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A bitter turf war has broken out between the National Association for Law Placement and the American Bar Association over the collection of law school postgraduate employment data, with the former hinting that it might sue the latter. Last week, the executive committee of the of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar decided to require law schools to report far more detailed information about the jobs and salaries that their graduates land directly to the ABA — essentially, cutting NALP out of the reporting process. The decision represented a departure from an earlier recommendation by the section’s questionnaire committee to require the reporting of detailed statistics, but to rely on NALP to collect and sort the data. NALP Executive Director James Leipold said on Aug. 1 that he was caught by surprise when the ABA decided to cut NALP out of the reporting process. “They turned their back on the collaboration and the request by schools to not create a duplicate reporting effort” between NALP and the ABA, Leipold said. “I think they see NALP’s candor about the state of the legal job market as harmful to the industry. I believe their intent is to recapture their ability to control the message to the public about the status of the job market. There’s a conflict of interest here.” Hulett “Bucky” Askew, the ABA’s consultant on legal education, said the executive committee changed course because members believe the ABA needs to play a more direct role in the employment reporting process. The ABA weighs those data in deciding whether to accredit law schools. “The bottom line is that the executive committee believes that because we are an accrediting body, we have to get the data directly from schools, not from a third party,” Askew said. “There’s a difference of opinion about that with NALP but, as the accreditor, we need to make certain that schools understand this is an accreditation issue.” Askew said the ABA has received little reaction to the change since it was announced to law school deans on July 27. The council of the legal education section is slated to discuss the changes during the ABA’s annual meeting in Toronto on Aug. 5. The full council of the legal education section delegated the matter to the executive committee, Askew said, meaning that a vote by the full council is not required. The changes will be in effect during the next survey cycle, and will cover the class of 2011. NALP’s response was swift. Leipold wrote to the ABA on July 28 outlining three primary concerns: • That law school career services offices will be burdened by reporting two different sets of employment and salary statistics, one for NALP and one for the ABA. • That fewer law schools would report statistics to NALP, because doing so is voluntary while reporting directly to the ABA is mandatory. That, in turn, would hurt NALP’s ability to provide insight into the legal job market. • That the ABA is appropriating NALP’s intellectual property, in the form of its jobs survey. Leipold said that the ABA appears to be using the same research and survey process that NALP has developed during the past 37 years. “As far as the IP issue, there’s legal recourse,” he said. “I don’t want to engage in a legal showdown with the ABA, but we’ll go there if we have to.” Askew said he could not comment on the intellectual property considerations. Schools would have a choice about how to respond, he said, and the ABA would not restrict them from participating in NALP’s survey as well. Bill Henderson, a professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law — Bloomington, said the ABA’s new reporting system will represent a major blow to NALP’s ability to collect information and analyze the legal job market. Henderson has used NALP data extensively for his research on the legal industry. “I think what’s happening is a total disaster,” he said. “Everything that we know about the industry on a systemic level is from NALP. The ABA won’t crunch industry data the way NALP does. They won’t have the will or the capacity.” The most logical solution, Henderson said, would be to create a joint NALP/ABA survey, which would allow both entities to exist and make clear that reporting is part of the law school accreditation process. In his letter to the ABA, Leipold wrote that NALP has already spent $15,000 developing a system to create the detailed employment reports that were recommended under the questionnaire committee’s proposal. “A lot of people are agitated right now,” said Leipold, who plans to speak out against the changes during the meeting in Toronto. Karen Sloan can be contacted at [email protected].

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