The organization hopes for better success this year. It sent letters to every American Bar Association-accredited law school on Dec. 14, asking them to release the graduate job employment report generated by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) for the class of 2010.
The nonprofit group, which aims to improve law school consumer information, wants to plug some gaps in the information the ABA itself is compiling for the class of 2010, and to provide an apples-to-apples comparison of job and salary data to prospective law students before they decide where to apply, said Executive Director Kyle McEntee.
“We have prospective students asking us for data they can compare about the class of 2010,” he said. “So far, the response from law schools has been good, as far as I’m concerned. We’ve had way more positive reactions that we did the first time.”
McEntee attributed that change in attitude both to the increased scrutiny law schools have come under by regulators and would-be law students during the past year, and to the fact that forwarding a report already produced by NALP requires very little effort.
Last year, Law Schools Transparency asked schools to fill out a survey it had designed, rather than for information the schools already receive from NALP. Law schools submit their graduates’ employment and salary information to NALP each year, and NALP compiles that information into detailed reports. NALP maintains agreements with law schools not to release their individual data, and makes public only national law job statistics. National statistics aren’t especially helpful to would-be law students trying to decide between schools, McEntee said.
The ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has responded to mounting criticism of the job data law schools provide by beefing up the annual jobs questionnaire that they must submit. It also has added new categories reflecting the number of graduates in jobs funded by the schools themselves and for graduates in short-term jobs.
But the section omitted some data fields from the 2011 survey, which queries law schools about the class of 2010 nine months after graduation, pending the transition to the new, expanded questionnaire. Without that information, students in next years’ incoming class won’t have the full employment picture, McEntee said.
The data NALP provides to individual schools are more detailed even than those the ABA plans to publish in the future; they include school-specific salary data for a variety of job categories and for different-sized employers.
Prospective law students would also benefit from knowing whether graduates are in long-term or short-term positions, McEntee said. A school that sends a large number of graduates into short-term public interest jobs as an employment stopgap is quite different from one that sends a large number into permanent public-interest jobs, he said.
A growing number of law schools have begun offering job and salary data on their Web sites that go beyond the minimum required by the ABA. They include Yale Law School, University of Chicago Law School, University of Michigan Law School, Michigan State University College of Law, Loyola University Chicago School of Law, University of Denver Sturm College of Law and Southwestern Law School.
But even most of those schools don’t include all the data generated in the NALP reports, and they don’t present the data in a uniform way that allows prospective law students to compare them across the board, McEntee said.
Law School Transparency hopes to create a database that allows users to easily compare schools, he said.
While the initial reaction has been positive, McEntee said, it remains to be seen whether schools will voluntarily release what have long been seen as proprietary data.
Representatives of several of the law schools that have received the most public scrutiny regarding graduate job information, including the Thomas M. Cooley Law School and Thomas Jefferson School of Law, said they didn’t yet know how administrators would respond to the request.
Law School Transparency’s letter to law deans warns that refusing the group’s request could raise red flags.
“Applicants are increasingly aware of the ways schools have withheld important information in the past, and they are unlikely to prefer schools that continue that behavior in the future,” the organization wrote. “We hope your school values this initiative and will join others in closing this obvious and inexcusable gap.”
Contact Karen Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org.