Much credit has been given to the American Bar Association of late for its efforts to rein in law schools and their wily ways as far as employment statistics are concerned. Once upon a time, it was just fine for law schools to publish completely nonsensical data and herald it to the world as if it were true. Prospective (and extremely gullible) applicants were made to believe that it was possible for 98 percent of a class to be employed nine months after graduation during the height of the recession, and they applied in droves.

These days, now that word has gotten out that employment in the entry-level legal sector has run dry, law school applications are on pace to hit a 30-year low. You’d think that given the gravity of the situation — not to mention the ebb and flow of class action lawsuits having to do with job statistics — law schools do their best to comply with the ABA’s standards, but apparently even that’s too hard to do.

Perhaps the ABA’s reporting requirements are too tough in that they require not one, but Dear Lord, two charts to be published, along with consumer information that’s “complete, accurate, and not misleading.” That’s a pretty high bar to reach, amirite? Considering the state of the job market, providing accurate employment information about law schools must be really embarrassing rough for administrators to have to endure.

In fact, some law schools in the T14 can’t even bring themselves to adhere to these stringent requirements….

Law School Transparency, the leading law school watchdog group, recently examined the employment data posted by all 199 ABA-accredited law schools, and the results were astonishing awful. Here are the details:

Our chief findings, based on data collected between December 18, 2012 and January 9, 2013, are as follows:

- Of the 199 ABA-approved law schools, 78.4% (156/199) did not meet the expectations set forth by Standard 509.

- 65.3% (130/199) failed to publish one or both charts required by Standard 509. 20.6% (41/199) did not publish either chart.

- 46.2% (92/199) published consumer information that was incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading, as prohibited by Standard 509(a).

We took a look at LST’s Transparency Index to see how the schools in the T14 did in terms of providing the required ABA data. Perhaps these schools thought it was somehow beneath them to follow the rules. Perhaps they thought they’d acquire additional prestige points for scoffing at the need for detailed information for their elite students. Either way, only four of these elite law schools managed to provide all of the required data.

  • Yale: failed to “clearly identify the number of salaries and percentage of graduates included” in its salary information
  • Stanford: failed to provide a conditional scholarship retention chart
  • Harvard: provided ALL required Standard 509 data (Elie note: Boom, bitches.)
  • Columbia: failed to “clearly identify the number of salaries and percentage of graduates included” in its salary information
  • Chicago: failed to provide a conditional scholarship retention chart; failed to “clearly identify the number of salaries and percentage of graduates included” in its salary information
  • NYU: failed to provide an employment outcome chart; failed to provide a conditional scholarship retention chart; failed to “clearly identify the number of salaries and percentage of graduates included” in its salary information
  • UC Berkeley: failed to provide an employment outcome chart; failed to provide a conditional scholarship retention chart
  • Penn: provided ALL required Standard 509 data
  • UVA: failed to provide complete salary information, which can often be misleading
  • Michigan: provided ALL required Standard 509 data; received a PERFECT transparency score
  • Duke: provided ALL required Standard 509 data
  • Northwestern: failed to “clearly identify the number of salaries and percentage of graduates included” in its salary information
  • Georgetown: failed to provide a conditional scholarship retention chart; failed to provide complete salary information, which can often be misleading; failed to “clearly identify the number of salaries and percentage of graduates included” in its salary information
  • Cornell: failed to provide an employment outcome chart; failed to provide a conditional scholarship retention chart

And these errors are STILL present, even after school administrators were advised by LST that they were in the wrong. Luckily, not all law schools were so resistant to change. From the National Law Journal:

The group informed law school administrators in early February of its findings. In the following three weeks, 84 law schools replied that they had updated their employment data in some way. By the end of the month, the percentage of schools with Standard 509 problems had fallen to 49 percent, and the percentage that had not published one of both of the required charts had fallen to 35 percent.

Additionally, sixty-four percent of the law schools now provide some type of jobs information that goes beyond what the ABA requires, the group said, and 44 percent have made their NALP hiring report available to the public.

That’s good and well, but when the law schools that are supposed to be academic thought leaders aren’t doing their part in the transparency game, it doesn’t exactly encourage schools that are less highly regarded to follow through with these initiatives. When the ivory tower is supposed to be inspired by these schools, it’s sad that they can’t even bring themselves to provide data that’s required by a regulatory organization. Would that the ABA actually went through the trouble to ENFORCE its new rules, but that’s probably asking too much.

At least we can thank Michigan for its outstanding performance. Not only has the school provided prospective students with a tool to assess how enslaved to debt they’ll be upon graduation, but it’s also a place that’s so transparent that it’s willing to admit that one of its graduates went on to become a sheep farmer.

Bravo, Michigan, and props to Harvard, Penn, and Duke. As for the rest of the T14, how incredibly TTT of you.

Problems persist with law school jobs data, watchdog says [National Law Journal]
Winter 2013 Transparency Index Report [Law School Transparency via SSRN]

Earlier: Using Michigan Law’s ‘Debt Wizard’ Should Be Part Of The LSAT Games Section
Law School Applications Crater
Now That’s Transparency: ‘Most Honest Law School’ Admits a Graduate Is Employed as a ‘Sheep Farmer’


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