Washington & Lee University School of Law ("W&L Law") is breaking all of the rules when it comes to the law-school game with honesty, transparency and salary charts (now that's what I like to see). Earlier this week, I wrote about the 17 pages of employment data that the Virginia-based law school shared with its admitted students. I commended the school for providing this information but wondered whether W&L Law could take its efforts a step further with alumni salary-distribution charts (similar to NALP’s “Distribution of Reported Full-Time Salaries—Class of 2009”).
I don’t have to wonder anymore because W&L Law has stepped up and posted salary-distribution charts for its 2007-2009 classes on its website (see the Career Planning Statistics link below). The school even created a fourth chart of data summarizing all three classes for easy comparison.
I’m impressed. W&L Law’s commitment to providing clear employment information says a lot about the school, its culture and its dedication to the students. And the school’s willingness to implement outside suggestions to further expand its transparency goals is admirable.
I could go on about my crush on W&L Law’s employment data, but I thought it would be more useful to hear from the school itself. Brett Twitty, Director of Admissions at W&L Law, took time to answer some of Vault Law’s questions about the school's recent efforts.
Vault Law: Why does W&L Law believe it is important to provide more transparent career information?
Brett Twitty: It is important because we want students to really know what they’re getting into when they decide to go to law school. This is a professional decision. You have to think about the economics of this choice, particularly now. We felt this was the information our students needed to give full thought to whether or not our law school (and law school generally) was the right fit for them. That’s an analysis that should always include career considerations, but perhaps even more so now.
VL: What prompted W&L Law to provide this extensive career data?
BT: First and foremost, we felt like it was the right thing to do. This information was out there, but we felt students were missing it. We believed we could do a better job presenting the data in a format they could understand. We are asking our applicants to make one of the most significant financial decisions of their lives. They deserve to have whatever information they need to make fully-informed decisions.
We also felt, given the volume of information detailing the anemic legal-employment landscape, to not really engage the subject of jobs and the economy in a significant way right now would have seemed a little strange to our prospective students. Every applicant with whom I speak has career questions. This is an encouraging sign, but, as a school, we believe you also have to provide him or her with the resources to answer those questions.
VL: What are the most important points that prospective students and current students should glean from this employment data?
BT: We realize that this is a very dense assemblage of information, and it takes a while to unpack. But there are a few important points I hope all our students will glean from these materials:
1)The job search is changing. It is taking longer for law students to find jobs. The search requires more individual initiative than it did even a few years ago. Students are doing more to just get a foot in the door. This is an era of networking, and finding your first job will most likely require significant individual initiative. Relationships have always mattered in the legal world, but they are perhaps more important than ever. If you are coming to law school now, you have to be willing to hustle.
2)You may not have a job at graduation. This is tough, but it’s the truth. While we are fortunate to still have graduates who have great jobs when they graduate, they are fewer in number than they were a few years ago. With our students, we are increasingly finding it may take them six to nine months after graduation to find a job.
3)Times are tough, but we’re here to help. We feel W&L provides a more personal approach to law school, and we take a great deal of pride in the support we offer our students. This ethic absolutely applies to the wealth of resources provided by our Office of Career Planning.
4)You absolutely must be sure that law school is the right path for you well before you arrive in Lexington. It’s just too hard out there. Law school is not a default or a universal-educational experience. It’s the first step in a long, rewarding, but absolutely challenging career. Choosing whether or not it is for you requires thoughtful consideration.
VL: In what ways is W&L branching out to keep up with the changing legal job market?
BT: We truly believe that what the job market wants is better-prepared law graduates, and we feel our third-year curricular reform (link below) is absolutely a significant step in that direction. It’s hard not to hear the frustrations of those in the position of hiring young attorneys and think, “So what exactly does a legal education prepare you for again?”
The lessons of the past few years seem clear: No employer has the time or resources to fully teach you how to be a lawyer. It’s too expensive. Clients don’t want to pay for it. Employers are not structured to do it. You have to begin this process in law school. Our third-year curricular reform allows students to encounter the intellectual and practical challenges of the legal profession while they’re in law school, in a learning environment, where they are supported and have the time to ask questions and make mistakes. As a result, when they graduate, they have a realistic sense of what lawyers do as well as the work they will be asked to perform. That is a tremendous asset in a legal market frustrated and increasingly exasperated by woefully-underprepared young attorneys.
Washington & Lee University School of Law Site
Washington & Lee University School of Law Career Planning Statistics
Washington & Lee University School of Law Third Year Curricular Reform
NALP’s “Distribution of Reported Full-Time Salaries—Class of 2009”
Brett Twitty is the Director of Admissions at Washington & Lee University School of Law. Mr. Twitty holds a BA in English from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a JD from Washington and Lee University School of Law. He served as the Assistant Director of Admissions at W&L Law from 2007 until September of 2010, when he was named Director of Admissions.
Washington & Lee Law School Bares Its Employment Stats
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