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ABA takes first step to improve law school data

New law school graduates prospects for meaningful employment as an attorney are decidedly bleak, and beginning in February, law schools won’t be able to put such a rosy spin on it for prospective students. As representatives of local hiring agencies point out, many area firms have hiring freezes and there is stiff competition for the few openings that do occur.

Now, the American Bar Association’s Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar is requiring law schools to provide more detailed job and salary information on the questionnaire they provide to the ABA. The expanded information to be required is in the areas of employment status, employer type and employer location. 

Two recent Vanderbilt law School graduates, Patrick Lynch and Kyle McEntee, started Law School Transparency in 2010 to obtain more accurate job information for prospective law students. The problem, they say, isn’t with falsified data, it’s with misleading information.

Regarding job status, information on the type of job obtained will include whether the job requires bar passage, is a job for which a law degree is preferred or just what type of job the graduate is in. More specific unemployment status will also be included as well as information regarding jobs funded by the law school. Information on where graduates find the most work will be included, as well as state-specific salary information.

The expanded information from the questionnaires will be published in the ABA’s LSAC Guide in June 2012.

“[Young lawyers] care more about the ability to get jobs than our law school’s rankings,” said James M. Paulino of Ward Greenburg Heller & Reidy LLP, chairman of the Monroe County Bar Association Young Lawyers Section.

“I support it. It will be a tremendous benefit to everyone who is considering going to law school because it will encourage them to consider the cost before spending tens of thousands on their education and three years of their lives.

“The legal market used to expand,” Paulino said. “Now there are more attorneys then (the) demand for attorneys and we’re not going to catch up in the next few years.”

When the ABA’s Young Delegates adopted a resolution asking law schools to provide more relevant job placement information earlier this year, Lisa Patterson, associate dean for Career Services at the University at Buffalo Law School, said “[a]n adjustment may solve the problem, and it might not. Is a law school education worth it? Who bases that decision on their first job? The myth that we have 10 people working in lawyer jobs and the rest are at Burger King doesn’t ring true here.”

However, it isn’t just young lawyers looking for jobs that are asking for more transparency in job placement data. In May, California Sen. Barbara Boxer again asked the ABA to improve the job placement data it provides to prospective students so they have a better cost benefit understanding.

In a statement, the Law School Transparency founders said that although the adopted solution doesn’t go far enough, “[It] is a monumental improvement that should be celebrated.”

A complete description of the new data to be compiled from law school questionnaires may be found at www.lawschooltransparency.com.

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