Google got it wrong. The open-office trend is destroying the workplace.

A year ago, my boss announced that our large New York ad agency would be moving to an open office. After nine years as a senior writer, I was forced to trade in my private office for a seat at a long, shared table. It felt like my boss had ripped off my clothes and left me standing in my skivvies.

Our new, modern Tribeca office was beautifully airy, and yet remarkably oppressive. Nothing was private. On the first day, I took my seat at the table assigned to our creative department, next to a nice woman who I suspect was an air horn in a former life.  All day, there was constant shuffling, yelling, and laughing, along with loud music piped through a PA system.  As an excessive water drinker, I feared my co-workers were tallying my frequent bathroom trips.  At day’s end, I bid adieu to the 12 pairs of eyes I felt judging my 5:04 p.m. departure time. I beelined to the Beats store to purchase their best noise-cancelling headphones in an unmistakably visible neon blue.

Despite its obvious problems, the open-office model has continued to encroach on workers across the country. Now, about 70 percent of U.S. offices have no or low partitions, according to the International Facility Management Association. Silicon Valley has been the leader in bringing down the dividers. Google, Yahoo, eBay, Goldman Sachs and American Express are all adherents.  Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg enlisted famed architect Frank Gehry to design the largest open floor plan in the world, housing nearly 3,000 engineers. And as a businessman, Michael Bloomberg was an early adopter of the open-space trend, saying it promoted transparency and fairness. He famously carried the model into city hall when he became mayor of New York,  making “the Bullpen” a symbol of open communication and accessibility to the city’s chief.

These new floor plans are ideal for maximizing a company’s space while minimizing costs. Bosses love the ability to keep a closer eye on their employees, ensuring clandestine porn-watching, constant social media-browsing and unlimited personal cellphone use isn’t occupying billing hours. But employers are getting a false sense of improved productivity. A 2013 studyfound that many workers in open offices are frustrated by distractions that lead to poorer work performance. Nearly half of the surveyed workers in open offices said the lack of sound privacy was a significant problem for them and more than 30 percent complained about the lack of visual privacy. Meanwhile, “ease of interaction” with colleagues — the problem that open offices profess to fix — was cited as a problem by fewer than 10 percent of workers in any type of office setting. In fact, those with private offices were least likely to identify their ability to communicate with colleagues as an issue. In a previous study, researchers concluded that “the loss of productivity due to noise distraction … was doubled in open-plan offices compared to private offices.”

The New Yorkerin a review of research on this nouveau workplace design, determined that the benefits in building camaraderie simply mask the negative effects on work performance. While employees feel like they’re part of a laid-back, innovative enterprise, the environment ultimately damages workers’ attention spans, productivity, creative thinking, and satisfaction.  Furthermore, a sense of privacy boosts job performance, while the opposite can cause feelings of helplessness. In addition to the distractions, my colleagues and I have been more vulnerable to illness. Last flu season took down a succession of my co-workers like dominoes.

As the new space intended, I’ve formed interesting, unexpected bonds with my cohorts. But my personal performance at work has hit an all-time low. Each day, my associates and I are seated at a table staring at each other, having an ongoing 12-person conversation from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  It’s like being in middle school with a bunch of adults. Those who have worked in private offices for decades have proven to be the most vociferous and rowdy. They haven’t had to consider how their loud habits affect others, so they shout ideas at each other across the table and rehash jokes of yore. As a result, I can only work effectively during times when no one else is around, or if I isolate myself in one of the small, constantly sought-after, glass-windowed meeting rooms around the perimeter.

If employers want to make the open-office model work, they have to take measures to improve work efficiency. For one, they should create more private areas — ones without fishbowl windows.  Also, they should implement rules on when interaction should be limited. For instance, when a colleague has on headphones, it’s a sign that you should come back another time or just send an e-mail.  And please, let’s eliminate the music that blankets our workspaces.  Metallica at 3 p.m. isn’t always compatible with meeting a 4 p.m. deadline.

On the other hand, companies could simply join another trend — allowing employees to work from home. That model has proven to boost productivity, with employees working more hours and taking fewer breaks. On top of that, there are fewer interruptions when employees work remotely. At home, my greatest distraction is the refrigerator.  ​

Source: Washington Post

Posted in Technology, Creative, Productivity, Millennials, Research, Motivational, Innovation, stress

Public vs. Private Health Insurance on Controlling Spending

Public vs. Private Health Insurance on Controlling Spending

Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services actuary on cumulative growth in per capita spending for private and public health insurance.
Kaiser Family Foundation

No single fact can settle the long-running debate of whether public or private health insurance is preferable. But by one basic metric, the rate of increase in per capita spending, public insurance has an edge.

The Federal Office of the Actuary in the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has charted the annual rate of increase in spending for Medicare, Medicaid, and private health insurance. As the chart above shows, by cumulative growth in per capita spending, Medicare and Medicaid have generally grown more slowly than private insurance and are projected to continue doing so through 2023. Per capita spending is an especially useful measure for comparing public and private health insurance spending because it shows how much Medicare, Medicaid, and private insurers spend on each person irrespective of the number of people covered.

Advocates of public coverage tend to like its relative simplicity, uniform guaranteed benefits, and lower overhead costs, as well as the ability of large public insurance programs to use their purchasing power to leverage changes in the health-care system. Advocates of private coverage favor the greater choice it can offer consumers and the competition that can foster in the marketplace. For some people, preferences for public or private coverage are largely ideological.

When it comes to analyzing health spending, there are always multiple factors at play. Sometimes changing demographics can have a role. As younger baby boomers join Medicare, the average amount that the program spends per beneficiary will be slightly reduced over the next decade. Overall, however, it appears that public programs control per capita spending somewhat more effectively than private coverage does. That may be just the opposite of what many would presume in a country where the private market is generally expected to outperform the public sector.

Here’s another way to think about it: While Medicare and Medicaid are far from perfect, the purchasing power and policy levers available to large public programs appear to give them an edge over our fragmented private insurance system when it comes to controlling spending.

Drew Altman is president and chief executive officer of the Kaiser Family Foundation. He is on Twitter: @drewaltman.

Posted in Competition, Economics, Editorial, Healthcare, Policy, Public Health, public interest

Law School Admissions ‘Actively Preferences’ Work Experience

Law School Admissions ‘Actively Preferences’ Work Experience

In 2009, 40 percent of Harvard Law School’s entering class, according to data provided the school’s Admissions Office, arrived directly from their senior year of college, maybe even still sporting the odd T-shirt from last year’s big rivalry football game.

It was the continuation of a years-long trend: From 2005 to 2009, between 39 and 45 percent of each incoming class were just recently undergraduates, with the remainder having spent at least one year working or studying elsewhere. But the next year, in 2010, the young students matriculating straight from undergrad only constituted 28 percent of the entering Law School class. More than two-thirds had post-graduate experience.

Incoming Harvard Law School Classes

Roughly three-fourths of each incoming class of Harvard Law School students have come to campus with some post-college experience for the last several years.

The change was not a fluke. When Martha L. Minow assumed her position as the new dean of the Law School in July of 2009, priorities, at least in the admissions process, shifted.

“When I became dean, I directed our admissions team to give extra weight to applicants with experience since college,” Minow wrote in an email.

Now, since after 2009, roughly three-fourths of each incoming class of Harvard Law students comes to campus having spent some time beyond their college campuses. It’s a change Minow and Jessica L. Soban ’02, chief admissions officer at the Law School, broadcast as a way to enhance the Harvard Law School experience for students, allowing them to cultivate a better sense of their interests and bring a more experienced perspective to the classroom.

Professors, deans, and students at the Law School largely corroborate this claim, and for the next generation of students the message is increasingly clear: If you want to go to Harvard Law School, it is a pretty good idea—if not an absolute necessity—to get a job first.

AN ACTIVE PREFERENCE

For Soban, a former Crimson business editor who has served as chief admissions officer at the Law School since 2012, the emphasis on work experience has shaped the way her office approaches admissions to the school.

“[Work experience] is something we actively preference and look for in the application process,” she said.

In addition to reaching out more to employers and adjusting the rhetoric at information sessions for undergraduates, the Law School has launched new initiatives aimed at bringing an older and more experienced group of students to the school each year.

In 2013, the school launched its Junior Deferral program, in which Harvard College juniors can apply to the Law School under the condition that, if they are accepted, they work for at least two years before coming back to campus. Soban said the launch of the program, which is still in its pilot stage, was “100 percent” part of the effort to bring students to the Law School already having worked for a few years.

Though these recent efforts may indicate otherwise, Soban maintained that winning admission into the Law School is not necessarily more difficult for students coming straight from college.

“For someone who doesn’t have work experience, it’s not harder per se,” Soban said. “But I want to see in an application that you have those same characteristics, and you have that kind of experience and focus, and not that Law School is a default option for you.”

She also said that she encourages students admitted straight out of college to make use of the school’s deferral policy, which allows them to defer attendance a year or two in “almost every situation requested,” Soban wrote in an email.

Soban emphasized that the time between college and Law School is not a “gap year”—she said she wants to see applicants “actually engaging in active employment, or in active graduate study.

But for others involved in the admissions process, including  Richard J. Lazarus, one of the Law School professors who reviews admissions files and approves admissions, this preference for work experience can boost an applicant’s chance for success.

“At some point, I’ll start to discount the GPA, or I’ll start to discount the LSAT, because I actually see that they’re very serious about what it is, and they’re not just writing an essay,” Lazarus said. “Anyone can write an essay.”

BEYOND ADMISSION

Employment is not just an advantage in the admissions process; once applicants become students, Law School professors, students, and deans maintain that the benefits of having worked for a few years endure, both in the classroom setting and in the pursuit for a job in the law.

For Law School professor Richard H. Fallon, the difference between students with and without work experience is noticeable: He said that in his experience, “disproportionately the students that I have thought the best and most interesting were students who had some time out.”

“It’s not that this is an absolute necessity for being a first-rate law student, but my experience suggests that it’s a help,” Fallon added.

Work experience can also give students an edge in finding employment after their three years of legal studies, according to Alexa Shabecoff, the Law School’s assistant dean for public service.

“You’re just more more marketable to employers if you have work experience,” she said.

For Mark A. Weber, the assistant dean for career services, the benefit of having worked a few years is less that it gives students an advantage—he maintained that Harvard Law students do well “irrespective” of their previous experience—but that allows students to find a better sense of where exactly they plan to work.

“The real reason, I think it’s better for our students to have some time away, it gives them a better perspective, a better perspective as they’re exploring their options,” he said.

“They have more of a crystallized focus of what they want to do and why they are here,” he added.

A SENSE OF PURPOSE

For Soban and current Law School students, working for a couple of years proves to be an important to shape a sense of purpose for the graduate degree. But in addition to ensuring the Law School does not become a “default option,” students said it has allowed them to better balance the application process and avoid “burnout.”

C. Taylor Poor ’12, a second-year Law School student and pre-law tutor in Eliot House, worked for a mental health advocacy organization for a year prior to law school.

“I think the biggest help for me…was that it gave me kind of a reason to keep going, and a very specific person for why I was at law school,” she said. When she advises students, Poor said she emphasizes the value of this sense of purpose, which often, but not necessarily, arrives after having worked and explored for a few years.

“You don’t need law school,” she said. “Law school is a deliberate choice.”

For Taylor A. C. Lane ’11, who is a first-year Law School student and a pre-law tutor in Leverett House, said that work experience helped her to gauge the necessity of the law school degree to achieve her career goals.

“It really tested how much I wanted to go back to law school. And so I think that was very healthy—law school is a big investment. It’s a pre-professional school,” she said.

Katherine A. Divasto ’16, a Harvard undergraduate who said that she plans to attend law school but not necessarily Harvard’s, said taking time away from academic pursuits will help her focus on her studies now and her application later.

“I worry that if I were to go straight on it would be a little bit too much,” she said.

—Source: The Harvard Crimson by Andrew M. Duehren who can be reached at andy.duehren@thecrimson.com. Follow him on Twitter @aduehren.

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Posted in Creative, Education, Legal Education, Millennials

Law school is way too expensive. And only the federal government can fix that.

By David Lat

There’s no shortage of lawyers in this country. Only 57 percent of 2013 law school graduates obtained full-time legal jobs nine months after graduation. Yet the federal government subsidizes the production of even more lawyers by lending the cost of attendance to basically anyone who decides to enroll in law school, without regard for the quality of the school or the job prospects of its graduates. A student going to Harvard Law School, where 86.9 percent of 2013 grads had full-time legal jobs, has the same access to federal funds as a student going to Thomas M. Cooley Law School, where just 22.9 percent of 2013 grads work as lawyers.

This policy is hurting students. Federally subsidized loans have enabled law school tuition to spiral out of control. As noted by Professor Paul Campos, “[i]n real, inflation-adjusted terms, tuition at private American law schools has doubled over the past 20 years, tripled over the past 30, and quadrupled over the past 40,” and resident tuition at public law schools has climbed even faster. So long as the federal loans keep coming, tuition is unlikely to stop rising. In the words of Professor Brian Tamanaha, author of “Failing Law Schools,” “Federal loans are an irresistible (and life-sustaining) drug for revenue addicted law schools … law schools have been ramping up tuition and enrollment without restraint thanks to an obliging federal loan program.”

If the government were to stop lending for law school or even just impose per-student or per-school caps on loan amounts (perhaps combined with making it easier to discharge student loans in bankruptcy), law schools would have to dramatically lower tuition, in order to attract students. There would be no other way for most students to finance their education. (And many law schools are already struggling to fill their seats.) Private lenders might step into the breach – but carefully, because banks have a stronger interest than the government in actually getting repaid. Private lenders would focus on borrowers going to law schools with strong job placement records. And if banks are unwilling to lend to all law students, that’s further proof that the market produces too many lawyers.

Of course, the nation does have a significant “justice gap,” or a severe shortage of lawyers willing or able to serve the poor (or even middle class), to practice in certain (often rural) communities, or to work in public-interest careers. To address this problem, the federal government could dramatically curtail general law-school lending but set aside some money to lend without restriction (or even award as scholarships) to law students who commit to working in an under-served community or sector for several years after graduation. In 2013, South Dakota did just this, passing a law establishing a program that subsidizes lawyers who work in underserved rural areas for five years. The program took effect in July 2013, so it’s too early to render a verdict on its success, but according to South Dakota Chief Justice David Gilbertson, response to the program has been “beyond, quite frankly, our expectations.”

Law school administrators often respond to calls for reform by pointing the finger elsewhere. For example, why not crack down on federal loans for other types of education? Uncontrolled federal lending plagues a wide range of fields, to be sure – but if we have to pick one field in which to experiment, law school is a good place to start. According to a New America study, law school graduates have the second-highest debt burden among graduate and professional students, behind only graduates of medical school and other health-science programs. But given that our nation faces a shortage of doctors (which may explain why unemployed doctors are rare compared to unemployed lawyers), now is not the time to discourage people from pursuing medical education. Student loan reform should logically start with law school and then expand to other sectors, applying any lessons learned from the legal-education pilot program.

Lawyer jokes and “Better Call Saul” notwithstanding, the law is a noble profession – but it’s also an oversubscribed one, due in large part to excessive federal lending. To paraphrase Shakespeare, the first thing we do, let’s defund all the lawyers.

Source: Washington Post

Posted in ABA, Career, Debt, Department of Education, Economy, Legal Education, Student Loans

What these colleges are doing on tuition is better than Stanford

Yeah, Stanford's pretty, I guess. But you'll be totally O.K. if you don't get in. (AP/Paul Sakuma)Stanford University expects families earning less than $125,000 will not have to pay tuition in the coming year. (AP/Paul Sakuma)

Stanford University has received a lot of attention for offering free tuition to students whose families make less than $125,000 — throwing in free room and board for those earning less than $65,000.

But there is a trend that could have a larger impact on college pricing. Small- and medium-sized private universities have been slashing tuition for all students in an effort to reverse sliding enrollment numbers. And while these schools are not as prestigious as Stanford, their willingness to cut prices could signal a shift in the cost of higher education.

Nearly a dozen private colleges reduced tuition for the current academic year. Southern Virginia University, for instance, cut tuition and fees 23 percent from $18,900 to $14,600 a year, while Converse College in South Carolina brought down its prices by 43 percent to $16,500 a year.

Back when these schools announced their plans in 2013, they said the new prices were closer to what most students were actually paying after factoring in grants and scholarships. Still, they said they expected the reduction in price to save money for most families.

Lowering tuition is a risky strategy for schools because families often equate price with prestige. To maintain the perception of quality, private universities got in the habit of raising tuition but offering deep discounts through scholarships and grants. About 89 percent of the freshmen class of 2013-2014 received enough aid to cover half of their tuition at private universities, according to a study by the National Association of College and University Business Officers.

But that high-tuition, deep-discount model is falling flat for small private colleges. Schools are failing to fill seats, which is bringing in less money. A recent survey by Moody’s Investor Service found that 45 percent of private universities were anticipating declines in enrollment and another quarter expected revenue from tuition to dip. The board of Sweet Briar, a women’s liberal arts college in Lynchburg, Va., recently voted to close the school because of severe budget shortfalls.

These smaller schools are under more pressure largely because they don’t have the huge endowments of places like Harvard and Stanford. Those gold-plated schools enroll an outsize proportion of wealthy students and sit on multi-billion-dollar endowments that make it a lot easier to let some students forego tuition payments. (Stanford students will have to pay $5,000 each year, even if they qualify for the tuition benefit.)

Stanford has an endowment of $21 billion, compared to the median private college endowment of $26.2 million. The economic crisis pummeled the endowments of most colleges and universities, with many suffering 25 percent declines in value, according to an analysis of data from the National Association of College and University Business Officers. Many schools have not fully recovered.

There’s no guarantee that lower costs will attract more students, and cutting prices won’t solve the problem of rising costs. But the status quo doesn’t appear sustainable. Families have grown sensitive to price increases in this uneven economic recovery. Tuition has risen faster than inflation at a time when wages have remained flat. If the schools that have cut prices start to see a few years of enrollment growth, more universities could get on board.

Posted in Debt, Department of Education, Economy, Student Loans

The health insurance industry looks…well, healthy

by Dan Gorenstein
Thursday, March 26, 2015 – 05:00

On Thursday, a new report out from the Commonwealth Fund finds the
health insurance industry is doing just fine, thank you very much.

That’s contrary to the deep-seated fears of some as the Affordable
Care Act launched back in 2010. But with three years’ worth of data on
the books now, and insurers’ stock prices soaring, those fears have
faded.

From a business standpoint, it’s a particularly impressive feat
considering that on the eve of the ACA, some insurers wondered how
they’d keep the lights on after the federal government killed its
golden goose. Under the law, the ACA bars companies from denying sick
people coverage, a source of significant profits. It was a daunting
moment says Wake Forest Professor Mark Hall.

“Insurance companies had to figure out how to sail through those
shifting currents, and what we’ve seen after these several years is
that they’ve sailed through those choppy seas quite well,” he says.

Despite no longer cherry-picking patients, the Commonwealth report
shows that industry profits remain nearly identical to before
implementation of the ACA. Bloomberg Industries Analyst Brian Rye says
Obamacare has been very good for insurers.

“When it becomes a law that you have to do something it’s amazing how
much demand improves,” he says.

Of course Rye is talking about the fact that now most adults are
required to carry insurance, and the federal government helps people
pay for that coverage. That has led to millions of new customers for
the insurers who today have a new golden goose.

Featured in: Marketplace Morning Report for Thursday, March 26, 2015

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Posted in Healthcare, Insurance

The Real Reason College Tuition Costs So Much

By: Paul F. Campos

BOULDER, Colo. — ONCE upon a time in America, baby boomers paid for college with the money they made from their summer jobs. Then, over the course of the next few decades, public funding for higher education was slashed. These radical cuts forced universities to raise tuition year after year, which in turn forced the millennial generation to take on crushing educational debt loads, and everyone lived unhappily ever after.

This is the story college administrators like to tell when they’re asked to explain why, over the past 35 years, college tuition at public universities has nearly quadrupled, to $9,139 in 2014 dollars. It is a fairy tale in the worst sense, in that it is not merely false, but rather almost the inverse of the truth.

The conventional wisdom was reflected in a recent National Public Radio series on the cost of college. “So it’s not that colleges are spending more money to educate students,” Sandy Baum of the Urban Institute told NPR. “It’s that they have to get that money from someplace to replace their lost state funding — and that’s from tuition and fees from students and families.”

In fact, public investment in higher education in America is vastly larger today, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than it was during the supposed golden age of public funding in the 1960s. Such spending has increased at a much faster rate than government spending in general. For example, the military’s budget is about 1.8 times higher today than it was in 1960, while legislative appropriations to higher education are more than 10 times higher.

In other words, far from being caused by funding cuts, the astonishing rise in college tuition correlates closely with a huge increase in public subsidies for higher education. If over the past three decades car prices had gone up as fast as tuition, the average new car would cost more than $80,000.

Some of this increased spending in education has been driven by a sharp rise in the percentage of Americans who go to college. While the college-age population has not increased since the tail end of the baby boom, the percentage of the population enrolled in college has risen significantly, especially in the last 20 years. Enrollment in undergraduate, graduate and professional programs has increased by almost 50 percent since 1995. As a consequence, while state legislative appropriations for higher education have risen much faster than inflation, total state appropriations per student are somewhat lower than they were at their peak in 1990. (Appropriations per student are much higher now than they were in the 1960s and 1970s, when tuition was a small fraction of what it is today.)

As the baby boomers reached college age, state appropriations to higher education skyrocketed, increasing more than fourfold in today’s dollars, from $11.1 billion in 1960 to $48.2 billion in 1975. By 1980, state funding for higher education had increased a mind-boggling 390 percent in real terms over the previous 20 years. This tsunami of public money did not reduce tuition: quite the contrary.

For example, when I was an undergraduate at the University of Michigan in 1980, my parents were paying more than double the resident tuition that undergraduates had been charged in 1960, again in inflation-adjusted terms. And of course tuition has kept rising far faster than inflation in the years since: Resident tuition at Michigan this year is, in today’s dollars, nearly four times higher than it was in 1980.

State appropriations reached a record inflation-adjusted high of $86.6 billion in 2009. They declined as a consequence of the Great Recession, but have since risen to $81 billion. And these totals do not include the enormous expansion of the federal Pell Grant program, which has grown, in today’s dollars, to $34.3 billion per year from $10.3 billion in 2000.

It is disingenuous to call a large increase in public spending a “cut,” as some university administrators do, because a huge programmatic expansion features somewhat lower per capita subsidies. Suppose that since 1990 the government had doubled the number of military bases, while spending slightly less per base. A claim that funding for military bases was down, even though in fact such funding had nearly doubled, would properly be met with derision.

Interestingly, increased spending has not been going into the pockets of the typical professor. Salaries of full-time faculty members are, on average, barely higher than they were in 1970. Moreover, while 45 years ago 78 percent of college and university professors were full time, today half of postsecondary faculty members are lower-paid part-time employees, meaning that the average salaries of the people who do the teaching in American higher education are actually quite a bit lower than they were in 1970.

By contrast, a major factor driving increasing costs is the constant expansion of university administration. According to the Department of Education data, administrative positions at colleges and universities grew by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, which Bloomberg reported was 10 times the rate of growth of tenured faculty positions.

Even more strikingly, an analysis by a professor at California Polytechnic University, Pomona, found that, while the total number of full-time faculty members in the C.S.U. system grew from 11,614 to 12,019 between 1975 and 2008, the total number of administrators grew from 3,800 to 12,183 — a 221 percent increase.

The rapid increase in college enrollment can be defended by intellectually respectable arguments. Even the explosion in administrative personnel is, at least in theory, defensible. On the other hand, there are no valid arguments to support the recent trend toward seven-figure salaries for high-ranking university administrators, unless one considers evidence-free assertions about “the market” to be intellectually rigorous.

What cannot be defended, however, is the claim that tuition has risen because public funding for higher education has been cut. Despite its ubiquity, this claim flies directly in the face of the facts.

Source: NYTs

Editor’s Note: Paul F. Campos is a law professor at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and the author of “Don’t Go to Law School (Unless).”

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Law Schools and Industry Show Signs of Life, Despite Forecasts of Doom

Law school enrollment has plummeted to the lowest level in decades. If a bottom has been reached, is now a good time to go to law school?

Some say no — not now and possibly never. The legal market, they argue, has fundamentally changed, meaning that many of the legal jobs of years past are gone forever.

Several new studies, however, point to signs of vigorous life in the legal job market, at least toward the higher end.

First, it needs to be recognized that the recent decline in law school enrollment is partly a problem of the schools’ own making. Some law schools have fudged the numbers on graduates’ employment to manipulate The U.S. News and World Report annual rankings. At the same time, there has been a growing awareness of law school graduates who have no job but a mountain of student debt. It is hardly surprising that there has been intense criticism from blogs and other outlets.

Students fled, and law school enrollment plummeted. In 2010, enrollment peaked at 52,488 before falling to 37,924 this year, a 27.7 percent decrease, according to the American Bar Association. Here is where it starts to look a bit better for law schools.

Early figures show that applications for this year may be stabilizing. Prof. Brian Leiter of the University of Chicago Law School predicts a “bottom.” Applicationsare down only 2.9 percent so far this year from last year, according to the Law School Admissions Council, and it seems as if the law school entry class is likely to stabilize around 37,000 students — or back to 1970s levels.

The smaller classes will begin graduating this year and continue to shrink through 2018. Fewer lawyers are likely to mean better first-job numbers, assuming the employment market does not keep declining.

And indeed, green shoots can be seen in the legal industry.

The top global law firms ranked in the annual AmLaw 100 survey experienced a 4.3 percent increase in revenue in 2013 and a 5.4 percent increase in profit. Bigger firms are hiring. Above the Law, a website for lawyers, recently reported a rising trend for lateral moves for lawyers in New York.

At the top law schools, things are returning to the years before the financial crisis. Last year, 93.2 percent of the 645 students of the Georgetown Law class of 2013 were employed. Sixty percent of the 2013 graduates were in the private sector with a median starting salary of $160,000. The top 10 schools have even higher employment rates for the class of 2010, and employment statistics for 2014 are expected to rise. (Full disclosure: I teach at one of those top 10 schools and so am biased here.)

This is not to say that things are all rosy. The National Association for Law Placement found that in 2013, only 86.4 percent of law school graduates were still in school or had a job, down from a 25-year high of 91.9 percent in 2010. The association also noted a shift in employment from big firm jobs to lower-paid jobs at small firms as well as to jobs that did not require a law degree.

A new study, however, provides a compelling reason to be optimistic about a career in law. Two professors, Frank McIntyre and Michael Simkovic, recently released a study of lawyer salaries from 1984 to 2013 with the goal of seeing whether students who graduated in a down economy suffered long-term negative effects.

Continue reading the main story

The co-authors found that unemployment in a bad economy hit lawyers in the first four years of their career, lowering the amount of money they made relative to similarly educated people who did not go to law school. Yet law salaries can climb rapidly. In another paper, the two authors found that such acceleration in compensation results in a premium of $1 million for lawyers over their lifetime compared with those who did not go to law school. Based on this growth and the ability to eventually find lucrative employment, the two authors found that over a 30-year period, the hit from early unemployment and a bad economy fades as times get better and graduates gain experience. Indeed, the lawyers caught up so much that the two found that “timing” law school — starting law school in a bad or good economy — did not matter.

Another study released last fall by the American Bar Foundation supports the authors’ findings. The foundation’s After the JD project surveyed lawyers who passed the bar in 2000 to assess their career trajectory 10 years after graduation. The foundation found that as of 2012, lawyers had high levels of job satisfaction and employment as well as high salaries. Even graduates with low grades from low-ranked law schools had median incomes in the $85,000 to $95,000 range. This follows the fact that law firm salaries have risen by more than inflation since 1995, according to the National Association for Law Placement.

Even as signs point toward improvement, forecasts of doom for law schools continue to emerge. Dorothy A. Brown, an Emory law professor, recently wrotethat “law schools are in a death spiral” and that “in three years, a top law school will close.”

Her solution is to turn away from legal scholarship and reduce professor research budgets to further lower tuition.

Never mind the fact that not a single law school has closed so far or that law schools have been racing to shed professors and staff as well as tuition. The University of Iowa, Roger Williams University, Brooklyn Law School, Pace University, Penn State and others have cut tuition, while faculty buyouts have become more frequent. Sticker price discounts on even reduced tuition are common.

Law schools have tremendous survival tendencies. I have a bet with Jordan Weissmann at Slate that not a single law school will close. So far, we have had one merger — between William Mitchell College of Law and Hamline University School of Law — which satisfies Mr. Weissmann of Slate that he has won the bet. But there have been no real closures. And so, while my crystal ball is as good as anyone’s, I’m still betting there will be no such closures, and certainly none by top law schools.

The most compelling argument against going to law school is a structural one. Yes, the job market goes in cycles and we may be at the beginning of an upswing, but, the argument goes, the market itself has been transformed.

For one, corporate in-house legal teams are growing, replacing the work that outside firms once did. Microsoft, for example, has more than 500 in-house lawyers. More significant, automation is hurting small practitioners and eating up the bread-and-butter work of big firms, like discovery review.

Big firms are quite profitable, but in exchange for the profitability, there is more hard work and uncertainty about job security, even for partners.

Still, it is hard to see lawyers going away in the United States economy. Whether or not you like it, their importance is greater now in terms of filling needs for compliance and regulation.

So, there will be disruptions, but this is likely to be a case of lawyers shifting from law firms to corporate departments and compliance becoming its own industry. Solo practice, meanwhile, will become more difficult because of automation. Again, these changes are likely to hit students at lower-tier schools harder than those graduating from the top schools.

Twenty years from now, whether the economy is up or down, there will still be lawyers, and plenty of them.

Source: NYTs

Posted in ABA, Career, Debt, Department of Education, Economy, Education, Legal Education, Student Loans

Health Care Systems Try to Cut Costs by Aiding the Poor and Troubled

MARCH 22, 2015

MINNEAPOLIS — Jerome Pate, a homeless alcoholic, went to the emergency room when he was cold. He went when he needed a safe place to sleep. He went when he was hungry, or drunk, or suicidal.

“I’d go sometimes just to have a place to be,” he said.

He made 17 emergency room visits in just four months last year, a costly spree that landed him in the middle of an experiment to reinvent health care for the hardest-to-help patients here in Hennepin County.

More than 11 million Americans have joined the Medicaid rolls since the major provisions of the Affordable Care Act went into effect, and health officials are searching for ways to contain the costs of caring for them. Some of the most expensive patients have medical conditions that are costly no matter what. But a significant share of them — so-called super utilizers like Mr. Pate — rack up costs for avoidable reasons. Many are afflicted with some combination of poverty, homelessness, mental illness, addiction and past trauma.

A patchwork of experiments across the country are trying to better manage these cases. The Center for Health Care Strategies, a policy center in New Jersey, has documented such efforts in 26 states. Some are run by private insurers and health care providers, while others are part of broader state overhaul efforts. The federal government is supporting some, too, through its $10 billion Innovation Center, set up under the Affordable Care Act.

They raise a new question for the health care system: What is its role in tackling problems of poverty? And will addressing those problems save money?

“We had this forehead-smacking realization that poverty has all of these expensive consequences in health care,” said Ross Owen, a county health official who helps run the experiment here. “We’d pay to amputate a diabetic’s foot, but not for a warm pair of winter boots.”

Now health systems around the nation are trying to buy the boots, metaphorically speaking. In Portland, Ore., health outreach workers help patients get driver’s licenses and give them essentials, such as bus tickets, blankets, calendars and adult diapers. In New York, medical teams are trained to handle eviction notices like medical emergenciesIn Philadelphia, community health workers shop for groceries with diabetic patients

“This is a holy grail in research right now,” said John Vu, a vice president at Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest insurers and care providers in the country. Kaiser has about two dozen projects in the United States, including in Denver, where medical teams screen for food insecurity.

Here in Hennepin, a fist-shaped county that encompasses Minneapolis, the pilot program is focused on about 10,000 people — mostly men, all poor, some homeless — who were covered when the state expanded Medicaidunder the Affordable Care Act. It is paid for with state and federal Medicaid dollars and run by the county government and the safety-net hospital.

The aim is to fix patients’ problems before they become expensive medical issues, so the county put its social services department to work. Its workers help people get phones and mailboxes, and take care of unpaid utility bills that otherwise could lead, for example, to insulin spoiling in nonfunctioning refrigerators. The project has even invested in a place where inebriated patients can sober up instead of going to the emergency room.

The idea — to eliminate avoidable hospital use — went against years of economic habit. Hospitals make money by charging per visit and procedure, and fewer of both would dent revenues. So the state offered a carrot: The hospital, Hennepin County Medical Center, a series of gray buildings and glass walkways, would be paid a fixed amount per patient and it would get to keep the money even if patients did not show up, or used less medical care than was paid for. The pilot program would work on caring for patients in places outside the hospital that are cheaper.

The arrangement, a stark departure from past practice, is increasingly common, part of the changes wrought by the health care law. The federal government has made similar deals with health systems for Medicarepatients.

Some early experiments have found little or no savings in the short term. But in Hennepin County, medical costs have fallen on average by 11 percent per year since 2012 when the pilot program began, enough to keep it going and the hospital involved. Some of the biggest cost reductions were among the more than 250 patients who were placed into permanent housing.

The future of such efforts is uncertain. For programs that work to actually take root, more states and insurance companies may need to expand what they are willing to cover, for example, housing assistance, said Allison Hamblin, an expert at the Center for Health Care Strategies.

And it is unclear if private health systems — which have little experience in taking care of social needs and still make most of their money per procedure — will be as enthusiastic as Hennepin County Medical Center.

“We often hear comments that amount to ‘Are you asking me to fight the war on poverty?’ ” said Kelly W. Hall, a senior vice president at Health Leads, a nonprofit organization that helps medical teams connect patients to social services. “But doing nothing is ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ when it comes to the realities of patients’ lives. People aren’t comfortable with that either.”

Mr. Pate, 51, came to the Hennepin County hospital’s emergency room last summer complaining of chest pains and thoughts of suicide. His arrival flickered on the screen of a social worker, Cerenity Petracek. She marched out to the emergency room to meet him.

“I was thinking ‘Who is this person?’ ” Mr. Pate recalled, noting that she was not wearing a doctor’s coat. “How’s she supposed to help me?”

She spent over an hour with him and learned that he was homeless and addicted to cocaine and alcohol. She called around, found a treatment program that would accept him, helped him fill out the paperwork and then put him in a car to make sure he got there. A doctor later diagnosed a major heart blockage.

For the hardest-to-reach patients, there are outreach workers in the community. Such positions have been rare in health care because neither Medicare nor Medicaid would cover them. But the Affordable Care Act has opened up new ways to do so.

On a frigid morning in February, Prugh Jose, 42, a soft-spoken homeless man suffering from alcoholism and anxiety, called T.J. Redig, an outreach worker who was part of his medical team. Mr. Redig — who wears stylish wool hats and writes novels in his spare time — has a friendly, easygoing manner that earned Mr. Jose’s trust.

Mr. Jose needed to get to the clinic for an appointment about his seizures(from a head injury on a construction job) but had forgotten the time for it. He had not eaten since the previous morning. His ex-wife offers him a couch when he can contribute food, but he had none, and spent the night outside.

“It was cold last night, Prugh,” said Mr. Redig, 29, steering his dented green Pontiac onto the Interstate. He has even picked up Mr. Jose from the highway overpass where he panhandles.

“Yeah, really cold,” Mr. Jose said. “I went to see my buddies and stuff, but no one opened up.”

By the time Mr. Jose got to the clinic, he had missed his appointment. But he was gaining things that could help prevent an emergency later. A community health worker gave him a bag of food: frozen chicken, cereal and canned fruit. The receptionist handed him apple juice, which he used to take anti-seizure pills.

“Better,” he said, after a long swig.

Posted in ACA, Health, Medicare, Medicine, Technology

Tightening labor markets pressure healthcare to up wages

By Bob Herman | March 26, 2015
Healthcare increasingly will face the type of wage pressure other
sectors of the U.S. economy already have experienced, labor market
experts predict.

Signs of the building pressure already have begun to emerge. Health
insurer Aetna said in January that all its employees will earn at
least $16 an hour starting in April. That’s more than double the
federal minimum wage of $7.25, which has not been raised since 2009.

A hospital system in Dallas raised hourly wages last year for some of
its employees to $10.25 funded through executive bonuses.

Those follow examples of employers in other sectors of the economy
also raising wages where the pool of available workers does not match
their demand for new employees.
Retail giant Wal-Mart Stores grabbed the attention of the U.S. labor
market in February after it raised the minimum wage of its employees
to $9 an hour this year and $10 an hour by early 2016.

Roughly one week after Wal-Mart’s move, retailer TJX
Companies—corporate parent of T.J. Maxx, Marshalls and HomeGoods—made
a near-identical announcement. All TJX workers will make $9 an hour by
June and $10 an hour next year. Last week, Target Corp. became the
latest company to increase the wage floor for its employees.

It’s all happening because segments of the labor market are
tightening. That encourages employers such as Aetna and Wal-Mart to
raise wages to grab the best workers. Healthcare organizations in
particular may “feel like soon, if not now, they are going to have to
offer higher wages to attract and retain the most qualified workers,”
said Elise Gould, director of health policy research at the liberal
Economic Policy Institute.

Healthcare is one of the few industries in which there are more job
openings than unemployed workers. Gould analyzed March data from the
U.S. Labor Department’s Job Openings and Labor Turnover survey and
from the Census Bureau, and discovered healthcare and social
assistance jobs are slightly more plentiful than the number of
healthcare workers to fill them. That could create a worker shortage
in some areas.

Compare that to the construction industry, where there are about six
workers for every job. “Healthcare is one of those fields that has
continually added jobs,” Gould said.

Home-care workers have warned about a staffing crisis in their
profession if paychecks aren’t raised. The median annual income of
home-health and personal-care aides is about $13,000 after adjusting
for taxes and other factors. Because the senior population is growing
significantly, home-care companies are on the hot seat to bump up
wages to prevent their employees from flocking to other jobs, workers
contend.

But home-care companies, which have faced steep Medicare cuts over the
past few years under the Affordable Care Act, may be unlikely to
voluntarily increase their payroll costs in the immediate future. In
January, a federal judge struck down a Labor Department rule that
would have required home-care employers to pay workers higher wages
and overtime—a ruling that the industry’s trade group cheered.

This week in Washington, home-care workers held a town hall meeting
advocating for $15 an hour, a figure that fast-food workers and other
low-income earners also have been demanding.

“No one who works a full-time job should have to live in poverty,”
U.S. Labor Secretary Thomas Perez said at this week’s rally. “America
is experiencing a home-care crisis, and unless home-care workers
receive higher pay, we won’t be able to meet the long-term needs of
either caregivers or our aging population.”

Attracting talent is not the only impetus behind boosting salaries,
said Gary Burtless, an economist at the Brookings Institution who has
worked at the Labor Department. Companies also want to save time and
money that is wasted on training new hires who ultimately quit. Aetna
CEO Mark Bertolini said at a January healthcare conference that
raising wages would partially offset the $120 million in turnover
costs it accrues every year.

“Most of these companies are motivated by the desire to reduce that
turnover rate to a number that is more affordable to them,” Burtless
said.

Some researchers suggest upping wages isn’t just a sound business
decision; it also benefits public health. For example, Paul Leigh, a
health economist at University of California, Davis, and a colleague
found “negatively and strongly statistically significant effects of
wages on hypertension,” especially for women. He’s also conducted work
that found low pay is more likely to increase the prevalence of
obesity.

Because healthcare represents about one-sixth of the U.S. economy,
Leigh said it would “be nice to have some of that spread around” to
the low-wage earners such as aids, orderlies and nursing assistants.
“If there’s one thing that helps so many of us, it’s a thriving
economy, a booming labor market,” Leigh said. “That’s great for
economic health and public health.”

Despite the tightening job market and falling unemployment rate,
take-home pay for most low- and moderate-income Americans has not
budged much in recent years. The average hourly earnings of
nonsupervisory employees were $20.80 in February 2015, according to
the most recent Labor Department statistics. That was about 1.6%
higher than the same period last year. For the health services and
education sector, average hourly earnings were $21.93, or a 1.8% wage
growth rate.

About Author Bob Herman
Bob Herman covers the health insurance industry and other healthcare
news. Before joining Modern Healthcare in 2014, he covered hospital
finance as a reporter and editor at Becker’s Hospital Review. He has a
bachelor’s degree from Butler University in Indianapolis

Posted in Department of Labor, Economy, Healthcare, Public Health, Wage
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