Law Schools

Legal Ed Section's council approves change in reporting of school-funded jobs

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The governing Council of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has approved a proposal to change the way law schools classify school-funded jobs in their reporting of graduate employment outcomes.

The change, recommended by the Section’s Data Policy and Collection Committee, will create a new employment status category for graduates in school-funded jobs on the employment summary form that schools are required to complete for each year’s graduating class.

Under the change, the number of graduates reported in other employment status categories–such as “employed-bar passage required” and “employed-JD advantage”–will be reduced by the corresponding number of graduates in school-funded positions reported elsewhere.

But the council, which met Friday and Saturday in San Francisco, rejected the second part of the committee’s proposal, which was to re-classify most school-funded jobs–now counted as long-term, full-time jobs–as short-term positions.

The council voted to refer that part of the committee’s proposal back to the committee for reconsideration.

That means that schools still will be required to report the number of graduates employed in school-funded positions by type (bar passage required, JD advantage, full or part-time) and duration (short or long-term) as they do now, which the committee had recommended doing away with.

The committee, in its recommendation to the council, said the reporting of school-funded jobs as long-term, full-time positions is doubly misleading, because they rarely are truly long-term in nature and because they are not generated by the market.

“The recommendations made here are to provide accuracy and clarity, and to avoid misleading consumers of the data that the ABA collects and requires schools to publish,” it said.

The committee also cited what it said was a substantial increase in the number of graduates reported as holding long-term, full-time, bar-passage required, school-funded positions since the ABA began collecting such information with the graduating class of 2011.

It said a relatively small number of schools have accounted for the vast majority of such positions. For the class of 2012, it said, 14 of the 64 schools that reported having any school-funded, full-time, long-term, bar-passage required positions accounted for nearly 84 percent of them. For the class of 2013, it said 25 of the 70 schools that reported having such positions accounted for 87 percent of them.

Critics say some schools are using such jobs to artificially inflate the number of graduates they are able to report as employed in long-term, full-time, bar-passage required positions and boost their standing in U.S. News & World Report’s law school rankings.

But some schools said the committee’s proposals, if adopted, would appear to “punish” them for creating fellowship programs that provide a valuable service and help launch their graduates into public interest careers. And some public interest groups said they feared that many law schools would understandably decrease their support for such fellowships if those jobs were to be reclassified as short-term positions.

The council voted to make the changes effective with the next reporting cycle, for the graduating class of 2015. The committee had recommended that the changes take effect with the current reporting cycle for the graduating class of 2014.

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