By now, there's a good chance you've seen Case Western's Dean Mitchell trying to explain on Bloomberg Law that there is no oversupply of lawyers. His argument came up in the context of Bloomberg's Lee Pacchia telling him that the BLS projects there will be 75,000 new law jobs created of the next decade, while law schools produce some 400,000 new graduates. Here's the video, analysis follows:
Mitchell argues there is no oversupply of lawyers, and that there is in fact an undersupply. Just look at the poor! They can't get lawyers, so therefor we must increase the supply to bring down the cost of legal services. Two things.
First, it doesn't work like that. The poor will never have money for legal services because the definition of being poor is not having money. Increasing funding for public defense and legal aid will help, not producing more lawyers.
Second, the point is that there is an oversupply of law school graduates. If they're not going off to small towns to serve the poor, producing more of them isn't going to create any different results. Something about insanity...
But, this has been pretty well covered elsewhere on the blogosphere. We're going to turn now to a recent hobby we've picked up, calling out law professors when they make up bogus claims about the costs and affordability of their law school:
Debt is a problem, high tuition is a problem. I should point out that ninety percent of my class receives financial aid at a mean financial aid offer of twenty-five thousand dollars a year. So, people talk about the sticker prices of law schools, but we discount fairly heavily.
If only the facts bore that out. The official ABA data for Case Western reports that 70.3% of students received scholarships, not 90%, and the median amount is $9,333. Yes, the median is a different number than the mean (the average, to you mathless scrubs), but it's unlikely his mean number is correct based on this median.
To make an average $25,000 work, for every student getting a scholarship of $9,333 or less, there would need to be one getting $41,000 or more. But only 10% of Case Western students get a scholarship of $21,000 or more, and no one gets higher than $42,560 (full tuition).
Mitchell did say "financial aid" rather than "scholarships," and schools do often describe loans as "financial aid," but the context of the remark was that students are not paying sticker price. In that context, the reasonable interpretation of his comment was that 90% of students are receiving aid, and that the average award is greater than a 50% markdown on tuition.
We'd love to hear an explanation of how these numbers work out, but our best guess is that they don't, and that they're simply untrue.
What is true is that 90.1% of Case Western Reserve's graduates take on student debt, with an average debtload of $98,900.
[Edit: Added "So, people talk about the sticker prices of law schools, but we discount fairly heavily," to the above quotation. This statement, specifically the term "discount" supports our view that he means a scholarship, and not loans.]
Speaking on the issue of transparency, Dean Mitchell again departed from reality:
The ABA has been refining reporting statistics, along with NALP. We have from the very first tried our very best to be as transparent as we can.
Case Western does not publish its NALP report. Thank to Law School Transparency, you can see precisely what information Case Western has in its possession but does not disclose. Among that secret data are:
Credentials by job type (Whether business, government, academic, and public interest jobs required bar passage, were JD advantage, professional, or non-professional positions)
Types of jobs at law firm (attorneys, paralegals, etc)
Timing of job offer (before graduation, between graduation and bar passage, after bar passage)
Source of job (OCI, returning to a previous employer, etc)
Number of employed graduates who are looking for a different job
Any salary data other than the overall numbers for the class; Case Western is missing salaries broken down by employer type, by credentials, geography, etc.
Either Dean Mitchell is lying about trying his very best to be transparent, or his very best sucks.
Then Mitchell opines on employment outcomes for Case Western grads:
I suspect if you look a year out, things will change dramatically. I'm really confident if you looked a year and a half out they would.
He's speaking here about Case Western's 38% Under-Employment Score. That means 38% of Case Western graduates are unemployed (and seeking employment), in part time or short term jobs, in non-professional jobs, or seeking another degree. What forms the basis of his confidence?
He admits that he has no data on what happens to students a year or a year and a half after graduation. But in Dean Mitchell's mind, all that matters is that he forms a good feeling about job prospects. Actual employment is unnecessary, just assume a can opener. (And assume some cans, too. Unemployed law grads get hungry.)
In addition to Dean Mitchell's comments running the gamut from "not true" to "just don't care if it's true," we also get this gem:
[Pacchia] As you're running through the revenues issues and the expenditures that your institution faces, it sounds like you're running a business at the end of the day, or facing challenges similar to someone running a business.
[Mitchell] Well of course we're running a business at the end of the day. The fact the object of the business is very special, that is, education, makes it no less a business...
There is the heart of the problem. At the end of the day, you're a businessman, not an educator. Businesses operate in the interests of their shareholders, and in the education business the equivalent party are the tenured faculty. Keeping tuition low and degree value high becomes secondary to keeping professor salaries high, keeping professor workloads low, and supporting professors' research and other academic or social endeavors.
Yes, universities do face financial realities, but you should be an educator first, and an educator last, and a businessman only in between and as necessary.
Dean Mitchell concludes by explaining that it's wrong to look at the value of law school in normal financial return on investment terms, and that there are other important rewards that a job can offer. As an example, he cites his own career, and how he left a job he couldn't stand going to, took a 2/3 pay cut, and became a professor.
Bad example, Larry. You can't say "Look at me, I found something more important than money" when transitioning to a job that pays more than $100,000. When Case Western pays its professors a public interest salary instead of a Big Law salary, then you can talk about there being more to law school than a fat paycheck.