Well, it’s a start. If you think it’s a good thing for law schools to be more transparent about the employment prospects of their students, then you have to applaud Washington & Lee Law School. The school had been building a bit of a reputation for taking an outside-the-box approach to legal education, but that momentum seemed to stall with the departure of Dean Rodney Smolla (to become the president of Furman University).

But one good way to distinguish yourself from other law schools is to tell the truth to prospective law students. Washington & Lee just dumped 17 pages of employment information on its admitted students. A lot of it is public information, such as general statistical data about legal employment, but still.

Having led the horses to water, we’ll see if any of these kids want to take a drink…

The 17-page document leads off with sobering employment numbers from NALP:

From there, W&L launches into a discussion of its own statistics for the 2007 – 2009 classes. Unfortunately, admitted students will probably stop looking once they see this panel:

The thing is, Washington & Lee tries to do the hard work of educating admitted students. Right after this chart, they link to the NALP bimodal salary distribution curve. They tell admitted students: “Keep in mind, however, that average and median salaries do not provide the full picture of entry-level compensation.”

Moving on, W&L gets into the school’s employment data. Now, some of this information seems puffed up to me. But W&L Law does offer this disclosure in a footnote:

You do wonder how many people from these classes — classes better known as the Lost Generation — have just given up entirely?

But wait, there’s more. Of perhaps most use to prospective 1Ls, Washington & Lee breaks down how its current students are getting jobs, and whether or not those jobs are paid. Here’s the compensation pie chart, for the 1L summer jobs of the W&L class of 2012 (currently 2Ls):

That’s news you can use. New 1Ls, know that 50% of you who do get jobs for the 1L summer will do so on an unpaid basis. (For the 2L summer, unpaid positions drop to 27%, for those 2Ls who do find summer jobs.)

Taken together, this is great information for prospective law students. Every school should make this kind of disclosure to admitted students.

Whether or not admitted students have the capacity or the desire to process all of this information is another question entirely.

UPDATE: Here are two links worth checking out, which sound some cautionary notes:

About the Economy… [The Brief]
Career Planning Statistics [Washington & Lee Law School]

Earlier: Even If You Told Prospective Law Students the Truth, Would They Care?


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