Bankruptcy, Crime, Guns / Firearms, Law Schools, Money, Racism, Student Loans, Violence

3 Legal Stories That Dominated the Week

3. “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. said that, and the quote works equally well if you replace “man” with “law school education.” During the early 2000s, a law degree may as well have been a license to print money. Today, it doesn’t look nearly as hot.

In this context, we were a little surprised to see a study explaining that a law degree was worth $1 million. Even though that only amounts to $25,000 more per year when meted out over a 40-year career, it still seemed like an odd claim to make.

Elie did not agree with a lot of the assumptions of the article. Ultimately, an author of the study contacted us with a rebuttal, and the post was updated to reflect his response. Brian Leiter printed the author’s complete email to Elie.

At the end of the day, the issue with this study is not the back-and-forth over details, but the fact that the study seems to compare apples to oranges.

A student who earns a J.D., from Yale to the lowliest TTT, is pretty much guaranteed to be smarter than the “average” person with just a bachelor’s degree. Simply because the “average” college graduate is dragged down by this guy:

Roll Tide.

It seems to me that, as Professor Leiter says:

A peculiarity of the cyber-ranting about “don’t go to law school” is that it never explains, or even seems to care, what happens or would happen to those who forego the JD.

…would apply equally to the “go to law school” argument. Armed with merely a bachelor’s degree, the sort of student who could have gotten into law school possessed the smarts and skillset to succeed in any number of fields.

The problem is that there’s no good way to compare law students to a good control group who eschewed post-graduate education.

On the other hand, that’s only a problem if you think this really needs to be evaluated out. I’ve never thought about my “what if” compensation. I suspect, all told, I’m a wee bit ahead on the alternative, but who knows.

My law degree has afforded me some great opportunities. It doesn’t do that for a lot of people. Go to law school if you think you will enjoy being a lawyer. Don’t go if you don’t think that. Whether you’re ahead or behind in the money game should be a secondary concern.

UPDATE (7/22/2013, 11:30 a.m.): Professor Michael Simkovic, who co-authored the study with Frank McIntyre, believes that their study did address the control-group issue: “Above the Law mischaracterizes our research again, overlooking our careful controls for ability sorting and selection, described at length in Part II and Appendix A of The Economic Value of a Law Degree.”

1. George Zimmerman Verdict

4 jurors distance themselves from Juror B37 [Yahoo! News]
Who’s Disappointed About the Lack of Mass Zimmerman Verdict Riots? [Slate]

Earlier: Will George Zimmerman Join O.J. Simpson In The Hunt For Real Killers?
It Was Just Another Criminal Case: Why The Outrage Over George Zimmerman’s Acquittal?
If George Zimmerman Attends Law School in Florida, Will His Case Be Taught in Class?
The Rise and Fall of Juror B37 and How Verdicts Are Made
#NoJustice: Kim Kardashian Forgets Her Father Represented O.J. Simpson
Florida Lawmaker Stands His Ground Against Me Over ‘Stand Your Ground’ Law
Florida’s Next ‘Black Kid Killed By White Gunman’ Case Is Already Here!

2. Detroit Bankruptcy

Record Bankruptcy for Detroit [Wall Street Journal]
Detroit’s RoboCop statue is almost done, and it’s goddamn majestic [The AV Club]
Jones Day Steers Detroit To Chapter 9 Bankruptcy Filing [The Am Law Daily]

Earlier: Can a Biglaw Partner Fix the Big Old Mess… of Detroit?

3. The Value of a Law Degree
The Economic Value of a Law Degree [SSRN]
What’s the value of a law degree? $1M in a lifetime, report says [ABA Journal]
“The Economic Value of a Law Degree” [Brian Leiter’s Law School Reports]

Earlier: Another Garbage Study Offering Misleading Statistics On The Value Of A Law Degree

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