Law schools should make students' borrowing data public, include with admissions offers, report says
Recent law grads have on average $134,497 in law school debt if they went to a private school or $96,054 in law school debt if they went to a public school, according to a new report from Law School Transparency. But the median entry-level salary for 2016 grads in full-time, long-term law jobs was just $66,499.
On a student loan of $125,000, the monthly payment on a 10-year plan would be $1,400, which would we difficult to make when earning $66,499, according to the report, released Wednesday. Titled ” A Way Forward: Transparency in 2018,” it also asserts that for this decade, the percentage of law school graduates obtaining full-time, entry-level attorney jobs is 60.1 percent.
Comparatively, the percentage of law school graduates obtaining full-time, entry-level legal jobs in the 2000s was 70.7 percent, and 73.7 percent in the 1990s, according to the report, which calls for more transparency in law school reporting, and making law school data more user-friendly.
The Iowa State Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division also worked on the report. The group, with the ABA’s Young Lawyers Division, in November unsuccessfully recommended that the council of the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar add two YLD members not employed by law schools as voting members. Wednesday’s report makes the same recommendation.
The section has indicated that it would embrace transparency and refined public reports, according to the report, which also mentions a proposal to tighten up bar passage standards. It was rejected by the House of Delegates in February 2017, and is currently being revisited by the council.
“However, in just the past year, the section’s council took actions that incensed transparency advocates and law schools alike. Without public input, the council changed the mandatory job statistics disclosures. In October 2017, the council reversed course, but not before losing credibility among various stakeholders. Several of the section’s specific actions, along with a general inattention to fundamental problems in legal education, have sparked significant interest by young lawyers in the direction of legal education,” the report states, referring to suggested employment questionnaire revisions that certain school-funded jobs not be reported as such.
The report also asks for the annual ABA law school questionnaire to require that schools report disaggregated borrowing data, tuition amounts paid and scholarships, with subcategories for gender and race. The information should be published on accredited law school websites, and included in admissions offers, according to the report.
“The Section of Legal Education does not publish any school-level borrowing data, although the section does collect the average amount borrowed and the percentage borrowing on its annual questionnaire,” the report states. “Rather, borrowing data come from voluntary disclosures by law schools to U.S. News & World Report. Every year, more than a handful of schools make erroneous disclosures to U.S. News, which only occasionally get corrected. Every year, a dozen or so other schools decline to publish the average amount borrowed by graduates.”
Additionally, the report asks that schools’ employment summary reports be included with admissions offers, and that they post National Association of Law Placement reports annually.
Barry Currier, the ABA’s managing director of accreditation and legal education, told the ABA Journal that he had not had a chance to review the report. Maureen O’Rourke, the dean of Boston University School of Law who chairs the council, told Law.com that it was unlikely they’d reconsider the proposal to add two young lawyers as voting members, because that had already been considered.