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Update: OK, this commenter seems to have a pretty good answer to my question:

It’s really pretty simple. There is not a single market for law schools. The market for each applicant is made up solely of those law schools that will accept them.

No one who can get into Harvard would consider going to Whittier law school, whatever the price. But for someone whose LSAT scores place him in the bottow 40% of test takers, that may be the only option. The fact that there are better schools at the same price is completely irrelevant if they won’t accept him.

Similarly, Ohio Northern University has a tuition of ~$35,000 a year. Harvard is ~$38,000. In hindsight the answer is so obvious I’m either stupid or I hadn’t thought deeply about the issue.

End Update

After my last post on law school, one thing is nagging at me: how is it law school tuition isn’t more stretched out in its distribution? Below are the top 10 and bottom 10 in law related job placement, witfh tuition:


School Tuition in thousands Proportion in law related jobs after 1 year
VIRGINIA, UNIVERSITY OF 46 95%
COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY 51 94%
STANFORD UNIVERSITY 47 91%
NEW YORK UNIVERSITY 47 90%
HARVARD UNIVERSITY 46 90%
CHICAGO, UNIVERSITY OF 45 88%
YALE UNIVERSITY 51 88%
PENNSYLVANIA, UNIVERSITY OF 45 84%
DUKE UNIVERSITY 51 82%
GEORGE WASHINGTON UNIVERSITY 46 81%
AVE MARIA 35 33%
UNIVERSITY OF LA VERNE 38 33%
WESTERN STATE 35 32%
LIBERTY UNIVERSITY 27 31%
APPALACHIAN SCHOOL OF LAW 32 31%
WESTERN NEW ENGLAND UNIVERSITY 37 30%
THOMAS JEFFERSON SCHOOL OF LAW 41 27%
GOLDEN GATE UNIVERSITY 38 22%
DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA 31 21%
WHITTIER COLLEGE 38 17%
PUERTO RICO, UNIVERSITY OF 8 0%

The bottom 10 are cheaper, but not that much cheaper. How is it that Thomas Jefferson Law, an institution with a 48 percent bar passage rate, is 80% of the cost of Yale? Perhaps there are nuances I don’t understand. Here’s the dean of TJL in The Wall Street Journal:

“You can’t measure the value of a law degree in terms of what your employment number was nine months after graduation,” says Dean Rudy Hasl. A graduate who takes the California bar exam in July, he says, won’t get the results until late November. Many employers won’t even interview a graduate who hasn’t been licensed, Mr. Hasl says, adding that he advises prospective students to consider the law degree a long-term investment. “The law degree is something that allows you to move in so many directions,” he says.

Really? So many directions? The reality is that TJL is selling a law degree, for $41,000 a year (minus cost of living, etc.). Because a TJL law degree is sold, rather than earned (granted, by jumping through the GPA/LSAT hoops), it has low signalling value. If it’s a club anyone who can take out loans can buy their way into, why would you want to join?

 
• Category: Science • Tags: Law 
Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com"