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Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

2012 Law School Transparency Index

Law School Transparency today released the Winter 2012 Transparency Index:

The Transparency Index is an index of every ABA-approved law school website. It measures how transparent law schools are on their websites about their post-graduation outcomes for the class of 2010. From January 1, 2012 to January 3, 2012, the LST team analyzed and documented every site using 19 criteria chosen after contemplating what matters to a prospective law student looking to invest three years and a lot of money in a professional degree. ...

This report reflects LST’s analysis of the class of 2010 employment information available on ABA-approved law school websites in early January 2012. The Winter 2012 Index reveals a continued pattern of consumer-disoriented activity. Our chief findings are as follows:

  • 27% (54/197) do not provide any evaluable information on their websites for class of 2010 employment outcomes. Of those 54 schools, 22 do not provide any employment information on their website whatsoever. The other 32 schools demonstrate a pattern of consumer-disoriented behavior.
  • 51% of schools fail to indicate how many graduates actually responded to their survey. Response rates provide applicants with a way to gauge the usefulness of survey results, a sort of back-of-the-envelope margin of error. Without the rate, schools can advertise employment rates north of 95% without explaining that the true employment rate is unknown, and likely lower.
  • Only 26% of law schools indicate how many graduates worked in legal jobs. 11% indicate how many are in full-time legal jobs. Just 1% indicate how many are in full-time, long-term legal jobs.
  • 17% of schools indicate how many graduates were employed in full-time vs. part-time jobs. 10% indicate how many were employed in long-term vs. short-term jobs. 10% of schools report how many graduates are employed in school-funded jobs.
  • 49% of schools provide at least some salary information, but the vast majority of those schools (78%) provide the information in ways that mislead the reader.

Taken together, these and other findings illustrate how law schools have been slow to react to calls for disclosure, with some schools conjuring ways to repackage employment data to maintain their images. Our findings play into a larger dialogue about law schools and their continued secrecy against a backdrop of stories about admissions data fraud, class action lawsuits, and ever-rising education costs. These findings raise a red flag as to whether schools are capable of making needed changes to the current, unsustainable law school model without being compelled to through government oversight or other external forces.


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What is consumer-disoriented activity? That's an odd term they use... and these guys went to Vanderbilt. Maybe legal education is really screwed.

Posted by: confused | Jan 17, 2012 7:29:13 AM

Now that these guys from Law School Transparency are appearing at joint press conferences trying to drum up class action plaintiffs at particular law schools; they do not seem like they are in a position to be requesting information from law schools. It just seems like discovery for the lawsuits.

Posted by: GFL | Jan 17, 2012 9:14:37 AM

Interesting that they criticize 54 schools that provide no data on their websites. That would seem to be a defense to the class action suits -- if you say nothing, you cannot be misleading anyone.

Maybe by pushing these class action suits the result in some cases will be no disclosure at all.

Posted by: Duffy | Jan 17, 2012 11:34:52 AM

Who is LST, and why should law schools jump when they say jump?

Posted by: anonymous | Jan 17, 2012 1:02:59 PM

There seems to be a lot here that is designed to make Vanderbilt look good and all competing law schools look bad. And the main guy is paid by Vanderbilt.

Posted by: Jims | Jan 17, 2012 2:26:42 PM

The whole phenomenon is weird. Not in the goal, which i generally support, but in the way others respond their work. I cannot imagine a professor relying on just one source for any point that was really important. Now we are in a position where they are being treated as if they were the Brookings Institution or, more, a government agency that someone has to answer to. "LST says this", "LST says that."

The problem is that there is almost no way to compile a set of statistics that someone will not find misleading in some fashion. Go look at some of these sites where people talk about what prospective students should know-- are they going to be happy for the rest of their lives, will they have a job forever, will they get divorced? Giving people enough information to allow them to know the track record of a school makes sense. That should be done. Trying to gather every bit of information you can to assure prospective students that a given law school is "sure thing" for them is a fruitless endeavor.

Posted by: anonymous | Jan 18, 2012 11:57:29 AM