than what our nation can employ as lawyers at a rate of pay commensurate to their educational investment, or almost two-and-three quarters times more new lawyers than we need.  Conversely, our nation only needs about 16,245 new attorneys per year (45,000 divided by 2.77 = just under 16,245).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

One Lawyer for every 172 people -- What does it mean?

Previously, I used ABA stats for the number of JDs awarded annually since 1963 to calculate that since 1973 the average number of new lawyers produced by the law schools is enough to sustain having a lawyer to population ratio of one lawyer for every 171.9 people.  Forty years is a long span, so let's just assume that the current lawyer-to-population ratio is one for 171.9 people.  What are the implications of that number and how should a prospective law student interpret it?

In other posts I have shown that only 53.8% of all lawyers produced in a 40 year span from 1969-2008 work in the legal profession and that it is a very good assumption that the percentage of lawyers produced in the past 10 years who were able to find work in the legal profession may be less than 30%.  Of that 30%, the percentage of new lawyers who were able to find jobs that provided compensation commensurate with the costs of their legal education--jobs at large firms, medium-sized firms, high quality small firms, and quality government positions--career-building jobs, is probably much less than 30%.  (A new graduate might find a job at "shit law" earning $30,000/year and would count as part of that 30%, but that is not a successful outcome.)  Those studies alone should be enough to convince prospective law students that going to law school is probably a foolish investment.  Additionally, what can we imply about the value of a law degree using the statistic of one lawyer for every 171.9 people?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 26% of all lawyers are self-employed either as partners at law firms or as solo practitioners.  (I assume that this 26% number refers to 26% of the 759,200 people employed as lawyers in 2008 and not 26% of everyone who has a JD.)  This implies that 74% of those 759,200 employed lawyers work for other lawyers or for the government.  So, about 26% * 53.8% = 13.99% or about 14.0% of everyone with a JD either works as a partner at a law firm or as a solo.  Let's assume that half of those people work as solos, or 7% of everyone with a JD.  Let's also assume that 5% of the 1,141,328 people with law degrees (produced over the 40 year period from 1969-2008) work at non-legal jobs where their law degrees add tangible value to their work and where they are paid commensurate with their investment in legal education.

This means that if all of the lawyers who could not find work at law firms, non-profits, with the government, or in non-legal positions that make use of their legal education still wanted to work as lawyers (which, presumably, a great many would) then our nation would need to support 680,260 solo practitioners.

(7% + 46.2% - 5%) * 1,412,328 = 680,742

This works out to a wannabe-solo-lawyer to population ratio of 1 to 450.9.

306,947,000 (2008 U.S. population estimate) / 680,742 = 450.9

So, in order for everyone who graduates with a law degree to benefit from having gone to law school, every 451 U.S. citizens needs to support one lawyer as a solo.  Is that possible?  Ask yourself, when was the last time you personally needed a lawyer?  When was the last time someone you knew needed a lawyer?  Did they need a lawyer's services every year?  Once every ten years?  Once or twice in a lifetime?

Let's assume that your average person will need a lawyer three times in their life to handle matters that can be billed for $2000 after charges for incidental expenses and that the average U.S. lifespan is 78.7 years.  This means that on average, a person will need a lawyer for a $2000 matter once every 26.23 years.  So, 450.9 people is enough to provide a lawyer with 17.19 $2000 matters per year, or $34,380 of gross income each year without benefits that will suffer a 15% social security tax.  Some of that money will be needed to pay for overhead such as advertising, the costs of an office, bar fees, CLE fees,  and malpractice insurance, etc.  If the cost of overhead and the additional 7.5% social security tax is $1000/month, then a lawyer could take home about $22,380/year (without benefits).  Given the exorbitant cost of attending law school today, In order to obtain a sufficient return on one's investment, a lawyer would probably need to gross about four times that, or about $89,000 without benefits.  You can obtain different results using the same methodology while making different assumptions.

This is all just mental masturbation and it is probably a silly post that fails to provide significant insight.  The point I am trying to mathematically demonstrate is that having 1 lawyer for every 172 people means that a great many lawyers will never obtain a return on their investment, especially when going to law school could cost you $120,000-$185,000 and 3 years' worth of opportunity cost.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Statistics may suggest that less than 30% of new JDs were able to find work in the legal profession over the past 10 years.

It's time for more fun with numbers and statistics. Previously I used ABA and BLS stats and some seemingly reasonable assumptions to estimate that only 53.8% of all law school graduates in a 40 year span from 1969 to 2008 worked in the legal profession. I later speculated that the percentage of more recent grads who were able to find work in the field was probably significantly less than 53.8%. In this post I want to demonstrate that mathematically. This is just a back-of-the-envelop calculation that is not suitable for formal publication and it depends very heavily on certain assumptions.

If we assume that 75% of the graduates in the 10 year period from 1969-1978 found jobs as lawyers, that 65% of the graduates from 1979-1988 found jobs as lawyers, and that 55% of of the graduates from 1989-1998 found jobs as lawyers, what percentage of graduates from 1999-2008 were able to find jobs as lawyers?

Years JDs Awarded Estimated Percentage Who Found Legal Work Estimated Number Who Found Legal Work
1969-1978 259,558 75% 194,668
1979-1988 357,311 65% 232,252
1989-1998 389,263 55% 214,094
1969-2008 1,006,132 63.7% 641,015
1999-2008 406,306 29.1% 118,185

According to the BLS stats, 759,200 people work as lawyers.  759,200 - 651,015 = 118,185 jobs left for graduates from 1999-2008. 118,185 divided by 406,306 = 29.10%  So, using my model for the percentage of new lawyers who were able to find work in the legal profession, only 29.1% of all new graduates between the years 1999-2008 were able to find work in the legal profession.  Of course, this number all depends on the accuracy of my assumptions.

Now let's calculate the number using a model based on similar assumptions and 5 year periods.

Years JDs Awarded Estimated Percentage Who Found Legal Work Estimated Number Who Found Legal Work
1969-1973 101,314 75% 75,985
1974-1978 158,224 70% 110,771
1979-1983 176,490 65% 114,718
1984-1988 180,821 60% 108,493
1989-1993 189,705 55% 104,338
1994-1998 199,558 50% 99,779
1989-2003 192,621 45% 86,679
1969-2003 1,198,753 58.5% 700,783
2003-2008 406,306 27.35% 111,125

Using this model, only 27.35% of all new graduates between the years 2003-2008 were able to find work in the legal profession.

Of that 30%, the percentage of new lawyers who were able to find jobs that provided compensation commensurate with the costs of their legal education--jobs at large firms, medium-sized firms, high quality small firms, and quality government positions--career-building jobs, is probably much less than 30%. (A new graduate might find a job at "shit law" earning $30,000/year and would count as part of that 30%, but that is not a successful outcome.)

This is not a scientific study by any means; it's merely back-of-the-envelop calculations based on assumptions that may or may not be accurate.  However, I think it validates my claim that if only 53.8% of all lawyers produced between 1969 and 2008 are working in the legal profession, then the percentage of more recent law school graduates who found work as lawyers must be significantly lower than 53.8%.

In the current recession (which may prove to be a permanent "New Normal"), the percentage of new law school graduates who are able to find legal jobs may be much lower than 30%, and the percentage who are able to find good jobs may be even lower.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Statistics suggest that only 53.8% of all lawyers are employed in the legal profession.

Blogger "A Law School Victim" of the Life's Mockery blog alerted me to Bureau of Labor Statistics stats saying that "Lawyers held about 759,200 jobs in 2008," and that "In May 2008, the average yearly wages for lawyers were $124,750."

I'm a stats wonk, so I thought it might be interesting to combine some of this data with other data and see what conclusions we might be able to draw.  According to the ABA,'s stats, in 2008 the U.S. had 1,162,124 "resident and active attorneys".  Taking the data that I compiled from ABA stats going back to 1963 in my prior post, in the 40 years from 1969 to 2008 the law schools pumped out a total of 1,412,328 attorneys.  (It seems like a reasonable assumption that, on average, a lawyer who graduates at age 25 would want to practice until at least age 65 with some retiring earlier and some retiring later.)

So, using the ABA stats, of those 1,412,328 lawyers produced between 1969 and 2008, only 82.3% bothered to maintain their law licenses in 2008.  I don't know if that data accounts for lawyers with licenses in more than one state; I assume that it does not and simply lists the number of people registered to practice in each state.  It also may not account for 2008 JDs who had not yet taken the Bar Exam.  However, presumably there were more than 43,588 lawyers with licenses in more than one state, meaning that if anything the actual percentage is probably lower than 82.3%.

Using the BLS's number of an estimated 759,200 lawyers (presumably employed as lawyers), only 53.8% were employed in the legal profession.

Given that, it's hard to take the alleged income statistic of $124,750/year seriously because it fails to account for the 46.2% of all lawyers who are not working as lawyers.  That number also fails to tell us about the distribution of income amongst attorneys.  It's thus possible that 20% of those 759,200 employed lawyers might earn very high incomes while the other 80% aren't doing nearly as well.

Another problem with the $124,750/year statistic is that it fails to tell us the distribution amongst lawyers who graduated in different years.  For example, if you graduated in 1975 you may have had a very good chance of building a career that would allow you to earn a high income today.  However, if you graduated in 2005 your chances would be much, much smaller.  What we really need are average income statistics for all JD-holders (not just those actually employed as lawyers) for each graduation year and then stats for graduates in five year groupings.

This reminds me of that stale study which says that going to college allows you to earn $1.X million dollars more than a high school graduate over time yet completely fails to account for the fact that the return on investment of a college degree has decreased every year.  The issue is not whether college graduates from 1950-1990 earned a good return on their investment, which, presumably, is a large percentage of the basis for that stale claim.  Rather the issue is whether that claim holds true today, in which case an examination of the income earned by graduates over the past 10 years would be more insightful.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics page is just one more example of how naive undergraduates do not have good information about the realities of the legal job market.  On the surface it appears as though the average income for a lawyer is $124,750/year.  However, my back-of-the-envelop study suggests that only 53.8% of all lawyers worked as lawyers in 2008.  Furthermore, that income statistic completely fails to account for the distribution of income amongst lawyers and it doesn't tell us about the incomes of graduates over the past decade.

EDIT.  It would be really nice to know or to be able to calculate what percentage of graduates from the past 5, 10, and 20 years were able to find employment in the legal profession.  If the statistics suggest that only 53.8% of all lawyers since 1969 are working as lawyers, then presumably the percentage is much lower for more recent graduates since we can expect that the percentage of older graduates working as lawyers is higher since they entered into a better job market.  It would be insightful if I had sufficient data to be able to plot the percentage of each class that works in the legal profession going back to 1969.  I doubt the data I need exists.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Old News: Wiki-hooliganism strikes Seton Hall Law School.

This is old news, but it's still funny.  I'm sure this story was blogged about to death when it was fresh, but I'm linking to it anyway for those who missed it and who didn't see Hardknock's post at BIDER.

Blog hooligan "Scaddenfarts" dropped a big stinker on the Wikipedia entry for Seton Hall Law School.  Referring to the Dean:

"The man takes more liberty with salary statistics than Michael Jackson did with 4 year olds at a Chuck-E-Cheese playpen."
"Scaddenfarts" or a group of people engaged in an edit war that went on for three months from May 6 through August 9 of 2009 until the Wikipolice finally corralled him/them.  (See the edit history for May-August 2009.)

Imagine what would happen if a group of thirty blog hooligans versed in Wikipedia Edit-ese descended upon an unsuspecting TTT's entry and engaged in a prolonged edit war, citing Wikipedia rules and arguing with shills on the entry's discussion page.

Monday, July 5, 2010

40 Years of Lawyer Overproduction, a Data Table, and 2 Charts

In my last two posts I explored the rate of new lawyer production in terms of the inverse number of attorneys per capita that could be sustained by graduation rates (expressed in terms of one lawyer for every X-amount of people) using the assumption that a new lawyer would want to practice for 40 years.  Let's call this number the Sustained Inverse Lawyers Per Capita, or SILPC.

I was curious about the historical trend, so I conducted a study and was surprised to discover that the law schools have been overproducing lawyers for almost 40 years!  In other words, the rate of production in terms of SLPC has averaged one lawyer for every 171.9 people since 1973.  I knew that lawyer overproduction had been a problem for decades, but I had never imagined that it was this bad!  I had previously assumed that the SILPC had decreased steadily over time, but apparently this is not the case.

I calculated this data using U.S. Census Data for the U.S. population and ABA statistics for the number of JDs awarded each year since 1963.

Assuming that, on average, a lawyer would want to practice for 40 years, SILPC = Population / (JDs Awarded * 40)

Year JDs Awarded US Population Inverse Lawyers Per Capita (SILPC)
1963 9,638 189,242,000 490.9
1964 10,491 191,889,000 457.3
1965 11,507 194,303,000 422.1
1966 13,115 196,560,000 374.7
1967 14,738 198,712,000 337.1
1968 16,007 200,706,000 313.5
1969 16,733 202,677,000 302.8
1970 17,477 205,052,000 293.3
1971 17,006 207,661,000 305.3
1972 22,342 209,896,000 234.9
1973 27,756 211,909,000 190.9
1974 28,729 213,854,000 186.1
1975 29,961 215,973,000 180.2
1976 32,597 218,035,000 167.2
1977 33,640 220,239,000 163.7
1978 33,317 222,585,000 167.0
1979 34,590 225,055,000 162.7
1980 35,059 227,726,000 162.4
1981 35,604 229,966,000 161.5
1982 34,847 232,188,000 166.6
1983 36,390 234,307,000 161.0
1984 36,688 236,348,000 161.1
1985 36,830 238,466,000 161.9
1986 36,122 240,651,000 166.6
1987 35,479 242,804,000 171.1
1988 35,702 245,021,000 171.6
1989 35,521 247,342,000 174.1
1990 36,386 250,132,000 171.9
1991 38,801 253,493,000 163.3
1992 39,082 256,894,000 164.3
1993 39,915 260,255,000 163.0
1994 39,711 263,436,000 165.8
1995 39,355 266,557,000 169.3
1996 39,921 269,667,000 168.9
1997 41,115 272,912,000 165.9
1998 39,456 276,115,000 175.0
1999 39,072 279,295,000 178.7
2000 38,158 282,434,000 185.0
2001 37,910 285,545,000 188.3
2002 38,606 288,600,000 186.9
2003 38,875 291,221,000 187.3
2004 40,024 293,842,000 183.5
2005 42,672 296,463,000 173.7
2006 43,883 299,084,000 170.4
2007 43,518 301,705,000 173.3
2008 43,588 304,326,000 174.5
2009 44,000 306,947,000 174.4

From 1963 to 1970 the SILPC decreased steadily until a huge jump occurred between 1971 and 1973.  The worst year was 1983 when the rate bottomed out at 161.0.  Perhaps the market was able to comfortably absorb this amount of lawyer overproduction in the Sixties and Seventies.  Presumably, new attorneys have suffered difficulty finding career-building entry-level jobs and earning a living practicing law since the late Seventies or early Eighties, but the Internet was not available to chronicle it.  It is also possible that lawyers were more easily able to obtain upwardly mobile white collar jobs in those decades at a time before hordes of people went to college.  In other words, the Law School Scam took root 40 years ago.

If I can obtain the data, I would like to plot the number of attorneys who maintained licenses every year since 1963.  A plot of the data shows that JD production has outpaced U.S. population growth by a tremendous margin since 1963:

The red data in the chart above is SILPC.  It has remained fairly steady since 1973 with an average SILPC of 171.9.

This last chart expresses U.S. population growth and the growth in the amount of JDs awarded as a percentage since 1963.  So, a data point of 50% population growth would mean that the population had increased by 50% since 1963.  A data point of 300% JDs awarded means that the number of JDs awarded that year was four times the number awarded in 1963.  (A number of 0% would mean that the number is the same as it was in 1963, and a number of 100% would mean that it was double the amount in 1963.)

------- EDITOR'S NOTE ------- 

March 11, 2011.  I want to clarify that the 40 year average lawyer-to-population ratio that new JD production can sustain (which I eventually calculated to be 1 lawyer for every 171.9 people) is NOT the same thing as the actual lawyer-to-population ratio.  The number I calculated for a given year of new JD production would only reflect the actual lawyer-to-population ratio if the U.S. population remained the same for the following 40 years.  This is because while the U.S. population continues to increase, the number of JDs produced in a given prior year is static and cannot increase proportionally with population growth.

Consequently, Using ABA and BLS stats, the actual lawyer-to-population ratio is about 1 lawyer for every 215 people (only counting JDs minted over the past 40 years). 

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