While I’ve been finishing some work and riding on airplanes the debate over Michael Simkovic and Frank McIntyre’s paper The Economic Value of a Law Degree has been raging in the blogosphere. There is an element by which the parties are talking past each other but I think there is light as well as heat.
Here are links to the counterpunching highlights, more or less in order:
- Michael Simkovic, Brian Tamanaha Says We Should Look at the Below Average Outcomes (And We Did)
- Brian Tamanaha, , Brian Tamanaha, How “The Million Dollar Law Degree” Study Systematically Overstates Value: Three Choices that Skewed the Results
- Michael Simkovic, Brian Tamanaha’s Straw Men (Overview)
- Brian Tamanaha, , How the “Million Dollar Law Degree” Study Understates Risk (Part I)
- Michael Simkovic, Brian Tamanaha’s Straw Men (Part 1): Why we used SIPP data from 1996 to 2011
- Brian Tamanaha, Why the “Million Dollar Law Degree” Study Fails (Final Post)
- Frank Pasquale, Why Tamanaha’s “This Time is Different” Critique Fails
[Update (7/25/13): Add Brian Tamanaha’s Straw Men (Part 2): Who's Cherry Picking? to the list.]
Below I want to correct an error in one of my earlier posts. In my next posting on this topic I plan to offer a few relatively timid thoughts describing what I’ve taken away from the debate so far.
Here’s the correction: In Simkovic and McIntyre Respond to Critics (Updated), I wrote, regarding people who don’t enjoy law school, that,
In some cases the cost of three years of hell may not justify a lifetime increase in net income of, say, $350K. After all, over a 40-year career, that’s an average of just $8,740/year…and indeed most of it comes in the out years, not early when you are struggling to repay debt.
This was a mistake because it confused present discounted dollars (the currency of the Simkovic & McIntyre paper) with nominal dollars. In nominal dollars the actual premiums predicted by their paper would be much higher, particularly in the later years since lawyers typically make more when they are senior and the out years are more heavily deflated in a NPV calculation.
On the other hand, I should also have emphasized that the study compares a JD to a no-JD, ie BA-only, world. It doesn’t compare a JD to an MBA or other advanced degree. Even taking all the study’s assumptions on board, the premium for alternate degrees might be higher than a JD, or in any case not as big as the JD/BA.