The current proposal would also require a law school to post the bar passage rates and employment outcomes of its graduates by job status and employment type, including the number of graduates working in jobs requiring a law degree and the number of those who are not; and the number of unemployed graduates who are and who are not seeking work. The employment data, which will be contained in a chart to be referenced in the standards, is largely identical to the recommendations of the Questionnaire Committee, which the council will consider in early December.
Both proposals would also require law schools to disclose how many graduates are working in full-time or part-time jobs, whether those jobs are short-term or long-term and how many of them are funded by the school from which the job-holder graduated.
But the Standards Review Committee's current proposal, unlike the Questionnaire Committee's recommendation, would require law schools to disclose school-specific salary information about their graduates. It would also require that any information a school publishes about graduates' salaries clearly identify the number of salaries and the percentage of graduating students included. The Questionnaire Committee is proposing to rely on the National Association for Law Placement to provide statewide salary data.
Under the Standards Review Committee's current proposal, schools would also be required to disclose information about conditional or merit scholarships, including the number of students admitted under such scholarships in the previous three years and the number of students whose scholarships were subsequently reduced or eliminated . . .
Finally, the committee is tentatively proposing that all information reported, posted or published by a law school be fair, accurate and not misleading, and that schools must use "due diligence" in obtaining and verifying such information.
A cynic might note that there's nothing like the prospect of hearings before the U.S. Senate ($$) to get an otherwise indifferent bureaucracy to suddenly spring into action. Be that as it may, this represents a sign of real progress, and welcome evidence that the public pressure being put on law schools is having an effect.
It's of course true that this is just a first step toward achieving law school transparency, and that genuine transparency is itself merely a first step on a road that will require much more fundamental and difficult reforms, but first steps are usually the hardest to take.
Speaking of which, what's with the case of Kramer v. Kramer?
Newish Stanford dean Larry Kramer in 2007:
Kramer says the lawyers he meets are deeply concerned about these issues yet “feel unable to stop it, powerless to resist the stifling market forces that drive their decisions.” As for students, he says they “say they want a better work/life balance, yet invariably choose the firm that ranks highest in The American Lawyer’s list of the top 100 law firms.” Kramer adds: “Having spent their lives learning to collect gold stars, they apparently find it impossible to stop—something we (that is, law schools) make easy by forcing most of them to graduate with a mountain of debt.”Veteran Stanford dean Larry Kramer yesterday:
“No one can be blamed when everyone is to blame,” he concludes. “I have no answer to this. Not yet at least.” Kramer says Stanford has a role to play in improving things to “secure the future of our profession, preserving the qualities that attracted so many of us to the study of law in the first place.”
I'm a fan of Kramer the legal scholar, but disheartened by the effects that seven years of doing his current job seem to have had on him. Four years ago he acknowledged there were big problems in legal education even when "everybody" (meaning of course all or nearly all Stanford law grads who wanted one) was getting an entry level job at a big firm.
“The economy is in the tank, things are down,” Larry Kramer, dean of Stanford Law School, told Jones. “Nobody was thinking about ‘transparency’ five years ago, because the job market was so rich there was no reason to quibble over statistics.”
Now he's selling what is apparently becoming the standard line among law deans about how the present crisis is mostly cyclical, and the only reason people suddenly care about law schools misrepresenting job stats is because now law grads aren't getting jobs. As Brian Tamanaha pointed out at length recently, this business about a "rich" job market five years ago was malarkey even then, if one lifted one's gaze to take in the vast expanse of legal education made up of schools outside the top end of the top tier.
On a fairly consistent basis, almost one third of law graduates in the past decade have not obtained jobs as lawyers, and the above chart suggests that this is disproportionately the case at the lower ranked law schools.(BTW Tamanaha is well aware that he's using a generous definition of what constitutes a real legal job, and that the NALP data is far from reliable. His point is that even if you give law schools every possible benefit of the doubt the employment numbers have been bad and getting worse, especially relative to the rapidly growing law student debt load, for a long time now).
There is every reason to believe that graduates of lower ranked law schools, if they had the chance, would gladly take lawyer jobs in the same 90 percent range as occurs at elite schools. The results show, obviously, that their degrees do not put them in a strong position to land jobs as lawyers. And this will not change even if the legal market undergoes a miraculous recovery.
All this raises the more basic point that questions such as "is going to law school a good idea?" are hopelessly broad. Going to law school may well still be a good idea for a lot of Stanford law school students (although the 2007 version of Larry Kramer linked above appeared to possess some healthy skepticism about the state of the profession even in its elite stratosphere), but as I've mentioned before, Stanford Law School and the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law are both "law schools" in the same sense that France and Sierra Leone are both sovereign nations. It's precisely people such as Kramer -- the deans of the handful of elite law schools -- who would be in the best position to make this point, tactfully but forcefully, if they were to start advocating for genuine reform, as opposed to continuing to defend the status quo in legal education.
Finally, a word to current law students. In a couple of years, it's likely that half or more of you aren't going to have real legal jobs, and many of those of you who will won't be able to pay your educational debts with the jobs you do get. Plus it's also likely that you'll hate your life, as it will be dominated by doing huge amounts of what will feel like meaningless work for, if you're extremely lucky, high pay, (although quite possibly not for long; see this comment) and if you're not, no more money than you would have been making if you hadn't gone to law school in the first place.
At that point, if the present momentum toward reform can be maintained, the gap between the employment and salary statistics advertised by your law school when you enrolled and the statistics revealed by the new disclosure standards will become evident. You will of course be strongly encouraged to internalize the massive institutional breakdown that will have put you in your present position, and transform it into a personal catastrophe, for which you alone are responsible. That transformation of the fundamental structural failure of a social institution into tens of thousands of annual stories about "individual responsibility" is, more than anything else, what keeps this thing going. Don't do it.