Law Schools

ABA Should Publish Better Job Info for Naive Law Students, Prof Says

  • Print.

Some critics say the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar accredits too many law schools, producing more graduates than there are good jobs available.

Indiana University law professor William Henderson notes antitrust problems with slashing accreditation, and offers a different suggestion: The ABA should publish detailed employment information about law school graduates in a way that makes side-by-side comparisons easy.

“It is not helpful to say that 15 percent of a school’s graduates work in business—they need to know how many of those 15 percent are waiting tables, driving a cab or selling insurance,” Henderson writes in cross posts at the Legal Profession Blog and the Empirical Legal Studies Blog. “Re jobs in private practice, how many are working as contract attorneys? Nobody really knows, and the issue is not on the section’s agenda. If these data are published, some law schools would probably go out of business.”

Henderson says schools with higher cost structures tend to do better in the rankings by U.S. News & World Report, and as law schools compete for better advantage the costs go up. “Thus, the cost structure at virtually all law schools has climbed far in excess of the earning capacity of the median law school graduate,” he writes. The “status quo rolls on” because of a lack of information.

Part of the problem, he says, is the naivety of law students. “The modal student entering law school is not homo economicus,” he says. “Rather, he or she is young, inexperienced, and overly impressed with branding—largely through U.S. News—and the opinions of peers. IQ does not shield the young from overconfidence and the reflexive desire to impress others through the acquisition of positional goods. Indeed, sometimes intelligence in the absence of common sense can make matters worse.”

Henderson is one of the ABA Journal’s Legal Rebels.

Related coverage: “ABA Task Force Hears Alternatives to Law School Accreditation Role” “Are Law Schools Like GM? Why Profs Should Mull End of ‘Salad Days’ ” “Downturn’s Losers: BigLaw, ‘Entitled’ Associates, Top Schools” “Law Dean Says Schools ‘Exploiting’ Students Who Don’t Succeed”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.