Q&A at Concurring Opinions

Professor David Hoffman, from Temple Law School, asked us ten questions about Law School Transparency. (We learned to count from the Big 10, so we answered eleven.) He has posted our answers and some commentary over at Concurring Opinions.

Table of Contents

1. What’s the mission of LST? What are its main projects?
2. Do you regret going to law school? Why or why not?
3. Have you thought about the cost of the kind of transparency you think ought to be the norm?
4. Do law schools owe a different duty to potential students than do business schools, medical schools, dental schools, engineering schools, or plain vanilla PhD programs? If so, why? If not, have you looked at those entity’s data practices?
5. We often tell our students that a JD is a credential that strengthens marketability even for those students who don’t become lawyers. How can we best account for within-job career advancement in our statistics? For non-lawyer jobs that are satisfying? That is: not all non-law jobs are awful! How should we describe them?
6. Why haven’t your proposals been adopted by law schools? Why haven’t consumers actually demanded the kind of disclosures you’d like to see?
7. What is the most & least transparent law school with respect to job-outcome data? With respect to cost-tuition data?
8. Have you thought at all about how tuition and lawyer salaries might be affected by more openness about prices and outcomes?
9. What is one easy thing that law schools could do that would make the world better?
10. What is one hard thing that law schools could do that would make the world better?
11. Do you have any closing thoughts?


1. What’s the mission of LST? What are its main projects?

Law School Transparency is a Tennessee non-profit dedicated to encouraging and facilitating the transparent flow of consumer information. We are aiming to do more than just eliminate the provision of misleading information. We want prospectives to have the opportunity to make an informed decision to attend law school. Each project we’ve undertaken centers on this premise. Specifically, this means improving consumer information, increasing access to that information, and especially helping prospectives understand and use the available consumer information during their decision process.

The main problems with the current employment information can basically be boiled down to the current reporting standards, which count any job as employed. This is not inherently misleading and is to be expected when the common view is that a law degree opens up many doors. At the same time, tuition has risen and salaries and job opportunities at the top end have overshadowed the realities of what practicing law is like. Advertising materials put out by the law schools overemphasize these “top” jobs while declining to share information about the rest of a graduating class. What we have seen is really a combination of two distorted beliefs: the traditional belief that lawyering is a lucrative profession and the reasonable belief that jobs achieved post-law school are legal jobs. Law schools are also aware of these distortions, lending to an information asymmetry which schools have very few incentives to correct. In short, we have a recipe for trouble.
Continue reading Q&A at Concurring Opinions

Law School Transparency Petition

Over the last few years, the range of voices in support of more law school transparency has grown as more members of the legal profession become aware of what is going on. We have seen U.S. Senators, state bar presidents, judges, and practitioners asking more from legal educators. However, law school faculty have been by and large missing from public discussion, despite the fact that from their ranks come nearly every law school dean, a majority of committee members within the Section of Legal Education, and many of the policies that have gotten us into this mess. Although there have been a few notable exceptions, including Bill Henderson, Andrew Morriss, and Brian Tamanaha, the absence of faculty involvement is part of the reason the Section of Legal Education has been resistant to fulfill its duty to adequately inform prospective law students.

As a potential captured organization, the Section needs to hear if there are faculty who object to educating students who chose law school on an uninformed basis. Thankfully, people are starting to wake up and look more pointedly at taking proactive measures, both for ethical reasons and out of a desire to preserve and perhaps reimagine legal education as the discussion continues to evolve.

To this end, Law School Transparency has partnered with Professor Paul Campos to expand the consensus among the legal profession into the ranks of law school faculty. Professor Campos posted the following letter on his legal education blog:

We, the undersigned, believe it is imperative that all law schools provide prospective law school students with information that will allow them to accurately assess their prospects for finding appropriate employment within the legal profession upon graduation from the schools they are considering attending. We therefore call upon the American Bar Association to require all schools it has accredited to release clear, accurate, and reasonably comprehensive information regarding graduate employment, by for example implementing the proposals outlined in Part III of the Law School Transparency Project’s white paper “A Way Forward: Transparency at U.S. Law Schools” (http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1528862.), so that prospective students may obtain adequate information regarding their likely future employment prospects.

This letter is aimed at anybody with a stake in prospective law students making an informed decision. This includes law school faculty, members of the profession, students, and even American taxpayers.

If you would like to sign this letter, please send an email to lawschoolpetition@gmail.com with your name, law school name and graduation year (if applicable), and institutional affiliation (also if applicable). In the alternative, visit the LST Petition page to sign the petition through Facebook.

Above the Law
WSJ Law Blog
Prawfs Blawg

Have a Complaint about Your School? How to File with the ABA

We have heard from many law school alumni and current students about problems they encountered regarding how their school reports post-graduation outcomes. Many have alleged intentional acts of deception on the part of their law schools, whether it’s regarding the reporting of their own employment information or the employment of their friends. At the same time, some commentators have accused the ABA Section of Legal Education of lax enforcement concerning violations of the accreditation standards. One way to encourage better enforcement (and better compliance) is to file an official complaint with the Section of Legal Education.

NOTE: We have requested more information from the Consultant on Legal Education, the Accreditation Committee Chair, and representatives of the Section of Legal Ed in Chicago. This post will be updated when we receive a response.

How to file a complaint

For starters, complaints are governed by Rules of Procedure. The complaint form (.doc) is available on this page, which also explains the complaint requirements and process.

A complaint should include a clear and concise description of the allegation and any evidence upon which the allegation is based (with any relevant supporting documentation). [Rule 24(d)3(i).] You must allege a violation of one or more of the accreditation standards, which you can read through here. The complaint must state the timeframe of the alleged lack of compliance (limited to one year from filing), a description of any steps taken to exhaust the law school’s grievance process, and any actions taken by the law school in response to the complaint. [Rule 24(d)3(ii) and (iii).] Any other channels being pursued by the complainant should be disclosed, including legal action. The complainant must also provide a release authorizing the Consultant’s Office to send a copy of the complaint to the dean of the law school.

Any person may bring a complaint alleging noncompliance with the standards; no other harm or damages need to be alleged. The filing of a complaint can lead to an investigation by the Consultant on Legal Education and sanctions by the Accreditation Committee or Council of Legal Education. Per Rule 16 of the Rules of Procedure, sanctions can include monetary penalties, refunds for part or all of the tuition and/or fees paid by students, censure (both private and public), publication of a corrective statement, remedial action, and probation. A school on probation is at risk of being removed from the list of approved law schools.

Allegations that a school has violated or is currently violating one or more standards are serious. Separate from official sanctions of the law school, culpable individuals may be asked to resign or terminated for cause by their school. A school’s reputation may be damaged even if sanctions don’t ultimately rise to the most serious levels. For these reasons we ask that you consider whether the evidence you have is strong enough to warrant an investigation by the ABA. A suspicion that your employment status was misreported, for example, may not be enough without supporting documentation.

You should first contact the school to request that they cease violating the standard prior to filing a complaint with the ABA. An exception to pursuing this route is if you wish to file anonymously, in which case see the discussion below about site evaluation comments.

What actions might qualify as non-compliance?

Of the 52 accreditation standards that currently regulate law school behavior, only one (Standard 509, found in Chapter 5) deals with employment reporting. The seven interpretations of Standard 509, as with all interpretations, carry the same force as the standard itself. This consumer protection standard requires schools to publish certain “basic consumer information” in a “fair and accurate manner reflective of actual practice.” While the accompanying Interpretations only list “employment rates and bar placement statistics” as basic, this list is not exhaustive. You can read more on the current employment reporting requirements here.

Complaints grouped under this standard might fall into two camps. The first are allegations that the school misreported the employment rates or bar placement statistics, focusing on the text of the Interpretation 509-1. Schools are required to report the employment status of each graduate as of February 15th for the second-most recent graduating class on the annual questionnaire.

If you have reason to believe that you or members of your class were miscounted as of that date, despite having reported accurate employment data, and if you can support that belief with documentation such as emails or surveys, then you should consider notifying the school and filing a complaint. Depending on the allegation, this could take sophisticated coordination. You likely need to document a sizable percentage of your classmates’ post-graduation outcomes to show that the reported percentages must have been wrong. For example, a sworn statement from 10% of your class stating they were unemployed as of February 15th would be good evidence that your school’s reported 95% employment is incorrect.

Many recent graduates have contacted us claiming that there was no way the school reported the results of their class accurately. However, it is important to first understand the reporting requirements to see whether the school was just following protocol, as the standards themselves make it very easy to legitimately hide individual outcomes. You may not think that a part-time job waiting tables should qualify you as employed, but it is appropriate under current reporting standards. A violation under Standard 509 would be if the school counted you as employed full-time, or in a JD-preferred or bar admission-required job to U.S. News.

The second camp of violations would be allegations that the basic consumer information provided on a law school’s website or in promotional brochures to law school applicants is misleading and therefore not presented in a “fair or accurate manner reflective of actual practice.” Supporting documentation would necessarily include the publications, and you should describe why they are not reflective of actual practice.

Not willing to file yourself?

One of the Section of Legal Education’s requirements is that complaints will be closed if they are made anonymously, unless the Consultant determines that there are extraordinary circumstances for keeping someone’s identity secret from the school. We understand that graduates may be reluctant to allege noncompliance on behalf of their schools, and that there may be other situations (for example, employees of the school) where someone might be discouraged from whistleblowing if their name will be dragged through the process.

[We have contacted the Consultant for more information on what has counted in the past as extraordinary circumstances, and will update this post when we hear back.]

Some of the complaint procedures may discourage you from filing. For one thing, a complainant has no right within the rules to appeal a decision to close the complaint by the Consultant’s office. A complainant also will not be informed about the proceedings or given access to view the school’s response if one is requested by the Consultant. If the complaint is eventually presented to the Accreditation Committee, there is no appeal process if the Committee sides with the school. And regardless of the outcome, a complainant will only be notified about the stage at which the matter was resolved. From what we can tell all proceedings are closed to the public.

If you have evidence that a school has been in noncompliance and you believe your situation is an extraordinary circumstance, you can contact LST. We will work with you to determine whether the complaint is actionable, and, if appropriate, file the complaint ourselves. NOTE: This does not guarantee that we will file a complaint; it only means that we will review the information to decide if we want to file the complaint on your behalf.

Complaint alternatives

As an alternative to filing a complaint, you can also file a comment as part of the accreditation process. Each ABA-approved law school is recertified once every five years through a process that is taken very seriously by the administration. To conduct the accreditation, the Section of Legal Education sends a delegation of volunteers, often professors, administrators, and judges, to the school as a member of a site evaluation team. The team visits the school to collect facts and gather opinions, including thoughts of employees and students, so that the Accreditation Committee and Council of the Section of Legal Education can evaluate whether the school is in compliance with accreditation standards.

Comments must be submitted at least eight weeks prior to the next site visit, which are conducted during the school year. You can find a draft schedule for all visits up through 2014 on the ABA Section of Legal Education’s website.

Written comments related to current compliance with the Standards for the Approval of Law Schools may be submitted to the Consultant’s Office. The comments should be sent no later than eight weeks prior to the site visit’s beginning date. Comments should be sent to the Deputy Consultant on Legal Education to the American Bar Association, 321 N. Clark Street, Chicago, Illinois, 60654.

Seven law schools will be audited next fall: Arizona, Baylor, Chicago-Kent, Idaho, Missouri-Columbia, Ohio, and Temple. Another twenty are scheduled for next spring. These visits are an excellent time to ask the site evaluation teams to fulfill their responsibilities by taking a hard look at how a particular law school is educating and potentially misleading applicants.

If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact us. We plan to begin filing complaints soon.

The 509 Subcommittee’s Draft Proposal: An Explanation and Evaluation

This is our third post in a series of posts (see the first and the second) where we contemplate the 509 Subcommittee’s draft proposal and the facts needed to understand how it would advance transparency at ABA-approved law schools. This post will explain the new proposal and evaluate it using the three criteria we set out in the second post.

The Subcommittee’s Proposal

On March 14th, the Subcommittee released its first draft proposal for a revised standard for the reporting of employment data. David Yellen, dean of Loyola University Chicago School of Law and chair of the Standard 509 Subcommittee, will present this proposal to the Standards Review Committee on Saturday, April 2, 2011 in Chicago. We will provide updates on any changes that come out of the meeting.

The draft proposal has three parts: a memorandum explaining the subcommittee’s operating assumptions and goals, a new Standard 509(b), and a chart that each law school would be required to fill out and post on its website each year.

The Memorandum

In the memorandum, the Subcommittee states that the goal is to “provide more meaningful and consistent employment information to prospective law students . . . [that will] greatly assist prospective students in making informed decisions about whether to go to law school or which law school to attend.” Right away the Subcommittee recognizes that schools already gather a great deal of data, and that it follows that sharing more information with prospective students will require only a small (and, implicitly, justified) burden.

The Subcommittee describes the consumer protection standard, Standard 509, as “a vague standard” that enables schools to provide limited and hard-to-compare information. The fact that reporting practices vary so widely among schools makes it very difficult for prospectives to understand the employment outcomes of a particular set of graduates. What’s more, the Subcommittee continues to recognize that the presentation of information is occasionally misleading. This reflects previous comments made by Dean Yellen.

The memorandum then cabins the problems with the current information into two categories: employment rates and salary information. The Subcommittee establishes two principles regarding the the first category. First, “the percentages disclosed should be based on the entire graduating class, with only those known to be employed being counted as such.” The second principle regards the variety of jobs graduates take, and the problem of providing misleading impressions about the true successes of a school’s graduates. “[T]he best approach is to require schools to disclose more disaggregated data about . . . categories of jobs.” These categories include nonprofessional jobs, part-times jobs, temporary jobs, and jobs funded in part by the school.

Regarding the second category, the Subcommittee recognizes the limited utility of salary medians and the likelihood that readers will misunderstand what the medians refer to and how they are calculated. The Subcommittee proposes that “all salary information clearly indicate the number of respondents and percentage of all graduates included.” This is an important revision that will change the manner in which many schools currently portray salary statistics. For examples of how problematic this can be, check out LST’s data clearinghouse. (The linked example shows a school that reported a median salary of $160,000, despite it being the median for only about 16% of the entire class.)

Proposed Standard 509(b)

The first proposal made by the Subcommittee is as follows:

(b) A law school must publicly disclose the employment outcomes of its graduates by preparing and posting on its website the attached chart.
(1) The employment information must be accurate as of February 15th for persons who graduated with a JD or equivalent degree between September 1 two calendar years prior and August 31 one calendar year prior.
(2) The information must be posted on the school’s website by March 31 each year.
(3) The information posted must remain on the school’s website for at least three years, so that at any time, at least three graduating classes’ data is posted.
(4) The information must be gathered and disclosed in accordance with the instructions and definitions issued by the Section’s Questionnaire Committee.
(5) Any additional employment information the law school discloses must be fair, accurate and not misleading.
(A) Any publicly disclosed statistics regarding graduates’ salaries must clearly identify the number of salaries and the percentage of graduating students included.

The proposed Standard 509(b) requires that schools publicly disclose the employment outcomes of the most recent graduating class as true on the first February 15th following graduation. Schools must disclose these outcomes, at minimum, on the “attached chart” by the first March 31st following graduation. It also requires schools to keep the chart on their websites for at least three years. Finally, it adds a catch-all in 509(b)(5) to protect against predatory, opportunistic practices. This specifically includes a solution to misleading median salary practices that some law schools currently use.

The Chart

[View the chart]

The proposed Standard 509(b) “attached chart” aims to exhibit the outcomes of the entire graduating class as of the first February 15th following graduation. The chart disaggregates the current information into smaller categories to illuminate the outcomes graduates achieve at a particular school. The chart is also the first official recognition by an arm of the Section of Legal Education that salary information is in fact “basic consumer information.”

There are two classes of categories on this chart: employment status and employment type. For each category and subcategory, schools must report the percentage of all graduates, rather than of only employed graduates, as well as the raw number of graduates included in the calculation. This decision aims to limit the impact of creative accounting and less than forthright attempts at collecting employment data from graduates.

The employment status class places all graduates into four exhaustive categories: employed, pursuing a graduate degree full-time, unemployed, and employment status unknown.

The chart breaks “employed graduates” into two subcategories. First, this category breaks all employed graduates into four exhaustive kinds of employment: full-time long-term, full-time short-term, part-time long-term, and part-time short-term.

Second, it breaks all employed graduates into exhaustive categories based on the credentials required (or preferred) to do the job: bar passage required, J.D. preferred, other professional, or non-professional. It then further breaks each of those categories into (the same) four exhaustive kinds of employment: full-time long-term, full-time short-term, part-time long-term, and part-time short-term.

The employment type class breaks all employed graduates into six exhaustive categories based on the type of employer: law firms, business & industry, government, public interest, judicial clerkships, and academic. Of those categories, the law firm and judicial clerkships categories are further broken down by type. The law firms are disaggregated by size and the clerkships are disaggregated by level of government (state or federal).

Finally, full time salaries will accompany each category (except solo practitioners) of full-time, employed graduates whenever there are at least five salaries reported in a given category. These salaries will be reported with a 25th, 50th, and 75th percentile, as well as the number of salaries used to create these salary quartiles. There is also a space for schools to report the total number of jobs they funded.

A Good Start, But More To Be Done

The 509 Subcommittee is off to a really strong start in reforming how schools report employment information. It was made clear to us that this is only a preliminary draft, and that the Subcommittee expects more changes will be made. We hope this is the case.

The principles guiding the Subcommittee are sound. It is true that the information must be meaningful, consistent, and help prospectives make informed decisions about whether to, and where to, attend law school. But the execution of these principles still leaves something to be desired. If approved as a new accreditation standard in its current form, the proposal would certainly help prospective students and drastically cut down on misleading statistics. At the same time, it runs the risk of only providing superficial comfort, because it would not help match students to the schools that best meet their career objectives as efficiently as legal education needs.

As we previously outlined, we will use three criteria to assess the draft proposal.

(1) Does it disaggregate the current information?
(2) Does it demonstrate the economic value of a school’s J.D.?
(3) Does disclosure operate on an accelerated schedule?

Does it disaggregate the current information?

This proposal does disaggregate the current information. It helps show the nature of the jobs graduates obtained and with whom the graduates were employed. But as evidenced by comparing this draft proposal to the LST Standard, the vague “employed at 9 months” standard, where “a job is a job,” can be disaggregated to varying degrees. We’ve concluded that this draft does not disaggregate the current information to an adequate degree.

The more disaggregated employment information is, and the more data provided at that degree, the more likely it is that there will be privacy norm concerns. With these norms in mind, there is a legitimate interest in not disclosing all of the employment data that law schools already collect. On the other hand, law schools already collect all of the data needed to help prospectives make informed decisions, so cost concerns are greatly overblown (as the Subcommittee recognizes). As such, the appropriate level of disaggregation must balance privacy norms against the usefulness of additional disaggregation to anybody trying to understand the entry-level market for a school’s graduates.

It is the job of the Section of Legal Education to use its regulatory power to enforce the right balance. The Section must force schools to share the appropriate level of disaggregated information and must not opt to require less useful information because law schools have competitive concerns. The important question thus becomes how much weight the Section of Legal Education should give to schools that believe that more disaggregated information could (i) hurt their recruiting efforts, (ii) cause prospectives to focus too much on the first job in making their law school decision (as opposed to something else the schools think prospectives should focus on), and (iii) cause confusion through information overload.

Among the opportunities for improvement is how well the proposal connects job outcome features together. It does not disaggregate the locations of these jobs and does not show how the job, employer, and location connect for individual graduates. For example, we might be able to tell that 60% of a school’s graduates are working at jobs that require bar passage, but we do not know what percentage of those are working in business & industry. Likewise, we might know that 15% of a school’s graduates work in 2-10 attorney law firms, but we cannot tell what percentage of those graduates are working there as attorneys. This is not merely a theoretical concern– a sizeable percentage of law school graduates work in non-attorney positions in law firms. The decision to disaggregate further directly contravenes the Subcommittee’s principle against providing misleading impressions about the true successes of a school’s graduates.

Part of the reason additional disaggregation is so important is that it would minimize the effect of national rankings on student decision-making by offering a window directly into what graduates shortly after graduating. With this proposal, a prospective’s choice might still hinge on what a school ranks each year in U.S. News rather than on how well a school can help a student achieve her goals. Prospectives need clarity about how a school fits into the legal hiring market.

After all, the Subcommittee’s stated goal is to help prospectives make “informed decisions about whether to go to law school or which law school to attend.” The proposed solution is only satisfactory insofar that the goal is to differentiate between schools using percentage differences in broad, albeit more disaggregated, categories. It will still be too difficult to know the challenges graduates face for achieving their career objectives, which usually include a combination of location, employer type, and required credentials. Without sufficient granularity, neither will prospectives as easily understand a school’s placement niches. All together, prospectives will still struggle to understand schools’ unique placement abilities.

Another issue with the Subcommittee’s method of disaggregation is that it actually creates new gaps in the information (though not to a debilitating extent) and thus an incentive for creative accounting. One of the purposes of disaggregating the nine-month employment rate is to limit how much schools hide employment outcomes. Unnecessary gaps undermine this purpose.

The total number of graduates in each subcategory, taken together, should equal the total number in the parent category. For example, the total number of graduates who are employed, unemployed, pursuing a graduate degree, or whose employment statues are unknown should equal the total number of graduates in the graduating class because the categories are exhaustive.

The unknown status category is very important for identifying gaps in the employment status data. However, an unknown category is missing from all other exhaustive groups except the group for type of law firms. The employment type category, required credentials subcategory, judicial clerkships subcategory, and the full time and part time (and corresponding long and short term) subcategories all need an unknown field so that the numbers in the subcategories all equal the parent category’s total number.

Helping prospectives understand where data gaps exist encourages them to ask the right questions and serves to limit false impressions due to extrapolating outcomes from unrepresentative segments of the graduating class. Unfortunately, allowing schools to report graduates as “unknown” in any category incentivizes schools to avoid learning or researching employment outcomes. However, it is more important that the gaps created by non-reporting graduates are readily identifiable. As such, all exhaustive categories and subcategories need to account for each graduate.

Does it demonstrate the economic value of a school’s J.D.?

It is a huge step forward for the Subcommittee to recognize salary information as “basic consumer information.” As of right now, the only standardized, school-specific salary information is courtesy of U.S. News. Until this year, even U.S. News salary information was too opaque.

The Subcommittee’s proposal does a decent job with highlighting what new graduates make and, accordingly, demonstrates some of the economic value of each school’s J.D. This new salary information would allow prospective students to roughly understand how well graduates can service their debts immediately after law school. For the Class of 2009, the average graduate had $98,055 of law school debt, which translates to about a $1200/month loan payment.

While the Subcommittee’s approach is useful and likely the best way for schools to report school-specific salary outcomes without using job-specific salary data, it is not the approach we think the Subcommittee should take. A better way would be to leverage the reported salary data of all law schools together the way NALP does in its annual Job’s and J.D.’s. Certainly, if prospectives knew about this publication, which costs non-members $90, they could use it to have a better understanding of entry-level salaries for law school graduates. But there is currently no way to bridge the gap between this salary information and an individual school’s graduates, and the Subcommittee’s proposal does not help on that front, so it is limitedly useful for those trying to decide which law school to attend.

The aforementioned lack of connectivity between employers, job credentials, and job location makes understanding how the new salary information impacts them – particularly for loan payments – very difficult. For example, a $160,000 starting salary for a new associate grows differently in New York City compared to Houston due to salary compression in years two through seven. Additionally, $70,000 in New York City does not go as far as $70,000 in Philadelphia, Raleigh, or Nashville. The geographic impact on the ease of loan repayment cannot be understated. Even if a prospective has the Job’s and J.D.’s book, that information can only take them so far because its salary breakdowns are very specific (e.g., attorneys in 2-10 person law firms in X city). Nothing in the new standard or chart helps answer these important questions.

There is a separate concern about whether each category would have meaningful salary information associated with it. For example, 10 may work at small firms, with only four reporting. In this case, the four salaries do not get reported and thus do not serve any use. They are simply swept away. However, if these four salaries were added to a national salary database, those four become 40 or even 400, and the result is meaningful salary information about jobs that wouldn’t otherwise have salary information. Unfortunately, this resource cannot be utilized on a school-by-school basis without more disaggregation. In our next post we will explain our proposal for doing this in depth.

Does disclosure operate on an accelerated schedule?

Yes. In striking this balance between cost concerns and the need for timely information about the most recent graduating class, the Subcommittee has paved the way for significant improvements beginning as early as next year. At the Questionnaire Committee hearing in December, law school administrators expressed concern that requiring schools to report information too soon would be too high of a burden given cost constraints. But by limiting the Standard 509 requirements to only data that schools submit to NALP in February/March, the Subcommittee erases these concerns. Even small career services staff will be able to comply with the standard provided they already report to NALP, which nearly every ABA-approved law school does. Given that collection methods are now mostly electronic (through Symplicity or other user-entry databases), assembling and posting the data according to the proposed Standard 509(b) would take very few work hours and limited financial resources beyond what schools already allocate voluntarily.

Concluding Thoughts

The goal of a revised Standard 509(b) must be to help students make informed decisions about which (if any) school best meets their career objectives. While a good start, we think that, as currently conceived, the Subcommittee’s proposal will fail to adequately achieve this basic goal.

We ask that each member of the Committee imagine herself as a prospective student trying to choose a school to invest thousands of hours and dollars into. Each member must then think about how soundly she can act after analyzing employment information reported according to the new standard, and consider how well she actually understands the school’s ability to help her achieve her career objectives. We suspect that this thought experiment would leave each member uncomfortably uncertain. This uncertainty, at a minimum, should be addressed through a non-theoretical exploration of the standard’s implications. Before accepting a new standard, the Standards Review Committee should compare a few schools using real employment information presented as it would be under the proposed revisions.

An improved Standard 509 has the ability to wage an important battle against the influence of U.S. News on the decision-making of prospective law students. But without sufficient disaggregation of the current employment information, the effects can only be minimal. Under the current proposal, it is still too easy to imagine a prospective student choosing the #55 ranked school located on the east coast over the #81 ranked school on the west coast because she does not know, for example, what to make of the schools’ minute differences in percentage employed in mid-sized firms as it pertains to her goals of working out west in a mid-sized firm. Without adequate information to dissuade her, she might come to the head-scratching conclusion that #55 must be better because it is ranked higher. This is bound to worsen now that there are 45 more schools ranked on a national scale.

Each year, the Section of Legal Education makes an effort to minimize the effect of national rankings. We are sure that almost every law school administrator would agree with the Section’s sentiments, and revising Standard 509 is the chance to show that these are not empty words. We look forward to working with the Subcommittee to improve this first draft.

Apathy For Applicants Continues: Ave Maria Backs Out

Ave Maria has informed Law School Transparency that the school will not be following through with its commitment to disclose employment data according to the LST Standard. Back in September, we received 11 responses to our initial request, including a few ‘maybes,’ but only one unmistakable ‘yes.’ We praised Ave Maria for being a leader among mostly silence.

Ave Maria had its critics at the time, but overall the school benefited from positive coverage in both the legal and popular press. According to the Wall Street Journal Law Blog, Ave Maria was “a lone beacon of light [that had] emerged from the darkness.”

We wrote:

Ave Maria’s decision to comply with the LST Standard has the potential to be a catalyst. Their decision to elevate the importance of their future students’ welfare raises the ethical bar. As the discussion moves forward and LST seeks commitments from more schools, Ave Maria’s position draws a line in the sand and allows the public (and particularly the media) to ask why other schools refuse to do the same thing.

The school’s leadership adamantly supported increased transparency because, as an Ave Maria administrator put it, “it is the right thing to do.” There were some concerns about salary privacy, but we were able to assure Ave Maria administrators that, where a firm or individual could be matched with a salary on the separate Salary List, the school could opt-out, provided the circumstances met certain conditions. This assurance sufficed to garner a commitment.

Ave Maria’s About-face

Eugune Milhizer, dean of
Ave Maria School of Law

Ave Maria’s dean, Eugene Milhizer, first decided that the school would not participate back in December. However, we were not informed about the school’s decision until 12 days ago, in response to us asking whether the school needed any help following the LST Standard Guidelines. We attempted to change the school’s decision and invited Dean Milhizer to a conference call. This past Friday, the career services director informed us that Dean Milhizer was not interested in discussing the issue further. We accordingly offered Ave Maria the opportunity to write an official statement for release with this post. Ave Maria declined further comment.

The people making the choices at Ave Maria might still think “the right thing to do” is to better inform prospectives about employment outcomes. However, the school does not want to act before the ABA opines on the issue, seeing as ABA reform is on the way. Part of Ave Maria’s concern is also that, if the school is the only one to comply with the LST Standard, it will not be useful to prospective students because they will not have anything with which to compare Ave Maria’s employment data.

The LST Standard – while important in setting an example for what is both adequately informative and cost-effective – has always been of secondary importance to our mission: encouraging and facilitating the flow of employment information. Quite simply, prospective law students are not adequately informed about job prospects from different law schools, and establishing the flow of timely, quality information will help. Whether prospectives begin making more informed decisions because schools share data with LST, because U.S. News decides to improve its methods, or because the ABA decides to act, we will be happy that prospectives’ law school decisions can be based on realistic views of the entry-level legal market.

As Ave Maria recognizes, part of the need for more granular data stems from prospectives’ difficulty in comparing schools in an effort to find which best meets their individual career objectives. But an equal part is simply understanding the post-graduation outcomes of a class of graduates. Prospectives need to know what happened to the entire class, not just the top performers.

Employment data would not be meaningless without other schools to compare with; it would just be less meaningful. We are certain that enough prospectives would both know what to do with employment data from even one school, and be appreciative of it.

Ave Maria is not alone in claiming this as the reason for not participating with our heightened reporting standard. This past Friday, as a result of a call from the Washington Post, American University also used this line of reasoning to justify its inaction:

Thank you for your message. In light of the ABA’s recent discussions regarding the employment data reported by law schools, and the possible changes that will be implemented in that area, we will continue to provide requested information to the ABA. Therefore, we respectfully decline to provide that data to LST.

But ABA Standard 509 is a minimum standard. Law schools are free to choose to report more employment information than required. Schools have the underlying data to provide adequate information about post-graduation outcomes. Every law school that does not exceed the annual reporting requirements has chosen not to be more transparent.

Every School’s Responsibility

When Ave Maria originally agreed to comply with the LST Standard, it admitted that the school was not in the practice of providing adequate employment information to prospective students. By waiting until the ABA dictates what Ave Maria must disclose, the school now acknowledges that it is willing to keep its prospective students in the dark.

Most law schools want to provide the minimum amount of employment information to prospective students. While all ABA-approved law schools provide employment information to the ABA (regulatory pressure), and almost all furnish U.S. News with additional information (market pressure), not all law schools share employment information on their websites or in their recruiting materials.

Ave Maria appears to want to settle for the new ABA minimum – whatever that will be. But the ABA Standards have failed to do their job for years now. There is no assurance that the new standards will be adequate, and it is all but guaranteed that new, additional, required information will not make it into the hands of consumers until after the next admissions cycle ends. While we remain cautiously optimistic about the ABA’s role in reform, prospectives still need better information in the meantime.

The ABA has a responsibility to provide leadership on this issue, but this does not remove or delay each individual school’s responsibilities. Schools have a professional responsibility, as the gateway to the legal profession, to prepare law students for a future in law. The preparatory obligation includes providing a meaningful education. This means creating an educational environment that prepares students for the successful practice of law, as well as teaching students what they can do to be productive and upstanding members of the profession and society. Beyond teaching the law (or how to think like a lawyer), schools should convey the imperative roles that ethics and trust play in the successful administration of justice. Students develop many habits and many impressions about how the profession regulates itself based on experiences in law school. When a school fails to do everything it realistically can do to provide a meaningful education about the law and profession, its graduates end up entering the legal profession less prepared for ethical practice.

The preparatory obligation also includes creating a meaningful window into the profession for prospectives deciding whether to attend law school. This means informing these consumers about things like program offerings, cost of attendance, and the job outcomes their graduates achieve post-graduation. Doing so would provide every prospective a fair chance to decide whether a particular school is the best match for their educational and career objectives. Unfortunately, many smart and capable students begin a career from which they will draw no real satisfaction, for which they will be poorly suited, and in which they will perform marginally because the practice of law is different from what they expected. The reasons for these problems are largely unsettled, and they likely have many blameworthy causes, but these problems have rightfully caused schools and the ABA to think deeply about what is going wrong.

There is a role for the ABA in reforming school disclosure policies, and it is a crucial role. But this role does not absolve schools of their own responsibilities.

The Consequences

The people who are most affected by Ave Maria’s choice to rescind are Ave Maria’s potential applicants. They are losing out on an opportunity to make an informed decision about attending Ave Maria. Now, they are left to rely on the Class of 2008 (not even 2009) statistics available on the school’s website, in our data clearinghouse, and in the ABA Official Guide.

While too many schools have likewise failed to provide Class of 2009 employment information on their websites, the lack of prompt, transparent Class of 2010 employment information will be particularly troublesome for prospective Ave Maria students.

The Class of 2010 marks the first class to graduate from Ave Maria since its move to Florida. Until May 2009, Ave Maria was located in Michigan. After some controversy, the school moved to Florida and resumed classes in August 2009. Because Ave Maria was a regional law school while in Michigan, it is reasonable to wonder how well the Class of 2010 did in the job market now that the school has moved to a state with little, if any, alumni network.

With yet another school deciding that its best interest is to continue keeping applicants in the dark, where does the profession go from here? The ABA must act on its responsibility to incorporate an effectual disclosure standard into accreditation. Nevertheless, it is always up to prospectives to request more information from the schools they apply to when they have questions. Most schools are hesitant to share quality employment information, but with enough pressure and persistence, prospectives can overcome law schools’ apathy towards their desire to make an informed decision. Schools need to believe that refusing to disclose better information will hamper their ability to recruit and continue operation.

We are starting to see a trend within legal education where people place a premium on disclosure. Transparent schools that take steps to better inform prospectives look good, while the schools choosing to withhold crucial information look bad. Ave Maria’s applicants will, contrary to expectations set by the school a few months ago, have the same limited access to employment data that other schools offer. Many of its applicants will be less than impressed with the school’s step backwards, but the real question is how many applicants at other schools are cluing in to what’s going on at American law schools.

Coming Soon: Class of 2010 Employment Data

It is just about that time of year when prospective students should be (but in most instances aren’t) able to access important information about employment outcomes for the most recent graduating class.

This week is the earliest that a law school can provide employment information under the current reporting regime. On February 15th, the employment outcomes for the Class of 2010 will freeze in time: No matter what a graduate is doing before or after February 15th, the employment data reflect only what he or she was doing on that date (the “Status Date”).

The Status Date is roughly nine months after most law students graduate. The nine-month rate is rooted in the idea that nine months is long enough after both graduation and bar passage to measure the employability of a school’s graduates. NALP, the ABA, and U.S. News all collect employment information each year using the same Status Date. LST, in our effort to establish a new standard that minimizes compliance costs, also uses the same Status Date.

However, each organization uses a different reporting timeline. And unfortunately for the many thousands of prospective law students facing pressure to select a program, disclosure comes only after significant delays that make the selection process even more difficult. This post aims to shed some light on how slowly information trickles down from the schools to the consumer.

The Status Quo

The following table shows the reporting and publishing dates used by each organization, as well as the type of information published.

Organization Reporting Date Publishing Date Information Type
LST Late February 2011 March 2011 School-specific
NALP Late February 2011 June 2011 Aggregate Only
ABA October 31, 2011 Summer 2012 School-specific
U.S. News December 1, 2011 March 2012 School-specific
Individual Law Schools February 15, 2011 Discretionary School-specific

For our part, the schools that have agreed to provide us with employment data will do so at the end of this month, shortly after they provide similar data to NALP. Unfortunately, very few schools have committed to providing LST with Class of 2010 employment data. This is certainly not ideal, but it was expected. Exposing the failure to cooperate or even engage in discussion raises serious questions about what schools have to hide, particularly once people realize that schools possess the data we seek.

How Things Can Change

Putting pressure on law schools to disclose Class of 2010 employment information now, rather than later, is both important and appropriate. By the middle of March, just about every ABA-approved law school will have reported Class of 2010 employment data to NALP. The NALP data underlie the information schools eventually choose to publish in their promotional materials. Our reasonable suggestion is that schools stop withholding information from the people who really need it.

Why focus the discussion on the NALP data? For starters, schools do a great job with reporting employment data to NALP. For the Class of 2009, NALP-reporting schools knew 96.5% of all graduates’ employment statuses, and had specific outcome data for at least 98.9% of those graduates. The wealth of data schools report to NALP cannot be understated, nor can its importance for prospective students trying to learn about employment outcomes.

NALP provides intricate breakdowns (more here) to convey information about the overall entry-level market for recent law school graduates, but does not permit comparisons between schools. Thankfully, these charts rely solely on school-reported data, which means each school is capable of providing the same charts on an individual basis.

With substantial data at their disposal in February/March, schools therefore have a choice about whether to accelerate and improve their own disclosure policies. Schools could provide meaningful, up-to-date employment information to prospectives at that time, but most do not. Some of these schools might not want to invest resources into timely disclosure. Others just might not care about informing prospectives about employment opportunities at all.

Fortunately, in June, each participating school receives NALP’s school-specific chart for its graduating class of 2010. Sometimes schools share a bit of this information, e.g., Washington & Lee, but we have yet to see a school share its NALP report or even come close to its level of detail. (If you know of a school that is in the practice of sharing its NALP reports, please contact us.)

Even if a school chooses not to improve the quality of that information, e.g., through LST Standard compliance or providing NALP-like reports, schools can still choose to more promptly provide prospective students with information in the same form as prior years. Some schools still have yet to provide Class of 2009 employment information (example 1 [no employment statistics provided], example 2 [no employment statistics provided], example 3 [most recent: Class of 2006]), to the frustration of many applicants. And many schools will not post Class of 2010 employment information until after members of the Class of 2014 submit their deposits.

This time lag is indefensible, but hope is not lost. Some schools plan to lead the charge against this time lag. Washington & Lee indicates on its website that the Class of 2010 employment statistics will be available in March 2011. The school confirmed this plan via email:

Thank you for your email. As we say on the website, we plan to make the 2010 data available in March.

Likewise, Michigan has indicated to us its plan to release information in a timely fashion:

We do indeed plan to put our 2010 NALP data up as soon as possible.

Even if the information schools currently share is not the quality we would like to see, sharing it sooner rather than later at least will enable those prospectives to see the most up-to-date information for a school. While no prospective should rely on a single year of information in making their decision – the entry-level market is sure to differ three years later – the extra year is an important piece of the puzzle.

LST’s objective is to make more transparent consumer information available for prospective students. This can be achieved on a number of levels. More prompt disclosure at least shows prospectives which schools are serious about helping them make informed decisions, and which pay only lip service. More schools may come forward with the NALP data as it becomes more obvious that the game is up, but for the time being it will be up to prospectives to make their concerns heard.

Helping Future Generations of Lawyers

This post was written by Kyle McEntee and Patrick J. Lynch, and originally published on BeyondHearsay.com. Beyond Hearsay is a website designed by Kaplan PMBR Bar Review to provide a collection of stories written by current and former law school students about their experiences in law school and beyond.

In 2011, nearly 50,000 law students will begin to invest in their legal education, expecting to derive value from both the educational experience and the J.D. itself. For most of these students, the decision to attend law school requires a costly investment of time and money. Unfortunately, most will attend without an accurate idea of how well the school’s graduates tend to fare in the job market. Even for those in the know, accessing quality employment information is a difficult and frustrating process.

Despite oversight from the ABA, schools have enormous leeway in what employment information they share and in how they choose to portray it. Some prospective students will recognize the lack of useful, reliable information from the start and will still choose to attend, but many won’t realize an information asymmetry exists until after school begins. Law schools certainly don’t deserve the blame for the economic collapse or the transformation of the legal market that came with it, but they are responsible for how they portray information about job outcomes when recruiting new students.

Many students and graduates are discouraged and angry about a disclosure process they believe is unfair. Many are wondering whether law schools will ever address concerns about how they share knowledge about the realities of the legal job market. Schools have a duty to be more transparent, while the ABA has a duty to ensure that schools report employment information in a fair and accurate manner. And contrary to how the schools and the ABA currently execute these duties, prospective law students deserve this information at the beginning of the process, before they submit their applications. Convincing the schools and the ABA to educate prospective students earlier, and formulating a solution that is efficient and desirable, requires a lot of work. That’s where we come in.

Law School Transparency

Chances are that you—like us—can empathize with these 50,000 prospective law students, as well as the hundreds of thousands that will follow them in years to come. We founded our non-profit organization, Law School Transparency (LST), because of the difficulty that prospective students have with accessing and interpreting information about law school job prospects.

LST began as a small organization with a dedicated team of current law students. Unlike some of the more vocal critics of legal education, we didn’t start this project because we were upset with our decisions to attend law school or because the job market is terrible. LST was established because we wanted to improve the legal profession, and because we believed that this can be achieved on a number of levels by better informing applicants.

We know that a lot of research goes into justifying the time, debt, and opportunity costs of attending law school. Regardless of whether you applied because you wanted to work in the public sector, in private practice, or in a non-legal field, you were probably concerned about whether a law school’s reputation and placement ability could put you on the right path to achieving your goals. You probably also wanted to know the typical salaries for a school’s graduates and perhaps its niche placement tendencies.

But job opportunities differ (sometimes drastically so) depending on which law school one attends. Understanding these differences requires far more nuanced information than what schools or third parties currently provide. These differences are caused not only by the kinds of employers that hire from certain schools, but also by the tendency in most regions for employers to hire from within their own city or state. For prospective students who strive to take a detailed, holistic look at the diverse employment opportunities at different law schools, the available resources are inadequate and even misleading.

We know from our research that law schools already collect significantly more employment data than they report. Schools frequently overrepresent top graduates without providing information about the rest of the class, or show the starting salaries of a few respondents as if those are indicative of the entire class. To resolve these issues, the easiest solution is to simply disclose more of the data that schools already collect. Schools must do a better job with this if they want to fulfill their obligation to fairly and adequately inform prospective students about the nature of the legal profession and the opportunities within it. Regardless of the economic climate, prospective students should have better information when deciding whether to make the enormous investment in a law degree.

Improving Employment Information

All too often, a lack of useful employment information means that answering the question “what school is right for me?” leads to focusing on a school’s U.S. News ranking, rather than how a school can meet an individual’s educational and career objectives. Not surprisingly, many law school administrators agree with us that their programs should be compared based on the actual value offered rather than its ranking. What’s odd is that the same administrators decline to disclose the very information prospective students need in order to limit their reliance on U.S. News.

In response to this problem, we have aimed to improve employment information by calling for the reform of existing reporting standards. Thus far, administrators have not been willing to voluntarily reveal the true nature of the legal hiring market in response to our concerns (except at one school, which plans to disclose under the LST Standard next month). From the beginning, our strategy has been to raise the profile of this failure to adequately inform applicants. While schools have refused or simply ignored LST’s request, a growing consensus about the necessity of reform has shifted attention to the ABA, which can mandate reform of the reporting standards.

What You Can Do

Potential ABA regulations and LST-compliance aside, schools have to decide for themselves how important it is to give prospective law students a realistic view of the job market. For example, our school has been in the practice of releasing lists that account for nearly the entire graduating class since March 2008. These lists include each employer’s name and location, allowing Vanderbilt applicants to make more informed decisions about how well their career objectives might be met by investing in a J.D. A handful of schools do something similar, but they all have room to improve and should be taking a second look at what they can do.

You are in the position, as a current student or recent graduate, to let your school know whether you support more meaningful disclosure of job outcomes.

If you are a current student:
As part of your law school’s community, your involvement can directly influence what your school does to address these problems. You most likely pay the school a lot of money each semester, probably incurring non-dischargeable debt to do so. Schools depend on these tuition dollars to finance a large portion of the budget. As a current student, you are also involved with student leadership organizations, career services officers, and law school administrators. You likely know (or will come to know) which members of the administration are serious about addressing your concerns. Many of these people care deeply about how legal education operates, and your encouragement may help them enter this particular conversation. Student leadership groups in particular can play an integral role in petitioning the administration and shaping how the school recruits prospective law students. Finally, you will soon earn your J.D. and become an alumnus of the school. Law schools value whether graduates walk away feeling satisfied and willing to one day give back. Rest assured, your school will begin asking you to reinvest through donations soon after you graduate, if not before.

If you are a recent graduate:
Recent graduates have been through all of the above. You have also witnessed the challenges of the current legal market and perhaps experienced the consequences of unrealized expectations, even after accounting for the unpredictable market contraction. Some of you have also become involved in alumni or bar associations, where your role as a new member can be to encourage dialogue between more seasoned members of the profession and the administrators of your alma mater.

How to get involved
Regardless of where you are in your career, your knowledge and leverage mean that you can do something about the problem. Schools have refused to budge, offering up a number of excuses as to why change is not feasible. One approach would be to let your school know that claims about steep compliance costs prohibiting their ability to disclose information are unacceptable and misguided. After all, funding employment-outcome transparency is an appropriate use of school resources, particularly when funding depends heavily on tuition payments that were made in reliance on advertisements about employment outcomes. If a school’s budget cannot account for educating future students about essential information, then the dean is not doing his or her job.

You can also let your school know that failing to act could have a negative impact on its reputation. Organizations like U.S. News has come out in favor of efforts for law school transparency and called upon schools to release more information. At the same time, recent graduates who are upset with their alma maters are gaining ever-widening coverage in both the legal and mainstream media. In such a charged environment where the law schools themselves are the only ones not on board with reform, those schools who take it upon themselves to improve disclosure methods are going to stand out. The schools that do nothing risk being exposed to a range of embarrassing media reports or law suits.

A Way Forward

We are confident that administrators at a number of law schools are starting to see the way forward. But for the rest who still need to be convinced, they need to hear from people like you. As this semester of law school gets underway, or as you look back on your legal education, we hope you will think about these issues and get involved. Even if you do not wish to get involved directly with your school, you can still make a difference by letting us know if you have any ideas or concerns. One of the most rewarding parts of working on this project is the level of support we’ve seen from people across the legal profession. Our hope is that as things progress, more of you will find a way to join in the conversation and help restore some of the values of the profession.

How You Can Help LST in 2011

Law School Transparency is a relatively new member of the discussion about how (or whether) American law schools should disclose the employment outcomes of their graduates. We are very proud of the enormous strides LST has made in our first year and a half of operation, and we have many of you to thank for it. Your observations have reinforced our identity as a consumer rights organization and, more importantly, influenced how we have chosen to advocate for change that will create lasting benefits for the legal profession.

To date, anonymous donations, as well as Kyle, Natalie, and my contributions, have covered our administrative costs (e.g. server costs and incorporation documents) and travel costs (e.g. attending the recent ABA Questionnaire Committee hearing). We work on a volunteer basis, and are not seeking to use donations for payroll. Even so, our projected costs are significant and we can’t foot the bill on our own, so we are looking for your help. Whether the help comes in the form of monetary donations, hotel points and frequent flier miles, or professional services, your assistance is valuable to us as we help spread our message. Past and future contributions allow us to take some critical steps that we would never have been able to do on our own.

As the year comes to an end, we hope you will continue to support LST through your contributions, particularly as we continue our lobbying efforts with organizations like the ABA, NALP, and U.S. News. Most of our projected funding needs are the costs associated with attending meetings and conferences over the next year. The ABA Questionnaire Committee and Standards Review Committee, for example, each meet about once every three months in different cities.

Our ability to be present at those meetings, as well as at ad hoc hearings and meetings of the ABA Section of Legal Education Council, will help us shape and steer the discussions in the right direction. Right now, we are limiting our attendance to only those meetings at which we can speak directly on transparency. Depending on the donations we receive, we also hope to attend meetings as nonparticipant observers so that we can monitor progress and continue building relationships with those individuals who are truly committed to turning things around. A large number of law school deans and professors are usually in attendance, and a student-oriented voice is often missing. Your contributions will help keep the conversation balanced and make sure a diversity of opinions are present at the table.

Where else will your money go?

LST is a Tennessee non-profit corporation, but we would like to become a 501(c)(3) non-profit this year so that our donors may deduct contributions. The application fee is $400.

LST would like to make open records requests from public law schools. Although open records requests are often free to make, we would be required to pay for documents and labor. We are looking for either a financial commitment or offers to make the requests on a pro bono basis.

LST would also like to increase circulation of our reports and other relevant data. This will help make sure that we can get more tools in the hands of prospective law students, educators, and pre-law advisors. We will introduce our “U.S. Law School Reports” series in 2011, which will explain how best to understand available employment information. These and other reports will remain available on our website, but we believe printed copies will be especially useful as a resource for pre-law advisors. These will supplement other publications like the ABA Official Guide and the U.S. News & World Report. At a minimum, we hope to raise enough funds to print and distribute copies of our reports to the pre-law advisors at the top feeder schools.

Finally, some funds will go toward keeping LST in good standing in Tennessee and making sure our website sticks around. Our 2011 server and domain costs are $117.93. Our Tennessee filings should be under $200 this year.

In the case that we receive more funds than what is necessary to pay for the above-mentioned items, we will be happy to discuss how you would like your contributions used. The goal in all of this is to continue building a consensus about the need for change, as well as for the best methods to reform how schools disclose employment data. It is only with your support that we can ensure that LST will play an active part as things go forward.

How To Donate
Please contact us if you are interested in providing professional services or making nonfinancial contributions. For monetary contributions, you have two options: click on the PayPal button on our website (right column) to make a secure donation to LST’s bank account; wire directly to the account (Wells Fargo).

Going Forward
We are grateful to those who have already found fit to contribute in support of our work, and we hope that more of you will continue offering up your ideas, suggestions, and contributions. LST has a lot left to accomplish, but with your help we can make sure we achieve our goals. Please let us know if you have any suggestions about how to improve our progress and how to make sure we have the resources we need to keep things going.

All the best,

Patrick J. Lynch
Policy Director, Co-Founder & Policy Director

Post-Mortem of the ABA Questionnaire Committee Meeting

This past Monday (December 17), I had the opportunity to present to the Questionnaire Committee in Florida about employment reporting problems and solutions. It was a nice break from exams, and I am extremely pleased with how it all went.

Patrick was unable to attend, but did listen in along with Kimber and Mark from the Down by Lawcast. On Thursday, we four discussed the meeting for Episode 10 of the Down by Lawcast. The Committee is on the right track, but has a long way to go in their process. We’ll have a more extensive post about the meeting in a few days.

Episode 10

DBLawcast, Reaching the Scambloggers
ABA Journal Podcast, How Law Schools Can Help Next Gen Lawyers Take Gamble Out of Hefty Tuition.

A Note from Our Co-Founders

Dear Readers,

Thank you to everyone who has continued expressing support for increased transparency at ABA-approved law schools. This past week LST announced some important improvements that U.S. News will make regarding information disclosure. Building on the U.S. News lobbying efforts (which we began back in August), we then presented at the ABA Questionnaire Committee meeting down in Ft. Lauderdale, which was very productive. We will recap what happened at the meeting later this week. By continuing to focus the discussion on the need to repair the trust relationship between law schools and students, we are hopeful that meaningful improvements will eventually come about through the regulatory process.

LST plans to play an active role in participating in the reforms, but to do this we need to reexamine our organization’s resources. We are a small staff made up entirely of volunteers. This is a good thing. Unlike representatives from individual law schools, we don’t face the bureaucratic problems that exist within many institutions of higher education. As new members of the legal profession, we have worked hard to prove our dedication to solving these issues in a way that benefits both prospective law students and the legal profession in general. Thankfully, the legal media has largely spared us of the same criticism often levied against the ABA or individual law schools. We suspect that one of the reasons for this has been because we don’t really have a horse in the race, other than a serious dedication to following through with our goals.

That said, this week’s success at the ABA hearing has led us to realize that continued involvement with the ABA is necessary if we are to make sure that they continue in the right direction. Regulatory reform is slow, and there will be a number of opportunities for interested parties to sidetrack the ABA’s efforts. For our purposes, this means that we need to secure enough funds so that when we are invited to the table, we can afford to attend.

So far we have relied on the generosity of anonymous donors, but we are now considering additional methods of fundraising. We will continue to operate as a volunteer organization, relying on our dedicated staff members, advisory board, and the hundreds of people who have reached out to us with ideas over the last two years.

We are currently soliciting ideas about how we can raise the funds necessary to carry out LST’s mission. If you have a good one, let us know. One suggestion has been to ask for an “alternate class pledge” similar to what graduating students are asked to give by their law schools, where graduates who do not approve of how their own school presents employment information can make a pledge to LST instead. While this could increase some of the animosity between law schools and LST, it could also serve as a barometer for how many graduates are willing to pay to see something change, while simultaneously providing another incentive (though small) for schools to reevaluate their methods aside from any potential ABA reforms. We are by no means committed to this idea, so if you have an opinion on the matter please do not hesitate to express your concern or support.

We will be considering any and all fundraising suggestions over the next several weeks. Please send us your thoughts, or let us know if you (or someone you know) would be interested in making a donation.

All the Best,

Patrick J. Lynch, J.D.
Co-Founder and Policy Director
Law School Transparency

Kyle P. McEntee
Co-Founder and Executive Director
Law School Transparency