Search the Lounge


« Acoustic Separation In Supreme Court Reporting | Main | Brooklyn Law Names Nicholas Allard Dean »

March 28, 2012


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.


Wonderful research, eye opening data. But I think you are a bit too gracious in letting schools off the hook for being misleading. While we should applaud schools for disclosing these programs (and shame schools that continue to hide them), their primary purpose is to game the U.S. News rankings. I'm happy for the students benefiting from their temporary employment - even if they're likely not happy at all. But let's not kid ourselves. These programs would not exist if they did not help schools game the rankings. Thus a prediction: post graduation fellowships will disappear or shrink dramatically within a few years of U.S. News changing their formula.


I am confused by UNC's figures -- these 2010 stats from UNC's website says 95% employed at 9 months:

But your chart says 88.3% employed at 9 months.


Though the overall response rates are high, the law schools — and, by extension, NALP — have far less complete data on salaries. “This is the result of predictable human behavior, where many students feel that their salary data is quite private,” Leipold said. “Not surprisingly, students with lower paying jobs report their salary far less frequently than [do] students with higher paying jobs.” However, he rejected the notion suggested by Anziska that those students who don’t report a salary don’t have jobs at all, noting that there are other possible reasons students don’t report salaries.

YLS 2010 grad

I graduated from Yale in 2010 and have many friends who are recipients of Yale's public interest fellowships. To the extent this post suggests that those fellowships are designed by the school to provide employment to students who would otherwise be without a job, I think it misunderstands the public interest program at YLS.

YLS's public interest fellowships are--and have been since long before the downturn in the legal economy--highly competitive, much sought-after public interest awards that allow motivated students to develop their own public interest projects and to implement those projects within a host organization that will hopefully, once it sees the value of the project, continue to fund the project after the student's fellowship runs out.

It is not true that students receiving these fellowships are students who wanted, but could not obtain, non-school-funded employment and who are now relying on school support in absence of better alternatives. In fact, many (most?) of the students who receive the fellowships turned down other offers of employment (including offers from large law firms) to accept the fellowships.

These fellowships are essentially the equivalent of the Skadden or Equal Justice Works fellowships, but for YLS grads only and funded by YLS. I don't know of a single recipient I can think of who would have had a hard time finding a more "traditional" non-school-funded position if they had wanted one. YLS grads continue to be very lucky. I don't know anyone who wants a job and doesn't have one.

This comment is not intended to quarrel with your general conclusion that the entry-level market in the country is very weak and some of its weakness may be being disguised by law schools who are employing their own students to augment what would otherwise be a noticeably lower total employment rate. I just think this is demonstrably not the case at YLS in particular.

UNC Grad

Thank you, Prof. Burk, for being at the forefront of this debate. I am a legal academic, and a UNC alum. I am proud that my alma mater does not mislead students about employment statistics, and that statistics provided are not "gamed" (by creating 3 or 6 month jobs to recent grads) to influence rankings. Keep up the good work.

Bernie Burk

Reply to anon (3/28/12 at 4:23 p.m.):

While the effect on the US News rankings was likely on the minds of law-school administrators creating or expanding postgraduate bridge "fellowships," anon, I doubt it was the only thing on their minds. As I've previously remarked, these programs are a rational tactic for escorting students into the working world. Some measure of that is (for the few schools where we have numbers for both bridge positions at graduation and bridge positions nine months later) how many fewer students who held bridge positions at graduation still hold them after nine months (though I concede that any number of these students might just as well have obtained "real" employment without the bridge jobs).

The point is that this is one of those rare instances where a rankings play may also be producing some real good for graduating students in a terribly difficult job market. I agree that it is worthy of attention how many schools continue these programs at current levels next year if they don't get rankings "credit" for them.


Bernie Burk

Reply to YLS Grad 2010: This is an interesting and valuable perspective, and I appreciate your adding it to the discussion. Assuming that everything you say about the YLS Public Interest Fellowships is true, that would make these positions quite atypical in today's market. It would be interesting to know how many such fellowships were funded for the classes of 2005-07 compared with the classes of 2009-11.


Bernie Burk

Reply to Confused (3/28/12 at 5:38 p.m.): As I understand it, US News currently counts as "employed" anyone with a job--any job--at the relevant time. US News counts as "unemployed" those who affirmatively report they are not seeking work, those who are pursuing other advanced degrees full-time, and those whose status is unknown. As I understand it, the UNC statistic to which you refer is the percentage of 2010 UNC graduates who are known to be actively seeking work and are employed. Like US News, this figure includes any job. Unlike US News, this figure excludes from the denominator of the fraction those affirmatively reporting they are not seeking work, those who are in graduate school, and those whose status is unknown.

Hope this helps.


YLS 2010 grad

Bernie, I don't deny that the YLS public interest fellowships are quite likely atypical. With respect to how many such fellowships were given out for the classes of 2005-2007 versus 2009-2010, those numbers would be somewhat misleading because YLS overhauled and vastly expanded its public interest funding program in April 2008 (i.e. right at the tail end of the boom, several months before Lehman collapsed and the bottom fell out of the economy). Many of these fellowships were created as part of that overhaul, and I believe 2009 was the first year in which fellowships were awarded. Prior to 2009, there were some, but fewer, fellowships, and they were much more competitive. I was at the meeting where the changes to the program were announced, and the administration said at the time that the goal was to be able to match every student who wanted to work in a public interest job with a fellowship.

So if you just look at the numbers and dates, they might appear to be recession-correlated, but if anything, they were actually boom-related. In fact, the overhaul to the program was largely motivated by a similar overhaul to Harvard's public interest funding program several months prior that, it was feared, might make Harvard more attractive to students interested in pursuing public interest careers. Evidence that this program was not recession-motivated can be found in the fact that several months ago, citing the recession, the administration actually ROLLED BACK several of the provisions of the public interest funding program instituted in 2008, particularly as it related to loan repayment for students employed in public interest jobs. I don't know whether the public interest fellowships were affected by this rollback or not.

Again, I don't think any of this undercuts the general point you are trying to make about law school employment data, a point that I agree with 100%. I'm just saying that YLS is a bit of an outlier here because their public interest fellowship program is really not a "bridge" program of any kind. It's actually quite competitive and aimed at students who were already committed to public interest careers. Particularly with respect to the government fellowship position awards, which are limited in number and quite competitive, I know of classmates who applied for but did not receive a fellowship and as a result ended up working for a law firm.

Obviously, I can only give you anecdotal evidence here, but on the other hand, our class was quite small (fewer than 200 people), so I feel like everyone more or less knew what everyone else was doing, but even in the terrible recruiting season of Fall 2008, I didn't know anyone who wanted a law firm job but didn't get one. In fact, I didn't know anyone who didn't have several offers.

The comments to this entry are closed.


  • StatCounter
Blog powered by Typepad