Winter 2012 Transparency Index Report

Today, we’re releasing a new feature on our website. The Transparency Index is an index of every ABA-approved law school website. It measures how transparent law schools are on their websites about their post-graduation outcomes for the class of 2010. From January 1, 2012 to January 3, 2012, the LST team analyzed and documented every site using 19 criteria chosen after contemplating what matters to a prospective law student looking to invest three years and a lot of money in a professional degree. The results from this period are LST’s Winter 2012 Transparency Index.

The Transparency Index is not a ranking system. It would not be very meaningful to rank a school by the number of criteria met because different criteria vary in importance. In other words, just because one school meets more criteria than another school does not mean that the first school is more transparent than the second.

It is also important to note that law school websites are fluid and that schools may respond to external stimuli, including LST’s official request for school NALP reports, by improving their web disclosure policies. In fact, some schools may have improved public employment information shortly after our data collection dates.

Over the next few weeks, we will make the Transparency Index more user friendly and update school information when we learn of the updates. Meanwhile, we encourage law schools to learn from the index, to update their websites with the TIQ Criteria in mind, and to alert us when they do so.

Full report is available here.
Winter 2012 Data is available here.
Live Transparency Index is here.

Executive Summary

As a new year unfolds and the debate about legal education reform continues, efforts in furtherance of law school transparency remain critical. While transparency of law schools’ post-graduation employment data will not solve all of legal education’s problems, it can put pressure on the current law school model and thereby act as a catalyst for broader legal education reform. This is true whether it occurs through the process of seeking transparency or because of the information that such disclosure ultimately reveals.

Having had their long-standing practice of withholding basic consumer information called into question, law schools have responded with new attempts at disclosure in advance of the ABA’s new requirements. Adequate disclosure should be easy to achieve; law schools have possessed ample information, in an easy publishable format, for many months. But as the findings of this report show, the vast majority of U.S. law schools are still hiding critical information from their applicants.

This report reflects LST’s analysis of the class of 2010 employment information available on ABA-approved law school websites in early January 2012. The Winter 2012 Index reveals a continued pattern of consumer-disoriented activity. Our chief findings are as follows:

  • 27% (54/197) do not provide any evaluable information on their websites for class of 2010 employment outcomes. Of those 54 schools, 22 do not provide any employment information on their website whatsoever. The other 32 schools demonstrate a pattern of consumer-disoriented behavior.
  • 51% of schools fail to indicate how many graduates actually responded to their survey. Response rates provide applicants with a way to gauge the usefulness of survey results, a sort of back-of-the-envelope margin of error. Without the rate, schools can advertise employment rates north of 95% without explaining that the true employment rate is unknown, and likely lower.
  • Only 26% of law schools indicate how many graduates worked in legal jobs. 11% indicate how many were in full-time legal jobs. Just 1% indicate how many were in full-time, long-term legal jobs.
  • 17% of schools indicate how many graduates were employed in full-time vs. part-time jobs. 10% indicate how many were employed in long-term vs. short-term jobs. 10% of schools report how many graduates were employed in school-funded jobs.
  • 49% of schools provide at least some salary information, but the vast majority of those schools (78%) provide the information in ways that mislead the reader.

Taken together, these and other findings illustrate how law schools have been slow to react to calls for disclosure, with some schools conjuring ways to repackage employment data to maintain their images. Our findings play into a larger dialogue about law schools and their continued secrecy against a backdrop of stories about admissions data fraud, class action lawsuits, and ever-rising education costs. These findings raise a red flag as to whether schools are capable of making needed changes to the current, unsustainable law school model without being compelled to through government oversight or other external forces.

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