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Sunday, April 26, 2015

Ohio is Not New York. Or Even Texas.

The Times today has a write-up of the recent Deborah Jones Merritt study of employment outcomes for the JD Class of '10 in Ohio.  As I described in more detail at the law & econ prof blog a few weeks ago, Prof. Merritt's study has, ahem, merits.  It's a great snapshot of struggling graduates in Ohio, people who deserve our attention and support.  The trouble is that the Times story reports these findings as though they told us something about the national law job market.  Merritt's new data are all in Ohio, which may be a systematically different legal market than many others.  Nonetheless, the Times story reports Merritt's findings as though they were representative of the whole country (and also describes the study as "published," when in fact it's an ssrn working paper).  Most troublingly, the Times reports Prof. Merritt's conclusion that "the 2010 class had not recovered in the ensuing years" without any caveats.  

Yet there are several serious caveats that ought to have been offered.  For example, as I read the paper, Merritt 's claim depends entirely on a trend line she draws between 2010 national NALP data (which are based on self-reported survey results but supplemented with some web follow-up) and 2014 Ohio data (which Merritt hand-collected on the web).   That is not likely to be a persuasive method of measuring employment trends for anyone, whether in Ohio or anywhere else.  It's like comparing 2014 scoring in the NBA against 2010 scoring in college basketball.  Unless you can show a really convincing case for why these groups are actually very similar to each other, the trend line is likely to be just random noise.  

Deborah and I had an exchange about these issues on my blog.  She convinced me that the method NALP used for supplementing some of the 2010 data was similar to her method (although that leaves the question whether it makes any sense to compare her results to the bulk of the NALP numbers, which used a quite different method).  But she did not address the issue that the 2010 NALP data were for the whole country, not Ohio, and there is no a priori reason to think that Ohio was similar to the U.S. in 2010 or that its trend since has been similar.  I left our exchange believing she would return to her project and revise it to reflect its serious limitations as a window into national trends.  If that has happened, it is not reflected in the Times story.  

Posted by BDG on April 26, 2015 at 06:41 PM in Current Affairs | Permalink


I still have no idea what "Link Under Name" means.

Posted by: James Milles | Apr 30, 2015 10:34:13 PM


You set up a straw man as I am fairly certain you know you have not accurately represented my views. This sophomoric setting is clearly not the place for a rational discussion of an important issue like this. Frankly, I regret now responding to your initial inquiry and question whether or not it was your intent given that you somehow think that I might still find this an appropriate setting for such a discussion. In any case, if you want to invite me to GW to present my argument to your faculty I would be happy to do so.

Posted by: Steve Diamond | Apr 30, 2015 10:36:13 PM

Come on, guys. I stop monitoring for 12 hours and this conversation degenerates into name-calling. I've deleted all the comments that fail to uphold a standard of respectful conversation. Tough is fine; nasty is not.

Posted by: BDG | Apr 30, 2015 10:53:05 PM

As said above, nobody is advocating for the abolishment of law schools. How many law schools are necessary to hold back the Koch hordes? 200+? Will they overrun us if thereare only 170 law schools out there to resist them? Will America be lost?

Anyway. Fun discussing. I get the impression it's just about wrapped up, but we'll see.

Posted by: exactly | Apr 30, 2015 10:56:08 PM

Steve, my apologies if I misrepresented your views: I was trying my best, but apparently I misunderstood you. If you would like to continue this elsewhere so you can explain your view, that's fine with me. I don't have the power to single-handedly invite you to give a formal workshop to the GW Law faculty for that purpose -- we have a committee for that, and the committee votes on who to invite. But if there is some other forum you have in mind to continue this discussion, either here or at some other site or blog, just let me know.

Posted by: Orin Kerr | Apr 30, 2015 11:02:21 PM

My book, On the Rule of Law: History, Politics, Theory (Cambridge 2004), translated into 5 languages, literally states the rule of law "is a universal human good." I have given many talks in the US and abroad on the rule of law (including last summer in Beijing), have published over a dozen articles on the topic, and so on.

According to Professor Diamond, apparently, I'm a deep cover double agent, on the surface a vocal advocate of the rule of law, when my true mission is to destroy the rule of law.

Posted by: Brian Tamanaha | May 1, 2015 9:17:13 AM

Still waiting, Steve.

Also, I'm still waiting for you to back up your claim about your school doing as good a job in legal education as Stanford.

Posted by: Barry | May 1, 2015 2:41:48 PM


Instead of engaging in conspiracy theorizing or encouraging more sophomoric behavior by the participants on this blog and instead of ignoring what I actually write and instead of baselessly attacking the solid research of junior faculty, why don't you read my review of your book where I explain precisely how your position on the rule of law contradicts your attack on tenure and other important institutional protections in the American law school?

I know you shy away from actual personal engagement with me on these issues, having canceled a long planned discussion of them at my law school a couple years back, but I had hoped time had mellowed your approach.

Perhaps not. In any case, if you still care about the substance of the issue and want to understand my view, you can find my review essay at LUN. And I extend the same offer I extended to Orin. Even though you are not willing, any longer, to come to Santa Clara, I would be happy to travel to Wash U if you would like me to present my views to you and your colleagues for a genuine debate.

Posted by: Steve Diamond | May 1, 2015 3:20:35 PM

Barry, We at Santa Clara, a Jesuit law school, try to do a different job of legal education than Stanford. I have explained this in several other places. It should not be a surprise that our outcomes differ. If we had taken the Stanford path thirty years ago, when the modern era SCU law school was begun, we might produce the cookie cutter lawyers that schools like HYS produce.

Posted by: Steve Diamond | May 1, 2015 3:22:40 PM

"try to do a different job of legal education than Stanford."

Yeah, your model ends up with 30% unemployed and seeking at 9 months; 77 human lives.

Stanford: 1.6% unemployed and seeking at 9 months, 3 graduates.

Nice work Jesuits.

Posted by: terry malloy | May 1, 2015 3:36:22 PM


Instead of engaging in conspiracy theorizing . . ."

Says someone who has been propounding the theory that the Cato Institute wants to destroy American law schools as a prelude to eliminating the rule of law, and that it is employing Koch brothers money to accomplish this ambitious program, via nefarious means such as a public lecture attended by dozens of people, where Brian Tamanaha discussed his work and I commented on it.

Posted by: Paul Campos | May 1, 2015 4:00:27 PM

Can I suggest that Steve's blog might be a more appropriate place for this discussion to continue? I'm closing comments.

Posted by: BDG | May 1, 2015 4:49:20 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.