ABA Committee Appears Poised to Approve New Law School Disclosure Requirements
Posted Nov 14, 2011 7:06 PM CDT
By Mark Hansen
An ABA committee is moving quickly on a proposed new accreditation standard that would greatly expand the amount of consumer information law schools must publicly disclose to prospective students.
The Standards Review Committee, which met last weekend in Chicago, is now putting the finishing touches on its proposed changes to the standard, which it hopes to act on at its next scheduled meeting in Washington, D.C., in January.
The proposed changes would then go to the governing council of the ABA's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar, which could take up the committee's recommendations as soon as March.
"We want to be in a position to move forward on this matter as quickly as possible," committee chair Jeffrey E. Lewis said at the conclusion of last weekend's meeting.
If adopted, the proposed changes would more explicitly state the categories of basic consumer information that a law school is required to publicly disclose on its website, including admissions data, tuition and fees, enrollment data, curricular offerings, library resources and physical facilities.
The current proposal would also require a law school to post the bar passage rates and employment outcomes of its graduates by job status and employment type, including the number of graduates working in jobs requiring a law degree and the number of those who are not; and the number of unemployed graduates who are and who are not seeking work. The employment data, which will be contained in a chart to be referenced in the standards, is largely identical to the recommendations of the Questionnaire Committee, which the council will consider in early December.
Both proposals would also require law schools to disclose how many graduates are working in full-time or part-time jobs, whether those jobs are short-term or long-term and how many of them are funded by the school from which the job-holder graduated.
But the Standards Review Committee's current proposal, unlike the Questionnaire Committee's recommendation, would require law schools to disclose school-specific salary information about their graduates. It would also require that any information a school publishes about graduates' salaries clearly identify the number of salaries and the percentage of graduating students included. The Questionnaire Committee is proposing to rely on the National Association for Law Placement to provide statewide salary data.
Under the Standards Review Committee's current proposal, schools would also be required to disclose information about conditional or merit scholarships, including the number of students admitted under such scholarships in the previous three years and the number of students whose scholarships were subsequently reduced or eliminated.
The committee has yet to decide whether to make the Law School Admissions Test optional. But its current proposal says that a law school that does not require a LSAT test of all applicants must disclose the number of applicants who applied, were accepted and who graduated with and without submitting an LSAT score.
Finally, the committee is tentatively proposing that all information reported, posted or published by a law school be fair, accurate and not misleading, and that schools must use "due diligence" in obtaining and verifying such information.