Law schools are receiving a lot of flak lately for distorting their employment statistics, but one law school is pulling aside the curtain and giving out the goods. Above the Law is reporting that Washington & Lee University School of Law (“W&L”) has provided its admitted students with a 17-page document of employment data, including numbers on the school itself as well as general career information.
While W&L boasts an average reported salary of $101,920 and a median reported salary of $90,000 in 2009, the school points out that “average and median salaries do not provide the full picture of entry-level compensation.” With regard to its employment data, W&L also includes a footnote stating the following: “Employment rates represent the ratio of the number of students/graduates who were employed or enrolled in a full-time degree program to the number of students in the class, excluding those who were not seeking, were studying for the bar full-time or whose status was unknown.” So basically, if W&L didn’t know what an alumnus was up to, the alumnus wasn’t looking for a job at all, or the alumnus was a full-time bar-exam studier, the school didn’t include that alumnus in the employment data.
W&L also shared employment data on its current law students. For 1L jobs, 50% were unpaid, 32% were paid, 10% were given through funding, and 8% were unknown. The [kind of] good news for second-year law students at W&L is that only 27% of 2L jobs were unpaid.
I appreciate that W&L has provided this data along with the warnings and caveats, and I hope other law schools follow. But I wish W&L would go even further (I say this based on Above the Law’s report—if W&L included the following information in its data, please let me know). For example, W&L provides its salary mean and median and includes a link to NALP’s chart on the “Distribution of Reported Full-Time Salaries—Class of 2009.” While national salary data is useful, it would be more helpful if W&L (and other law schools) provided a similar chart on the percentage of its own alumni at various salary ranges. Also, while disclosing that not all alumni are accounted for in the employment data is a step forward, W&L (and other law schools) should reveal the percentage of alumni not included in the statistics. Releasing more complete employment numbers will provide more clarity and allow prospective students to develop more realistic employment and salary expectations.
Hopefully more law schools join W&L and go beyond in providing transparent employment data. If they don’t, prospective students should take initiative and ask schools the hard questions on their statistics before signing up.
Above the Law Source
NALP Chart: “Distribution of Reported Full-Time Salaries—Class of 2009” via Above the Law
Washington & Lee University School of Law School site
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