Employment Data

When wearing a tie, don’t pop the collar.

Legal education is a hot-button topic these days. Elie Mystal and I have taken our debate on the future of legal education to UNLV and Cardozo Law, in appearances co-sponsored by the Federalist Society and the American Constitution Society, and our roadshow hit Georgetown Law earlier today. (If you’d like to invite us to your school, most likely for the fall semester at this point, drop us a line.)

Despite disagreements over proposed solutions, folks generally agree on what needs to be improved. In an ideal world, law school would be less expensive, and legal jobs would be more plentiful. In an ideal world, more than 55 percent of recent law school graduates would wind up with full-time, long-term legal jobs.

But we don’t live in an ideal world. We live in the real world, which is imperfect and messy and depressing. Law schools and their graduates have to make the best of a challenging situation.

Which takes me to the practice of law schools employing their own graduates. In an ideal world, law schools wouldn’t have to resort to this. But in the real world, it’s not necessarily a bad thing, at least when it’s done right.

So pop your collars in celebration. UVA, I’m looking at you….

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Yesterday, we brought you some news you can use when it comes to law schools and the employment data that went into the 2014 U.S. News law school rankings. The Top 10 lists we provided you with contained some pretty vital information, including which law schools best know how to put the “bar” in “barista.” (N.B. As we noted, the sample size here was small, but still, perhaps you should’ve considered enrolling at ITT Tech.)

We thought that our readers had gotten enough of their rankings crack, but it seems like you’re addicted to it. Don’t worry, you’ll be okay, because we’re here to give you another much-needed hit.

Would you like to know which law schools are the most likely to lead to “elite” employment outcomes?

Let’s get ready to dig into the details….

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Another day, another post about the latest batch of U.S. News law school rankings. It’s been a while since we last wrote about them, and we figured you might be experiencing some sort of withdrawal, so we’re here to deliver you another much-needed dose of rankings crack. Perhaps you can consider this our Curtis Mayfield moment — we’re your pushers.

Given that our readers think employment outcomes are the most relevant factor for a law school ranking system, today we’re going to be delving into all of the employment statistics that were used in the most recent rankings, with the assistance of a Pepperdine law professor.

Which law schools had the most graduates employed as lawyers? How about the law schools where the closest graduates have come to being employed at the bar are working as baristas and bartenders?

We’re about to find out….

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Last week, we asked for your thoughts on what an improved, more relevant approach to law school rankings would look like. This request was of course prompted by U.S. News’s revisions to its rankings methodology, which now applies different weights to different employment outcomes, giving full credit only to full-time jobs where “bar passage is required or a J.D. gives them an advantage.” U.S. News is of course bowing to the realities of the horrific legal job market and the spreading realization that, for many if not most, pursuing a J.D. makes little economic sense.

Yet U.S. News’s revamped methodology feels like a half-measure at best, as employment outcomes make up less than 20% of the rankings formula. Compare this to the 40% of the score based on “quality assessment” surveys of practicing lawyers, judges, and law school faculty and administrators. Shouldn’t those numbers be reversed?

In any event, last week about 500 of you weighed in with your opinions on which criteria should matter and which should not when it comes to ranking law schools. The results are after the jump….

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As some of you may have heard, U.S. News & World Report, which used to be a magazine found in dentists’ offices, released its annual law school rankings last week. This event sparked even more than the usual amount of angst and hysteria among law deans and students. Well, then again, this is already the 9th post on ATL concerning this set of rankings, so maybe we’re not helping. Some deans’ heads have rolled already, and angry student petitions are calling for more blood. (Do these reactions among law students run one way though? The anger sparked by a drop in rankings does not necessarily mean an inverse spike in happiness when a school climbs up, as this great pairing of gifs from someone at Chicago Law illustrates.)

Anyway, much of the heightened attention is due to the revisions U.S. News made to their rankings methodology, which now applies different weights to different employment outcomes, giving full weight only to full-time jobs where “bar passage is required or a J.D. gives them an advantage.” Whatever that last bit means. And they won’t tell us exactly how “part-time” and other categories of employment outcomes factor in. But it is at least an acknowledgement on their part of the perception that, as Staci said yesterday, “all anyone cares about are employment statistics.” (We’ll get back to whether that’s strictly true.) Then again, if employment outcomes make up only 14% of your ranking formula for a professional school, you’re doing it wrong. What would a better, more relevant rankings methodology even look like?

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The new U.S. News law school rankings, which we’ve been covering extensively in these pages, contain all sorts of interesting tidbits about the ranked schools. For example, in each school profile there is an “employed at graduation” figure, which “represents the percentage of all graduates who had a full-time job lasting at least a year for which bar passage was required or a J.D. degree was an advantage.”

That seems like an important and useful piece of information to know if you’re going to pay or borrow a six-figure sum to attend law school. Comparing the employment rates of different schools would be an important part of one’s due diligence when selecting a school.

Among the top 14 or so-called “T14″ law schools, which one had the highest “employed at graduation” rate? The answer might surprise you….

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I’m not going to lie, these are quickly becoming my favorite columns to write every year.

For approximately 364 days a year, law school deans are free to tell us how great their schools are without being forced to provide any data to support their claims of being the best law school for whatever. But one day, each law school must confront the stark reality of their U.S. News law school ranking. They can disparage the rankings, get angry at the rankings, or boast about the rankings (if they’re lucky). But deans ignore the rankings at their own peril.

And so some deans are forced to address their schools’ poor rankings. They are free to spin things however they want, but for one day, they’re not operating in a vacuum. There is an objective fact that is just a little bit beyond their powers of self-reporting manipulation.

It’s a fun day….

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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….

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PPP at one top law firm?

* Law School Transparency? Nay, Biglaw Transparency! Peter Kalis, global managing partner of K&L Gates, just opened the kimono wide on his firm’s financial performance in an “unusually detailed” fashion. [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Talk about a pain in the pocketbook: although profits per partner and revenues are up overall, one firm saw shrinkage of 16 percent in PPP. [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]

* The ABA is just now thinking of trying to find someone who will audit the graduate employment data that law schools release each year. Gee, it only took 15 fraud lawsuits to get the ball rolling. [National Law Journal]

* Oh my God, you guys, carrying six figures of law school debt on your shoulders is “unsustainable” in the long run, especially when your salary sucks. This is new information that no one’s heard before. [News-Gazette]

* Former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten is now Tulane Law’s new assistant dean for experiential learning. For the school’s sake, hopefully he’ll be able to control his students better than he did his AUSAs. [Tulane Hullabaloo]

* “You’re a cold-blooded murderer and I’ll stare you down until I die.” Drew Peterson was sentenced to 38 years in prison for the murder of his third wife. A sequel to the Lifetime movie is likely forthcoming. [Reuters]

Back in December 2012, we broke the news that the dismissal of the Gomez-Jimenez case, a class action lawsuit over New York Law School’s allegedly deceptive post-graduate employment data, had been affirmed by New York’s Appellate Division, First Department. Although the opinion carried with it a wrist slap for NYLS and its business practices, Jesse Strauss, one of the lawyers for the nine plaintiffs, was unsatisfied, and vowed to appeal the case to the state’s highest court.

Well, it seems that the day of reckoning has finally arrived, because the members of Team Strauss/Anziska have filed a motion with the New York Court of Appeals to reinstate their clients’ claims….

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