Friday, April 3, 2015

On Professor Simkovic, Additional Research Proposals, and Structural Change

Outside the Law School Scam has reported that Michael Simkovic received grants from LSAC and Access Group to back his scholarship.  I don't believe anything on OTLSS - including my own contributions as a writer/editor - and putting stock in what is said there is like investing in a chromium plant next to a  nuclear waste site near a major fault line.  In short, don't do it.  Instead, be an Attila the Hun of Justice against the Roman fortifications of oppression.  But let's assume this "dybbuk" fellow is right.  ("dybbuk," really?  I see your Hebrew and raise you Norse, bro'.)

Scambloggers have blabbered on about the lack of relevant outcome data.  Instead of devoting his research efforts to important tasks like venue for extraterritorial claims between seals and evil multinational oil conglomerates, Professor Simkovic has focused on the economic value of law degrees.  If you're upset solely because you don't like the results of his rigorous work, aren't you really just asking for supportive propaganda?  Is Paul Campos better than a Soviet Nazi?

Here, in a free market, two large, prestigious, respected, esteemed, profit-neutered entities have determined that Prof. Simkovic's research is worth supporting with significant grant money, contrary to the scamblogger meme that research is worthless.  Obviously Professor Simkovic's work has a six-figure market value.  I bet the scambloggers wish they had six-figure benefactors for their dirty work.  But there they are, selling their agenda for nothing.  Who the fuck would do that? Such base sluts must rouse us to wariness.

Granted, I and many other law graduates would gladly take less in grant money to make up torrential streams of propagandistic horseshit with the intellectual rigor of a drunken hopscotch game, but clearly they see something that justifies his research over that of a desperate $35k "fellow" snatched off Symplicity (which don't exist - million dollar JDs, people).

But really - $75k in grant money and I'll lube the figurative orifices and write whatever you want for a year or two and enjoy the grub on the conference circuit.  In fact, I'd like to make some important research proposals:
  • Not Going to Divorce Court: How Law School Empowers Stable Lifelong Romances
  • The Stealth JD Effect:  How Saying "I'm a Lawyer" Saves Money in Everyday Transactions
  • LA Flaw:  The Rising Demand in Legal Consulting for Film and Television
  • Chillin' Out...Sourcing?:  How Young Lawyers Make Bank from LPO
  •  RoboLawyers Need Not Apply:  Why Demand for Young Attorneys is Unaffected by Technological Advancements
  • Life of the Party(-Defendant):  How Legal Knowledge Enriches Friendships and Social Situations
  • The JD PrePremium: How Future Lawyers Make More Money Before Ever Going to Law School
  • Juris Cocktour:  Empirical Evidence of Lawyer as Sexual Dynamo
  • Boomer Goes the Legal Field:  How Massive Retirement will Trickle Down Riches to Younger Lawyers with Bigger and Better Charts and Graphs
  • Shitlaw as Fertilizer:  Examining the Massively Elevated Future Earnings of Lawyers who Start in Less-Prestigious Firms
  • Prozac on Paper: The Positive Euphoric Neurochemical Effects of Student Debt
  • Two Million Dollar LLMs:  No, Read it Again, Stupid, Two Million Dollar LLMs.
  • Always Randy for More Law:  How Any Time is a Good Time to Enroll in an LLM Program
  • The 1L Premium:  How Perpetuities, Pennoyer, and Palsgraf Propagate Pecuniary Paydays even if the Pupil Peters Out
  • Drinking Like a Lawyer:  How the Legal Profession Produces More Refined Alcoholics and Addicts than Other Professions
  •  95 and Still Practicing:  How Lawyering Encourages General Health and Longevity
  • More than they Bargained for:  How PAYE, IBR, PLSF and Other Government Programs Make Law Graduates a Fortune
And that's just a bit of brainstorming amidst my JD premium fantasy life, but it's a veritable kama sutra of new positions to advocate.  Each one of these proposals would explore important questions about lawyers and law degrees with wide application.
Of course, even outside of his formal scholarship, Prof. Simkovic is doing God's work.
Are doom-and-gloom predictions justified for lawyers even if not for law degree holders?  According to many of the proponents of the structural change hypothesis, signs of structural change were showing up as early as 2010, or perhaps even as early as 2008 [ed. - or way earlier?  nah!].  We now have several years of historical data beyond that point to consider whether their predictions, thus far, have proven correct.

Lawyer employment is growing.  This is true both in absolute numbers, and also relative to overall employment.  In other words, lawyers are becoming a larger share of the U.S. workforce.
The deftness with which he ignores the most key variable - the denominator, or how many JD holders and/or licensed attorneys are out there? - is breathtaking.  It's an implicit economic analysis of demand devoid of any focus on supply (or innumerable qualitative factors, for that matter).  His slick research and graph presentation (some begin in 1976, others in the late 90s) seems to avoid contextualizing the data.
The practice of law is also becoming more lucrative, at least over the long term.  According to a recent draft paper by Richard Sander and E. Douglass Williams, after controlling for changes in the demographic composition of the legal profession, Sander and Williams find long-term growth in real (inflation-adjusted) lawyer earnings.
Don't believe me about the median "lawyer" making $120k?   Look at the chart, you dumb motherfucker!

In the end, Simkovic concludes that the evidence just isn't there to believe any sort of structural change is occurring.  In reaching that contrarian conclusion, he focuses on raw lawyer employment and median earnings for employed lawyers with an inexplicable late appearance by the fraction of professional degree holders working as lawyers.  He poo-poos evaluation of the "legal services" information because that may not affect lawyers at all ("but if law firms are shedding paralegals, isn't that still structural change to the work load and what the lawyers are doing?" you ask - no, stupid, shut up and look at the pretty graphs).

Does this still not add up for you maggots?  Sure, Simkovic avoids looking at what type of legal work is available and what earnings that work pays.  Such nuance obstructs quick and easy conclusions.  Sure, consumer spending on legal services is declining.  So what? Sure, the legal sector is broadly contracting according to the commerce department.  Sure, all but six states are pumping out way more lawyers than there are jobs available.  Sure, jury trials are in an ongoing decline.  Did you not even look at the pretty pretty graphs?  Sure, large firm leverage models are changing, with either fewer young associates or new contract/staff attorney positions.  Sure, more and more firms are questioning the billable hour in the face of client scrutiny.  Excel makes lovely graphs!  Sure, multiple major writers have pointed out that legal practice is undergoing major structural change.  Sure, he's assuming core structural change would be reflected immediately - why not?

Professor Simkovic will trump all the "evidence" your Google search can muster with the elegant simplicity of his data from the sniper's nest of the Ivory Tower.  Boom, there's no evidence of this "structural change," kids.  Nope.  This is real-deal economics, baby.  Science.

You can take it to the bank.  And if Professor Simkovic or Seton Hall has already done same with some of this grant money, they sure as shit on a shingle earned it.  If he's a whore, he's a pretty good one, and his pimp Seton Hall should be mighty proud.

-Law School Einherjar of Valhalla, f/k/a/ Law School Truth Center

1 comment:

  1. dam u r genius

    i will sell my million $$$$$$ law degree day after graduation, sure to get rich quickeeeeeeeeeeeeeee