New Data Informing
In several postings here, here, and here, I tracked the debate between Brian Tamanaha, author of Failing Law Schools, and Michael Simkovic and Frank McIntyre, co-authors of The Value of a Law Degree.
In a recent posting, Simkovic & McIntyre update their economic analysis and take apart the basis for Tamanaha's more dismissal point of view.
Comparing lifetime earnings of law degree holders to earnings of similar bachelor’s degree holders, we find that the pretax value of a law degree is approximately $1,030,000 on average, $770,000 at the median, $430,000 at the twenty-fifth percentile, and $1,420,000 at the seventy-fifth percentile. These figures include the opportunity costs of foregone wages while in law school and financing costs. We also provide separate analyses of earnings for men and women. We find that the value of a law degree at the median is higher for women than for men because of a larger increase in work hours, but at the mean, the value for men and women is similar.
Thus, the value of a law degree typically exceeds its costs by hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Even at the twenty-fifth percentile, a law degree is typically a profitable investment.You can find their original analysis here.
At current price levels, law degrees generally provide an attractive double-digit pretax rate of return. Legal education is profitable both for students and for the federal government as tax collector and lender. In sum, the evidence simply does not support Professor Tamanaha’s thesis.