Paul L. Caron

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Two Perspectives On Law School Transparency

Elizabeth Olson (Bloomberg Law), Law School Transparency Still Fighting Status Quo After a Decade:

LST (2019)In 2009, after their first year [at Vanderbilt] law school, [Kyle McEntee and Patrick Lynch] formed a nonprofit consumer advocacy and education group, Law School Transparency. Ten years later, McEntee still helms the North Carolina-based organization, funded by grants and small donations, that has become a key part of a bigger shift in how consumers weigh the benefits versus the substantial costs of law school. ...

As LST got underway, law schools were beginning to confront significant fallout from the Great Recession, which made jobs scarcer and applicants leery of the costs of a J.D. Then bar passage rates tumbled and questions arose about what law schools were doing to ensure their graduates became licensed attorneys.

McEntee kept busy. He spearheaded efforts to bar schools from practices that admitted students without a clear chance to become an attorney. He’s spoken at law school campuses, developed student loan data, created a podcast series, and posted data on individual schools’ job placement on the LST website.

Over the decade, he’s chosen to forego conventional legal employment, and the solid paycheck that comes with it, and remains committed to LST. ...

LST has not been without its critics over the last ten years. Brian Leiter, the University of Chicago law professor who blogs at “Law School Reports,” concedes that LST “collects a lot of good data,” but said the advocacy group “has a fantasy about its impact on law schools. Deans don’t really pay attention.”

But Scott Norberg, former deputy managing director of the ABA’s Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar, credits McEntee with pressing institutional gatekeepers for more detailed information about graduate job outcomes. ...

Recently, the organization has focused on accreditation and the bar exam. ...

Michael Simkovic (USC), “Law School Transparency” Is Misleading Its Customers About the Cost of Law School and Overcharging For Data That Are Available For Free:

Brian Leiter recently noted problems with Elizabeth Olson’s uncritical coverage of “Law School Transparency” (LST) in an article published in Bloomberg.

The most important substantive problems with Olson’s recent article about LST not already mentioned by Professor Leiter are that: (1) Olson doesn’t mention that LST’s business model is repackaging and selling to prospective law students data that are readily available from the ABA for free and are available in more reliable form from U.S. News for less than half the price; and (2) Olson doesn’t mention that LST’s analysis of ABA data is deeply flawed, biased against law school attendance, and at a minimum highly controversial. ...

The bottom line is that reporters covering LST should introduce it as an anti-law school advocacy group, note the murky and opaque nature of its sources of funding, and note that it charges its customers excessively for information that is available elsewhere, in more reliable and less biased form, for free.

There are larger, better established, and more transparent non-profits that provide information about legal education and are better sources of information than LST. It is unclear what value, if any, LST provides beyond its willingness to advance bold and often unsubstantiated claims.

Legal Ed News, Legal Education | Permalink


" “Law School Transparency” Is Misleading Its Customers About the Cost of Law School"

Funny, I do recall that in Mike's Million Dollar Study that the presumption was that the average law school loan debt was $89k, or basically about 2/3 of what it actually is. And as we learned from tax data per the Department of Education, the median starting salary for lawyers is but $51k, not the $70k claimed by NALP. Lots of misinformation going around, then.

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 1, 2020 6:35:29 AM

"note the murky and opaque nature of its sources of funding"

Unlike Mike's study's funding from 1) a law school interest organization and 2) an erstwhile private student lender jointly controlled by the accredited law schools. Perhaps journalists should introduce him in their pieces as a lobbyist...

Posted by: Unemployed Northeastern | Jan 1, 2020 6:36:49 AM

re: "he’s chosen to forego conventional legal employment, and the solid paycheck that comes with it, and remains committed to LST."

Forego (meaning 'precede') is wrong. It is properly "forgo" in the intended sense.

Posted by: James P Kirby | Jan 1, 2020 11:31:08 AM

Simkovic's claim that the cost figures are miselading is ridiculous. First of all, LST provides a grid that shows what the cost is with various levels of scholarships (up to 100%) and various levels of cost of living. Second, the actual debt figures for graduates is irrelevant to cost because that number is reduced by people who can pay cash or have family contributions. However, and what Simkovic doesn't realize, is that those cash payments are is still part of the cost of law school. In Simkovic's world, if you pay $250,000 down on a $500,000 house, the cost of the house is $250,000. Pretty dumb.

Posted by: JM | Jan 2, 2020 9:34:20 AM