Law School Rankings Rally Behind Transparency

by Vault Law Editors | June 20, 2011

All of the noise on law school transparency has begun to ignite change: the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar recently issued a conditional approval of new reporting requirements for law schools, and U.S. News & World Report has indicated that it will likely change its rankings methodology in response.

A proposal for enhanced reporting on employment statistics was set forth by Art Gaudio—dean of Western new England College School of Law—and the Questionnaire Committee for the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar. Gaudio and the Committee issued the following recommendations on law school employment reporting:

•Disclose whether the graduate is employed and the kind of position s/he has received, including the following categories: “employed in a job requiring a JD, in a job for which a JD is preferred, in another professional job, in a non-professional job, or in a job of unknown type; pursuing a graduate degree; unemployed – not seeking or unemployed – seeking; and status unknown.”

•Indicate what category the job falls under (e.g. law firm, academia, clerkship, etc.).

•Specify the location of the job.

•Identify whether the job is full-time or part-time, and whether or not the position is long-term.

In response to these new standards, Robert Morse of U.S. News stated the following:

If more detailed information on types of legal jobs and full-time and part-time employment status was available from law schools for new J.D. graduates, U.S. News would collect it, publish it, and—where applicable—use these more detailed job type calculations in the law school ranking methodology. If the new ABA rules are implemented, U.S. News will use our own law school statistical surveys in fall 2011 to collect and eventually publish the entire new richer and more detailed set of employment and jobs data from each law school for 2010 J.D. graduates. When we gather this richer data set, we will be able to make a more exact determination of how our ranking methodology will change.

So basically, one little voice can turn to a roar and make a difference. Sure, these changes won’t be much help to current law students or recent law school graduates, but the heightened transparency—and its integration into the rankings process—will hopefully provide prospective students a clearer picture of what they're signing up for. One statistic that I think will be extremely valuable is the “unknown” employment figure. Law school employment data often lacks this figure, making it unclear what percentage of the graduating class is missing from the statistics. I wonder whether—and speculate it is the case that—law schools receive more responses from those graduates who are gainfully employed over those without jobs. If so, this “unknown” factor will bring another dimension to a school’s employment picture. We’ll have to wait and see.

I also think that it would be a significant step forward for U.S. News to integrate this new data into its rankings. There is no denying that many prospective law students are prestige-obsessed—rankings are one of the top factors that many candidates consider when choosing a law school. And I think that a good number of law schools work the rankings into their marketing and even their identities. Including this new employment data in the rankings will emphasize its importance to the schools and spotlight the findings to prospective students.

ABA Journal Source
Questionnaire Committee for the ABA’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar Recommendations
US News Source

Read More:
Law Grad Sues Law School for Lack of Transparency
Law Students & Attorneys Are Angry . . . And They Should Be
Washington & Lee Law School Gets Even More Transparent
Young Lawyers Demand the Truth about Law Schools

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