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Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The New Republic: Law Prof Investigates Placement Data Used in Rankings

The New Repblic The New Republic, How Law Schools Completely Misrepresent Their Job Numbers: A Law School Professor Investigates, by Paul Campos (Colorado):

This month, thousands of ambitious young people are asking themselves the same question: Does it make sense to invest $100,000 to $250,000, and the next three years of my life, to become officially qualified to work as a lawyer? For most people considering law school, this question is hardly an easy one. Law schools, however, make it much harder than it needs to be by publishing misleading data about their employment statistics. Many law schools all but explicitly promise that, within a few months of graduation, practically all their graduates will obtain jobs as lawyers, by trumpeting employment figures of 95%, 97%, and even 99.8%. The truth is that less than half will. ...

I used employment data drawn from 183 individual NALP forms, in which graduates of one top 50 school self-reported their employment status nine months after graduation. This data suggests that fully one-third of those graduates who report they are working in full-time jobs that require a law degree are in temporary, rather than permanent, positions. ...

When we take temporary employment into account, it appears that approximately 45 percent of 2010 graduates of this particular top-50 law school had real legal jobs nine months after graduation. And the overall number is likely lower, since it seems probable that the temporary employment figures for the graduates of almost any top 50 school would be better than the average outcome for the graduates of the 198 ABA-accredited law schools as a whole.

Even this grim figure, however, may be unduly optimistic. All these statistics are based on self-reporting, and neither law schools nor NALP audit the data they publish. In the course of my research, I audited a representative sample of individual graduate responses and found several instances of people describing themselves as employed permanently or full-time, when in fact they had temporary or part-time jobs. ...

All of this suggests the extent to which prospective law students need more and better information. Of course, such information will make law school look like a far worse investment than it does at present. Still, if we assume that the point of academic work is to reveal the truth, rather than to engage in the defense of a professional cartel from which law professors benefit more than almost anyone else, then this work needs to be done.

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Another game is clerkships. One law school that I know well reports that it places a substantial number of students in (overwhelmingly) state and local clerkships the first year after law school. How many of these find permanent jobs thereafter? That's a different question.

Posted by: mike livingston | Apr 26, 2011 2:53:56 AM

Why are clerkships a game? Clerkships are generally highly sought-after, and those in the trial courts are the closest equivalent the law has to a medical residency. Moreover, the fact that a clerkship is "state and local" is relevant to what? Almost all litigators know that the "real" practice of law occurs in the hurley-burley of the state courts, not in the staid, quiet, and glacial federal courts--and furthermore, in the trial courts, not the appellate courts. Yes, SCOTUS clerks come from federal appellate courts, but so what? SCOTUS clerks generally aspire to academia, not law practice.

Posted by: Publius Novus | Apr 26, 2011 7:46:52 AM

What's amazing is how the law schools try to ignore these credible and damning allegations. How many times does someone have to blatantly accuse you of *fraud* (!) before you respond to them?

Posted by: anon | Apr 26, 2011 8:29:38 AM

The problem is what clerkships you mean. If it is a clerkship with Justice Scalia sure it helps. But do you really think law firms jump at your average trial court clerk from Hunterdon County? The reality is that local students get these jobs because no one else wants them. They don't hurt, by any means: but doesn't a law school have an obligation to follow up afterward?

Posted by: mike livingston | Apr 26, 2011 10:48:30 AM

Lawyers not telling the truth?! Who would have thought it.

Now about a few hundred thousand foreclosure filings with phony documents............

Posted by: save_the_rustbelt | Apr 26, 2011 2:15:23 PM

Thank god for the University of California, Irvine! Despite all indications, they've charged forward! They will show us the way, and our messiah Erwin Chemerinsky will take legal education in a new direction! All 60 of their graduates in 2012 will be employed, and they will tout it! Praise Chemy!

Look out for the latest fad in legal education "WWCD" bracelets. "What Would Chemerinsky Do?"

Posted by: UCMessaiah | Apr 28, 2011 12:02:23 PM