Law Students Push for Transparency, More Info re Law School Employment Stats
Posted Apr 21, 2010 7:55 AM CST
By Debra Cassens Weiss
Two Vanderbilt law students have created a new website where they hope to publish better job and salary information for all ABA-accredited law schools.
Students Patrick Lynch and Kyle McEntee say law schools hide their employment data in aggregate form, the National Law Journal reports. "You may know that 50 percent of graduates got jobs at law firms, but you don't know what types of firms and types of jobs they got,” McEntee, a 2L, told the publication.
The two students have created a website called Law School Transparency where they hope to publish more specifics. They want to describe in more detail where law school graduates end up working each year and how much value they received from their degree.
In particular, they want each school to provide information about each student nine months after graduation that includes employer type, employer name, position name, whether bar passage is required or preferred, full-time or part-time status, office location, whether the student worked on a law journal, and salary.
Lynch and McEntee aren’t asking for each student’s grade point average or class rank out of privacy concerns, but they believe law journal information will suggest whether students were at the top of their class.
In a paper published at SSRN, Lynch and McEntee argue that summaries for each law school in the ABA’s official guide can be confusing. Prospective students looking at the summary table for a law school will see the number of grads employed in law firms, but they won’t be able to tell whether they were working as attorneys, law clerks, paralegals, contract attorneys or administrators, Lynch and McEntee write. The national summary report, however, shows that 6.9 percent of all law school graduates in the class of 2008 working at law firms actually held nonlawyer positions.
Similarly, would-be students who check out the number of graduates employed in business and industry will find that “in-house counsel [are grouped] with short-order cooks at Waffle House,” Lynch and McEntee say.
The paper argues for more detailed salary information, saying it’s needed to help students assess whether attending law school is worth the high debt load. “According to FinAid.org, a graduate should make $138,000 annually to repay $100,000 without enduring financial hardship, or $92,000 annually to repay the debt with financial difficulty," the paper says. "Jobs that allow repayment of such high debt are unavailable to the vast majority of newly minted law school graduates.”
Lynch and McEntee expect law schools will be reluctant to supply the requested information, the NLJ story says. Their hope is that a few will comply, and that pressure eventually will spur others to do the same. "We hope this sparks a discourse where students will ask the schools to comply," Lynch, a 3L, told the NLJ.