Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

2013 Law School Survey of Student Engagement

LSSSE CoverThe Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE) has released its 2013 Annual Survey Results:

Since 2007, the job market for new law school graduates has been in steady decline. According to the National Association of Law Placement, the overall employment rate was 92% in 2007. By 2012, however, that rate had declined to 85%. Moreover, median starting salaries as well as the proportion of new graduates working in jobs for which the law degree is required have experienced similar declines.

Given the angst engendered by these trends, conventional wisdom dictates that students are less satisfied with their law school experiences, especially the career counseling and job search help they receive. However, newly released data from the Law School Survey of Student Engagement (LSSSE) challenges this assumption. According to the survey, which garnered responses from more than 26,000 students at 86 U.S. law schools, student satisfaction rates have remained relatively stable since before the downturn.

In 2007, 45% of law students in their final year reported satisfaction with job search help provided by their law school. The 2013 satisfaction rate was 45%. When assessing their school’s overall career counseling services, 45% of law students in their final year were satisfied in 2007, compared to 49% in 2013.

These trends suggest that the challenging environment has not led to an increase in the proportion of law students who feel their school shoulders some blame for job search difficulty. The stability of these trends, in light of the overall market, is heartening, given much of the criticism directed at legal education. It is possible that law schools have been able to stem increased dissatisfaction by redoubling efforts to advise students on career-related matters.

But the trends have an unfavorable side. Large percentages of students remain unsatisfied with the career counseling and job search help they have received. In addition, satisfaction with all advising services—career, academic, personal, and financial aid—sharply declines as students progress through their program, with first year students being most satisfied and students in their final year being least satisfied.

According to Aaron N. Taylor, director of LSSSE and assistant professor of law at St. Louis University School of Law:

“These findings offer reasons for law schools to be encouraged, while also recognizing that more must be done. Satisfaction with advising services is associated with overall law school satisfaction and greater gains in academic and professional development. Therefore, law schools have a compelling interest in ensuring that students feel adequately supported throughout their matriculation. Advisory services may add to the cost of legal education, but they also add substantially to the effectiveness of what occurs in the classroom.” LSSSE's 2013 Annual Results, Evaluating the Value of Law School: Student Perspectives, explores four themes, drawing on data gathered in 2013 from over 26,000 students at 86 U.S. law schools:

  • What law students know about the legal profession, where they learn it and the role law schools play in promoting that learning (Learning About and From Lawyers: Engagement with the Profession)
  • Critical and analytical thinking in law school classes and its effect on law students (Learning to Think Like a Lawyer)
  • Satisfaction with student advising services and its relation to overall law school satisfaction and gains in academic and professional development (Student Advising)

The report is introduced by David N. Yellen, Dean and Professor of Law, Loyola University Chicago School of Law.

Other key findings from the 2013 LSSSE report are:

  • Only 25% of third-year students reported frequently working with faculty members on activities other than coursework (such as committees, orientation, student life activities, etc.) and only 30% of third-year students have worked with faculty on a legal research project outside of course or program requirements.
  • Close to half (43%) of responding third-year students reported never participating in a clinical or pro bono project as part of a course or for academic credit; similarly, 63% of 2Ls and 87% of 1Ls reported never having participated in such projects.
  • Of those students who had experiences with financial aid advising during the current academic year, slightly more than two-thirds (68%) were satisfied with their advising experience.
  • Nearly two-thirds of students (65%) reported that their law school places a substantial emphasis on providing the support they need to succeed academically.
  • Forty three percent of students who used their law school’s job search services and 42% of those who used career counseling services during the current academic year reported being unsatisfied with their experience. However, nearly half of all respondents (47%) reported that their law school placed a substantial emphasis on providing the support they needed to succeed in their employment search.

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