Washington State Supreme Court upholds fines for 2016 faithless electors

In the latest of a string of litigation surrounding faithless electors, the Washington State Supreme Court has issued its decision in In re Guerra, here. Four electors cast votes for candidates other than Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine; all four were fined $1000 each pursuant to state law. Three appealed the decision. In an 8-1 decision, the Court upheld the fines.

The Court opens by acknowledging that presidential electors perform a “federal function.” The electors argued that if they are performing a federal function, there is ample case law that suggests that Congress cannot interfere with that activity. But the Court noted that states may still holds power over them under Article II of the Constitution. And while states might not be able to interfere with certain federal functions, the Court understood the precedent of cases like Ray v. Blair and McPherson v. Blacker that the state’s power included “broad authority.” Language from Supreme Court precedent suggested that the role of the elector is to “transmit the vote of the State for president,” (In re Green) “suggesting that the Electoral College vote belongs to the State, not the individual elector.” (p. 17)

Unfortunately, the Court’s interpretation of precedent does not rely as heavily on the text of the Constitution, which states that the electors “shall make distinct lists . . . which lists they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States.” (Amend. XII.) It’s certainly plausible to argue that the state has the power over the electors, but it is a harder textual claim to say that the votes “belong[] to the state,” whatever Supreme Court precedent may say.

But, the Court also finds that the Twelfth Amendment ensures that electors meet at a time and place, cast votes for two qualified candidates, and that the Amendment “does not limit a state’s authority in adding requirements to presidential electors.” (p. 18) The Court goes on to find that cases like U.S. Term Limits v. Thornton and Powell v. McCormack, which concluded that qualifications could not be added to congressional candidates, do not extend to presidential electors. (There is ample historical support for this practice, as qualifications have regularly been added to electors, including district residency restrictions, which were raised at length in U.S. Term Limits.)

As a textual matter, the court in n.8 rejects the notion that the word “ballot” implies “personal, secret ballot.” It points out that historically, the fact that “faithless electors” can be identified suggests the practice of casting ballots has not always been in secret. I think that’s an accurate understanding of the word “ballot,” a project I’m working on.

The Court rejects a First Amendment claim once it finds that there is no personal right of the elector.

A brief dissent argues that the “power to appoint” is not the “power to control.,” and it cites Justice Jackson’s concerns in his dissent in Ray v. Blair.

In short, it’s a fairly unsurprising outcome, but it leaves some deep uncertainty, I think, about how the United States Supreme Court’s precedents in this area harmonize with the text of the Constitution. For instance, some precedent—and this court’s opinion—conflate “state” with “legislature,” where the “legislature” is the entity empowered to “direct” the “manner” of “appoint[ing]” electors.

If the case is appealed to the United States Supreme Court, it also presents an interesting wrinkle—the electors here are not forbidden from casting “faithless votes,” but are only fined if they do so. That’s a less onerous (but still significant) consequence than replacing faithless electors, like what occurred in Colorado.

Assessing the effect of the ABA's new ultimate bar passage requirement

The ABA, after years of wrestling with the idea, finally approved a requirement that ”at least 75% of a law school’s graduates who sat for a bar exam must pass within two years of graduation.” Here’s a Q&A on some of the likely effect—at least, answering questions I’ve thought about for the last few years!

How many law schools could face accreditation risks?

There are several ways of looking at this question. You can look at all of the law schools’ ultimate bar passage rates for 2015 and 2016, but the rule only formally takes effect for the Class of 2017 (that is, bar passage attempts through 2019). We can look to past law school activity, which gives us a good starting place. But we can also be skeptical of these lists for several reasons—we should anticipate law school behavior will change, and so on.

Let’s start with the schools likely in the most dire shape: 7 of them. While the proposal undoubtedly may impact far more, I decided to look at schools that failed to meet the standard in both 2015 and 2016; and I pulled out schools that were already closing, schools in Puerto Rico (we could see Puerto Rico move from 3 schools to 1 school, or perhaps 0 schools, in short order), and schools that appeared on a list due to data reporting errors. Finally, I removed South Dakota, which saw its bar passage rate drop when the bar exam cut score was raised, but that cut score has been lowered and it appears to be in good shape.

  1L Class Size 2018 Attrition Bar Cut score
2012 2018 Delta
Atl's John Marshall 181 108 -40.3% 9.0% GA 135
Barry 293 255 -13.0% 3.0% FL 136
UDC 125 64 -48.8% 2.8% DC 133
Florida Coastal 580 60 -89.7% 3.3% FL 136
Golden Gate 227 237 4.4% 3.1% CA 144
New England 450 185 -58.9% 0.8% MA 135
Cooley 897 541 -39.7% 2.3% MI/FL 135/136

These schools represent just about 3% of law schools and just over 3% of 1Ls in 2018.

Undoubtedly, other law schools that are at or near the cutoff that are probably going to be watching their admissions, retention, and bar preparation more closely, but these are, I think, the ones most likely to face a direct effect.

Will law schools institute more selective admissions procedures?

It could be. For the most at-risk law schools, however, it’s not clear they can be much more selective absent significant financial investment (which they may lack). The alternative is for the most at-risk schools to shrink their class sizes. But some (not all) have had dramatic cuts already, as seen above. If schools can sustain bigger cuts, they may do so—but it’s not clear how sustainable that is.

For schools not directly affected but facing the heat of the new standard, they may have to begin reconsidering admissions strategies that value chasing USNWR rankings over selecting a higher quality incoming class.

Will law schools increase the number of academic dismissals?

It’s possible. From the chart above, most of these schools have fairly low dismissal rates. There’s room for higher non-transfer (academic + “other”) attrition. But ABA Standard 501(b) requires “law school shall only admit applicants who appear capable of satisfactorily completing its program of legal education and being admitted to the bar,” and Interpretation 501-3 provides, “A law school having a cumulative non-transfer attrition rate above 20 percent for a class creates a rebuttable presumption that the law school is not in compliance with the Standard.” So schools can increase dismissals, but not too much.

Will this proposal disproportionately affect schools in California, HBCUs, or for-profit schools?

Despite the fact that California has one of the highest cut scores at 144, only one school failed to meet the standard in both 2015 and 2016 (while another, not listed, is closing). California law school graduates typically score much higher on the bar exam than test-takers nationwide. A 75% pass rate within two years of graduation is therefore fairly attainable, even as first-time bar pass rates remain low. But even in California, the overall first-time pass rate among graduates of California’s ABA-accredited law schools in July 2018 was 64%, meaning many schools exceed 75% on the first attempt, and many more quickly cross 75% on students’ second attempt. That said, several California law schools failed to meet the standard in at least one of 2015 or 2016.

Only one HBCU law school is on the list. (Another missed the cutoff in 1 of 2 years.) Two for-profit law schools are in the list (others have closed recently as their numbers dwindle).

Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of the at-risk schools are in jurisdictions with relatively higher cut scores (135 and up). (The median bar exam cut score is around 133-135 in most jurisdictions.)

Will state bars lower their cut scores in response?

It’s possible. Several state bars (like South Dakota as mentioned above) have lowered their cut scores in recent years when bar passage rates dropped. If states like California and Florida look at the risk of losing accredited law schools under the new proposal, they may lower their cut scores, as I suggested back in 2016. If the state bar views it as important to protect their in-state law schools, they may choose the tradeoff of lowering cut scores (or they may add it to their calculus about what the score should be). Of course, lowering cut scores may have downsides, too, but that’s another matter….

Could schools encourage their graduate to take an “easier” bar or skip the bar exam altogether?

It’s possible. But discouraging students from taking the bar exam strikes me as an unrealistic proposition—there’s little incentive for a JD not to at least try, and the law school has few mechanisms except maybe pleading with students not to take the bar.

Taking an “easier” bar is a likelier proposition, but, again, if students are dead set on taking a “hard” bar, there is little school can do—a student who wants to practice in California not Alabama may simply be unpersuadable. The rise of the Uniform Bar Exam, however, makes this a much more promising possibility for some. A school worried about graduate passing the Oregon (137) or Colorado (138) could encourage the graduate to sit for the North Dakota (130) bar—all are the UBE, after all. If the student passes the ND bar, great! If they pass, and get a high enough score to waive into OR or CO, all the better! The only downside is convincing the student to go sit in ND for the bar exam if they don’t want to, and potentially pay for two state bar admissions if they pass, but schools might find modest funds to offset those costs.

Additionally, schools might find additional resources to subsidize students who fail the bar to retake it. Taking the bar is an expensive proposition, and students may be discouraged after a failure (or two, or three) from retaking it. To prevent those students from dropping off, schools might increasingly subsidize repeat efforts. That’s good for graduates, if it happens.

Will law schools invest in bar prep courses or change their curriculum?

Assuredly yes. But that’s not the right question [ed.: who’s writing these questions!]. Instead, will those actually help any students? The answer, in all likelihood, is no.

First, schools likely have been implementing bar passage improvement programs for several years, given that bar passage rates have been in decline for several years. But the sad evidence is that, so far, they don’t appear to be improving bar passage results. Worse, a recent California bar study specifically examining programs at several law schools found no relationship between bar prep programs at law schools and bar passage results.

Schools might be tempted to tweak their curriculum—require more bar-related courses or expand coverage of content in the first year—but that, too, seems unhelpful. There’s no evidence that performance in a given substantive law school course relates to performance on that topic on the bar exam.

Undoubtedly, the response for many law schools will be, “Don’t just stand there, do something!” But it remains highly contested, in my view, about whether the “do something” will lead to improvement.

All in all, is the new standard a good thing?

Well, maybe? (A great answer of an academic, I know.) Tightening admissions and increasing academic dismissals certainly improve the likelihood that graduates ultimately pass the bar exam, which puts them in compliance with the standard. But it is only a likelihood—schools may not take risks on certain bands of students who might ultimately succeed even if their predictors don’t show it. Then again, if massive debt loads, an uncertain job market for marginal law school graduates, and still a high risk of failure are put into the equation, maybe we want more risk-averse decisionmaking at law schools.

That said, I continue to wonder about why the ABA is accrediting law schools as it increasingly obsesses over bar passage rates. Barry Currier has written to defend that we ought to require a bar exam and that ABA law school accreditation standards should have a bar passage standard. But it’s not clear to me why bar passage is tied in most jurisdictions to attending an ABA-accredited school. And it strikes me that if the ABA is insisting that good law schools are (among other things) the ones where most of the graduates pass the bar exam, it’s not clear that ABA accreditation is doing much value-added except telling us what the bar exam is already telling us.

What’s the bottom line here?

Oh, I digress. In short, I think a few law schools will face intense pressure in the short-term future, and a few may close. Many others will consider some structural changes in admissions and retention practices (which should improve rates), and curricular and bar prep changes (which likely won’t improve rates), to the extent those schools can afford to do so. But I won’t expect anything too dire. While it’s safe to say that 30 or so law schools have something to worry about, a much smaller number are facing existential threats to their schools.

In Memoriam: Professor John Copeland Nagle

With John Nagle at the Notre Dame Law School Commencement, May 20, 2007

I had John as a first-year student in Property in the Spring of 2005. But in my first year of law school, he was more than that. He was the advisor to the Christian Legal Society, a small group of students at Notre Dame, and he hosted occasional gatherings at his home. At an early September 2004 barbeque, he’d run the grill and host dozens of students, the first of my many visits to his home.

In Property, he’d bring in his daughters’ stuffed animals as props on the day we covered animals as property—cheesy, maybe, but a student couldn’t help but smile. He was self-deprecating in the best way—he was one four co-authors on a casebook, and he said he was only put on it to “do one chapter on environmental law and submit pictures to accompany the other cases.” (And how he loved pictures to accompany the law!)

On top of that, he told us that his daughters (Laura and Julia) picked out who’d be called upon each class, defining the cold call roster and ensuring that he could remain blameless (or, so he believed). It’s a small and amusing choice that I adopted in my own teaching for first-year courses.

In the upper division, the least likely elective I took was Biodiversity & the Law, because John taught it. His exam was, in a way, miserable, in the sense that it was a 24 hour take-home on some fairly open-ended questions about how one would go about protecting an animal species in a fragile ecosystem given existing law and competing concerns. But talking the exam over with Emily, my wife, after the fact, she reflected, “It sounded like a genuine question, and he’s really interested in hearing what you think about it.” And it’s true. It’s the kind of exam I’m not sure I’d ever be capable of writing. But he wrote an exam that showed a love of the material and a genuine open interest in seeing how we handled a situation that he himself may have well viewed as uncertain. He wanted to see what we’d do with it. Miserable, maybe. But the rare exam that felt like it was helping the professor think through the world and the law.

John gave me my Note topic—out of his own curiosity. He wondered why “public necessity” would allow destruction of property for the public benefit, but that the property owner wouldn’t receive compensation. It was a topic that took me deep into 17th century original sources and admiralty law. It was also my first opportunity to learn that I liked writing legal scholarship enough to pursue academia one day.

John was also a deeply valued mentor for me in my path into academic. He had a somewhat unorthodox entry into law teaching, and he was extraordinarily supportive as I made my way to the market (particularly as only a few from Notre Dame go on to teach). But my biggest encouragement came in an exchange, one he maybe never knew how powerful it was. As one still unsure whether I’d make it on the hiring market but with some modest publications and work in progress, he invited me to a dinner with a couple of other law professors at a conference. They asked me about my work, and I described one recent project, to which John responded to the others, casually but sincerely, in the middle of a bite of food, “You should read it, it’s really good.” That’s when I felt like I might be able to make it—if John could read it and share, so genuinely and spontaneously, that sentiment with others, I could do okay.

It helped, too, that my first year at Pepperdine was also the first year of Dean Deanell Reece Tacha—for whom John clerked on the Tenth Circuit. He fondly recalled his clerkship with her and held her in the highest esteem. It made his visits to Pepperdine to present papers or participate in a conference all the better.

John’s scholarship was remarkable for reasons I may dive into at depth another time. But I’ll reflect on this small thought now: he was a man who had ideas and wrote about them, ideas that reflected a deep interest across disciplines and that drew comparisons across things. That sounds simple, but it’s something that is all too rare.

His primary research was in environmental law, and he had a number of terrific pieces in election law, too. But how to come up with the piece Pornography as Pollution, taking a very environmental law-centered concept and applying it to the pervasive problem of sexually explicit material? Or merging environmental law and election law, Corruption, Pollution, and Politics, using the old metaphor of “pollution” for political corruption and using it within the environmental law framework for addressing campaign finance regulation? Or A Twentieth Amendment Parable, which opens with the avowedly biblical allusion and offers in its second footnote to the statement, “The definitive law review article on the Amendment had yet to be written,” this sentence: “This isn’t it.”

These are some (I’ve already gone on too long) of the articles of John’s I remember. I often feel like I barely remember some of my own, much less others’. And in the months ahead, I’ll dig into some of his other work I don’t remember. But these, among others, were wonderful because they said something interesting. They were—are—memorable. They drew comparisons I hadn’t thought about before—and assuredly never would have.

This whole reflection is a bit surreal to write. I suppose that’s what happens when someone young passes away unexpectedly. But more to the point, I’m visiting at Notre Dame in the Spring 2020 term and looked forward to spending time with John in particular, in part because I hadn’t seen him much in the last couple of years. I’d already been in contact with him about possible housing options in the region.

Not long ago, I recently asked if he was going to be at AALS, my usual opportunity to try to catch up with people. But he wasn’t, as usual. He wrote in this email, “I've gone from missing the AALS because of Laura's basketball schedule to missing the AALS because the girls are home from college.” We’d just have to connect another time.

I am tearing up as I write about this. John loved his family and knew how to dedicate time to spend with them. I’m so glad he did. And I’m confident he was glad he did. It’s also a reminder to myself to carve out the time needed with loved ones.

To close what’s already starting to feel like my rambling thoughts: a big reason I valued John so greatly as a friend and mentor was that he was a Christian. It’s sometimes hard to think about how faith and vocation fit together for a Christian in any given discipline. But John lived a life committed to his faith and his God, and he thrived in his work. He saw God’s glory in all the world—it’s impossible to separate John’s passion for visiting national parks, for writing about the wilderness and rare animal species and protection of nature, unless one looks at his heart rejoicing in the beauty and awe of creation.

I recall pointed questions in Biodiversity & the Law about why we like the “wilderness,” a term that’s usual fraught with danger; or why we’d protect endangered species, perhaps something beyond aesthetic enjoyment (given we may never see them) or utility (given we may not find the “use” of all animals). In both—and it’s a reason I chose to attend Notre Dame—he gently suggested that perhaps our faith, and specifically the Christian faith, could provide answers. That maybe the wilderness, while often a biblical place to be cast out into, is also a place of spiritual retreat and prayer. That animals are all a part of God’s creation, and our dominion and stewardship over them should include their protection regardless of any utility.

John helped me recognize that my Christian faith—importantly, a good, deep faith—of necessity extends beyond the personal life, and even beyond thinking about a moral code of right and wrong, into reflecting on just about anything in the world around us. I admit, I’m still not great at it. But he was very good at it—although I imagine, in characteristic humility, he’d say he was only struggling to figure it out, too. It encourages me as I write this to go deeper still.

My heart aches for Lisa, Laura, and Julia as they mourn a devoted husband and a loving father who has passed away. But with John, may we find comfort in the assurance that nothing “in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” We await the new heaven and the new earth, where God “will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more.” Rest in peace.

The Electoral College prevents electing a vice presidential candidate separate from a presidential candidate

Recently, news about a startup campaign to elect the vice president separately from electing the president has popped up. As the vice.run movement describes itself, its goal is to “reinstate the vice presidency as a democratically elected position. Vice.run’s goal is to create a vice presidential ballot line in the 2020 election in all 50 states.”

It sounds like a fascinating idea. But under any scrutiny, it just won’t work. That’s because the Electoral College doesn’t function this way.

To begin, it’s entirely correct to say that states don’t have to list a particular president-vice president combination unless they seek ballot access for that combination, and it’s possible to think about alternative arrangements to how we typically look at elections. A couple of historic examples come to mind. In 1836, the Virginia Democratic Party despised Martin Van Buren’s running mate Richard Mentor Johnson. While most states’ electors ultimately voted for Van Buren and Johnson, Virginia’s electors voted for Van Buren and William Smith. That prevented Johnson from receiving a majority of electoral votes, so the election was sent to the Senate, which elected Johnson over runner-up Whig Francis Granger.

In the same election, Whigs chose not to field a single candidate, but fielded multiple candidates that they hoped each would receive sufficient support over the Democratic candidate, prevent the Democratic candidate from securing a majority of electors, and send the race to the House of Representatives to choose among the top three vote-getters, potentially yielding a Whig candidate.

All this is to say we’ve seen some interesting and creative attempts to use the Electoral College framework to achieve particular ends. But what about a separate vice presidential candidate?

The logic (although there isn’t much law) spelled out on the vice.run site goes as follows: a vice presidential candidate could be a separate line on the ballot. The people could then choose to vote for a particular presidential candidate and an entirely different vice presidential candidate. Particularly attractive independent vice presidential candidates may force presidential candidates to choose them as their running mates.

All interesting ideas. But utterly unworkable due to the Electoral College.

Each state receives presidential electors equal to the number of senators and representatives they receive—say, Vermont receives three. On Election Day, the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, when voters cast a vote for Clinton-Kaine or Trump-Pence, they are actually casting a vote for three electors pledged to support Clinton-Kaine or Trump-Pence. (“Pledged” I use very loosely—some states have formal pledges, some are legally binding, others are mere informalities or general expectations.)

Then, on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, Vermont’s three presidential electors meet in the state, along with electors from the other states in their respective states. The electors cast two votes: one for president, and on a distinct ballot, one for vice president. (The headline of my post is a bit misleading—in fact, presidential electors are required to vote for a separate president and vice president. This post is about the people voting via ballot separately.)

Suppose now there is an election with a separate line item for president and vice president. How would we choose the electors? We simply couldn’t. We can’t pick three electors for president and another three electors for vice president; that would require a state to choose six electors, which it couldn’t do. So we’d need the same electors for president and vice president—which means we couldn’t have separate lines unless the electors were the same, or aligned with one another, which would seem to defeat the purpose of having separate lines.

Instead, the only feasible opportunity to have presidential and vice presidential candidates elected separately would look as follows: the state legislature chooses three electors; it designates that those electors must be bound to vote in accordance with the popular vote of a presidential candidate and a vice presidential candidate; then, those electors would have to vote for whichever presidential and vice presidential candidate were selected.

It’s not clear that this is permissible. Federal law requires that the electors be appointed on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. It’s not a straw poll to bind existing electors. So it’s unclear to me that a state could appoint its electors before the election. Additionally, if Election Day is about the appointment of electors, then there has to be a fixed number equal to the state’s total, which means you need a president-vice president slate of electors, not independent lines.

There are other confusing ways to think through this problem, like assuming there’s just one slate of electors representing all the names on the ballot, but I’m not sure these are feasible, either. And I’m also assuming the state can compel the electors to vote for the candidate they’re pledged to support—something I think is right, but certainly not uncontested. (Of course, faithless electors are a common problem in any Electoral College reform scenario, so I don’t dwell on that.) It also increases the likelihood that voters in a state choose a president and a vice president from their own state, if there are pluralities or tradeoffs in voting, which is impermissible under the Constitution—electors must vote for at least one candidate who is not an inhabitant of their state, and a president-vice president slate usually avoids this.

Unless I’m missing something—correct me if I am!—this scheme simply can’t work absent the legislature wholesale taking over the choosing of electors and having a straw poll of the people sometime before Election Day. The Electoral College anticipates one set of electors chosen on Election Day. That set of electors can exist however one sees fit, of course. But if voters have to make a choice of a president and a vice president on separate lines, there’s no feasible way to pick one common slate of electors like the Constitution demands.

Overall legal employment for the Class of 2018 improved somewhat

Despite poor, and in some cases declining, bar passage rates in many jurisdictions over the last four years, we’ve seen steady overall improvement in the market for law school graduates, and the Class of 2018 is no exception. All trends are fairly positive, even if small, and even if some of those are driven by shrinking class sizes. Below are figures for the ABA-disclosed data (excluding Puerto Rico’s three law schools).

  Graduates FTLT BPR Placement FTLT JDA
Class of 2012 45,751 25,503 55.7% 4,218
Class of 2013 46,112 25,787 55.9% 4,550
Class of 2014 43,195 25,348 58.7% 4,774
Class of 2015 40,205 23,895 59.4% 4,416
Class of 2016 36,654 22,874 62.4% 3,948
Class of 2017 34,428 23,078 67.0% 3,121
Class of 2018 33,633 23,314 69.3% 3,123

Placement in bar passage-required jobs continued to improve, and graduates shrank. That put placement in full-time, long-term, bar passage-required jobs up to 69.3% (excluding school-funded positions). Unlike recent years, we also saw a small increase in J.D.-advantage position placement.

We can also compare the Class of 2018 to the Class of 2013—a recent high-water mark in total graduates and bar passage-required jobs (even if the percentage placed in those jobs was relatively low). We can look at placement by firm size, and by industry.

FTLT Class of 2013 Class of 2018 Net Delta
Solo 926 313 -613 -66.2%
2-10 6,947 4,999 -1948 -28.0%
11-25 1,842 1,689 -153 -8.3%
26-50 1,045 1,020 -25 -2.4%
51-100 846 821 -25 -3.0%
101-205 1,027 1,002 -25 -2.4%
251-500 1,041 949 -92 -8.8%
501+ 3,978 4,749 771 19.4%
Business/Industry 5,494 3,085 -2409 -43.8%
Government 4,360 3,860 -500 -11.5%
Public Interest 1,665 1,504 -161 -9.7%
Federal Clerk 1,259 1,174 -85 -6.8%
State Clerk 2,043 2,075 32 1.6%
Academia/Education 490 302 -188 -38.4%

The sharp demise of sole practitioners and small law firm placement is significant. Last year, I noted that placement in these positions might be the most at-risk when bar passage rates decline. Also of note is the decline in “business” jobs, which were typically J.D.-advantage positions and less desirable for graduates. Note, too, the continued rise of big law jobs—up nearly 800 placements since the Class of 2013. There had been some speculation during the recession that those jobs might be disappearing and that alternative positions would be needed for future classes, but this seems to be the healthiest market.

We can also compare the year-over-year placement in these job types, which are perhaps more volatile but still illuminating.

FTLT Class of 2017 Class of 2018 Net Delta
Solo 392 313 -79 -20.2%
2-10 5,145 4,999 -146 -2.8%
11-25 1,628 1,689 61 3.7%
26-50 953 1,020 67 7.0%
51-100 779 821 42 5.4%
101-205 956 1,002 46 4.8%
251-500 983 949 -34 -3.5%
501+ 4,569 4,749 180 3.9%
Business/Industry 3,241 3,085 -156 -4.8%
Government 3,812 3,860 48 1.3%
Public Interest 1,419 1,504 85 6.0%
Federal Clerk 1,151 1,174 23 2.0%
State Clerk 1,984 2,075 91 4.6%
Education 303 302 -1 -0.3%

Even year over year, we saw placement in large firms increase 180 positions, while solo and firms of 10 or fewer attorneys decline by over 220 positions.

Visualizing legal employment outcomes in California in 2018

This is the eighth and final in a series of visualizations on legal employment outcomes for the Class of 2018. Following posts on outcomes in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Florida, DC-Maryland-Virginia, and New York, here is a visualization for legal employment outcomes of graduates of law schools in California for the Class of 2018. (More about the methodology is available at the Illinois post.) Last year's California post is here.

Please note, of course, that “J.D.-advantage” jobs may differ significantly from school to school, which may alter how one views the “overall” rate. (USNWR treats them as equivalent, but there are good reasons to think they may not be equivalent; and here, there are significant disparities among some schools and their J.D.-advantage placement.) And recall that I sort the table below to include school-funded positions, while the chart only includes unfunded positions. (It’s a reason I try to display the information in different ways!) The California market presented a mixed but somewhat positive picture. The closure of Whittier meant I removed it from the chart. Comparing all other schools year-to-year, graduates increased slightly from 3761 to 3804. And bar passage-required jobs increased slightly, too, from 2353 to 2405. But J.D. advantage jobs climbed at a faster rate, from 322 to 354, and school funded positions increased slightly. Placement among these schools rose from 73.3% to 74.9% in all positions.

As always, please notify me of any corrections or errata.

Peer Score School 2018 YoY% BPR JDA LSF Grads 2017 BPR JDA LSF Grads
4.9 Stanford University 96.9% 3.0 165 12 10 193 93.9% 163 15 7 197
4.4 University of California-Berkeley 95.8% 1.0 276 4 16 309 94.8% 269 6 14 305
4.1 University of California-Los Angeles 92.5% 0.0 257 19 20 320 92.5% 283 17 31 358
3.7 University of Southern California 87.3% -2.6 162 11 6 205 90.0% 179 4 5 209
3.5 University of California-Irvine 86.8% 0.4 85 3 11 114 86.5% 72 4 7 96
3.4 University of California-Davis 86.4% 2.0 135 8 10 177 84.4% 119 10 12 167
2.7 Loyola Law School-Los Angeles 85.7% 6.1 213 24 3 280 79.6% 204 31 3 299
3.1 University of California-Hastings 78.7% 11.2 178 28 12 277 67.5% 166 22 1 280
2.7 Pepperdine University 78.6% 2.8 114 18 0 168 75.8% 134 34 1 223
1.9 Chapman University 73.9% 5.6 75 24 0 134 68.2% 81 20 0 148
2.7 University of San Diego 72.3% 4.7 172 19 0 264 67.6% 121 17 0 204
2.5 Santa Clara University 68.7% 4.7 127 22 0 217 64.0% 77 10 0 136
1.9 McGeorge School of Law 63.9% 4.8 66 19 0 133 59.1% 62 16 0 132
1.8 Southwestern Law School 63.2% 4.6 128 39 1 266 58.6% 124 43 0 285
1.5 California Western School of Law 61.1% -3.3 86 32 0 193 64.5% 106 21 0 197
1.1 Western State College of Law 57.0% 4.9 49 8 0 100 52.1% 32 6 0 73
1.5 Golden Gate University 48.2% -3.5 27 11 2 83 51.7% 33 11 1 87
1.9 University of San Francisco 45.0% -15.8 49 26 1 169 60.8% 75 18 0 153
1.2 University of La Verne 43.1% 6.3 13 12 0 58 36.8% 12 2 0 38
nr Thomas Jefferson School of Law 29.9% -2.3 28 15 0 144 32.2% 41 15 0 174

Visualizing legal employment outcomes in New York in 2018

This is the seventh in a series of visualizations on legal employment outcomes for the Class of 2018. Following posts on outcomes in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, Florida, and DC-Maryland-Virginia, here is a visualization for legal employment outcomes of graduates of law schools in New York for the Class of 2018. (More about the methodology is available at the Illinois post.) Last year's New York post is here.

Please note, of course, that “J.D.-advantage” jobs may differ significantly from school to school, which may alter how one views the “overall” rate. (USNWR treats them as equivalent, but there are good reasons to think they may not be equivalent; and here, there are significant disparities among some schools and their J.D.-advantage placement.) And recall that I sort the table below to include school-funded positions, while the chart only includes unfunded positions. (It’s a reason I try to display the information in different ways!) The market showed improvement for the Class of 2018. Bar passage-required jobs rose from 2786 to 2882; J.D.-advantage rose slightly and school funded positions fell slightly. And while total graduates increased slightly to 3689, the improvement in bar passage-required positions helped increase placement from 84.5% to 86.1%.

As always, please notify me of any corrections or errata.

Peer score School 2018 YoY% BPR JDA LSF Grads 2017 BPR JDA LSF Grads
4.6 New York University 96.7% -0.4 411 3 29 458 97.1% 429 11 30 484
4.7 Columbia University 96.4% 0.1 420 8 5 449 96.3% 401 2 13 432
4.3 Cornell University 93.4% -0.2 178 4 1 196 93.6% 186 2 1 202
2.3 St. John's University 91.6% 9.8 186 21 0 226 81.8% 154 21 0 214
3.3 Fordham University 88.4% 10.8 302 24 2 371 77.7% 245 23 3 349
2.8 Cardozo School of Law 84.9% -2.1 207 23 1 272 87.0% 234 20 0 292
2.2 Hofstra University 82.4% 1.4 186 11 0 239 81.0% 180 12 0 237
1.9 New York Law School 81.0% 6.7 167 52 2 273 74.3% 123 56 0 241
2.6 Brooklyn Law School 80.5% 0.3 245 48 0 364 80.2% 264 31 0 368
1.9 Pace University 79.5% -5.2 118 14 0 166 84.7% 127 17 0 170
2.0 Albany Law School 79.0% -1.0 86 8 0 119 80.0% 78 10 0 110
2.2 University of Buffalo-SUNY 78.1% 7.0 101 13 0 146 71.1% 93 15 0 152
2.3 Syracuse University 76.3% -2.9 116 16 0 173 79.2% 103 15 0 149
2.2 City University of New York 74.0% 2.7 64 7 0 96 71.3% 65 2 0 94
1.5 Touro College 70.2% -5.0 95 4 0 141 75.2% 104 11 0 153

Visualizing legal employment outcomes in DC-Maryland-Virginia in 2018

This is the sixth in a series of visualizations on legal employment outcomes for the Class of 2018. Following posts on outcomes in Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, Ohio, and Florida, here is a visualization for legal employment outcomes of graduates of law schools in Washington, DC; Maryland; and Virginia for the Class of 2018. (More about the methodology is available at the Illinois post.) Last year's DC-Maryland-Virginia post is here.

Please note, of course, that “J.D.-advantage” jobs may differ significantly from school to school, which may alter how one views the “overall” rate. And recall that I sort the table below to include school-funded positions, while the chart only includes unfunded positions. (It’s a reason I try to display the information in different ways!) The market showed improvement for the Class of 2018. Bar passage-required jobs rose from 2318 to 2367; J.D.-advantage and school funded positions both fell slightly. There were more than 100 fewer graduates in this class, helping raise the overal employment rate from 80.3% to 83.9%. (Of note are four schools with fewer than 70 graduates each.)

As always, please notify me of any corrections or errata.

Peer score School 2018 YoY% BPR JDA LSF Grads 2017 BPR JDA LSF Grads
4.4 University of Virginia 97.7% 1.0 277 3 12 299 96.6% 271 7 8 296
4.2 Georgetown University 91.2% 2.2 532 28 33 650 89.0% 504 40 40 656
3 University of Maryland 88.9% 11.1 138 37 1 198 77.8% 108 36 3 189
3.3 William & Mary Law School 88.2% 7.5 149 16 0 187 80.8% 158 10 0 208
3.2 Washington & Lee University 87.6% 3.8 98 1 0 113 83.8% 79 4 0 99
3.5 George Washington University 84.0% 1.4 376 58 3 520 82.6% 422 69 9 605
2.7 George Mason University 83.9% 3.0 90 22 3 137 80.9% 92 26 5 152
2.7 University of Richmond 81.2% -0.7 118 29 0 181 81.9% 101 21 0 149
1.2 Liberty University 80.0% 11.0 32 4 0 45 69.0% 37 3 0 58
1.2 Regent University 77.3% 2.9 45 5 1 66 74.4% 46 10 2 78
2.1 University of Baltimore 77.0% 4.2 136 21 0 204 72.8% 136 27 0 224
2.6 Howard University 73.7% 3.8 80 17 1 133 69.9% 65 6 1 103
2.8 American University 73.6% 5.6 201 69 3 371 68.0% 197 56 0 372
1.5 District of Columbia 70.1% 4.0 26 20 1 67 66.2% 19 27 1 71
2.1 Catholic University of America 68.0% 4.1 56 10 0 97 64.0% 61 10 0 111
1.2 Appalachian School of Law 51.7% -7.8 13 2 0 29 59.5% 22 3 0 42