The president of the State Bar of California, Bill Hebert, recently advanced the discussion on law school transparency. In an address last week he highlighted recent developments in the movement and called for widespread change. He said:
The profession needs to require greater transparency in reporting by law schools. As a condition of ABA accreditation, law schools should be required, at a minimum, to comply with the [ABA Young Lawyers Division's] Truth in Law School Education standards, if not even more rigorous reporting standards. In California, it might be time to consider imposing the same requirements on our state-accredited schools, so applicants can make informed choices.
As we wrote about last month, the YLD’s nonbinding resolution does not fully address the problems that applicants have in making informed choices. It is therefore encouraging to see Hebert suggest that the ABA should be doing more. While Hebert did not detail specific courses of action the state of California could take regarding state-accredited schools, revising the Admissions and Educational Standards is a possibility. When compared to the accreditation standards put forth by the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, California’s standards fall far short. Seeing as the ABA requirements themselves are inadequate at protecting applicants from misleading employment statistics, California’s introduction of a disclosure requirement would be an important step. It could also lead to similar consumer protections in other jurisdictions trying to address reform. And it could send a strong message to the ABA at a crucial time, as Dean Yellen’s Standard 509 Subcommittee continues drafting proposed changes to legal education’s lone consumer protection provision.
The most important element of Hebert’s comments was to whom he assigned the responsibility for reform. He did not put the responsibility on individual law schools. Rather, the legal profession itself has the duty to make sure the country’s future lawyers know what they’re getting into. Hebert’s comments also push things further than other proposals to date. Hebert mentions the Young Lawyer Division’s recent resolution, but then goes on to suggest more rigorous measures.
By framing the solution in terms of what the profession should do, rather than pointing the finger at either law school deans or disgruntled graduates, Hebert is engaging members of the profession who genuinely care about these problems and want to do something about them. Increased transparency in the reporting of employment statistics is a necessary step to restoring the values of the profession. But reforms will only occur as influential leaders like Bill Hebert motivate their colleagues into action.
In the meantime, the opportunity still stands for those of you who are thinking of entering the legal profession and want to get involved. Schools recently submitted detailed employment data for Class of 2010 graduates to NALP, which means they have plenty of useful information at their fingertips. This is the perfect time for people to contact career services offices and request to see information on the Class of 2010.
If schools care about the welfare of future attorneys as much as the State Bar of California, they have the ability – right now – to get that information out to you. All you need to do is ask.
We’ll be reporting more in the coming weeks on new developments that are in the works. In the meantime, please let us know if you hear about schools taking the initiative to release Class of 2010 information.