The Subcommittee on Consumer Information of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar Accreditation Committee
has released its draft report
on revising the ABA accreditation standard regarding employment data:
Attached is a proposed new Standard 509(b) regarding employment data, and a chart we propose that each law school be required to fill out and post on its website on an annual basis. This new Standard will, if adopted, provide more meaningful and consistent employment information to prospective students. We believe that this information will greatly assist prospective students in making informed decisions about whether to go to law school or which school to attend. Because almost all of the information to be disclosed is already gathered by law schools, the burden on schools will be minimal. ...
Over the past few years, there has been a great deal of criticism directed at law schools for their public presentation of employment information. Much of this criticism is warranted. Too much information is presented in a potentially misleading fashion. The most significant problems fall into one of two categories:
- Schools appear to disclose employment rates using different methodologies. The Annual Questionnaire instructs schools to calculate the employment rate as a percentage of those whose employment status is known as of Feb. 15. Therefore, a graduate whose status is unknown does not harm the school’s employment rate. This can artificially inflate the true employment rate, assuming that most graduates who do not respond to the school’s inquiries are not employed. U.S. News uses its own methodology for rankings purposes, which includes as employed graduates enrolled in full time degree programs and ¼ of graduates whose status is unknown (although this appears to be changing with the new rankings being issued this month). We believe that the percentages disclosed should be based on the entire graduating class, with only those known to be employed being counted as such.
- A school’s overall employment rate may include nonprofessional jobs, part-time jobs, temporary jobs and jobs funded by the school. This can create a misleading impression about the true success of the school’s graduates. We believe that the best approach is to require schools to disclose more disaggregated data about these categories of jobs.
Schools receive salary information from a fairly small percentage of graduates. Graduates reporting their salaries are skewed towards those earning the most. Therefore, the median known salary of a school’s graduates is likely to overstate (often significantly) the median of all graduates who are employed. The same is true when schools disclose a median salary of graduates in private practice, because respondents are skewed towards those in large firms. A school that touts median salary information, without appropriate qualifiers, is misleading prospective students. We propose that all salary information clearly indicate the number of respondents and percentage of all graduates included. The Questionnaire Committee is considering taking a different approach: not gathering school-specific information and instead relying on national statistics. The thought is that the number of graduates responding with salary data at individual schools in individual categories may be too small to be meaningful. We disagree and hope that the Questionnaire Committee will require this information from schools. We would not require schools to disclose any salary information for a given category unless there are at least five respondents.
Robert Morse (Director of Data Research, U.S. News & World Report), ABA May Revise Law School Job Reporting:
If any of the new employment standards are implemented in fall 2011, U.S. News would collect the more detailed employment and salary data and incorporate it in the next edition of our law school rankings methodology. U.S. News believes that while this proposal does not solve all employment data issues, it would make significant improvements to the current rules. U.S. News urges the ABA to take action.
In the most recently published new Best Law Schools rankings, U.S. News changed the methodology for how we compute J.D. employment rates for 2009 graduates, in an initial effort to publish employment data that is more reflective of the job market for new J.D. graduates compared to our previous calculation method. In the past, new J.D.s counted as employed at graduation and at nine months out if they were working full or part time in a legal or non-legal job or pursuing additional graduate school education after their J.D.; so did 25 percent of those whose status was "unknown."
Now, both the at-graduation and nine months after employment rates are figured solely based on the number of grads working full or part time in a legal or non-legal job divided by the total number of J.D. graduates. Also, those who are not seeking employment are now counted in the calculation as part of the total number of J.D. graduates; previously, they were excluded from the size of the graduating class and the calculation. Those in graduate school don't count as employed in this year's calculation.
U.S. News believes that this calculation is a more realistic presentation of the employment data that is currently available to us.
Update: Concurring Opinions, The ABA’s Ugly Table Fetish