Lat here. Today’s topic: transparency in how law schools report their graduates’ “employment outcomes” — i.e., the jobs that their graduates obtain.
When we attended admitted students’ weekend at Yale Law School — back in 1996, so almost 15 years ago — we were given detailed lists showing where the past few classes ended up working. The graduates were listed in alphabetical order, and below each person’s name was the name and address of their employer. For prospective law students, it was reassuring to see so many federal judicial clerkships and large law firms on these lists. The implicit message: if you graduate — or when you graduate, since we’re talking about YLS, not known for failing people (although it does have grades) — you will be able to secure a good job.
Alas, we understand that not all law schools are so forthcoming about where their alumni end up working (or not working, in this economy). There have been widespread allegations of law schools gaming the system, by massaging or manipulating the employment data they report to the American Bar Association and, perhaps even more importantly, to U.S. News & World Reports (for use in the magazine’s highly influential law school rankings). There have even been claims of law schools outright lying about how many of their graduates wind up employed, where they end up working, and how much they earn from these jobs.
Most observers are content just to complain about law schools not being forthcoming enough about employment information. But two enterprising law students at Vanderbilt — Kyle McEntee and Patrick Lynch, a 2L and 3L, respectively — are doing more. They’ve started a nonprofit organization, Law School Transparency, which has the goal of “encouraging and facilitating the transparent flow of law school employment information.” They’ve also written a paper, A Way Forward: Improving Transparency in Employment Reporting at American Law Schools (SSRN download), proposing a new approach to reporting of job outcomes by law schools.
More details and links — plus commentary from Elie, who feels strongly about this issue — after the jump.
If a professional organization wants to protect the incomes and job opportunities of its members — and if it wants to ensure the quality of the services being provided, thereby preserving the profession’s reputation — it needs to exert some control over who enters the field. A professional association should arguably do whatever it can, within the bounds of antitrust law, to protect its turf and to preserve a certain amount of exclusivity in the profession.
(Please note that we’re proceeding based on two assumptions: (1) professional organizations should act in the self-interest of their individual members (as well as the profession as a whole), and (2) there will be some regulation of entry into a profession. We set aside the libertarian vision of a world devoid of professional licensing schemes and regulation, in which anyone can practice a trade or profession, and the market weeds out the bad apples.)
Some commentators — like our very own Elie Mystal, currently on vacation (so we’ll attempt to fill his shoes in this post), or Mark Greenbaum, in a widely-read Los Angeles Times op-ed — have accused the American Bar Association (ABA) of not doing enough to regulate entry into the legal profession. As a result, the nation is flooded with lawyers — or, perhaps more accurately, law school graduates — who can’t get jobs (or jobs that pay well enough to cover gigantic student loan payments).
These critics point to other professions and professional organizations that have done a better job of preserving exclusivity. Take medicine. Historically, if you could survive the rigors of the cutthroat pre-med world, four years of medical school, and the underpaid toil of a residency, you’d be set for life. As noted yesterday by a commenter:
Back in July 2009, U.S. News & World Report announced that it would pimp out its prestige whores to the law firm audience.
For years U.S. News has dominated the thoughts of prospective law students and the actions of law school administrators. For years the ABA has stood idly by while a magazine has distorted the incentives of legal educators.
But now, now that U.S. News is poised to talk directly to law firm clients — large corporate clients, who might want to tell their boards that the #1 law firm in the country is working on their matters — the ABA suddenly gives a crap.
The ABA passed a resolution to “study” the new U.S. News rankings methodology. The National Law Journal reports:
“[The U.S. News] rankings have a profound impact on the law schools. The deans hate it,” said past New York bar President Vincent Buzard, citing reports that law school leaders juice administrative data to boost their schools’ rankings. “It seemed to us that the ABA should look into the methodology of these rankings and ensure that they are reliable and aren’t based on inadequate data.”
While numerous publications and Web sites offer attorney ratings, sitting New York bar President Michael Getnicks worried that the magazine’s plan to numerically rank firms could prove problematic and misleading.
“What considerations do you take into account when you go out and say somebody is No. 1 and somebody is No. 10?” he said.
The ABA is out with a new report that suggests the recession has negatively impacted diversity in the legal profession. The report also confirms reports we’ve heard about layoffs disproportionately affecting minority attorneys: The ABA Journal summarizes the findings:
“While law firms have increasingly come to recognize that diverse corporate clients and international markets often require lawyer diversity, the recession is drying up monies for diversity initiatives and creating downsizing and cutbacks that may disproportionately and negatively affect lawyer diversity–thereby undoing the gains of past decades,” states the report produced for the ABA Presidential Initiative Commission on Diversity.
The report, titled Diversity in the Legal Profession: The Next Steps (PDF), also urges law schools to take financial considerations into account in seeking greater diversity in admissions since diverse populations often are most affected by rising tuition costs and heavy debt loads.
That’s right, the ABA has some suggested solutions to this problem and — quite rightly — it starts with law schools.
Details from the report after the jump.
Earlier this month, Mark Greenbaum penned a blistering op-ed in the Los Angeles Times, blasting the American Bar Association for not exercising greater regulatory control over law schools. Obviously, I’ve been publicly begging the ABA to do something about the proliferation of new law schools and new law students, hoping against hope that lawyers would be afforded the same kind of professional protection that doctors enjoy.
Apparently, ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm is sick of hearing lawyers and commentators complain about the ABA’s lack of regulatory oversight over the law schools they accredit. Lamm shot back at Greenbaum (and anybody else who thinks there are too many law schools). If you’re hoping for the ABA to step up and stem the tide of new lawyers, Lamm’s message is clear: don’t hold your breath. Here’s the opening to her full-throated defense of the ABA:
To the Editor:
You published a recent opinion piece by Mark Greenbaum. His analysis is premised on incorrect facts from which he draws flawed conclusions. He misstates the number of American Bar Association-approved law schools, ties it to what he describes as a “flood of graduates,” and insists the ABA should “block” new schools. He fails to acknowledge that in fact existing law schools have reduced voluntarily class size and therefore despite a minimal increase in the number of accredited law schools (7% over a 5 year period) first year enrollment grew by only two percent. Hardly producing a “flood of graduates”.
Greenbaum says that there are 200 ABA approved law schools. The ABA website also tells us that there are 200 ABA approved law schools. Lamm explained to Above the Law where she disagrees with Greenbaum’s numbers:
Mr. Greenbaum said: “Today there are 200 ABA-accredited law schools in the U.S., with more on the way, as many have been awarded provisional accreditation.” There are 200 ABA-approved law schools. That number includes the six provisionally approved schools. And while he complained about an increase in the number of schools, as we pointed out, the relevant number is of students. Due to self-restraint by the schools, that number did not increase significantly. Greenbaum is even inaccurate in identification of ABA-approved schools in California. He says the new law school at UC Irvine is among ABA-approved schools. That school has not yet even applied for ABA approval.
Well, in fairness UC Irvine will seek provisional accreditation from the ABA in 2010 — which is the earliest possible time for them to do so.
Still, these are fair points, but not really the heart of the debate here. More from Carolyn Lamm after the jump.
So I’m sitting on a veranda enjoying 70-degree Los Angeles weather, a cuban, and a crisp copy of the Los Angeles Times.* What could possibly make this better?
I’ll tell you: an op-ed in a mainstream publication acknowledging the over-saturation of the legal job market that I’ve been preaching about for months. Today’s L.A. Times piece could have been written by me, it could have been written by a number of ATL commenters, but it was written by a D.C. lawyer who understands the ABA’s role as an absentee professional organization:
Part of the problem can be traced to the American Bar Assn., which continues to allow unneeded new schools to open and refuses to properly regulate the schools, many of which release numbers that paint an overly rosy picture of employment prospects for their recent graduates. There is a finite number of jobs for lawyers, and this continual flood of graduates only suppresses wages. Because the ABA has repeatedly signaled its unwillingness to adapt to this changing reality, the federal government should consider taking steps to stop the rapid flow of attorneys into a marketplace that cannot sustain them.
Hello, mainstream media. As Sam Seaborn might say: Let’s ignore the fact that you are late to the party and embrace the fact that you showed up at all!
After the jump, more public flogging of the ABA.
There will be a change at the top of one of the few organizations that can help address some of the problems facing lawyers today. The ABA Journal reports:
ABA Executive Director Henry F. White Jr. has resigned after three years at the helm of the world’s largest voluntary professional membership organization. ABA General Counsel R. Thomas Howell Jr. has been named interim executive director.
Let’s take a moment to remember precisely what the ABA does. From ABA President Carolyn B. Lamm’s official statement about the resignation:
With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.
There are a lot of lawyers that need some professional assistance just at the moment. Hopefully a fresh face will have new ideas about proactive steps the ABA can take on behalf of its membership. ABA Executive Director Resigns [ABA Journal]
It wasn’t that long ago — just back in August 2008 — that the ABA changed its rules to allow the outsourcing of American legal work. In the midst of the recession, a lot of people are still trying to figure out if outsourcing will cause a more fundamental change to the nature of the Biglaw business model than anything we’ve seen during the credit crunch.
Now, the ABA is asking its lawyers to share their opinion on outsourcing. This week’s ABA Intellectual Property Law section e-letter contains a link to a very interesting survey. Here’s the description from the e-letter:
Outsourcing Task Force Seeks Survey Input From You
The American Bar Association’s Outsourcing Task Force is conducting a survey on outsourcing. The objective of the Task Force, at the Request of ABA President-Elect Steve Zack, is a Report with Recommendations to the House of Delegates on the subject at next year’s Annual Meeting.
An important means of collecting input from a broader cross section of the
ABA is an online survey which can be accessed at: http://www.zoomerang.com/Survey/?p=WEB229LAVJNGRM.
As input from the broadest possible range of American lawyers is critical, the Task Force would greatly appreciate if every member could take a moment to complete this survey.
Immediate Past Section Chair Gordon Arnold is a member of the Task Force and serves as its Liaison to the Section of Intellectual Property Law. He strongly encourages all to complete this survey.
IP lawyers, here is one chance to voice your opinion.
After the jump, some we post a couple of the questions the task force is asking.
The American Bar Association has a plan to help out unemployed lawyers with their student loans. Seriously. An actual plan. The National Law Journal reports:
The ABA wants the government to let unemployed graduates convert private loans into federal ones. The change could allow them to defer repaying those loans for as long as three years.
The plan is so simple and helpful that I’m almost positive Congress will find a way to horribly mess it up. The ABA wants to let people borrow money from the government to pay off their private loans. Then unemployed lawyers can put their new federal loans into deferment for up to three years if they need to.
The effort is in its early stages — executives of the largest provider of private law school loans, Access Group Inc., weren’t even aware of it, according to spokeswoman Linda Smith.
“This is really intended to give them some breathing room,” said ABA President Carolyn Lamm.
The plan was proposed by the ABA’s recently formed Commission on the Impact of the Economic Crisis on the Profession and Legal Needs, which is examining how lawyers can confront the recession.
Of course, nobody knows precisely how the plan is going to work.
Watch to find out what some of our subscribers received in their May box!
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The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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