Ave Maria’s Official Statement

We just received Ave Maria’s official statement via Karen Sloan, reporter for the National Law Journal. From Ave Maria Dean Eugene Milhizer:

Ave Maria School of Law is committed to providing outstanding value to our students. Initially, we were interested in participating in the Transparency Project because we felt that leadership was needed in disclosing to the public appropriate information related to the costs and benefits of attending law school.

Since our earlier indication that we would provide data, the ABA has undertaken concrete action to address this issue, and we are satisfied that meaningful steps are in motion. In light of these recent developments, coupled with our concerns about the confidentiality of personal information about our graduates (which is a special concern at a small law school such as ours), we have decided to give the ABA’s leadership a fair chance to address this issue before acting independently, and for now, to withdraw from the Transparency Project.

The ABA will have its fair chance, but it is not the school’s job to provide that chance. If the ABA fails with its fair chance, the schools will not pick up the slack where the ABA fails. Rather, the Department of Education will have to reconsider whether the ABA Section of Legal Education and its accreditation committee suitably regulate American law schools.

So while it is true that the ABA has a responsibility to provide leadership on this issue, and that the Section of Legal Education committees are progressing towards a solution, the ABA only has to act because the schools are not voluntarily releasing the information prospective students need to make an informed investment. Individual law school’s responsibilities to prospectives and the profession are not absolved or delayed because the ABA seeks to regulate law schools more carefully. Law schools have had their “fair chance” to comport with these responsibilities, and have failed to meet them.

Earlier: Apathy For Applicants Continues: Ave Maria Backs Out

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.

Law School Transparency Reports: The Second Request

This past July, LST requested that all ABA-approved law schools provide employment data to LST for public consumption. At that time, the vast majority of law schools declined to respond or comment. In November, we finalized our official guidelines and made a second request from all ABA-approved law schools. While schools still have time to respond to our request and potentially commit to the LST Standard in time for the first wave of data, we thought it was time to issue a report on where things currently stand. Once again, the vast majority of schools have declined to respond or comment. The responses from the schools that did choose to respond were much the same.

Initial Request Responses

Law School Stance Primary reason for declining
American University Maybe Waiting for finalized Guidelines to decide
Ave Maria Yes
Creighton University No Compliance costs are too great
Northwestern University No LST is not well-established
Santa Clara University No Compliance costs are too great
University of Colorado No Compliance costs are too great
University of Florida No Prefer other means of improving information
University of Michigan Maybe Should make open records request instead
University of Tennessee No Violates privacy of students and employers
Vanderbilt University Maybe Waiting to examine impact on privacy
William Mitchell No No reason provided

Second Request Responses

Law School Stance Primary reason for declining
Loyola University Chicago No “most of the same [reasons] as the other deans who have declined”
University of Kansas No “not in a position to participate at this time”
Duquesne University No Violates privacy of students
Nova Southeastern University No Compliance costs are too great
University of Louisville Maybe see below

University of Louisville’s response to our second request was of particular note.

Via email:

Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. I think we agree on the value of reporting employment data accurately. I think we also agree on some of the potential challenges with LST Standard compliance. At this point, the University of Louisville Law School can commit to reviewing our 2010 data with the LST Standard in mind. As we discussed, our challenges are going to be with salary determination, reporting, privacy and resources. Perhaps we can have another conversation after February 15. My goal, like yours, is to ensure that prospective consumers of law school education have complete and accurate information upon which to make a decision.

We will be following up with University of Louisville Law School next week. It’s good to see the school thinking critically about how they report information to prospective law students. Louisville is among the few schools in the recent months to act publicly on the notion that prospective students need more information to make informed decisions. We hope that Louisville and other schools promptly provide 2010 employment information after it is available.

In the meantime, if you are affiliated with a school that has yet to respond and you support the cause, we encourage you to contact the school’s administration. We’ve heard from a number of current and prospective students over the last month who are doing just that, so please check back as we report more on those initiatives.

Why Involve Admissions Offices?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second Official Request from Law School Transparency

LST is pleased to announce the second request to law schools for more comprehensive employment data. The email text is below. 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 2010 LST Standard Guidelines and our report on the initial request.

Dear Administrators and Deans,

We hope this email finds you well as you continue collecting employment data for the Class of 2010. This email constitutes Law School Transparency’s second request to comply with the LST Standard for the Class of 2010.

The 2010 LST Standard Guidelines (attached) explain how to comply with the LST Standard for the Class of 2010. Thanks to the advice of career services staff, we have made a few substantive changes. We have expanded the types of qualified degrees from only advanced degree programs to all degree programs. We have also added an opt-out exemption that addresses privacy concerns for individual graduates who do not want to have their employment data included on the Lists you report to LST.

We ask that you or a member of your staff take the time to review the attached documents and determine whether your school chooses to commit to disclosing data for the Class of 2010. If your school chooses to commit, we ask that you provide us with a written response indicating that commitment. If your school chooses not to commit at this time, we ask for a response detailing any concerns you have about the LST Standard. One law school (Ave Maria School of Law) has committed to disclosing Class of 2010 employment data, and we hope you will consider joining them in setting a new ethical standard for legal education.

As we described in our initial request, we designed the LST Standard to bridge the information gap between ABA approved law schools and the tens of thousands of prospective law students. Due to problems with the existing reporting standards, prospectives are unable to obtain the information they need to make informed risk assessments about the decision to attend law school. Our Standard seeks to organize and disclose the data you already collect from your graduates, and does not require collecting data about more graduates than those who typically respond to your requests. By disclosing this data under the LST Standard, you will increase the quality of employment information for prospective law students.

Since making the first request in July, LST has worked hard to publicize the need for law schools to reform the methods by which they disclose employment information. Many legal and mainstream journalists have covered the issue with interest, helping us reach a wider audience and convince more members of the legal profession that reform is necessary. Separate from and concurrent with this official request, LST is publishing a report to assist your office in determining whether to commit. The report documents the initial request, surveys the ensuing media coverage, and analyzes schools’ reasons for declining. We have attached an electronic version of the report to this email. Hard copies of this report will also be mailed to the prelaw advisors at 100 U.S. undergraduate institutions, who together assist roughly 40,000 law school applicants in choosing where to go each year.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Regards,

Kyle P. McEntee
Executive Director

Patrick J. Lynch
Policy Director

Law School Transparency is a Tennessee non-profit dedicated to encouraging and facilitating the transparent flow of law school employment information. LST and its administrators operate independently of any law schools, for-profit publications, or governmental bodies related to the legal market. This email was sent to the career services, admissions, and dean’s offices for every ABA approved and provisionally-approved law school. If you received this email in error, please let us know to whom we should direct our request.

Law School Transparency Reports: The Initial Request

Law School Transparency is pleased to announce a report on our initial request to law schools for detailed employment data. The report documents the initial request, surveys the ensuing media coverage, and analyzes schools’ reasons for declining. We have attached an electronic version of the report to this post. Hard copies of this report will also be mailed to the prelaw advisors at 100 U.S. undergraduate institutions, who together assist roughly 40,000 law school applicants in choosing where to go each year.

Read the executive summary after the jump »»

A Big Tent: With LST Compliance, Everyone Wins

LST recognizes that there is much more to the placement discussion than employment in the nation’s largest law firms and federal Article III clerkships. In fact, only 15-18% of 2009 graduates were employed by these firms or as Article III clerks. While many prospective law students want these jobs, other students want to attend law school because they want to work in a particular community or region, or because they want to pursue a particular career in a district attorney’s office or an environmental advocacy position for example. (An earlier post provided a more detailed discussion of niche placement.) Prospective students are interested in comparing these employment opportunities. It should be surprising, then, that the current reporting standards do not emphasize placement with the government, regional and local law firms, and state and local clerkships.

Every school—small or large, regional or national, new or old—has much to gain from engaging with LST. Prospective students want placement transparency and will be looking for it during the application process. Current and prospective students are paying attention. The media is paying attention. Other law schools are paying attention. Our white paper acknowledges typical “first-mover” problems, but any law school (and perhaps especially a regional school) has much to gain in the way of public notoriety and goodwill from prospective students. Ave Maria’s decision to be the first school to comply with our standard is a good example of this. After we announced this decision, the Wall Street Journal Law Blog called Ave Maria a “beacon of light [that] has emerged from the darkness.” In some quarters, law schools are taking it on the chin right now, and LST compliance is a good way to shift discourse into a more positive light.

Complying with the LST Standard allows law schools to be responsible and combat confusion and misinformation, and it provides them with the opportunity to speak openly about the available job information, prospectives’ career-related goals, and how the law school can specially serve these nuanced goals. The LST Standard is open and objective: it does not prioritize placement in one area over another, and it allows prospective students to interpret the placement information in light of their own interests and objectives. As such, both national and regional law schools have something to gain by complying with the LST Standard because prospectives’ career ambitions are nuanced and so are schools’ offerings.

Many prospective law students determine which school to attend by referring to the U.S. News rankings. Many prospectives use a school’s U.S. News rank as a rough proxy for its placement ability. Unfortunately, this rough proxy works best only for the top national law schools—the law schools that place best in the largest law firms and Article III courts. The problem with ordering schools on a national scale is that it deemphasizes the ability many schools have to place regionally (the very mission of many law schools). When prospectives make their decision to attend law school based on miniscule ranking differences that don’t reflect meaningful differences, they do a disservice to themselves, the school they attend, and the school that could have better served their career ambitions.

We have largely focused on the law schools and their role in our efforts to secure compliance commitments, but consideration of the relationship between schools and prospective students serves as a reminder that schools care about the composition of their entering class. Schools do not want to fill their classes with just anybody; schools would not otherwise offer scholarships, read applications, or spend money recruiting. In seeking to admit a particular caliber of students, schools invest in those students, hoping to train and graduate a successful group of alumni. Students and schools have an interest in finding a good match, and LST will be an independent data source for those prospective students, helping them to do a better job of identifying the schools most likely to prepare them to reach their individual career goals. After all, graduates who were informed about career prospects when they chose their law school are more likely to be happy, supportive alumni. They will be more inclined to donate time, money, and other resources like assisting other students in finding mentorships, internships, and post-graduation jobs.

Compliance with the LST Standard is a practical way for law schools to be open and honest with would-be attendees. Most of the eleven schools that responded to our initial request contended that compliance would not be easy. We have (here and here) and will continue to address these technical and practical concerns. Still, we think law schools owe employment-outcome transparency to prospective students, if not as a matter of law, then at least as a matter of fair dealing in accordance with professional and educational responsibility. Whether a school is interested in highlighting its ability to place graduates in niche markets, upholding values of openness and honesty in their relations with prospective students, spurring positive publicity, or attracting students who will be a good match and develop into supportive alumni, all law schools have something to gain by complying with the LST Standard. We have done the work to craft a uniform, comprehensive standard that meets the appropriate needs of prospective students and allows schools to be responsible and transparent when they hold themselves out to those students. It is our hope that all law schools will take the necessary action to bring themselves into compliance with the LST Standard.

Initial Request Responses

Yesterday morning we revealed the 11 schools that responded to LST’s initial request in our preliminary report. We will provide a more detailed report soon, but in the meantime we thought it would be appropriate to provide readers with each school’s response.

These responses are unedited, except for removal of salutations, valedictions, and signature lines. We also redacted contact information embedded in the body of Michigan’s response.

American University Washington College of Law

Via email:

In response to your request below, American University Washington College of Law continues to take this matter under advisement and will not commit to providing the requested information about our recent graduates until receiving and reviewing the finalized guidelines in November.

Ave Maria School of Law

Ave Maria will respond by Thursday, September 16th.

Creighton University School of Law

Via email:

Thank you for your inquiry of July 12, 2010.

We support your goal of transparency but due to our small office size and resource restraints at a busy time of year, we regret we cannot participate this year. In addition, given the nature of our student body and the types of positions they accept, we are concerned that providing individual information, even without names, will allow individuals to be easily identified. Providing salary information for those students may cause a chilling effect for future students who do not want their salaries made public. When collecting salary information, we inform students that individual information is never publicly released – only aggregate information. We hope you understand our concerns.

We will reevaluate our participation in your project on a year to year basis.

Good luck with your endeavor.

Northwestern University School of Law

Thank you for your recent request for employment data on Northwestern Law JD and JD-MBA graduates.

We agree with the general mission of Law School Transparency. However, as I have stated elsewhere, we believe that the type of information you have requested, which in some cases is quite sensitive, is better collected and assembled by a more well-established organization – ideally for the purpose of creating an alternative ranking. For example, Forbes recently conducted a survey of law school alumni which asks for similar types of information. Forbes intends to use the survey results to create a new ranking of law schools based on these employment-related outcomes. We were happy to participate and assist them in this endeavor.

Santa Clara University Law School

Santa Clara declined our request via phone, citing privacy and compliance cost concerns. As far as we know, they still plan to provide a written response to outline their concerns.

University of Colorado Law School

Via email:

We have received your Law School Transparency (“LST”) letter and have read the explanation and reasoning behind your decision to establish LST. You have, indeed, identified a very real problem: the lack of reliable data for present and prospective students who want a clearer picture of a law school’s placement record. In light of the fact that not all employers (especially those in the public sector) are prepared to extend an offer of employment to a new graduate until that graduate has passed the bar exam, the at graduation figures reported to US News do not provide a clear picture of the employment market. The 9 months out figures provided to NALP in the February following graduation are the best we have, and even those are difficult to compile with accuracy.

Although we do agree with you about the nature of the problem, the additional data sets that might produce more robust information would be very difficult for us to collect. The collection of data for NALP, ABA, and U.S. News & World Report, is already an onerous task for a small staff. The most fundamental hurdle for any law school is the reluctance of recent graduates themselves to report their personal information to us even for the NALP survey. We already make numerous inquiries by phone and email, spending more staff time collecting and updating data than is justifiable. Even with that effort we do not get information from “the entire class.”

In any economy, but especially in the current economy, we are convinced that our limited resources must be spent helping our students and alumni get jobs, ride out deferrals, and stay motivated. Those responsibilities have increased greatly as a result of the tightened hiring market. When excellent graduates are frustrated and embarrassed by their inability to find satisfying employment after graduation, they are even more reluctant to provide us with the information requested on the NALP form and sometimes let us know they wish we would not keep after them for responses.

Recently, I have told our staff that if it comes down to meeting demands for assistance to students in their job searches or data collection, the latter must give way. Leaving aside the important issue of confidentiality, we hesitate to press another survey upon our recent graduates and to allocate precious staff time to the task of administering it, following up with our alumni, and compiling the responses.

In conclusion, while we agree wholeheartedly with the motivation that drives your desire to seek more data, there simply is no easy way to collect it.

University of Florida Levin College of Law

Via email:

The Center for Career Development at the Levin College of Law received your July 12, 2010, e-mail. We share your commitment to transparency and accuracy in how placement data is recorded and reported, and we appreciate the Law School Transparency Project’s encouragement of more discussion of this issue among law schools, law students, and the legal profession.

Our college follows the guidelines set by the American Bar Association, the Law School Admissions Council, and the National Association for Legal Career Professionals for reporting employment-related data. We agree that there are always other factors that could be considered and other methodologies that could be used in describing placement results, and we believe there is room for improvement in current methodologies. We plan to follow the above-mentioned guidelines in our reporting at this time, and we plan to participate in efforts to improve those guidelines.

University of Michigan Law School

Via email:

Thank you for your email. We share your interest in making sure that the best possible information is available to law school applicants about the career prospects of law graduates, and to that end, we distribute a great deal of information (on our website and in publications for admitted students) about the specific experiences of our students in the job market—far more than what is called for by the National Association for Law Placement, and even more than the new information you have mentioned. We work with our students and alumni, as well as other important constituencies, on an ongoing basis to be responsive to changing needs in this arena.

With specific regard to your request, as a public institution governed by the state of Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act, I must direct you to the University’s FOIA Office. The FOIA Office coordinates our responses to the many requests for data we receive. The relevant contact information is:

{redacted}

FOIA Coordinator

Freedom of Information Act Office

2025 Fleming Administration Building

Ann Arbor, Michigan 48109-1340

Phone: {redacted}

Fax: {redacted}

E-mail: {redacted}

{redacted} will contact the relevant law school administrators after she hears from you, and we will proceed accordingly. Please note that, as a general matter, we are not always able to provide all the information requested via FOIA. For example, we are obligated to remove any information that could lead to identifying specific individuals, out of consideration for their privacy. Please also be aware that some FOIA requests, depending on their complexity, result in a charge for the cost of compliance. {redacted} is the expert, however, and will be able to advise you about the process in detail.

We’ll be very happy to help in any way we can.

University of Tennessee College of Law

Via email:

The University of Tennessee College of Law‘s Admission, Financial Aid, and Career Center form one administrative unit designed to help prospective students analyze critical information such as cost of attendance, average indebtedness, career prospects, and starting salaries of graduates in order to determine return on investment in a legal education.

UT offers information to prospective students in a variety of methods, including:

Annual Graduate Employment and Salary Survey. UT’s Annual Graduate Survey provides comprehensive post-graduate employment and salary data by job setting, location, and size of firm. Available for each class since 1989, this longitudinal data allows for comparisons over time and across employment settings and locations. UT typically collects salary information for about 60% of its graduates and honors requests of students who prefer not to disclose salary data that they consider private and confidential.

“Be astute – Compare the numbers” campaign. UT sends a targeted mailing to prospects each fall disclosing key data points about UT (annual tuition and fees, average indebtedness, and range of graduate starting salaries) and encouraging prospects to gather similar information from other law schools.

Employment and Salary Data Online. UT posts aggregate graduate employment and salary information by job setting and location for recent classes on its web site. Specific information is provided on the sites for prospective students and admitted candidates drawing their attention to this information and inviting them to discuss career issues with Career Center staff.

Career Information Visible in Recruitment Materials. Employment and salary information on the most recent graduate class is prominent in the admissions view book, The Tennessee Advantage, and in the At a Glance class profile.

Job Market Update presentation to students each fall. This workshop and presentation compares UT graduate employment with national law graduate employment outcomes based on NALP’s national annual report, JOBS & JDs. This data is also integrated into presentations and reports to prospective students and alumni audiences, and the PowerPoint presentation is available as a link from the Prospective Student and Career Center web sites.

RATIONALE FOR DECLINING PARTICIPATION IN SURVEY

The College of Law believes that if it exposed individual salaries of graduates and specific salaries offered by employers, UT’s actions would actually inhibit the collection and reporting of salary information by both students and employers.

The employment profile of UT graduates is very similar to the national employment profile reported by NALP, with the most common employment settings for post-graduate employment being private practice and government. The most common single job setting for UT graduates each year is law firms with 25 attorneys or fewer. Generally, a law firm hires only one student from the graduating class. If an employer’s name and starting salary were to be listed, it would be virtually impossible to maintain any type of confidentiality for the graduate.

Additionally, employers are not obligated to establish a common starting salary, and increasingly they may negotiate salaries with individuals as they are hired. If an employer hired individuals within the same class but at different salary levels, disclosure of salary by employer name would place UT in a position to reveal information that is otherwise confidential between students and their employers. The Career Center requests, but does not require, its graduates to disclose personally-negotiated salary data that is not commonly known and announced by the employer. But this disclosure is made with the understanding that individual salary data will be kept in strict confidence and only reported in the aggregate. A change in this expectation would likely have a chilling effect on the rate of reporting and thereby diminish the amount of available data.

Vanderbilt University Law School

Via email:

Vanderbilt will report, as usual, all employment data for the Class of 2010 which does not identify particular students and is consistent with what is reported to both the ABA and NALP. This information derives from the Graduation Employment Report which students are asked to complete but often do not, for various reasons, and from conversations and emails from our students.

If the final list of requested information includes data that we have not been collecting, we will have to determine whether reporting this information would create problems of confidentiality or an unmanageable workload for our staff.

William Mitchell College of Law

Via email:

Thank you for your letter requesting our participation in Law School Transparency. We respectfully decline the invitation.

Like you, we take seriously the sharing of data and information that students need to make well-informed decisions about law school. We strive to be complete and thorough when publishing and reporting this data and when responding to inquiries from prospective students.

Should there be further developments in your project, please do not hesitate to let us know about them.

Last Friday only marked the conclusion of Law School Transparency’s initial request. Many schools did not respond by the initial deadline but may still wish to weigh in on the matter. As such, we are in the process of encouraging more schools to respond and will post the schools’ official responses as they come in.

Preliminary Report on LST’s Initial Request

As of September 10, 2010, LST's initial response period - during which we asked schools to commit to disclosing more employment information under a new standard - has closed. We wish to thank all the law school representatives who took the time to consider our initial request. In order to succeed, this initiative must be an ongoing collaboration between current students, employers, law school administrators, graduates, faculty, and prospective law students. We have been working steadily throughout the response period to formulate LST’s next steps based on this collaboration. This report summarizes the results of LST's initial request to 199 ABA-approved and provisionally approved law schools.

Results Summary
Of the 199 law schools we asked to commit to our new standard, 11 (5.5%) responded before the close of our 60-day response period. We will follow up with the other 188 law schools in the next month. For now, the respondents were:
See the rest of the report after the jump »»

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.