Could this be a hint?

When it comes to all-important law school rankings, law schools follow the juvenile, Cosmo-esque dating advice of pretending they don’t care while secretly making every decision, consciously or unconsciously, with an eye toward maximizing their appeal.

And that’s not the worst thing in the world. The rankings are there because we generally agree that they measure stuff we want law schools to maximize. But if the rankings counted, say, “employment X months after graduation,” in a down market, the urge for law schools to manipulate that figure is on par with scoring another heroin fix.

Even if it means hiring the students directly to boost the numbers. Schools around the country have been doing this for quite some time.

At one prominent law school, the number of students in school-funded jobs is climbing. Is this a sign that the job market for recent law school graduates has yet to bottom out?

Over at George Washington University Law School, they’re still fronting a massive internship program that just so happens to massively boost their post-graduation employment figures. How massive is the boost?

More graduates have trickled into the GW Law School’s paid, short-term internship program since it began in August, underscoring the slumping legal job market and costing the school up to $3 million.

More than one-fifth of Class of 2012 graduates are part of the Pathways to Practice program – an initiative that pays alumni $15 an hour to work 35 hours a week to gain experience.

The slight jump from 95 to 109 graduates in the program emphasizes the bleak job outlook for lawyers as the school welcomed its smallest first-year class in a decade.

Ranked at No. 20 nationally, the law school reported that 81 percent of Class of 2011 graduates found full-time positions nine months after graduation. That percentage was partly propped up by the 15 percent of graduates in law school-funded jobs, according to data compiled by the legal education policy organization Law School Transparency.

At $15 an hour, it sounds more like “Pathways to a Pittance,” but you’ve got to respect their branding. Given the economic incentive to maintain a high ranking, spending $3 million out of pocket to prop up your employment rate statistics by 15 percent makes sense.

At the same time, $3 million isn’t chump change. As you might recall, GW wanted to reduce its spending on the program by slashing the $15 an hour rate. After student outcry was covered in these pages, however, the school quickly reversed course.

But the fact that GW Law considered cutting back its spending last year should worry anyone relying on a program that is getting more and more claimants. It’s not like the law school’s finances have magically recovered. At what point might the “gravy train”/”bare minimum assistance owed to students they duped into debt” run out?

In Dim Job Market, Law School Pays More Graduates To Work [The Hatchet]

Earlier: Law School Cuts Stipend On Own Employment Program For Recent Grads; Thinks They Need More ‘Incentive’ To Find A Job
George Washington University Law School Reverses Course, Restores Funding for Unemployed Grads Program


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