This post provides a short explanation for the “Salary Source” component of the LST standard. We added this component thanks to comments from our visitors, and it marks the most significant revision to the standard since we first published it in our white paper. It was included in LST’s first official request.
The “Salary Source” component distinguishes jobs based on who pays the graduate to work. Although most people (non-lawyers and lawyers alike) are paid directly by their employer, the entry-level job market for law school graduates has operated differently for some time. Sometimes graduates receive grants or fellowships from non-profits or governments, while law school-run programs can provide financial support directly to graduates.
These “bridge” programs provide recent graduates financial support to enable them to work on a volunteer or temp-to-perm basis. Bridge programs help graduates gain experience and network while they await permanent job openings or their bar exam results. Some law schools have been doing this since before the recent economic downturn, but many more are now realizing the benefits of spending to give graduates on-the-job training when the employers do not have the means or desire to pay. Above the Law has recently reported on the responses of some law schools to the legal hiring retraction by creating or boosting post-graduation fellowship programs.
These programs are criticized because they have direct consequences on the substance of what schools report about post-graduation outcomes. These commenters rightfully point out that these programs boost the “employed at graduation” and “employed at nine months” figures, but are wrong to criticize schools for counting them as they do. This goes directly to the main problem LST has identified: the standards dictate that schools report this way. However, the current standards do not require that this is the only way schools may provide information.
Perhaps the standards do incentivize schools to create the programs, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. These programs provide professional growth opportunities that students would not otherwise have. Any employment reporting standard should incentivize the creation of these opportunities. However, because standards other than LST’s proposed standard do not allow for gradation to distinguish between gainful and under employment, criticisms will persist.
LST hopes that shedding light on this non-traditional form of securing employment will help both schools and prospectives. The disclosure will hopefully encourage other schools to consider reallocating more funds towards direct financial support for graduates. Prospectives will also benefit, since they will know more about the path that graduates took to start their careers. Just as a student going into the private sector knows of the summer associate process, a student going into the public sector should know of his schools’ post-graduate support for public service initiatives. This important information should be available to prospective law students trying to make an informed decision about attending law school.