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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Prof. Derek Muller's study--the asterisk.

Here's the email that I sent to Prof. Derek Muller yesterday, in response to his decision to list Boyd Law as a "top 10 'barista' school":
Hi, Derek--I just saw the result of your "top 10" lists as described in the TaxProf Blog (, and I had a couple of thoughts.  My first thought is that, in general, providing information about placement can be very useful to potential applicants, so I applaud the concept of what you're doing.  My qualm about your methodology, though, leads me to write to you today.  I believe that some of your statistics are materially misleading--certainly as they relate to UNLV (Boyd School of Law), and perhaps as they might relate to other schools as well.  Therefore, I'm writing to you today to ask you to please correct the misstatements with respect to Boyd.

Here's why Boyd’s inclusion on the Top 10 list of “Career Baristas” is materially misleading.  The percentage of graduates in non-professional, full-time, long-term positions listed for each of the schools in this “Top 10” is minuscule compared to the graduates employed in other types of jobs.  At Boyd, in a class of 128 graduates, six graduates (4.7%) were employed in non-professional, full-time, long-term positions as of February 15, 2012.  Based on these six graduates, Boyd is listed as the #3 top school in the nation for “Career Baristas.”  Meanwhile, 85 (66.4%) of Boyd’s class of 2011 was employed in full-time, long-term positions for which bar passage is required, and another 6 (4.7%) were employed in full-time, long-term positions where a JD provided an advantage.  A full 75% of the class, 96 students total, was employed in full-time or part-time long term positions that require bar passage or a JD.  Further, none of these positions are funded by the law school. 
The Top 10 list itself creates confusion because it is based on such a small percentage of the overall class.  It is particularly misleading in the case of Boyd because it is based on six graduates, providing an incomplete and distorted view of the employment prospects for Boyd students.
Given that your study is being circulated on at least the TaxProf Blog listserv, and likely others, I would greatly appreciate it if you could correct this mistaken impression about Boyd.  If you think that you're not going to be able to do that by, say, Monday of next week, please let me know.  I'm happy to chat--713-202-1881.
All the best,
Professor Muller, demonstrating that he listens to legitimate criticism, has added an asterisk to the post on TaxProf Blog: 
*Caution is in order for any ordinal ranking, but in a category like this, where the percentages are low, small numbers may appear large. For instance, the University of Akron has just 9 graduates in this category but ranks first; the University of North Dakota, just 5 graduates but ranks second; the University of Nevada—Las Vegas, just 6 graduates, but ranks third.
Thanks, Prof. Muller.

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