Why Involve Admissions Offices?

This week LST sent out our second request for more transparent employment information to all ABA approved and provisionally approved law schools. As with our first request, recipients included the career services office, admissions office, and dean’s office at each school. From the request:

This email was sent to the career services, admissions, and dean’s offices for every ABA approved and provisionally-approved law school.

Multiple admissions offices have informed us that we submitted the request to them in error, and that they were forwarding our request to career services. While we appreciate that they have taken some action regarding the request, their confusion about who received the request calls for a closer look at our intentions. This post explains why we continue to seek the involvement of admissions offices in bringing about reform.

Admissions offices are the public face of the law school for prospective students, charged with providing information and answering questions about the school. Increasingly, these questions reflect a concern in the market that law schools are not fairly reporting the employment information supplied by their graduates. Beyond being insufficient, the information presented in school-based publications (whether on a website or in pamphlets) can also be misleading. Given this risk, admissions offices need to be involved in our request for data because of their role in packaging information and distributing it to consumers.

As a general matter, the decision to comply with the LST Standard should be a school-wide decision. All three offices we contacted play a role in collecting and reporting employment statistics. The dean’s office oversees the entire law school, including at least some resource allocations. Career services offices are charged with helping students find gainful employment and collecting and reporting employment data. Admissions offices often decide which information to present to prospective students, and how to do it. Each office is obligated to perform tasks concerning employment statistics, and potential changes to their obligations should be of interest.

Informing more departments about LST’s request also lessens the risk that the discussion stalls. We want schools to have an internal debate about the merits of the LST Standard, having already learned that there is at least some internal conflict about the desirability of complying with our standard. As we noted in our report, career services are claiming the costs of reporting data under the LST Standard preclude a commitment, even though the costs are minimal. One department should not be able to stall consideration without giving other departments a chance to weigh in.

Finally, admissions offices care about their ability to recruit the best students each year, and engaging in discussions about the LST Standard can assist them in their efforts. LST’s short-term goal is to create a market premium in the recruiting process that rewards first movers until we can implement a uniform standard across all schools. This market premium favors schools that are more transparent about their employment statistics and disfavors schools that may provide misleading information. (From personal experience, some current Vanderbilt students have given Vanderbilt a bump for their disclosure policies.) If a competitor school chooses to comply with the LST Standard, admissions offices will care to the extent that it impacts their ability to recruit prospectives. Even absent LST compliance, some schools do a much better job at disclosing information than others. As consumers continue to learn about the ways information can be misleading, they are more likely to gauge schools based on their level of transparency.

As LST continues to discuss the merits of the LST Standard with law school administrators, we encourage our readers to contact your respective schools to express your concerns or support. Prospective students have approached a number of schools to ask for their stance on improving disclosure, and more requests will only emphasize the need for schools to develop an official response.

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