The ABA Journal website put up an article yesterday (November 21, 2011), ABA Committee Readies Law School Placement, Salary Questionnaire, at its early December 2011 meeting, the Council of the Section on Legal Education and Admission to the Bar will consider competing job-placement reporting proposals. One issue is how salary data should be reported. The problem with salary data is that the selection bias. As I discussed in So You Want To Be a Rock 'n Roll Star? and Go To Law, even the national NALP salary surveys over-report salaries. Students with jobs are more likely to report job status, but are more likely to report salaries if they have high-paying jobs.
In a November 8, 2011 Memorandum to the Council, Reporting of law School Placement Data, the ABA Questionnaire Committee suggests: reporting only state-wide salary information, by job category:
* * * We do not propose reporting school specific salary data. Rather we will use NALP salary information which will be aggregated on a state-wide basis for each field (if available) on our Placement Data Summary. This will avoid the problem of upward scaling of salary information at the law school level due to the fact some of the school’s graduates do not report their salary information and those who do report tend to be those at higher salary levels. The aggregated state-wide approach collects salary data from graduates of all ABA-approved law schools employed in a state in any particular job category. (Emphasis added.)
As reported last week (ABA Committee Appears Poised to Approve New Law School Disclosure Requirements), the Standards Review Committee proposes that each law school make its placement data, including salary information, available on-line. Under the SRC proposal, schools would also have to disclose the number of graduates reporting salaries.
By definition, the number of graduates reporting salary for any given school are lower than the number from all schools, and thus more unreliable. The lower numbers of school-level salary reports will make it hard to break reported salaries into job categories. So far as I can tell, the SRC does not propose that each school report salaries by category, or even show the distribution of salary reports by category. (See update below.)
But state-level salaries ignore differences among cities, as well as the difference between urban, suburban and rural salaries.
Update: A member of the Standards Review Committee told me that the SRC proposal would require law schools to provide full-time salary information by category whenever at least 5 persons have reported a salary in that category: (i) number of persons reporting salary; and (ii) 25th, 50th & 75th percentiles of salaries.
The information would be organized according to
- Employment "status"--Bar passage required, JD preferred, other professional, and non-professional, and
- Employment type--law firms, by size of firm, business & industry, government, judicial clerkships, academia, and unknown.