The ABA Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar has been taking shots across the bow from scam bloggers, the New York Times and two U.S. Senators about a lack of transparency in law-school reporting of information about the jobs graduates were getting. While it may have seemed that the Section Council could not even buy a vowel, the Questionnaire Committee has been working behind the scenes (see May 28, 2011, Report on Reporting of Law School Placement Data).
In a Memorandum, Reporting Placement Data on Annual Questionnaire, dated July 27, 2011, the ABA announced changes to this Fall's law-school Annual Questionnaire. An August 6, 2011 press release, ABA Section of Legal Education to Collect Additional Lawyer Job Placement Data, summarizes the changes to this Fall's Annual Questionnaire:
Beginning next month, the annual law school questionnaire will require schools to report more specific information than ever before, including employment status, types and locations. The questionnaire will ask these questions, among others:
- Is the graduate employed or unemployed?
- Is the graduate’s employment long-term or short-term?
- Is the job funded by the law school or university?
- Does the graduate work for a law firm, a business or in government?
The Questionnaire will even ask for a break-down of law-firm employment by firm size.
That's the good news. The bad news is that law-firm employment includes
[a]ny job in a law firm, including associate, lawclerk, law firm librarian, paralegal, and clerical position .... (Memorandum, Reporting Placement Data on Annual Questionnaire)
That's not exactly the level of detail that Law School Transparency has been asking for. After borrowing a substantial chunk of change, students and grads might be wondering "Did I Shave My Legs for This (a job as a paralegal or clerk)?
But there's more!
Beginning in mid-February, 2012, the ABA will ask for 9-month data on 2011 graduates, and will be asking for additional information on each graduate. But don't look for school-level data on salaries:
As to salary data, rather than provide school-specific salary data, the Official Guide will provide the 25th , median, and 75th percentile salaries of jobs obtained in the various types in each state and region. The salary information will be based on jobs obtained by graduates from all law schools and will not be limited to those graduates from any particular school. This format will avoid the over-reporting of salary information that tends to occur for any particular school because not all of a school’s graduates report salary information to the school. In particular, since the graduates who report salary information tend to be those with higher salaries, a school’s 25th , median, and 75th salary percentiles tend to be over stated. Rather than provide school-specific data, the Official Guide will provide salary information for each employment type for graduates of all law schools who obtain a position in each state. A prospective student can consult the state data for those states at which the school sends it greatest number of graduates to determine salary levels that might be expected after graduation.
Memorandum, Reporting Placement Data on annual Questionnaire (emphasis added).
Whether those willing to piece things together can construct a possible salary profile of a law school depends on what gets into the Official Guide. Looking at the chart attached to the Memorandum, law schools will report the distribution of graduates by firm-size separately from the distribution of graduates by state. That means that you will not know the distribution by employment type/firm size for each state, by law school.
Still, it's a step in the right direction. And more is better, even if even more would be even better.
And as for the widely reported rift with NALP, according to the August 6 press release, "[t]he section and NALP have agreed to collaborate going forward."