A Dangerous, Million-Dollar Law School Distraction

, The Am Law Daily


A new study purports to demonstrate that a law degree is valuable. For many people, it is. But is that true for everyone? Not a chance.

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What's being said

  • Stephen F. Diamond

    Mr. Harper,

    There are a number of problems with your response to the work of Professors Simkovic and McIntyre and I am sure the authors will reply as they see fit.

    However, I should point out that your understanding of the implication of the valuation process is incorrect. A careful reading of my posts on this matter should help clarify the problems. In a nutshell, when faced with only two choices, it makes sense to choose the one with relatively higher positive net present value. The magnitude of the difference is irrelevant.

    The challenge for an individual law student is to determine where they are likely to fall along the distribution. I don't think the Simkovic/McIntyre paper was intended to be a calculator for prospective law students and so criticizing them for that issue is unfair. However, the paper does provide concrete evidence that such a distribution actually exists and that for most points on the distribution the present value of the earnings premium associated with a JD is positive.

    This is the difference between engaging in "astrology" and "astronomy" and it should and I think has shifted the debate away from amateur stargazers.

    I do also want to correct your characterization of my work on this issue as "resisting" necessary change. I can only conclude that you have not been able to take the time to read my numerous suggestions for reform of legal education and in particular my Lawyers for America proposal to help relieve the debt that unemployed JDs now face.

    It has been disappointing to me that so few, if any, of the leading so-called "critics" of law school have been willing to support efforts to deal with the current plight of thousands of highly trained and motivated young people.

    I think it also fair to say that among my law school colleagues I am considered an aggressive advocate for change, including, for example, an endorsement of the experimental use of MOOC in law schools.

    You can find these and other suggestions on the same website that you linked to in your article, www.stephen-diamond.com.


    Stephen F. Diamond
    Associate Professor of Law
    Santa Clara University School of Law

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