Timing Law School

40 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2015 Last revised: 24 Aug 2017

See all articles by Frank McIntyre

Frank McIntyre


Michael Simkovic

University of Southern California Gould School of Law; University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business

Multiple version iconThere are 3 versions of this paper

Date Written: June 9, 2016


We investigate whether economic conditions at labor market entry predict long-term differences in law graduate earnings. We find that unemployment levels at graduation continue to predict law earnings premiums within 4 years after graduation for earners at the high end and middle of the distribution. However, the relation fades as law graduates gain experience and the difference in lifetime earnings is moderate. This suggests that earnings figures from After the JD II and III -- which track law graduates who passed the bar exam in 2000 -- are likely generalizable to other law cohorts because these studies are outside the window when graduation conditions predict differences in subsequent earnings.

Outcomes data available prior to matriculation do not predict unemployment or starting salaries at graduation. Earnings premiums are not predicted by BLS projected job openings.

While changes in cohort size predict changes in the percent of law graduates practicing law, we find little evidence that changes in cohort size predict changes in earnings. This suggests that law graduates who switch to other occupations when law cohort sizes increase are not hurt financially by larger cohorts.

For medium to high earning graduates, successfully timing law school predicts a higher value of a law degree ex-post, but simulations show that no strategy for ex-ante timing is readily available.

This article has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Empirical Legal Studies.

A powerpoint presentation of an earlier version of this article is available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2612634.

Keywords: cohort effects, labor economics, earnings premium, law school, unemployment, timing, lawyers, legal profession, education, prediction, forecasting, starting salary, NALP, BLS Projections, Job Opening Projections, class size, economic value of a law degree, recession, After the JD

JEL Classification: I21, I22, J17, J2, J21, J22, J23, J24, J31, J44, J62, J63, L84, C12, C13, C14, C15, C32, C33, C53

Suggested Citation

McIntyre, Frank and Simkovic, Michael, Timing Law School (June 9, 2016). Journal of Empirical Legal Studies (2017), HLS Center on the Legal Profession Research Paper No. 2015-4, AccessLex Institute Research Paper No. 17-04, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2574587 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2574587

Frank McIntyre

Amazon.com ( email )

Seattle, WA 98144
United States

Michael Simkovic (Contact Author)

University of Southern California Gould School of Law ( email )

699 Exposition Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90089
United States

University of Southern California - Marshall School of Business ( email )

701 Exposition Blvd
Los Angeles, CA California 90089
United States

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