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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Deans Push ABA to Force Law Schools to Disclose LSAT, GPA Data of Transfer Students

U.S. News 2015Washington Post:  Law School Deans Push ABA About Transfers, by Catherine Ho:

A growing group of law school deans are pressing the American Bar Association’s accrediting agency to require law schools to make public the LSAT scores and undergraduate grade-point averages of transfer students.

At issue is what many legal educators say is an effort by some schools to keep the data hidden in order to inflate their credentials for rankings purposes.

Because U.S. News and World Report’s law school rankings look at the median LSAT scores of first-year students, but not the LSAT scores of transfer students — which are typically lower — critics contend the practice allows the schools to game the system.

The ABA’s accrediting council has yet to officially vote on the proposal, but at a March 14 meeting, members indicated they did not think the LSAT scores and undergraduate GPA of transfer students is “relevant consumer information” that needs to be disclosed, said Barry Currier, managing director of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. ...

Law schools have long disclosed how many transfer students they admit every year, per an ABA accreditation standard. But they do not have to disclose much detail about those students, even though they are required to collect the information.

At the meeting, the council did accept a recommendation that schools should start disclosing the first-year law school grade-point average of their transfer students, which schools the transfer students came from and how many came from each school. ...

In the Washington area, the law schools with the most transfer students in 2013 were Georgetown (122 transfer students in, seven transfers out); George Washington (93 transfers in, 22 transfers out); and American (68 transfers in, 89 transfers out). Other area schools saw less transfer activity: George Mason (12 transfers in; 11 transfers out); Catholic (eight transfers in, 23 transfers out); Howard (five transfers in, four transfers out); and the University of the District of Columbia (five transfers in, 12 transfers out). ...

Dan Polsby, the dean of George Mason Law, said that although he loses students to other schools, he is not against the idea of a student wanting to transfer to a higher-ranked school.

“Some of my brother and sister deans hate the idea of transfers and think they should be discouraged,” he said. “I have the exact opposite view. It isn’t crazy to want to transfer from George Mason to George Washington ... People try to do better for themselves if they can. I’m a businessman,” he continued. “It’s a world in which sometimes you get the bear, sometimes the bear gets you.”

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Comments

There is no principled reason, whether based on consumer information or not, that supports mandatory disclosure of first year data that does not also support disclosure of transfer data. None.

It's never been required before because schools did not used to abuse the process to game the system.

Let's be clear - I wholly support the ability of students to transfer - that's competition between law schools and that is good for students in the short and long run.

But to use the power of accreditation approval to provide an advantage to some schools and a disadvantage to others is anti-competitive. And that's what the ability to game the system creates right now.

Where are the calls for law school transparency now?

Posted by: ATLprof | Mar 26, 2014 2:37:45 PM

I’ll give you a principled reason for not disclosing data about transfers: LSAT/GPA is intended to predict first year performance. After the first year has been performed, there is no need to further predict first year performance.

Who cares, anyway? Sure, LSAC should care about predictive value, but schools have a first year performance on which to judge potential transfers.

I’ll tell you what should be publicized: the NALP report. That should be on the front page of every law school website. If proscective students were to have accurate information about salary data (rather than just entry data), the decrease in applicants would fix the system problem of law schools commoditizing JD production.

Posted by: anon | Mar 26, 2014 5:24:19 PM

While we are at it, the ABA should require all American law schools to have their LSAT, GPA, and employment stats audited by a third party. There are still law schools out there with questionable employment stats.

Posted by: TS | Mar 26, 2014 6:32:28 PM