A couple weeks ago, we shared with you some of our survey data, which showed that, generally speaking, law students’ experiences with their schools degrade over time. The ATL Insider Survey asks law students and alumni to rate their schools in the areas of academic instruction, career counseling, financial aid advising, practical/clinical training, and social life. When the ratings by first-year students are compared with those of third-years, the 3L scores are lower across the board, in all categories. In other words, the longer students are exposed to their schools, the lower their regard for the institution becomes. More equals worse.

We wondered whether or how this downward trajectory manifests itself after the students become alumni. After the jump, we compare the perceptions of students to those of graduates. The answer may surprise you, but probably not. Also, we identify the law schools where there is the greatest contrast between the views of current students and alumni — both negatively and positively….

The downward trend we’ve witnessed from 1L to 3L is reinforced when we compare current students and alumni, although writ large. Here’s how the ratings (on a scale from 1-4) compare:

With the interesting exception of “social life,” alumni scores are lower, in some cases strikingly so. (Are lawyers a bit sentimental about how “fun” law school was?) Career services declines by about 12.5%; financial aid advising by more than 10%. Regarding CSO, we’ll repeat what we said more than a year ago: “The difference between students and alumni seems like the difference between fretting over a bad weather forecast and actually get caught in the storm.” To be fair, though, the law school CSOs aren’t responsible for the lousy job market, which certainly shapes they way they are regarded. CSOs are the quarterbacks of the job search process: too much credit when things are going well, and too much blame when they’re not.

Regarding individual schools, there is a wide range of findings. In most cases, as shown above, alumni give lower marks to their alma maters than the current students. But not in every case: 36 out of the 147 schools profiled in the ATL Career Center are rated higher by their alumni than by current students. Here are the five schools that show the highest uptick in alumni perception:

Congratulations to all of these schools. Apparently, people are really satisfied with their legal educations at major state schools in the Midwest — also, at schools named after hats and bridges.

Now, the flipside. Here are the schools where the perception erodes the most after graduation:

That good will toward one’s law school deteriorates over time is hardly shocking, considering the horrible legal job market and the all but universally acknowledged structural defects in the legal education model. This trend is just yet another detail in the ever mounting case against the status quo. Juris Doctor, heal thyself.

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