Each year, U.S. News collects data from almost every ABA-approved law school through an annual survey. As with prior years (Class of 2007 and 2008), we have collected Class of 2009 employment data and cost of attendance data in a spreadsheet for easy use and comparison. While there is a significant time lag—the data came out a few weeks ago for the graduates from nearly two years ago—the spreadsheet serves as one of just a few sources of employment information that prospectives can use to easily compare schools in a standardized fashion.
Also in accord with prior years, we added a few of our own metrics to help readers understand and compare data. These include (1) the percent of the graduating class represented by the private sector salary information and (2) the percent of the graduating class with a known salary.
These metrics show how much (or little) we know about salary outcomes from the salary information provided by using the U.S. News reporting standard. As it turns out, the touted salary medians are poor pictures of the graduating classes for the vast majority of schools. On average, the “median salary” represents what only 29% of private sector graduates made, or just 17% of the entire graduating class. The ABA will hopefully soon begin regulating these practices, ensuring that schools cannot advertise salary information without important qualifiers such as the percentage of all graduates included in salary figures.
This year, partially in an effort to better qualify the salary figures, U.S. News made important changes to the way it reports employment data collected from law schools. We reported back in December that changes were coming as a result of our discussions with Bob Morse, Director of Data Research at U.S. News, who implemented our ideas as we proposed. These changes will provide prospective students a more thorough picture of post-graduation outcomes from many ABA-approved law schools. Additionally, these changes will improve our data clearinghouse, since they allow us to eliminate most of our assumptions as we turn the data into more meaningful information.
For the most part, schools do a good job reporting data in the manner requested by U.S. News. That is, there are few discrepancies that cannot be explained by small rounding errors (where the percentages do not add up to 100 percent when they should) or schools misunderstanding the clerkship survey questions. But people should not assume that we are out of the woods. Reporting data according to the U.S. News standard is a separate achievement from presenting true, meaningful information that’s useful for prospectives trying to make informed decisions. The job characteristic data and LST’s new metrics demonstrate just how different the picture can be between how some schools present their data and the reality.
In the coming weeks, we will start a discussion about practices at some schools that may deserve the ABA’s attention. If you know of individual schools where Class of 2009 data evidences schools presenting information in a misleading manner, please do not hesitate to let us know.
Otherwise, a preliminary data review did find a few errors in the data reported for 2009 grads. We’ve already alerted Bob Morse about the errors and we have been told that corrections are on the way. Our spreadsheet fixes these errors and highlights other areas for concern.
LST’s Data Clearinghouse
We will soon release the newest installment of our data clearinghouse, once we are satisfied with the underlying data. The clearinghouse helps applicants visualize the data in a way that isn’t intuitively obvious. Many applicants have been using it to better understand school-specific employment information and to make better estimates about future job prospects. We expect it will be even more useful this year because it requires fewer assumptions and prospectives can trace how schools fared over the prior three years.
As always, the data clearinghouse will reflect only cleansed data. We have not and cannot audit the data for accuracy. In the meantime, if you spot any errors or have any comments, please do not hesitate to leave a comment here or email us at .