Law Schools

Legal Education Section considers doing random audits of law school jobs data

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Law schools would be subject to random audits of their graduate employment data under a draft proposal presented Friday to the governing council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar.

Under the draft proposal (PDF), all ABA-accredited schools would be subject to an annual website compliance review of the employment outcome data they post online to ensure that it is consistent with the information they report to the section.

But at least 10 schools a year would also be subject to a random review of the supporting data they would be required to maintain for the employment information they must report to the section. Schools with files found to be more than 2 percent “deficient” would have to verify the information they reported for a random sampling of at least 10 percent of their graduates. And, if 2 percent of that information is found to be unsupported, inaccurate or false, the school would be required to hire, at its own expense, an outside expert pre-approved by the ABA to verify the accuracy of its reported data.

Schools would also be subject to a “statistically sound” random sampling of the employment information reported each year for all law school graduates. Schools with files that don’t support their graduates’ reported information would be required to undergo the same type of review as schools whose files were randomly audited.

Under the proposal, the section would also conduct annual “red flag” reviews of all schools then under sanction for misreporting employment information, as well as all schools it “has reason to believe” are reporting false or inaccurate information.

The draft proposal, whose development was approved by the council last December, is designed to promote confidence in the integrity of the employment outcome data schools are now required to report to the ABA. A number of law schools have been sued over accusations of misrepresenting their graduates’ job prospects, but to date none of those suits has been successful.

The draft proposal, which includes a statement of proposed procedures law schools should follow to comply with the new record-keeping requirements, is subject to further review and revision. But it could come back to the council for final approval by next March, and could take effect with the class of 2014, whose employment data must be reported to the ABA by April 7, 2015.

Deputy consultant Scott Norberg, who helped develop the proposal with the legal management consulting firm Duff & Phelps, briefed the council on the status of the project at its quarterly meeting Friday in Washington, D.C. He told the council it needs to think about whether the costs of implementing such a procedure are worth the effort, since there is “not a lot or reason” to think that law schools are widely misreporting employment data.

Only one council member chose to comment on the draft proposal, and his assessment was bleak.

Council member Edward Tucker, a Cleveland CPA, said he thinks the effort is “doomed” because graduates have no obligation to disclose their employment status to the schools they graduated from.

“What we’ve done is construct a dike to hold back the ocean with a great big hole in the middle,” he said of the proposal.

At its meeting in Washington, D.C., the council also approved posting for notice and comment a proposal to require law schools to provide at least 15 credit hours of professional skills instruction. The council has already approved for notice and comment a proposal that would require law schools to provide at least six credit hours of experiential course work.

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