Advancing the Public Discourse

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Meet Bernie Burk, assistant professor of law at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Bernie doesn’t like it when you say the current sad state of law schools or abysmal employment prospects for recent law school grads is a crisis or a disaster.

This is what Burk had to say recently on the blog The Faculty Lounge about a law review comment on the employment crisis among young lawyers authored by the leaders of Law School Transparency, a group of recent law school grads who have meticulously documented employment statistics among recent law grads:

So I was intrigued to look into the latest contribution to the law-school reform discussion authored by LST’s co-founders and its research director … What a disappointment. Commentators with the public stature of Law School Transparency should not “dabble.”

I do not mean to say that three twenty-somethings who have essentially never practiced or taught law have no place explaining how to assemble a curriculum or run a law school so that its graduates will be both prepared to practice and attractive to legal employers in the most difficult legal job market in American history. I do mean to say that, if you don’t know how to do it and you don’t know how to teach it, you really ought to do your homework so that your prescriptions are meticulously grounded in empirical experience and coherent argument. Sadly, you won’t find much of either here….

Burk apparently removed his post, but not before it caught the attention of Paul Caron at TaxProf Blog. Here’s more at Scott Greenfield’s Simple Justice.

But back to Burk, who does a little dabbling of his own in Carolina Law, a glossy magazine designed primarily for UNC alumni and donors to the law school:

“Many more prestigious schools, including Carolina, still see nearly all their graduates employed within nine months after graduation.”

Is Burk correct?

No. Law School Transparency reports that only 68 percent of UNC’s class of 2011 was employed in full-time, long term legal jobs. About 1 in 5 graduates did not have a full-time, long term job of any sort nine months after graduating from UNC.

This is far from “nearly all” graduates being employed within nine months after graduation, even if one wants to assume that a law student who graduates and gets a job in something other than the legal profession is a success for the student or a credit to the school the school.

Apparently if you use stark language to describe the nature of what is a real, lived crisis for tens of thousands of law school grads, you’re not contributing to the public discourse in a manner that meets Bernie Burk’s high standards.

But if you overstate the employment results for recent grads of UNC Law School… you’re Bernie Burk.