Michael Simkovic

A couple of months back, Jordan Weissmann of Slate and our own Joe Patrice got into an entertaining little dust-up over Weissmann’s assertion that “Now Is A Great Time To Apply To Law School.” The various arguments ranged over — among other things — the available data from the ABA and the BLS, the scholarship of Michael Simkovic and Brian Tamanaha, and the impenetrable mystery that is the “JD Advantage.” We’ll let readers determine who got the best of the debate. (Hint: Joe did.) But as pundits squabble over the value of a JD or the wisdom of the applying to law school in 2014, what are current would-be law students themselves thinking?

Recently, in collaboration with our friends at Blueprint Test Prep, we conducted a survey of 400 Blueprint students studying for the October 2014 LSAT. (We conducted an earlier, different 0L survey in conjunction with Blueprint back in 2012.) Our goal was to get a snapshot of these 0L’s perceptions of the legal education landscape: will it be harder or easier to get admitted? What are the most important factors in choosing a law school? What are law school admission officers looking for? What are employers really interested in?

Read on to see what we could glean from the 0L mind, including their thoughts on why fewer people are taking the LSAT and applying to law school, even as some — à la Weissmann — predict the demand for lawyers will outstrip supply the supply of law school graduates in 2016.

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* Could this be the worst judge in the country? [WFPL News]

* “Study Finds College Still More Worthwhile Than Spending 4 Years Chained To Radiator.” Congrats to Michael Simkovic on his new paper. [The Onion]

* The next Hobby Lobby could be Notre Dame, who wants the right to not have to pay for insurance that might possibly allow women to purchase birth control that kind of but aren’t really abortifacients in any scientific sense. It’s represented pro bono by Jones Day. Honestly, I don’t have it in for Jones Day, but it seems like everysingledamntime I write something about a firm doing awful things I end up typing J-O-N-E-S-D-A-Y at some point in the article. [MSNBC]

* Helpful judge tells criminal to change his ways — not because he’s a criminal, but because he’s a really bad criminal. [Huffington Post]

* J.D.s should consider panhandling as a legitimate career alternative. [Law and More]

* Lat explains why apprenticeship should be an option for becoming a lawyer. But what if you just love law school so much. [New York Times]

* Remember when Examsoft screwed up the bar exam and the Twittersphere went nuts? WBEZ spoke with Lat about what went down. Embed below… [SoundCloud]

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Some of you are working feverishly right now. But most of you are clock-watching until the dictates of face time allow you to get out of the office. With Christmas and New Year’s falling awkwardly on Wednesdays, very little work is getting done next week or the week after. For some lucky lawyers, this is your last day of work for a week or even two.

To help you waste what’s left of the day, especially for those of you not on Eastern Standard Time, here’s a collection of funny tidbits from around the legal world.

Oh, and Professor Brian Leiter decided to rip Above the Law, so we’re going to talk about that…

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I recently participated in an excellent symposium about the future of legal education that was sponsored by the Seton Hall Law Review. Congratulations to the law review editors on putting on a great event, and thanks to them for inviting me to be a part of it.

Most of the presentations took the form of detailed papers that will be published in the law school’s symposium issue. But there were a few moments of levity, represented by the following seven notable quotations (comments that I found either amusing or interesting):

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* A comprehensive analysis of the New York Times wedding announcements over the years. As the research team frames the question, “What do the world’s most self-important people think is important?” Unsurprisingly, the answer is “where they went to law school.” [News Genius / Rap Genius]

* The National Jurist would like to deceive convince the potential law school class of 2017 that there will be tons of jobs for them. Apparently the legions of unemployed lawyers now will just disappear in some sort of legal industry Carousel. [National Jurist]

* Elizabeth Wurtzel’s mom loves Al Jazeera because she hates pundits and talking heads. Like, for instance, Elizabeth Wurtzel. [The Daily Beast]

* Walter Olson of Overlawyered is going on the road. There are a lot of stops; check if he’s coming to a town near you. You could totally tag one of these venues in a big slip-and-fall case. [Overlawyered]

* The million-dollar-law-degree guys mount another defense. [Am Law Daily via Law School Tuition Bubble]

* In the midst of a slew of law deans stepping down, Dean Patricia Salkin thinks this is the perfect time to become a law dean. Elie already put his hat in the ring for every available position via Facebook. [The Faculty Lounge]

* Military personnel are guaranteed benefits for same-sex partners. Including personnel in state national guard units. But Texas has decided to deny those benefits. Yeehaw! In all seriousness, this is why all those liberals rooting for state marijuana ballot measures against the feds needed a little more foresight. [Dallas Voice]

* An interview with Helen Wan, the author of The Partner Track: A Novel (affiliate link). Keep on the lookout for David’s coming interview with Helen. [CNN]

Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” takes a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

There seems to have been a spasm an unusual concentration of articles recently advancing the theory (I generalize) that all is well in BigLaw and that in fact even the universally acknowledged cost/benefit mismatch of a J.D. degree is mistaken.

Regular readers know that I’m the last person to be apocalyptic about the legal industry writ large, but I also would like to believe I apply rigor in analysis and tough love in attitude, so when sloppy happy talk comes front and center. I feel compelled to respond.

Law schools first. I haven’t really entered the “Law school NPV—positive or negative?” debate, and I don’t plan to start. It’s of enormous import on many levels, from the tragic human toll to the socioeconomic policy questions it raises. It’s simply a bit far afield for me to give it the attention it deserves. And I’m not going to do a half-baked job. Still, for the yin and yang of this debate, I refer you to (first pro and then con):

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In fairness, only one legal story dominated the week. The Zimmerman verdict provided a new twist daily. It even got Kim Kardashian involved, which was a relief to the unwashed masses waiting to hear how a spoiled sex-tape star would react to a verdict at the intersection of race and gun policy.

But the most newsworthy verdict in years was not the only thing happening this week, regardless of what CNN would like you to believe…

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This study isn’t throwing darts at a dartboard, this study is going up to the dartboard, placing the darts where you want, and then hoping nobody notices.

I don’t know how the intellectually dishonest people who try to trick people into going to law school based on misleading statistics sleep at night. It’s one thing to see economic drivel rerouted through the admissions mouthpieces who are just looking to make a sale to keep their jobs. But when it comes from law deans or law professors — people who are supposed to be educators and apply a modicum of rigorous intellectual thought to their writings — it’s just sad.

We’ve got another one of these “studies” that purports to show that a law degree is actually quite valuable, while blatantly ignoring all of the things that have led to ruinous financial consequences for so many students drawn into the clutches of law school. I was going to ignore it: partially because I’ve knocked down all these terrible arguments before when looking at the intellectual drivel emanating from the Denver Sturm College of Law, partially because I wonder sometimes if giving these smoke and mirror studies the light of day does more harm than good.

But, tipsters are emailing in and the ridiculous claim is the lead story on other websites, so whatever, let’s address the claim that a law degree is worth $1 million dollars over the course of a lifetime…

Please note the UPDATE at the end of this post, with commentary from Professor Michael Simkovic.

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