Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Michael Simkovic’s Million Dollar Law Degree Proclamation Gets Flushed
TTT Math Skills: On August 26, 2015, ATL published a Joe Patrice article entitled “Law Schools Need To Lie More About The Market.” As you can see from this opening, Patrice is not a big fan of Michael Simkovic’s math:
“That’s the stunning conclusion of Professor Michael Simkovic.
Actually, given the source, that should read: “That’s the not-so-stunning conclusion of Professor Michael Simkovic.”
Simkovic, you may recall, is the author of the ever entertaining “Million Dollar Law Degree” study that posited that attending law school nets a student on average — cue Dr. Evil — ONE MILLION DOLLARS. Less taxes and tuition of course, because why would those matter? Anyway, just months after he went full tilt over a solid empirical study in the New York Times, he’s taken to the pages of Professor Brian Leiter’s blog (obviously) to make the inspiring call for law schools to step up their propaganda efforts to dupe kids out of a couple hundred thousand dollars.
Earlier this month, I charted the overwhelmingly negative press coverage of law schools and the legal profession over the last 5 years and discussed the disconnect between the news slant and economic reality. To the extent that news coverage dissuaded individuals from attending law school for financial reasons, or caused them to delay attending law school, newspapers will on average have cost each prospective law students tens of thousands, or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. The total economic harm across all prospective law students could easily be in the low billions of dollars.
Classic Simkovic approach: total up a bunch of bad assumptions into one big bad assumption that ends with “-illion.” Nothing invites panicked overreactions like a word that ends in “-illion”! But apparently the massive layoffs coupled with curtailed new hiring along with the rise of cheaper DIY legal solutions that clients are flocking toward didn’t discourage students from law school, it was “negative reporting.” [Emphasis mine]
Later on, Patrice points out the following:
“Anyway, Simkovic thinks law schools lack a key tool:
Whereas many industries have trade associations that employ professionals to work with journalists and help them provide more accurate, informed, and fair news coverage, law schools were unprepared to interact with the press in ways that would encourage more responsible and accurate coverage.
That sounds suspiciously like the Fox News commitment to “Fair and Balanced” reporting. By which he means more reporting of tripe like this:
For many college graduates, the $30,000 to $60,000 extra per year that they can typically earn with a law degree will mean the difference between living in a safe and clean neighborhood or one that is dangerous and polluted. The expected boost to earnings can improve the healthfulness of their food, the quality of their healthcare, and the quality of education they can afford to provide for their own children. For most law graduates, the extra earnings will affect when and whether they can afford to retire. One of the best things law schools can do to help the middle class is to educate more of them.
Holy hyperbole Batman. “The difference between living in a safe and clean neighborhood or one that is dangerous and polluted.” I refuse to believe this was written with a straight face. You know how most law students make the decision to retire these days? When they can’t find a job.” [Emphasis mine] If Simkovic truly believes his own words, then his IQ must be in the low 70s. Then again, we know that he merely wants to entice more lemmings to take the plunge.
Other Coverage: Paul Campos provided an excellent response to Simkovic’s “analysis,” with an LGM entry labeled “Quantities are limited” – which was posted on August 25, 2015. Take a look at this portion:
“Having demonstrated that that, discounted to present value, a law degree from an American law school is worth on average just under one million dollars, Michael Simkovic has turned his attention to a genuine social crisis: the billions of dollars in lost earnings suffered every year by prospective law students, who have made the serious, and eminently preventable, mistake of not enrolling in law school The blame for this multi-billion dollar catastrophe is easy to ascribe: ongoing bad publicity, based on a sensationalist media environment, that promotes TV shows like “Suits,” which I’ve been told is about document reviewers being paid $15 per hour to be basement-dwelling helots for law firms that use them for casual and mind-numbing labor, and Legally Blonde, a film which has been compared The Seventh Seal in regard to the existential dread in which it envelops the viewer.” Campos then uses Simkovic’s logic to comically explain how “law professors” are severely underpaid, seeing that they supposedly, indirectly generate billions in revenue. Check it out, when you have a chance.
Conclusion: Michael Simkovic has no basis for his assertion that earning a law degree, on average, will result in the JD holder making an additional $1 million over the course of his or her work life. I would use the term “career,” if it applied. However, Biglaw associates typically burn out – or are tossed – within 3-5 years, if they don’t make partner by then. Furthermore, TONS of law grads – each year – end up working in low-paid, unstable jobs. According to Seton Hall's Simkovic, these people took out $120K+ in additional NON-DISCHARGEABLE debt, but they are not motivated enough to make good money.
In the final analysis, this “educator” makes a bunch of false, positive assumptions about the “value” of a law degree to the recipient – while ignoring sound criticism that is based on facts and economic reality. Does anyone believe that a JD from Cooley or Thomas Jefferson Sewer of Law is equivalent to one from Stanford or Yale?! Again, this shows that the law school swine do not care about their students or future graduates. You are simply a mean$ to an end. There is no valid reason for you to personally ruin yourself financially, so that these “scholars” can continue to make $180K per year. You have to look out for your own best interests.
Posted by Nando at 4:46 AM