Job Searches, Law Schools

The Secret To Inflating Employment Rates? Only Survey Law Grads Who Are Employed

The following will shock no one who has been paying attention to how law schools are trying to openly game the U.S. News law school rankings and mislead prospective law students. When it comes time to collect employment data, law schools are selectively surveying their graduates: they’re seeking survey responses from employed graduates, while ignoring graduates who are unemployed. They’ve been playing this game at least since the recession started.

And now we have evidence. A tipster emailed pretty much everybody in the legal blogosphere spilling the dirt on how his law school is trying to inflate employment statistics. He claims that the directive from his law school is not at all subtle. If you are employed, the school hounds you to complete a graduate employment survey. If you are unemployed, the school would like you to ignore it. That way, when the school hears from U.S. News or NALP or the ABA — or Law School Transparency, which just issued another request to law schools for more comprehensive employment data — law school officials can throw up their hands and say, “It’s so hard to get our graduates to fill out a jobs survey.”

Still confused about how law schools massage the facts? Let this tipster explain it to you….

Here’s the email that was sent to us and at least five other legal blogs:

I’m a recent grad of a New York law school (Tier 2) that begins with the letter “S.” (Sorry for the vagueness but I’d prefer not to reveal my identity and technically I’m not allowed to forward emails from my law school.)

I’ve recently been getting bi-weekly emails from my school’s career services dept asking me to take and return the graduate employment survey only if I become employed. Here’s the relevant excerpt from the bottom of my recurring emails:

“If you have secured employment, please complete and return the attached Graduate Employment Survey.”

New York, second tier, name starts with an “S” — that leaves St. John’s Law or Syracuse (or I suppose Seton Hall if, in his “vagueness,” he wanted to expand to the New York metropolitan area).

But it doesn’t really matter which particular school he’s talking about. We suspect that selective surveying is going on at a lot of places. Actual employment outcomes for recent graduates amount to bad news that law schools don’t want you to hear. And right now there is no incentive for law schools to actually go out there and tell people the truth.

Why is that? I think there are two (maybe three) reasons. The first reason is that prospective law students don’t particularly care about the truth. They care about U.S. News. Unfortunately, U.S. News is ill-equipped to stop this kind of behavior. I know that the rankings seem all powerful, but U.S. News is just a magazine. It has no enforcement power. All it can do is rely on what law schools tell them or what information is publicly available.

The second reason is that the only organization with regulatory oversight over law schools, the ABA, allows law schools to play fast and loose with the facts. The ABA could punish law schools that don’t gather employment data in good faith. They could create standards about what information law schools must know about their graduating classes and how that information is to be collected. Or it could do… whatever the hell it is they are doing.

Finally, there’s the possibility that law schools mislead people because they have no honor. I know that’s a weird way of putting it: honor is not a particularly strong concept in American culture, and lawyers are not thought to possess very much of it anyway. But at the end of the day, there are people who will use their talents to illuminate the truth, while there are other people who will take any shady avenue available to obfuscate the truth. You’d think educators and academics would be committed to the former, but maybe too many of the people who end up on the administrative end of law school operations are actually failed educators and academics, who treat facts and stats as their personal playthings.

We’ve got to at least consider the possibility, because there are anti-global warming, Jesus-rode-dinosaurs “scientists” who would be embarrassed to release an employment survey like that. Why do a graduate employment survey at all if you are going to limit the sample to the people who are employed? It’s a joke that’s not funny. It’s intellectually dishonest. And I can’t imagine an honorable person who would allow that to be school policy.

Is your school doing the same thing as this alleged “S” school in New York? Let us know in the comments. I just suggested that these administrators have no honor, so it’s not like they’ll be “ashamed” to be put on this list. Shame is only felt by those who wish to do better.

Second Official Request from Law School Transparency [Law School Transparency]

Earlier: Even If You Told Prospective Law Students the Truth, Would They Care?
Prior ATL coverage of Law School Transparency

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