December 1, 2013

"Sure, let’s have the whole 'is now a good time to go to law school?' debate again."

Teases David Lat linking to "To Apply or Not to Apply? That’s a Tough Question" in the WSJ Law Blog. Lat's implication that the very article he's linking to is not worth reading is, I think, apt.

Lat follows on with "Especially if you’re a minority, since white people are losing interest in law school," linking to The Am Law Daily's "'White Flight' Hits Nation's Law Schools," which I'd noticed yesterday and decided not to blog. Are white people losing interest in law school? There are some numbers and charts at the link, but plenty of white people still go to law school. My hypothesis would be that it's not "lack of interest" or "flight" but individuals with imperfect information assessing the risks and potential benefits.
Using the most recent U.S. News & World Report rankings—not because they measure prestige precisely but because they are widely known—it's clear that the bulk of the 6,528-person decline in white 1Ls occurred at lower-ranked schools.
So it seems that there's more of a tendency among white applicants to decide that in a soft job market, it's not worth getting a degree from a less prestigious school. Why should there be a racial difference in sensitivity about risk, awareness of prestige, and belief in the strength of the connection between your personal fate and the name of your school?

8 comments:

surfed said...

College students damn well better go to Law School. My daughter just got a job as a Digital Resource Specialist for a law University in Washington D.C. I want her to stay employed up there.

El Pollo Raylan said...

So it seems that there's more of a tendency among white applicants to decide that in a soft job market, it's not worth getting a degree from a less prestigious school.

Are non-white applicants and law students more subsidized financially?

Bruce Hayden said...

Of course they have imperfect information - most do. But maybe their information is less imperfect than the minority communities that have seen actual increases in admissions.

What was notable to me was that there seemed to be a strong negative correlation with school ranking - the higher the rank, the lower the reduction, with white applications to Tier 1 schools barely being affected, and the huge decreases being in the schools that didn't make the top 100.

It isn't that LS isn't useful for many, or that we don't need attorneys, but rather that we need fewer than had been being graduated. And, I would suggest that the demographic worst hit by this at the lower end are whites. They still tend to be underrepresented in the profession, and, at least big firms prefer hiring minorities of almost any type over straight whites (esp males). The effect that this has is closely tied to school ranking, with white males from schools not in the top 100 having extremely hard times getting law jobs, while Harvard and Yale grads still being in high demand.

Michael K said...

"Are non-white applicants and law students more subsidized financially? "

Bingo ! Of course this is the case !

Carol said...

...and they can be sure of a minority hire, at least at some govt agency or nonprofit,

America's Politico said...

Well, check this out. New Justices are being planned. Clintons are already planing to respond.

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/plum-line/wp/2013/11/29/yes-stephen-breyer-and-ruth-bader-ginsburg-should-still-retire/

Zach said...

So it seems that there's more of a tendency among white applicants to decide that in a soft job market, it's not worth getting a degree from a less prestigious school. Why should there be a racial difference in sensitivity about risk, awareness of prestige, and belief in the strength of the connection between your personal fate and the name of your school?

You'd expect something like that in a world where affirmative action has a big effect. All things being equal, you'd have disfavored groups paying more, taking positions at less prestigious schools, and having better alternatives if they choose not to go. So if you have a sudden change in the perceived value of a degree, the people who are getting the relatively worst deal would be the first ones out the door.

If you pay attention to the law school skeptics, people paying full freight at lesser ranked schools are exactly the people being told they're getting a raw deal.

Unknown said...

It might also be the case that among economically disadvantaged minorities, a law degree is still worth the social cachet.