Ethan Haines Hunger Strike

Law School Transparency has no official relationship with Mr. Haines and has neither endorsed nor encouraged any supporter to engage in a hunger strike. That said, his personal decision to engage in a hunger strike demonstrates the seriousness of the issue and the growing demand for law schools to improve their disclosure practices.

You can read commentary below. We will periodically update the links.

Above of the Law
Legal Insurrection
But I did Everything Right!
Shilling Me Softly
Huffington Post Blog | Huffington Post
Simple Justice
Inside Higher Ed (general article)
ABA Journal

Links Updated 8/9/2010 8:50 Pacific.

UPDATE: Ethan Haines’s identity revealed in the August 24th USA TODAY. Skepticism about the hunger strike continues after Shilling Me Softly wrote two posts (here and here) detailing her circumstances.

FINAL UPDATE: The hunger strike is over.

Law Schools Are on Notice

Today, we officially requested that law schools commit to complying with LST’s new standard for employment reporting. This email was sent to every ABA-approved and provisionally-approved law school’s dean, admissions department, and career services department. It was accompanied by the LST Standard’s tentative guidelines, sample lists, a short essay on the benefits of the new standard, sample discussion about LST, and the press release we’ve distributed.

Attention Deans and Directors:

Law School Transparency (“LST”) is a Tennessee non-profit corporation dedicated to encouraging and facilitating the transparent flow of law school employment information. Pursuant to this goal, we respectfully request that your law school commit to complying with LST’s new standard for employment reporting.

The current ABA and U.S. News employment reporting standards are seriously limited by their form and substance. These standards aggregate employment outcomes, overemphasize certain portions of the class, and make it difficult to answer meaningful questions about employment prospects. The most important features of our standard help resolve these deficiencies. We arrived at the standard’s features by considering the interests of law school administrators, employers, and students, and balanced those concerns with legitimate consumer expectations. In doing so, we have taken special care to ensure that law schools are capable of complying with the new standard without introducing too many new administrative costs.

Starting with the Class of 2010, we request that your school report to LST two lists with data about every graduate as of February 15, 2011. We formulated the list components with strong consideration to the data law schools already collect about a very large percentage of graduates. Your school already reports seven of the nine unique components to NALP. The two additional components – “Salary Source” and “Journal Status” – require minimal adaptation. To further reduce compliance costs, our standard requests data for graduates from the same time period, and as of the same date, as the ABA, NALP, and U.S. News request.

Job List
1. Employer Type
2. Employer Name
3. Position
4. Credentials
5. Full-Time / Part-Time
6. Office Location (City, State, Country)
7. Salary Source
8. Journal

Salary List
1. Employer Type
2. Office Location (City, State, Country)
3. Full-Time / Part-Time
4. Salary

Attached to this request are tentative guidelines for fairly, accurately, and uniformly reporting data under our standard. The guidelines will be finalized by November 15, 2010. Until then, we reserve the right to clarify how your school can best fill out each component. The finalized 2010 guidelines will serve as The Official LST Standard; compliance with The Official LST Standard will authorize your law school to use our certification mark. LST will not charge law schools a fee for Mark certification.

LST asks that your office respond to within sixty (60) days of delivery. During the interim period, we encourage you to consult with your administration, your students, your alumni, and other law schools. If you decide not to commit to disclosing according to the LST Standard, we respectfully request that you provide your reasons for declining to disclose. We recognize that not all schools will share our view that there is a need for greater transparency. If your school disagrees with our position, we would like to have an open, on-the-record dialogue to debate the merits of our respective positions.

Our website – www.lawschooltransparency.com – will be updated at the end of the 60-day period with a summary of the responses we received, broken down by school. We will educate the public with what we learned from each law school, including correspondence that aids prospective students and the legal profession as they try to distinguish among schools by their reactions to this request. As a reminder, we reserve the right to publish any of our correspondence with your law school.

We look forward to hearing from your law school by September 10, 2010. In the meantime, please send any comments or concerns to .

Sincerely,

Patrick J. Lynch, J.D.
Co-Founder

Kyle McEntee
Co-Founder

LST and its administrators operate independently of any legal institutions, legal employers, or academic reports related to the legal market. This email was sent to each ABA-approved and provisionally-approved law school’s dean, admissions department, and career services department.

Deferral treatment under the LST standard

We’ve received excellent feedback over the last month. One aspect not covered in our paper, but discussed by our readers, is how we plan to handle deferred graduates. A recent NALP report indicates that the deferral phenomenon is widespread, affecting graduates at all sorts of schools across the United States.

In a comment on this site, we touched on our treatment of graduates that have not started as of our February 15 reporting date. We responded to a commenter’s worry that employer information released by one school, Vanderbilt, did not match up with a particular law firm’s website as of a particular date. As confirmed by a later commenter – we are currently trying to verify this independently – this is because the firm deferred the graduate to fall 2010. Our response illustrates the decision we made to count deferred graduates as employed graduates in congruence with NALP’s policy for 2009 graduates. We tackle the separate issue of whether we should indicate when a firm deferred a graduate in a later post. Here, we explain the decision to count them as employed when they may never begin working.

See more after the jump »»

Are Schools Capable of Producing These Lists?

There’s been skepticism about whether schools are even capable of collecting the data covered by our standard. As we will show in this post, and contrary to that skepticism about whether schools can tell the whole story, schools already do a good job with reporting to NALP. We don’t need to improve collection efforts to be successful (though that would be nice); our goal can be reached by persuading schools to release the currently available data.

Of the eight unique components across the Job List and Salary List, ABA-approved law schools already collect six directly about students: Employer Type, Office Location, Employer Name, Bar Passage Required/Preferred/Neither, Full-time/Part-time, and Salary. However, just because NALP collects these data from schools doesn’t mean schools have data for every graduate. Reporting percentages vary for each component.

According to the latest information on NALP’s website, for the class of 2007, NALP-reporting schools reported employment outcome data for at least 40,416 of 41,707 law school graduates (a 96.9% reporting rate). Although schools could do a better job at tracking everyone down every year, we are not concerned about whether schools or graduates are to blame for that other 4.1%. We are looking at the graduates for which NALP already collects substantial data. We seek the abovementioned components because they are both important and well-documented by schools already.
See the data after the jump »»

Components of the LST Standard

Thanks to everyone who has contacted us over the last week to voice support. We’ve tried to keep up with all of the comments popping up on sites like Above The Law and the ABA Journal, but because we want to centralize the discussion we are going to respond as often as we can here at LST. Many of you are raising important issues about various parts of this project, and we want your voices to be heard. All stakeholders should have the chance to comment and be taken seriously, and since we are moving through this process rather quickly it makes sense to address as many concerns as we can now.

Our article is long, so we do not expect everyone to read it. However, we think it’s important to highlight why the proposed standard looks like it does for those of you who don’t have the time to read the article. We expect and want your criticism. The components of this standard are, at the moment, fluid, so it’s going to take a lot of discussion to be sure that the standard is optimized for wide-scale adoption. In the coming weeks we will discuss each component in greater detail, addressing your concerns along with the ones we outline in our article.

The LST standard actually calls for two distinct lists, not just one. Both of these lists are anonymous; graduates’ names are purposely left out of the picture. In fact, if we receive names from you we will redact them. The design of the two lists also ensures that people cannot link rows together (except in somewhat rare situations). This protects the privacy of employers who are not registered on NALP and/or don’t publish starting salaries. Separating salary out from other identifiable information also protects the privacy of individual graduates who don’t want their jobs lined up with salaries. The central goal is that both lists account for every graduate in a class for a particular graduation year, no matter what they do (or don’t do). As has been reported in the press, the most important quality of the new standard is that it does not hide outcomes in aggregate forms like the current ABA and U.S. News standards.

Without further ado, here are the two lists we’ve been talking about:

Job List
1. Employer Type
2. Employer Name
3. Position
4. Credentials
5. Full-Time / Part-Time
6. Office Location (City, State, Country)
7. Salary Source
8. Journal

Salary List
1. Employer Type
2. Office Location (City, State, Country)
3. Full-Time / Part-Time
4. Salary

So what happens if a graduate is unemployed or pursuing another degree? The individual’s row should indicate this in the “Employer Type” field. We will explain the guidelines in greater detail in a later post (UPDATED: view guidelines here).

As always, your comments and concerns are greatly important and appreciated.

A Way Forward

Update: We have submitted our article to a number of law reviews and posted a working draft to SSRN. The article will hopefully spark some discussion in academia as we move forward to implement our new standard. Please send us your comments.

A Way Forward: Improving Transparency in Employment Reporting at American Law Schools
The decision to attend law school in the 21st century requires an increasingly significant financial investment, yet very little information about the value of a legal education is available for prospective law students. Prospectives use various tools provided by schools and third parties while seeking to make an informed decision about which law school to attend. This Article surveys the available information with respect to one important segment of the value analysis: post-graduation employment outcomes.

One of the most pressing issues with current access to information is the ability to hide outcomes in aggregate statistical forms. Just about every tool enables this behavior, which, while misleading, often complies with the current ABA and U.S. News reporting standards. In this Article, we propose a new standard for employment reporting grounded in compromise. Our hope is that this standard enables prospectives to take a detailed, holistic look at the diverse employment options from different law schools. In time, improved transparency at American law institutions can produce generations of lawyers who were better informed about the range of jobs obtainable with a law degree.