Law School Says Stats on Jobless Grads Were Wrong; Publication Differs

Updated: An early report about bleak unemployment numbers for the class of 2009 at the University of Colorado Law School has provoked controversy and a debate over whether the statistics are accurate.

Law Week Colorado reported last week that about 35 percent of of the school’s students had jobs at graduation, down from 55 percent the year before.

Now some officials at the school are contesting that figure, but they are offering different assessments of the problem.

SuSaNi Harris, assistant dean in the law school’s Office of Career Development, told the ABA Journal that the legal employment market is bad, but not as bad as first reported.

“The percentages published are traceable to a miscalculation or misunderstanding by the Law Week Colorado,” she told the ABA Journal in an e-mail. “We did not catch the error in the first story, which apparently confused ‘employed’ and ‘unemployed,’ and now the numbers seem to have taken on a life of their own.”

At graduation in May, she recalled, 68 new graduates reported that they were unemployed. “Since May, however, more graduates have gotten jobs,” she said.

For its part, Law Week Colorado is sticking to its numbers. An editor’s note notes that the law school isn’t providing specifics on new percentages.

Associate Dean Dayna Matthew told Law Week Colorado that the numbers released are premature, and won’t match figures that will be provided to NALP, the Association for Legal Career Professionals, in February. The reason is a difference in calculation methods.

“Law Week, [Matthew] says, misconstrued the number when it reported, accurately, using data CU provided in June and re-confirmed in October, the 35 percent jobs-at-graduation number,” the editor’s note says. “That percentage considered all CU law graduates—those who’ve reported to the placement office, and those who haven’t. But NALP considers only the students who’ve reported. That would have elevated the 35 percent rate. But how high? Matthew declined to say.”

Law Week Colorado noted assertions by others at the school that it transposed the 35 percent and 65 percent numbers. “Matthew isn’t going there,” the editor’s note says. “For the record, Law Week sticks to its math: The initial 35 percent number given is accurate when using the data CU provided and considering the entire law class of ‘09.”

Another Colorado school, the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, didn’t have graduation numbers as the publication went to press last week, but Misae Nishikura, assistant dean for the school’s career development center, said the employment numbers were down.

“There are definitely fewer students who had a job lined up at graduation this year compared to last year,” Nishikura told Law Week Colorado.

The low employment numbers are spurring a search for alternatives, according to the Law Week Colorado story. The law schools are sponsoring networking events and also suggesting career options outside of law practice. One plan, still in the fundraising stage, would create internships with state judges.

The career development office at University of Colorado Law School is also contacting legal placement firms to see if they have any temporary jobs available.

Harris told the ABA Journal that the school collected $21,000 to fund nine research fellowships for 11 unemployed ’09 graduates, and it is hiring two additional staff persons to provide one-on-one placement assistance.

Last updated at 7:40 p.m. Oct. 28 with additional information from Law Week Colorado.

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