Well, the Force! is back.
Like many a sequel, the ABA's Task Force! on Financing Legal Education didn't generate the buzz of the first, but it's still a big-budget box office smash that leaves readers assured that the ABA is truly looking out for the common man lawyer and can offer a wealth of wisdom and solutions. For example (SPOILER ALERT), it writes:
Finally, the report has considered the importance of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program as a means of encouraging and supporting students who elect to work in the public interest sector after graduation. The Task Force urges all actors– especially bar associations and educators – to continue to this program, as well. This is an important access to justice issue.The Task Force! doesn't have just one enemy, see? They may be off halfheartedly fighting villains in the jungles of student finance, advocating that sophisticated consumers need more financial counseling, but that doesn't mean they've forgotten the real villain, that horned, bile-blooded devil Socialinjustice.
I don't want to spoil all of the conclusions, but I would like to make two observations.
First, it takes a very rare breed of Force! that can scrupulously edit and pack two or three blog posts' worth of material into a mere forty-two (42) page document with colorful bar graphs.
Second is that the report shows the practical impact of invaluable legal scholarship.
Despite the cost, the best available evidence suggests a significant lifetime income premium for those with a law degree compared to those with a bachelor’s degree. This holds for those who graduate in a down job market and for those whose earnings place them at the 25th percentiles of the income distribution. Debt, however, can diminish the degree of premium for all law school graduates and so remains a factor to contend with. Still, even with the focus on debt by many commentators, the question is ultimately one of long-term value – and that value is significant.They cite, of course, to Simkovic & McIntyre's "Economic Value..." Indeed, the next time I'm litigating a million dollar case and need expert support for some set of ridiculous notions, I'll have a statistician take a shit on a cocktail napkin. "But judge," I'll argue, being all lawyerly, "I don't care that it lacks many basic prerequisites for a reliable survey-based statistical analysis to support the conclusions presented, my shit-stained cocktail napkin is the best evidence available!"
Thank you, Task Force! for providing meta-commentary on the value of legal scholarship in a report on legal education costs and financing that totally sidesteps unjustified tenured faculty salaries relative to productivity as a cost drier (see p. 35).
Finally, the LSTC must make special note of Phillip Schrag of Georgetown, who writes a concurring opinion in Appendix D. Among the highlights:
- "Without federal loans, students would have to borrow commercially to attend law schools, or their families would have to support them."
- "It is less clear that opportunities for lawyers in small firms or in solo practice have diminished substantially..."
- "Also, the baby boom generation is nearing retirement age, and it is possible that in a few years,there will be more jobs, even in urban markets, than lawyers available to fill them."
- "Not enough attention is being paid to whether the increasing cost of legal education will have adverse effects on public service."
- "There is, of course, no direct correspondence between the wealth or income of a client and the complexity of the problems that the client faces."
The most important attack combo is that with one hand Schrag throws a frag grenade at the "too many lawyers" argument without much in the way of fact-based evidence while in the other hand he waves forward the Non-JD Limited License Legal Services Corps. It's a beautiful synergy of arguments that provides a non-solution to the extraneous problem of his concern, and one that may, in fact, harm solo and small firm attorneys...which, of course, we may have a shortage of.