ABA House of Delegates Approves Standard 509 and Rule 16

Comment from LST’s executive director, Kyle McEntee:

Approval of the improved Standard 509 and Rule 16 represent an important step for law school transparency. I hope that the ABA vigorously pursues violations of Standard 509 and exacts serious, swift punishment on law schools that continue to seek unfair advantages over peer schools and prospective students. To date, no school has been punished for a violation of Standard 509, and it should be impossible for this continue.

Our work is not finished. The Interpretations need additional fine-tuning and the standard form schools will use pursuant to Standard 509(e) has significant flaws. We look forward to working with the Council to make those improvements in the coming months and years.

You can view the resolution here.

LST Requests Class of 2011 NALP Reports

Following our success in collecting NALP reports from schools last year, we are asking schools to now make their reports for the class of 2011 available.

For the class of 2010, we managed to collect 50 NALP reports. These reports helped us expand our data clearinghouse so that we could become the place to go for the most thorough and easy-to-compare employment information. This year, our goal is to double the number of reports we collect.

Even with the improvements to law school transparency, thanks to immense pressure on the ABA, these reports contain helpful data that schools are not required to be make public.

  • Salary Data (aggregated in categories)
  • Job Source (e.g., OCI, networking, direct mailings)
  • Job Offer Timing (before graduation, before bar results, after bar results)
  • Job Status (employed graduates who are still seeking or not seeking)
  • Job Region and Job States
  • Job Type Breakdowns by Employer Type (e.g., government JD Advantage)

Check out Seattle University School of Law’s Class of 2011 NALP report, which the school sent to us unprompted, to see what schools have to offer this year.

We hope that schools share our sense of urgency and help us put comparable employment information into the hands of consumers. Check out the full letter after the jump.

Continue reading LST Requests Class of 2011 NALP Reports

Rutgers – Camden School of Law’s Dean Stands by Marketing Campaign

This weekend we wrote about a recruitment letter sent by Rutgers – Camden School of Law’s admissions dean, Camille Andrews. We alleged that the letter contained incomplete, deceptive, and false information, and that as a result Dean Andrews should resign from her post and the ABA should conduct an investigation and bring appropriate sanctions against the law school.

In an article published in Inside Higher Ed, Camden’s Dean Rayman Solomon responded. Neither Dean Solomon nor Dean Andrews responded to us directly, and we have only the portions of Dean Solomon’s statements published by Inside Higher Ed:

Dean Rayman Solomon is standing by Andrews. Solomon said the recruitment material was accurate but that he’s “open to discussion” about the best way to reach prospective students going forward. The promotion in question targeted potential applicants who took the GMAT, not the LSAT, the typical law school admission test. The goal, Solomon said, was to reach a new audience and introduce the Rutgers-Camden program. Students could then go online to get more information.

“This was one letter saying are you interested, have you thought about it?” Solomon said. “This is not our entire marketing campaign. This is telling people that we have a program.”

But were the numbers misleading?

“I don’t know how to respond,” Solomon said. “If you have a hundred people, would four of them be misled? Would one be misled? Would 98 be misled? [It was] a piece that was designed to get people to think about something they hadn’t thought about. This wasn’t the only information they could get about it.”

We appear to agree with Dean Solomon on the purpose. The May 2012 letter was designed to get students to think about law school or a legal career who were not known to be interested in attending law school starting in August 2012. We bet we also agree on the following three points:

  • Camden waived the application fee to reduce the application barrier
  • Camden discussed employment outcomes to show its placement successes in a bad economy
  • Camden discussed salary outcomes and salary potential to inform the cost-benefit analysis of the campaign targets

However, we clearly disagree about whether Camden’s employment outcome claims adequately reflect reality and whether targeting people who had not yet expressed interest in law school was appropriate given the very short decision window and lack of knowledge about their professional goals.

Nevertheless, neither LST nor Camden knows the actual effect of the campaign on the letter recipients. Frankly it doesn’t matter whether many people or zero people enroll. We care about how Camden conducts itself in the law school marketplace; Camden unfairly used employment statistics to augment its argument that the law school is a safe haven from a bad economy. In this regard Camden crossed the ethical (and likely legal) line from mere puffery to deceptive advertising. These facts are troubling irrespective of whether prospective students are sophisticated, unsophisticated, or indifferent.

The brunt of Dean Solomon’s response is that this is but a single letter that isn’t a big deal and shouldn’t affect decision making. To that we ask, what could the employment statistics have been meant to do other than affect application and enrollment decisions? The letter was part of a recruitment campaign, not a teaser for a movie due out next summer. Camden should strive to have all of its communications with students be accurate and honest. Dean Solomon further states that the misinformation is okay because other information is out there. It would appear that he is saying “you should know not to take our statements at face value.” That’d be a pitiful position for a law school dean to take.

It’s not acceptable to provide prospective students with false and misleading information just because the truth is available somewhere else. Interpretation 509-4 to ABA Standard 509 clearly states that reporting consumer information accurately somewhere does not absolve a school’s responsibility to present such information in a fair and accurate manner elsewhere.

Interpretation 509-4
Standard 509 requires a law school fairly and accurately to report basic consumer information whenever and wherever that information is reported or published. A law school’s participation in the Council-designated publication referred to in Interpretation 509-2 and its provision of fair and accurate information for that book does not excuse a school from the obligation to report fairly and accurately all basic consumer information published in other places or for other purposes.

It’s worthwhile to emphasize that Dean Solomon disputed our analysis and not our numbers. He also said he is open to discussion. So are we, and we’ve sent him the following email:

We would like to know what specifically in our analysis you believe is incorrect.

1. Does the category “JD Advantage” include only jobs in the legal field?
2. If #1 is no, did any Camden graduates have a “JD Advantage” job not in the legal field? If so, how many?
3. Do you think the advertised private practice starting salary of $74,000 represents the average of all 2011 graduates employed in private practice?
4. How many graduates reported earning salaries of at least $130,000?
5. Do you believe the answer to #4 can fairly be described as “many”?
6. Are statements about employed graduates meaningful without disclosing how many non-employed graduates there are?

Please respond via email. If you do not have adequate information to answer any of these questions, please say so. In addition to the email, we would be happy to schedule a time to talk about the data, our analysis, Camden’s forthcoming remedial measures, and the internal policies Camden plans to adopt to prevent repeat violations of ABA Standard 509.

We reemphasize that the letter must stand on its own merits. This letter was intended to create a first impression with prospective students and paint in their minds a picture of financial security if they attend law school at Rutgers – Camden School of Law. Later discovering that the letter was deceptive does not erase the deception.

We will post a new story if/when Dean Solomon responds.

LST Calls for Dean’s Resignation and ABA Investigation

Last week we became aware of an ongoing recruiting campaign by Rutgers – Camden School of Law that targets students who were not considering law school. As a part of this campaign, Camille Andrews, Associate Dean of Enrollment, sent students an email with bold statements about the employment outcomes achieved by the class of 2011. When compared to the school’s self-published employment data, we see Dean Andrew’s statements range from misleading to plainly false. Because the statements made in this email are demonstrably deceptive and are in clear violation of ABA Standard 509, Dean Andrews should resign immediately from her administrative appointment.

There are two important layers to this story. First, Dean Andrews made unfair statements about the employment outcomes of Camden graduates. These statements exaggerate the successful outcomes of Camden graduates and attempt to influence student behavior. The realities of Camden’s placement are far different from what Dean Andrews discloses. (More on this below.)

Second, Camden has extended a special offer for people who haven’t followed the normal application process and haven’t expressed an interest in law school or legal practice. (The email recipients had taken the GMAT, not the LSAT.) The Camden Special allows the students to avoid delay and enroll this August. By portraying Camden as some down-economy safe haven that leads to status and riches, Dean Andrews is attempting to enroll the exact students who ought not to attend law school: people who have not had time to carefully weigh the pros and cons of this significant investment.

In addition to ensuring that Dean Andrews resigns, Camden must also take swift, corrective action in all cases where prospective students received emails containing these or similar false, misleading, or incomplete statements. We also call on the American Bar Association to conduct a full investigation and bring appropriate sanctions against the school for violations of the ABA Standards, especially Standard 509(a) and Interpretation 509-4. Not only is Camden an institute of higher learning, but it also serves as a gateway to the legal profession. The degree of recklessness displayed by Dean Andrews, and the Camden administration for permitting a representative to deceive potential students, cannot be tolerated. It’s the latest example of a law school having no accountability for its recruiting practices. These practices must stop.

What follows is an analysis of each unfair statement made by Dean Andrews. We can do this analysis because Camden has made the relevant employment data publicly available, though their accessibility does not excuse false, misleading, and incomplete statements that the administration should know leave readers with incorrect impressions. Each statement is itself a black eye for Rutgers — Camden School of Law, but it’s the cumulative effect of all of the statements and all of law school bad behavior that makes resignation, corrective action, and sanctions imperative.

Analysis of Statements by Dean Andrews for Rutgers – Camden School of Law

Camden Data
Click image to enlarge. Created from the data Camden provided on its website.

“[O]f those employed nine months after graduation, 90% were employed in the legal field”

This is problematic on two levels. First, it excludes non-employed graduates from the calculation to provide a false sense of success. There were 242 graduates in Camden’s 2011 graduating class. Of these, 199 were employed. Camden uses 199 as the denominator with no indication that it has excluded 17.8% of the class from the calculation. While the statement does disclose that it is “of those employed,” the number of unemployed graduates is so large that the statement requires context to avoid misrepresenting what it means. The advertised “90% of employed” actually only represents 74% of the whole class.

Second, “in the legal field” implies “as a lawyer,” yet Camden groups non-lawyers with lawyers to create the “in the legal field” category. Specifically, Camden has combined two distinct categories: jobs that require bar admission (154 grads) and jobs where the J.D. was an advantage (25 grads). The advertised “90% of employed” actually works out to 63.6% of the class in lawyer jobs, with another 10.6% in jobs where the J.D. was an advantage.

The “J.D. Advantage” category that Camden uses to boost its “in the legal field” rate includes jobs as paralegals, law school admissions officers, and a host of jobs not credibly considered “in the legal field.” A graduate falls into this category when the employer sought an individual with a J.D. (and perhaps even required a J.D.), or for which the J.D. provided a demonstrable advantage in obtaining or performing the job, but the job itself does not require bar passage, an active law license, or involve practicing law.

“[O]f those employed nine months after graduation . . . 90% were in full time positions.”

This likewise excludes non-employed graduates without indicating that 17.8% of the class has been excluded. Once again, 90% of employed actually means only 74% of the whole class.

“Our average starting salary for a 2011 graduate who enters private practice is in excess of $74,000, with many top students accepting positions with firms paying in excess of $130,000.”

There are a number of distinct problems with this statement. First, Camden does not accurately state what the average reflects. The average is “for a 2011 graduate who enters private practice and reported a salary” not “for a 2011 graduate who enters private practice.” This is not a trivial distinction. Only 46.6% of graduates in private practice reported a salary. Of those that did so, the numbers were slanted towards higher salaries at large firms. 83.3% of graduates at firms with 101 or more attorneys reported their salaries, while only 37.0% of those at smaller firms reported a salary. The low overall response rate and the bias towards higher salaries being reported mean that the average of responses is not the average “for a 2011 graduate who enters private practice.”

Second, Camden does not disclose the salary response rate. The private practice salary response rate (46.6%) indicates that private practice salaries don’t tell the whole story. The letter also does not state that only 24% of the class was in private practice. This means the “average starting salary” actually reflects the average salary for just 11.2% of the class. None of this was communicated to the recipients of Dean Andrews’ email.

Third, Camden uses the average salary figure without any statistical context. NALP, LST, and many other academics have belabored for many years about how average salaries tend to mislead more than inform. This is because reported salaries fall into a bimodal distribution. For the class of 2010 (across all law schools), there is one peak from $40,000 to $65,000, accounting for nearly half of reported salaries, and another distinct peak at $160,000. This bimodal distribution means that very few graduates make the mean salary of $84,111.

Based on the salary data Camden produces on its website, we see a similar distribution to the national picture across private practice salaries. There were 27 salaries provided; between 8 and 12 were above the $74,000 average by at least 30%; the rest were below the average, with 14 or more at least 20% below the average.

Fourth, Camden claims that many of its top students have accepted positions with firms paying “in excess of $130,000.” To be sure, “many” is ambiguous. It might reasonably mean 40% of the class, or even perhaps 20%. With the “top” qualifier, it might not even strain credibility to claim that 10% of the class constitutes “many” top students. Based on the published data, Camden knows that at most five graduates reported a salary of $130,000+, or 2.1% of the entire class. After analyzing the salary data in detail, we think just one graduate did. Whether it is one or five, “many” is far from accurate.

That said, we do know that eight graduates (or 3.3%) made at least $100,000. We also know that Camden grossly exaggerated the salary outcomes of its graduates right after exalting placement success and right before pointing out how its alumni are among the very richest of all lawyers. Of course, this is the same school that reported to U.S. News that its 2011 graduates had an average of only $27,423 in debt, even though the estimated total debt was well into the six figures for a New Jersey resident graduating in 2011 receiving no tuition discount. Fewer than a third (31.7%) of students received tuition discounts, with just 4.3% of students received more than a 50% discount on tuition.

“Rutgers is also ranked high in the nation at placing its students in prestigious federal and state clerkships.”

Like Camden, we only have the class of 2010 data to use to compare clerkship placement rankings. With federal clerkships, Camden does okay, tied for 33rd. In terms of percentage of students placed in federal clerkships, it’s as close to 16th place as it is to last (188th). Suffice it to say that this exaggeration caps off a legion of false, misleading, and incomplete information used to induce applicants who didn’t even take the LSAT.

Other Coverage

NYU Plays ‘Hide the Ball’ With Employment Data

New York University School of Law has decided to continue withholding valuable employment data from prospective students. After sending NYU a third request to publish its NALP report, we finally received a reply from Dean Ricky Revesz:

Thank you for your note. I expect you are aware that, since the end of last year, we have added a substantial amount of employment data to the NYU Law website. If there is more information that would be suitable and helpful for us to provide, we are happy to consider doing that. For example, we are now looking into posting data of the type found in Table 12 of the NALP form (Source of Job by Employer Type), since that would likely be of interest to prospective and current students. Please let me know if there is additional information that you think would be helpful for us to publish.

Our letter was quite clear about what would be helpful: NYU needs to publish its NALP report. It was a short letter and referenced the NALP report five times. (Read it here.) There is no other way to read any of our three requests and it’s insulting that Dean Revesz would feign ignorance while referencing the very report we requested.

We responded to Dean Revesz, repeating that we believe the entire NALP report should be published and noting what information NYU has not released (along with the sections of the NALP report that contain this information):

  • Full-time and part-time employment by required/preferred credentials (“FT/PT Jobs”)
  • Classification of business jobs (“Business Jobs”)
  • Position held in a law firm (“Type of Law Firm Job”)
  • When the job was obtained (“Timing of Job Offer”)
  • Salaries by job type (“Employment Status Known” and “Employment Categories”)
  • Salaries by location (“Jobs Taken by Region” and “Location of Jobs”)
  • Salaries by firm size (“Size of Firm”)

Dean Revesz’s response to our last communication was disappointing:

As I indicated in my last note to you, we will continue to add data to the area of our website that contains employment statistics.

We must read this to say that NYU has no plans to publish the additional information we have requested, even though it is of value to both the legal profession and law school applicants. The data NYU indicated it was “looking into” publishing 14 months after collection–the source of job by employer type–has not been added to NYU’s website despite more than another month passing. The immense intellectual, technological, and financial resources of NYU have proven unequal to the task of posting an 8×7 table.

(To see the data NYU knowingly withholds, check out our reconstruction of its NALP report in our data clearinghouse. Fields shown in dark gray represent information NYU possess but has not released.)

NYU to Professor Campos: Come at me, bro!

“Having trouble knowing what to believe? We have a proposal for Paul Campos: come audit our numbers. We’ll show you a list of all NLJ 250 firms to which we sent associates in 2010 and 2011. Pick a reasonably sized sample from that group, and compare them to firm-verifiable data. Then let us, and the world, know what you find.”NYU’s Rebuttal

Professor Paul Campos called in to question NYU’s biglaw placement rate, citing a discrepancy between the numbers reported by NYU and by the National Law Journal. NYU’s response was clear:

Come at me, bro!

Something about NYU’s response (I’m a 2008 grad) just didn’t sit right with me. It wasn’t the acerbic tone the rebuttal took. It was that Law School Transparency had already requested NYU be more open about its job placement rates. LST actually made that request twice, and we have renewed that request again today.

Like all-but-six law schools, NYU has in its possession, right now, a NALP report with detailed job placement statistics for the class of 2010. This report contains a wealth of information, including the size of firms students went to work at; salary information for a multitude of categories; if the jobs are full time or part time, permanent or temporary; what states they are in; if the job at a law firm is as a lawyer, a clerk, or a paralegal; if students found the jobs through OCI, a job posting, or went back to work at a pre-law school employer. It paints a very detailed picture of what happened to the class of 2010, but it’s a picture that NYU has decided to not let anyone else see.

That’s what makes NYU’s response to Professor Campos so strange.

NYU professes its openness, its honesty, its transparency. With one hand it extends an offer to verify that things are as it says they are, but with the other hand it folds up the numbers and locks them away. “Come audit our books…. But not those books!”

Having trouble knowing what to believe? We have a proposal for New York University: disclose your numbers. You’ll publish the employment data collected by NALP for the class of 2010 (and for 2011 when you receive that report this summer). Then let us, and the world, know what you already know.

Read the letter after the jump

National Jurist grades transparency; another school provides LST with its NALP report

In this month’s National Jurist, the magazine’s editors used the data from our Live Transparency Index to grade how transparent each law school website is. While we do not encourage or approve of ranking or grading schools based on the number of criteria met, because some criteria are more important than others, we did provide National Jurist with a spreadsheet of the data to ease their workload. These are the same data that were available on the Live Index as of the end of February 2012. As such, some schools have updated their websites since that time.

In other news, another school provided LST with its class of 2010 NALP report: St. Mary’s University. Over the next few weeks, we will be encouraging a letter writing campaign to convince other schools to provide us with their class of 2010 NALP reports. In the meantime, we are busy inputing the data from all NALP

Updates to the ABA Accreditation Standards

On Saturday (3/17), the Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education, will hold an open session to discuss a variety of topics. (Agenda here.) Most importantly, the Council has an action item on Standard 509, also known as the ABA’s consumer information standard. This standard sets the baseline requirements and operating principles for law school disclosure of consumer information.

Relevant Materials:
Standard 509 Clean Copy
Standard 509 Redlined Version
Conditional Scholarship Data Worksheet
Placement Data Worksheet
Placement Data Worksheet (Questionnaire Committee)

We have submitted a memo for the Council’s consideration. In this memo, we urge the Council to adopt the proposed Standard 509 with several small changes. To view the memo, click here for a PDF or view the entire text below the fold. We expect the Council to pass the proposed Standard 509. We hope that it consider integrating some of the changes before the vote, and that the other recommendations receive due consideration when the Council finalizes the two charts and charts’ directions.

Continue reading Updates to the ABA Accreditation Standards