The movement to provide better information about job prospects for law graduates is gaining momentum.
U.S. News & World Report plans to roll out more detailed employment data on its Web site next year as part of its high-profile law schools rankings package. The change won’t alter how rankings are calculated, said director of data and research Robert Morse, but it will give law students and prospective students a clearer picture of the job market.
“It’s clear that the job market is far less robust than it was when U.S. News started publishing and when the current Web site was designed,” Morse said. “This will make a far richer amount of information available about the employment prospects of recent graduates.”
U.S. News already asks schools to report the number of graduates enrolled in a full-time degree programs as of graduation and after nine months; the number of unemployed graduates seeking work at those times; the number of graduates whose employment status is unknown; and those holding Article III clerkships. As of now, however, the U.S. News Web site reports only the overall percentage of graduates employed as of graduation and after nine months. Next year’s report — which will cover the class of 2009 — will include the more detailed responses. Morse also hopes to retroactively include the same information collected as part of the 2010 survey, which covered the class of 2008.
Morse said that pressure from Law School Transparency — a Tennessee-based nonprofit organization started by two Vanderbilt University Law School students last year — was one of several factors that led to the change. U.S. News was already in the process of redesigning its Web site, he said. Law School Transparency had been lobbying the magazine since August to make available all of the employment data from the annual survey.
“We expect that these changes will have a positive effect on the quality of information available to prospective students,” reads a message on Law School Transparency’s Web site. “We are also pleased that Bob Morse and his team were so open to making the information they collect available for public viewing. U.S. News has a long way to go before law schools will stop accusing them of having a negative impact on legal education, but one thing is certain: U.S. News does force more information about employment prospects than the [American Bar Association] requires, and absent U.S. News [prospective law students] would likely be even more in the dark.”
Law School Transparency executive director Kyle McEntee spoke to the American Bar Association Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar’s questionnaire committee during the panel’s meeting in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., on Monday. The committee determines what appears on the questionnaire that law schools fill out each year.
University of San Diego School of Law Dean Kevin Cole was among about 20 deans and other law school administrators who sent written testimony to the questionnaire committee. Cole asked the committee to beef up employment reporting requirements.
“In deciding whether to attend law school, and in deciding among law schools to attend, prospective students should have easy access to better salary information,” Cole wrote. “Better data on salary information would reduce the need to require and regulate the disclosure of other placement data and would permit greater attention to ensuring that salary data — the most useful data to prospective students — is reported in a fair and understandable manner.”
Karen Sloan can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.