Saturday, June 2, 2018
Robert Anderson (Pepperdine), The "JD Advantage" Problem in Law School Placement Rankings:
US News considers so-called "JD Advantage" jobs—those for which the JD is an advantage but not a requirement—the same as "Bar Passage Required" jobs—those for which bar passage is required (plus judicial clerkships). Equating these two categories of job placement outcomes is misguided and makes analysis of the data misleading.
There are two main reasons why the JD Advantage category creates problems. First, JD Advantage jobs on average are not "good" placements (although there are exceptions). Second, what qualifies as a JD Advantage job is vague, making the category highly manipulable. The combination of these two factors with the "full weight" of JD Advantage jobs in US News has made the category a serious problem for the integrity of placement success statistics. Because I don't think the susceptibility of the JD Advantage category to manipulation is terribly controversial, I will focus on Point #1 (that JD Advantage jobs generally are not good placements) to make my case in this post. ...
The data shows strongly that JD Advantage jobs are not associated with "good" placement outcomes in general. That is not to say that all JD Advantage jobs are bad. There are a handful of JD Advantage jobs (probably mostly at elite institutions) in investment banks, consulting, and the like where the graduates could have easily secured a Bar Passage Required job. In most cases, however, large percentages of JD Advantage jobs are indicators of weak placement by the law school and possibly worse, given the inherent manipulability of the JD Advantage category.
I hope this post is enough to put those who analyze law school employment data on notice that JD Advantage jobs require more scrutiny than they currently receive. JD Advantage jobs clearly should not receive "full weight" in the US News formula, as this invites manipulation of job categories by schools and reduces the usefulness of the ranking. Sophisticated consumers of the data should see this category for what it is—a highly manipulable disguise for generally low-quality placement outcomes.
For those interested in a more detailed analysis of these same data that suggests more appropriate weights for each job category, my previous analysis (and ranking of schools based on last year's data) can be found here.