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December 19, 2011


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Brian Tamanaha


The argument for treating "unknown" as unemployed is based upon the general assumption that unhappy people are more likely to not respond at all, which is consistent with your overall picture.

This does not exclude other possible explanations for some "unknowns." The school may have limited resources or the career services office may be less than competent in tracking down graduates. Treating "unknowns" in this fashion creates an incentive for law schools to better a job of this (even if that requires expending more resources). That may be tough on a school, but it's a good thing if we believe that prospective students deserve full information about the likely economic return on their degree.

I should add a caution about the numbers you are working with. After putting up a post on "misleading salary numbers," a lower ranked law school informed me that the number they reported was incorrect (stated above 80% when actual number was below 30%). It is impossible to know whether, or how many, other law schools have done this with your numbers. But you should keep it in mind. The conclusions you draw are only as good as the data you use.


Gary Rosin

Alas, we are all no better than our data. Mistakes in reporting, even in good faith, affect the data reported. And then there are errors from re-keying the data.

But then, when I was working with the employment information in the 2012 Official Guide, I was adding categories in my head, and often came up short of the number of graduates. I used a calculator, and got the same results. I looked at my school, and our data did not add up. I talked to one of our people who complete the ABA Questionnaire. We pulled what we had reported, and found the problem. The Official Guide entry for Unemployed says it includes both those seeking employment, and those no longer seeking employment. Our Official Guide entry included only those seeking employment. We looked at several other schools, and compared the numbers from the take-offs to those in the Official Guide. Sure enough, only the numbers for Unemployed, Seeking were included.


You raise a good point about inconsistent reporting from different schools. One factor to keep in mind is that Career Services offices can be pretty small and vary in levels of expertise. The reporting requirements are confusing and it would be easy for an inexperienced or new staff person to report the wrong numbers. A contributing factor is that there is no external audit to catch mistakes. And oftentimes even no one internally "looking over the shoulder". Law schools are often relying on one person to get it right - the director or dean of career services.

Do I think most career services folks get it right? Yes. Frankly there are resources available to new career services folks that smart newcomers rely on. But I am sure some percentage of well intentioned folks are reporting false numbers. And probably an equal percentage of not so well intentioned folks who employ a head in the sand approach to checking if their numbers are as good as they look.

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