Matt Leichter weighs in thoughtfully on the “JD advantage jobs = lousy jobs” narrative. This is part of the swimming upstream various bloggers — usually, but not always, disaffected, anonymous posters — have been doing as part of a strategy of criticizing law schools for not enabling their students to pursue interesting, remunerative careers.
The wave of change impacting the legal profession and also the business sector has opened up opportunities for new law graduates. The business sector — especially, but not limited to, the technology sector — sees the utility of law-trained professionals in a world in which the intersection among law, business, and technology is increasingly useful. Indeed, the traditional silos between “legal services” and “business services” is dissolving in important ways. And while professional associations of lawyers, and perhaps state bars and the ABA, may be resistant to these changes, disruptive innovation is coming fast and furiously.
So why do Matt Leichter and others want to pound once again on the JD advantage drum?
First, he wants to draw the connection between unemployment rates and JD advantage positions, making the true, but banal, claim that when unemployment rises, “the proportion of graduates finding themselves in JD advantage positions is likely to increase.” Huh? No one is insisting that a law graduate will always or even mostly prefer a JD advantage to a JD required job. It surely depends upon the job. And everyone agrees (right?) that employment in a JD advantage position is preferable to unemployment. So what is so fuzzy about the proposition that, in this difficult job market, law graduates are pursuing eclectic professional opportunities. And why is it just labeled, derisively, “scrounging for work?”
Let’s look at the matter the other way ’round, that is, from the vantage point of employers. Presumably indebted law grads will have higher salary needs than, say, grads with a BA or even a post-graduate master’s degree. Why would non-traditional business sector employers then prefer law grads at this higher salary level if the JD degree was not truly an advantage? Is it the position of these critics that employers, too, are being scammed?
Here is the essential point: It is not NALP and not the law schools who are foisting law grads on unsuspecting employers by insisting that the JD degree is an advantage. It is the employers — and here, to be sure, I am focusing in particular on the business sector — who are seeing this educational path as providing value added. In the data described by Leichter, twenty percent are in “other business settings.” Would more precision in describing these jobs help? Well, surely yes. But the main point is that businesses are in fact hiring these grads and presumably across salary ranges. Different schools, different outcomes. Yes indeed. But I can report that Northwestern Law grads entering the consulting and business/technology fields are seeing salary outcomes that are quite remunerative indeed. And these fall squarely into this so-called “fuzzy” category.
Leichter insists that NALP should reshape the category to include only positions which offer “the graduate opportunities for exercising professional judgment while using their legal skills and knowledge.” Even making the heroic assumption that some smart cookies could come up with a useful measure of this, there remains very good reasons to suppose that employers are making this assessment in the real world by pursuing with alacrity law graduates. Yes, not all of these positions are lucrative and Leichter’s point that the salary at the 25th percentile of JD advantage jobs is not very large (still, the question is compared to what??). But trotting out the trope that the lion’s share of JD advantage jobs in the business sector are in fact positions which do not demand professional judgment or legal knowledge and thus we know that JD grads are “scrounging” and settling for these jobs (having been duped by NALP and deans) is not only tired, but is belied by the market.
Educated, data-driven debate by careful thinkers — and, to be clear, I certainly view Mr. Leichter as in this category, as someone with a valuable perspective and useful things to say on this subject — is necessary in this fuzzy climate. But let’s have this discussion in the context of a larger debate about the changing nature of legal services, the increasingly innovative work that law schools are doing, multidisciplinarity in the law-business-technology space, and economic judgments made by rational college graduates. More data and analysis in this realm would be a welcome relief to the scambloggers’ cranky refrain.
Here is a letter sent to me today, and presumably to every other law dean in the U.S., from the CEO of ExamSoft, followed by my response:
Dear Dean Rodriguez,
As you may have already heard, on Tuesday evening last week, there were delays in uploading answer files following the day’s exam sessions. Please accept my sincere apologies to you, your students, your faculty and staff. We take our obligation seriously, and after many years of supporting bar exams across the nation, Tuesday night’s delay was very disappointing to say the least.
Since that night, our core priority has been to assist and support each student and ensure solid technical performance for any remaining bar-related activities. If you would like, in the near future, we would be happy to send you a more robust account of what happened on Tuesday night, including details about the root cause of the delays, what changes have been made to improve performance, and how we can ensure this doesn’t happen again.
With that said, I’d like to take this opportunity to share some general information, which you may have already seen, in the hopes that it is helpful to you:
• Tuesday’s post-exam delay did not impact exam day functionality in SofTest, nor did it impact the integrity of exam takers’ answer file content.
• Based on the accounts we’ve received from site engineers, it seems that the exam sessions themselves went well.
• On Tuesday evening, around 6pm ET, as east coast students were uploading their exams, our internal system began processing files at a slower-than-usual pace for a period of approximately six hours.
• Naturally, this led many exam takers to wonder about the status of their uploads and, in some cases, whether they would be able to upload by their deadlines. Therefore, we worked diligently to communicate with applicants via our call lines, Facebook, Twitter, and our website throughout the evening. The state bar examiners were great partners and extended upload deadlines as needed to accommodate the delay, and we communicated such extensions throughout the night.
• On Wednesday, we made several network configuration changes, and Thursday’s exam upload process went smoothly. We are continuing our diligence and will be making further enhancements in short order.
• This week’s overall exam volume was almost the same as last year’s and lower than other weekly periods for final exams, so the volume itself was not the challenge.
Our performance this past week was inconsistent with the standard we’ve set over the years, and we are committed to doing better. Again, more information will be forthcoming as we complete our internal analysis, and please let me know if you would like to talk with me or a member of my executive team.
ExamSoft Worldwide, Inc.
Thank you for your note. I assume that this exact note is being sent to every dean of every ABA-accredited law school in the U.S. Nonetheless, it is worthwhile to have a comprehensive accounting of this situation from the perspective of ExamSoft. I believe, and very much hope, that there have been no specific negative consequences on the ability of any graduates of our law schools to process their exam files.
At the same time, there was unquestionably a serious toll taken on the students in their wholly understandable anxiety and worry, perhaps even panic –clearly consequences of the technological problems resulting from your internal systems, just as you note below.
For that reason, it is striking to me that in your boilerplate note, there is no indication that you are making any refunds to any bartaker. Nor is there any indication that you are planning to make financial recompense that would be a tangible, important acknowledgment of what, at the very least, was a serious problem that resulted from technological problems within the scope of control of ExamSoft.
Such a gesture, whether or not legally compelled, would be the right thing to do, in my opinion. While I by no means speak for anyone other than myself, I would respectfully suggest that you consider, if you have not already, some tangible steps that meet this clear moral obligation to make amends. I call upon you to reflect further upon this unfortunate episode and do the right thing.
Great initiative, reflecting the work of distinguished alum, Howard Tullman ’71, and his colleagues at Chicago’s high tech incubator, 1871:
1871, GOVERNOR QUINN, MAYOR EMANUEL, AND THE PAT TILLMAN FOUNDATION ANNOUNCE VETERANS TECHNOLOGY INCUBATOR AT 1871
Dubbed “The Bunker,” Incubator to House Veteran-Owned Technology Companies Beginning in Fall of 2014.
1871 CEO Howard A. Tullman confirmed today that 1871 will be launching a veterans-focused technology incubator called The Bunker in 2014 as part of 1871’s recently announced expansion plans at its digital startup hub in The Merchandise Mart. The announcement is officially being made in concert with the offices of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Governor Pat Quinn, as well as the Pat Tillman Foundation – all of whom are also expected to provide support and resources for the new program.
Tullman describes the inspiration for the new initiative: “Many years ago in law school, I learned that my most mature classmates and the hardest and most serious competitors in the school were the vets. They had the positive ‘can do’ attitude, the ‘take no prisoners’ drive, and the commitment to success that are precisely what it takes to build a successful startup. In addition, we owe these men and women a great debt for their sacrifices and service to our country. At 1871, we want everything we do to make a difference, not just a living, and we hope in our own way that we can help our vets move forward and make yet another important contribution to our economy.”
The Bunker will be the Nation’s first Veteran Business Accelerator and will harness the leadership experiences of veterans as a strategic differentiator for startup and early stage veteran owned technology enabled businesses. The Bunker will be a veteran-operated, veteran-focused effort that will seek to offer an entry point into the technology economy for hundreds of local and national veteran owned and operated technology businesses, with the dual goal of exploring and tapping into the significant resources available to veterans from government organizations and maximizing the skill and trainings which our veterans developed while serving in the military.
While there are a substantial number of city, state and federal veteran assistance programs, it is sometimes a challenging and complex process – especially for novice business builders – and one of the focus areas of the 1871 veteran’s incubator will be to work closely with the city and the state as well as the vets to help smooth, streamline and accelerate these interactions. 1871’s huge population of volunteer mentors (especially in the legal and accounting fields) will be of invaluable assistance in these areas. The Bunker will be run by Todd Connor, an Operation Iraqi Freedom Navy veteran and successful entrepreneur who most recently led the city of Chicago’s military high schools program.
The Bunker will be a part of the new 25,000 square foot expansion coming from 1871 this October, which was announced on Tuesday, June 17, in conjunction with Governor Quinn. Fueled by a $2.5 million investment from the State, the 25,000-square foot space will house alumni companies, venture capital firms, and incubators and accelerators, including this effort.
“Illinois’ veterans are some of the most talented and skilled individuals in our state’s workforce,” Governor Quinn said. “By supporting veteran-owned and operated businesses, we can ensure that our men and women service members have what they need to continue contributing to our communities while driving our economy forward. We owe a debt of gratitude to the many brave Illinois men and women who have answered the call to serve and I commend The Bunker and 1871 for launching this innovative platform on their behalf.”
“Great startup businesses need great leaders who know how to ‘get it done’ amidst uncertain and challenging circumstances. This is what veterans bring.” stated Todd Connor, CEO of The Bunker. “This represents a truly different model for the veteran community that is not about defining the veteran population as a group that needs help, but rather capitalizing on the talent pool of some of the highest performing veterans.”
The Bunker is expected to maximize use of 1871’s existing shared facilities for housing its companies and hopes to bring companies to Chicago and 1871 for long-term, permanent stays that will allow integration into the 1871 community as well as the broader Chicago business community.
# # #
1871 is an entrepreneurial hub for digital startups. Located in The Merchandise Mart, the soon-to-be 75,000-square-foot facility provides Chicago startups with programming, access to mentors, educational resources, potential investors and a community of like-minded entrepreneurs that help them on their path to building successful businesses. 1871 is the flagship project of the CEC.
Nice general description here by Prof. Bard.
ALI is truly an extraordinary organization. Made up a distinguished group of lawyers, academicians, and judges, it works in a collaborative fashion to develop principles and restatements on myriad areas of law. I am pleased to serve on its Council and so have a good vantage point to see the sausage being made!