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When Patrick Lynch was contemplating going to law school in 2007, he spent a fair bit of time looking up information on online discussion boards, researching attorneys on Martindale-Hubble and reviewing the employment and salary statistics released by the American Bar Association, U.S. News & World Report, the National Association for Law Placement and individual schools. He eventually settled on Vanderbilt University Law School — where he is slated to graduate in May — but his pre-law school research process was hardly scientific. To Lynch, it highlighted a serious problem: Potential law students don’t have access to the type of detailed employment and salary information they need to fully understand their career prospects and earning potential (which is a serious concern when you are considering taking on upwards of $100,000 in student loans). The available information tends to oversimplify job statistics and often is weighted toward the most successful class members. Employment data also tend to focus on the largest, higher-profile legal employers. Instead of simply griping about the shortcoming of law school employment statistics, Lynch collaborated with fellow Vanderbilt law student Kyle McEntee to develop what they hope will become a new source of information for would-be law students. The two have founded a nonprofit organization called Law School Transparency with the goal of compiling detailed employment and salary information from all ABA-accredited law schools. The goal is to collect data on individual law graduates, rather than the general class breakdowns required by the ABA and U.S. News. “The number one problem with the current system is that it allows schools to hide their employment information in aggregate statistical forms,” McEntee said. “You may know that 50 percent of graduates got jobs at law firms, but you don’t know what types of firms and types of jobs they got.” Many individual law schools provide information beyond that required by the ABA and U.S. News, but they tend to be selective and include information weighted toward top performers, Lynch said. By compiling detailed information about individual graduates, prospective law students get a better sense of the variety of jobs available to graduates, where those jobs are located and what salaries those jobs pay. Accounting for each graduate in detail also makes it more difficult for schools to manipulate the numbers, Lynch and McEntee said. Under the model, participating schools would report employer type, employer name, position name, bar passage requirement, full-time or part-time status, office location, whether the student worked on a law journal and salary for each alumnus nine months after graduation. To protect the former students’ privacy, the schools would not be asked to include the graduates’ names in connection with their employment and salary information. Law schools already collect most of this information, although they generally release it in the aggregate and don’t break it down by individual, McEntee and Lynch said. The information reported by law schools would be available to prospective law students on Law School Transparency’s Web site, and they could compare schools. Privacy concerns would likely prevent schools from including class ranks or grade-point averages for graduates, but reporting whether a student worked on a law journal (a publicly available distinction) will help would-be law students get an idea for which graduates were at the top of their class, McEntee said. The real challenge to getting the Law School Transparency project off the ground is convincing schools to turn over individual employment and salary data, said McEntee and Lynch. The duo plans to begin soliciting that information from law schools this summer, though they don’t expect 100% compliance right away. Rather, they expect that a small number of schools will provide them with the requested information, and that others will follow suit under pressure from prospective students. “We hope this sparks a discourse where students will ask the schools to comply,” Lynch said. “We want to push this idea of putting a premium on transparency.”

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