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ABA Young Lawyers Want Law Schools to Provide Better Jobs, Salary Data Up Front

Posted Feb 13, 2011 9:55 AM CDT
By Molly McDonough

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The ABA's Young Lawyers Division on Saturday voted to press for greater transparency for would-be lawyers considering law school to give them a greater understanding of the risks of assuming the sometimes staggering debt required to obtain a J.D.

The division's assembly adopted a multipoint policy resolution dubbed "Truth in Law School Education" urging law schools to improve post-graduate employment information provided to prospective students and ensure that information is prominently featured in communications. The division is next expected to bring the resolution, which has had the support of ABA President Stephen N. Zack, to the ABA's policymaking House of Delegates at its annual meeting in August.

“The Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association is proud to be at the forefront of the law school transparency movement,” division chair David Wolfe said in a release about the vote. “It is essential that all prospective law school students have access to accurate and straightforward information regarding the real earning potential and cost of every law school. ”

In a report accompanying the resolution, the YLD noted there's a disconnect between law students’ perception of their employment prospects and the reality of what graduates can realistically achieve.

“There will always be a need for good lawyers,” Zack said on this point. “But—although you wouldn't know it from watching flashy TV shows about the law—most lawyers are Main Street lawyers, not Wall Street lawyers. It’s important young people planning a legal career consider how much debt they should take on, based on what they are likely to make.”

The YLD report also is critical of law schools for current salary reporting practices. "It has also been discovered that some law schools are reporting wages in an ineffective, misleading manner by citing unrealistic salary averages and full-time employment statistics of their own law school graduates," according to the report. "This salary data is being manipulated to provide a much rosier employment picture to prospective law students, which in turn may contribute to the increase in law school enrollment."

To address these and other issues, the Truth in Law School Education resolution (PDF) urges:

• All ABA-approved law schools to report employment data in a manner that accurately reflects whether graduates obtain full- or part-time employment within the legal profession, both in the private and public sector, or employment in alternative professions, as well as whether such employment is permanent or temporary.

• All ABA-approved law schools include this employment information data on their websites, in their catalogs, and in their acceptance notices sent to applicants for admission, or include in each of those locations a conspicuous notice of where such data can be obtained.

• All ABA-approved law schools increase transparency regarding their graduates’ salaries by displaying data regarding the salaries on their websites when such disclosures would not violate the confidentiality of graduates’ salary information, and to similarly display the national median salary information, by employment type, for all law school graduates, and the median salary information for the schools’ respective states and regions.

• All ABA-approved law schools to similarly publicize the actual cost of law school education, on a per-credit basis, and the average cost of living expenditures while attending law school.

The division also wants the ABA's Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar to revise its Standards for Approval of Law Schools to require schools to post even more data on employment and placement of graduates. In addition, the division wants the section to collect more information through its annual questionnaire and make that information available to the public.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "Villanova Says Inaccurate LSAT and GPA Data Were ‘Knowingly Reported’ to the ABA in Prior Years"

ABA Journal: "Law School? Bag It, Bloggers Say: More disgruntled grads are 'scamblogging' their job frustrations"

ABAJournal.com: "ABA Weighs Required Disclosure of Law School Job Stats, More Rigorous Reporting"

ABAJournal.com: "How Law Schools Can Help Next Gen Lawyers Take Gamble Out of Hefty Tuition (Podcast)"

ABAJournal.com: "New Nonprofit Asks Law Schools for Detailed Salary, Job Information"

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