Prospective law students have a new resource for researching schools. Law School Transparency has launched a “Score Reports” tool on its website that provides users with an apples-to-apples comparison between schools on employment outcomes, admissions standards and costs.
The idea is not to rank schools, executive director Kyle McEntee aid, but to reduce the influence of U.S. News & World Report‘s rankings by providing more nuanced information. The organization also hopes to make it easier for would-be law students to grapple with the wealth of employment data that the American Bar Association has ordered law schools to provide.
“Although we have more employment data, I’m not sure its getting into the hands of prospective students,” McEntee said.
The U.S. News rankings rely heavily on schools’ median Law School Admission Test scores and undergraduate grade-point averages, as well as their reputation among legal educators. Most prospective law students care more about their ability to land a job and the price they will pay to attend, McEntee said. Using a one-size-fits all metric isn’t the best way for applicants to choose a school, he said.
“We want to stop people from relying on U.S. News and saying, ‘Well, this school is ranked five spots higher than this other one,’ ” he said. “ We want people to think about their law degree and their career aspirations.”
The new feature essentially asks users where they want to end up in their careers, then suggests the law schools most likely to set them on the right path. Users can select the state in which they want to work, and the tool will identify any school that sends 5 percent or more of its graduates into jobs there.
That list includes percentages of recent graduates from the highlighted schools in full-time, permanent legal jobs, as well as the percentage of unemployed graduates and projected future tuition and debt loads. Users can easily access additional information about the types of jobs recent graduates hold, their salaries and admissions data. The actual data provided have been available for months, but the tool presents them in a way designed to help students choose the right school for them, McEntee said.
Law School Transparency—a nonprofit organization that advocates for better law school consumer information and reforms that would lower the cost of a legal education—has been working on the score reports feature for months and tested it with potential law students, McEntee said.
“Ultimately, we’re trying to focus people on the real-world outcomes and the schools that are providing those outcomes,” he said. “If you want to get a job in California, don’t go to New York Law School.”
The tool won early praise from University of Alabama law professor Paul Horwitz, who has written on the PrawfsBlawg about the limitations of the U.S. News rankings.
“I’m not adamantly opposed to national rankings, but I worry that they tend not only to overlook the degree to which law schools mostly serve regional markets; they also actively encourage law schools to focus on nationally measured metrics rather than local needs, and end up creating an undue amount of homogeneity in curricula, faculty, and other areas,” Horwitz wrote.
The score reports may well help prospective students better understand which law schools serve particular markets, he wrote
Contact Karen Sloan at firstname.lastname@example.org.