Sunday, April 02, 2017
Elizabeth Olson writes a baseless article. Kudos to Michael Simkovic for spelling this out here. From her grand perch at the NYTimes and as a seasoned journalist who writes frequently about law school, she should know better. Legal education has plenty to deal with in the media and blogosphere without rookie errors adding fuel to the fire. (*This expresses absolutely no view about the controversy at U Cincinnati, the details of which I am no position to evaluate, as I suspect neither is the Times).
Simkovic has his own exaggerations in his response.
Associates at big firms definitely get paid a ton, but I would hesitate to say they get paid a ton AND get "exellent benefits."
Other than salary, the two most significant benefits received by most workers are health insurance and retirement plans. Biglaw associates typically get no firm contribution toward retirement, and they are typically asked to pay a substantially higher proportion of their health insurance premium than the average American worker covered by an employer sponsored plan.
None of this is arguing that biglaw associates are poorly compensated. They aren't. It's just a matter of framing. It's not far to characterize the biglaw total compensation package as 180 and excellent benefits to boot, because compared to similarly paid employees in other industries (and probably compared to U of C's faculty, though I can't say for sure), biglaw associates get benefits which are worse than typical.
Posted by: John | Apr 3, 2017 1:28:08 PM
Michael Simkovic writes:
"Most law professors graduated from elite law schools with strong marks and either left big law firms or relinquished options to join them. The reality is that professors make financial sacrifices to advance knowledge and serve the public interest through scholarship, teaching and service. "
In my experience as a law professor -- for much longer than Simkovic -- most law professors pursue the job because it's fun and intellectually engaging and provides almost total flexibility, not out of a sense of serving the public interest. And professors who gave up real options at private firms, and who want that experience or income, often have the option of earning a nice side income through outside consulting or being of counsel at the same firms down the road.
Posted by: Anon Law Profff | Apr 3, 2017 1:41:50 PM
Let's not forget job security on the benefit side of the ledger. If we compare the the percentage of professors hired as Assistant Professors at law schools that are Full Professors ten years later, with the percentage of first year Associates at BigLaw firms that are Equity Partners ten years later I imagine they'd be very different.
Posted by: jake | Apr 3, 2017 2:53:34 PM
Simkovik is likewise guilty of committing "rookie errors." For instance, he writes, "Most lawyers have less lucrative practices than those at big firms, but lawyers still typically earn more than law professors. Average total personal income for “lawyers, magistrate judges, and judicial workers” who worked at least 30 hours per week was $164,000 according to the 2015 American Community Survey..."
He claims that most lawyers earn more than law professors, but then cites the *average* income for lawyers, when his claim calls for a look at the median pay. It would be surprising if the majority of lawyers earned more than $160,000 a year.
And sheesh, his claim about making a financial sacrifice... It's a sacrifice when you give up something you need, not when you give up your excess.
Posted by: Derek Tokaz | Apr 8, 2017 9:28:40 AM