Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sen. Boxer has some questions for the ABA

October 6, 2011
Wm. T. Robinson III
American Bar Association
321 North Clark Street

Chicago, IL 60654-7598

Dear Mr. Robinson:
Following the previous correspondence between your predecessor and me concerning law school reporting practices, I am writing to address some unresolved issues. While I applaud the American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education for addressing other deficiencies with current post-graduation employment and salary reporting requirements, I was very disappointed to learn that the Section decided not to require that law schools report the percentage of their graduates working in the legal profession or the percentage of graduates working in part-time legal jobs in its upcoming questionnaire.

In my two previous letters to your predecessor, I indicated my strong belief that the ABA should ensure that post-graduation employment data provided to prospective law students is truthful and transparent. His responses appeared to indicate a similar interest, but unfortunately it is difficult to square those previous statements with the Section’s recent decision.

According to The National Law Journal, a Washington University law professor has determined that for the Class of 2009, at least thirty law schools had 50 percent or fewer of their graduates in jobs that required a law degree. Data published by the National Association for Law Placement indicates that since 2001, only two- thirds of graduates from all ABA-approved law schools obtained legal jobs.

However, we know that most law schools report that nearly all of their students have jobs shortly after graduation. The difference between the information reported by schools and the real legal employment rate for recent graduates is very troubling. That is why requiring law schools to accurately report the real legal employment rate of their graduates is so important.

In a year when a number of lawsuits alleging consumer protection law violations have been filed against ABA law schools, when major newspapers have devoted thousands of words to problems with law school reporting practices, and when two United States Senators have encouraged significant changes to your policies, it is surprising that the ABA is resorting to half measures instead of tackling a major problem head on.

I also continue to have concerns about the lack of transparency for prospective law students in other areas:

Independent Oversight

The Section of Legal Education failed to address the overwhelming need for independent oversight and auditing of statistics reported by law schools. In September, the University of Illinois was found to have been inaccurately reporting law school admissions statistics, the second such school to have done so in recent months. In addition, many lawsuits have been filed alleging that law schools are violating various state consumer protection laws and false advertising laws.

These developments are very troubling, and without independent verification of the information reported by law schools, the opportunity to file inaccurate reports will remain.

Merit Scholarships

As I noted in a previous letter, the New York Times has detailed the recent increase in the number of merit scholarships offered by law schools and demonstrated how scholarships are being used to convince students with high LSAT scores to attend lower-ranked law schools.

While the opportunity to earn a very expensive law degree at a fraction of the cost can be an attractive option for many students, the Times exposed a major problem with scholarship transparency. Many law schools fail disclose how the school’s grading curve and scholarship conditions can combine to prevent the student from understanding the scholarship’s real value.

It was reported that at one school, 57 percent of first-year students in one class year received a merit scholarship, but only one-third of the students in that entire class could receive a GPA high enough to maintain their scholarships. Students should have more information about the risks of accepting merit scholarships so that they can make fully-informed decisions about their future.

I appreciate the ABA’s willingness to make some changes to its reporting requirements, but I believe it is in the best interest of law students everywhere for the ABA to address these remaining issues as soon as possible. I look forward to your response.

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Via LST, which also reports that during last month's meeting of the ABA legal education Section in which the Section decided that, in terms of transparency, less was more, "certain committee members actually proposed additional ways to count graduate outcomes as desirable, including counting unemployed graduates as employed so long as they had declined a legal offer."

It's a good thing chutzpah isn't a crime.


  1. Who is the other senator advocating for reporting changes?

  2. Thanks Ms. Boxer. Hopefully she follows through. Whoever fixes this will be a hero.

    "It's a good thing chutzpah isn't a crime."

    Chutzpah might not be a crime, but what the Deans are doing is a crime that will result in tangible and serious damage against students, taxpayers, honest competitor programs and the nation's economy.

  3. The other Senator pushing for responses from the ABA is Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa.

  4. This is great. I hope she keeps up the pressure.

  5. Law school reporting needs to make a change. It's going to feel real good. Come on! Chaaaaange.

  6. " . . . counting unemployed graduates as employed so long as they had declined a legal offer."

    Lolwhat?!?! Seriously, they want to fix things so their grads don't even need to take the crappy short-term jobs they offer them to juice the stats?

  7. LAWPROF -

    I think it would add a lot to the cause if you would reach out to the Senators and make them aware of the important work you are doing in this area via your blog (this assumes you haven't already done so, and they aren't aware, of course).

    This sort of pressure from the government is precisely needed to force real change.

    Law school administrators and professors can write off "scamblogers" as whiners, but they can't write of U.S. Senators!

  8. ABA:

    Violating liberties and protecting injustice

    IOW, protecting the law school cartel, creating slave labor for corporate America, and setting new records for hypocrisy.

    Oh who am I kidding. It's all the fault of trial lawyers, unions, and poor people.

  9. FOARP: seems like you got it right. I didn't think through what that rule would actually do. Schools could just offer min wage legal jobs which a lot of students would reject because col is more then what you will make. A lot of students will decline and will opt to move back in with the parents but school can still count them as employed.

    Everything they do is just to cover up how bad things are, they have even started considering how to fix this issues. We are still years away before schools will start providing accurate data.

  10. These things are important but not much will change until student loans are regulated so that the cost of tuition no longer leads to a lifetime of indentured servitude. I would rather see Senator Boxer concentrate on that.

  11. " . . . counting unemployed graduates as employed so long as they had declined a legal offer."

    At least until the past year, some schools did this routinely, in flagrant violation of the NALP data reporting guidelines. Except you need to erase the word "legal" from that sentence to more accurately describe this practice.

  12. I think that if law school tuition were say half of what it is today, most of the scam blog movement would disappear. The root of a disgruntled population is ecconomics (see e.g. Singapore where citizens live in a one-party oligarchy, but enjoy a high standard of living ecconomically.)

  13. I don't think so 2:17. Even at half tuition it would still be a ripoff.

  14. FYI

  15. 2:39 the article requires subscription

  16. And this is getting toward exactly what's really needed in order to fix this:

    government regulation.

    No, really. As long as being honest is voluntary and there are substantial rewards for dishonesty, nobody's going to sink their own business (er, sorry, I mean *school*) when they can use the fig leaves of "everybody else is doing it" and "if I don't, someone else will." You have to enforce non-cheating everywhere, or there's no way to get a voluntary movement started.

  17. As long as there are substantial rewards for dishonesty, law schools will be as dishonest as they can. That is why I have said time and time again that law schools should simply be BANNED from providing any employment statistics or data whatsoever. And instead anyone who takes out a govt guaranteed loan should have to sign a disclaimer indicating the risks of attending vs the likely payoff.

  18. The ABA is a worthless organization.

  19. The ABA is a worthless organization.

  20. Regulate the way the gov't hands out student loans. Low job prospects = less loan amount.

  21. eliminating false market for loans = lower tuition

    holding non-profit schools to being truly non-profit = lower tuition

    realizing that it is healthy for society not to have its educated youth burdened with debt = lower tuition

  22. Let me ask a simple question: What is the justification for denying bankruptcy protection to students?

  23. LOC, the rationale for making student debt non-dischargeable was some urban-legend style nonsense about doctors declaring bankruptcy during residency, getting rid of their educational debt, and then raking in big bucks shortly afterwards. Of course bankruptcy judges have plenty of discretion to refuse to discharge debt under those sorts of circumstances, but for understandable reasons the lending lobby loved the idea of non-dischargeable debt backed by government guarantees. The 2010 "reform" of this system was to stop making new educational debts private but to keep them non-dischargeable.

  24. loc: gives students an incentive succeed, otherwise every idiot would go to school and if does not work out just file bankruptcy.

  25. Well, it is clear that there is a discrimination against some defined class of students, i.e. students with private (commercial loans). What is the constitutionally permissible justification for that discrimination? Why is Sallie Student more likely to default than say a bank or a business or a farmer? Congress is not allowed to just make up justifications for invidious discrimination. There are bills in Congress seeking to lift the discharge ban for private loans but for the life of me I cannot see the valid factual basis for the discrimination. Maybe there were some findings when the bankruptcy Act was amended or something, but I think somebody ought to do some more work on this.

  26. 4:32: That would not stop law schools from providing anecdotal examples of successful graduates such as the same 5 law review kids who got big firm jobs or the rich kid who went to law school on a lark and then inherited his Dad's company. It would not combat the huge societal bias favoring higher education in general and seeing law school as a ticket to the upper-middle class or providing a "versatile" degree. Finally, students would simply not do the work required to figure out law school is a scam.

  27. Good for Senator Boxer - the financial issues are real. But I hope she is not saying that taking smart young students and convincing them they are stupid is a bad thing. This is essential. Or it's a collossal problem, dwarfing the paper money problem.

  28. I can't help but think that this overall fixation with the employment statistics (although it should be corrected) is a lot like the futility of "The War on Drugs."

    Yes, whoever is ultimately (if ever) held responsible for putting out fudged stats should be punished. But who is going to be? The equivalent of a street level dealer (some clerk in the admissions office)? The person responsible for the hood (maybe the dean...)? The ABA (some cartel person...)?

    No matter which one it would turn out to be, it won't amount to much more than taking down the equivalent person in the drug trade since there is basically an inelastic demand for the available seats.

    I guess it is better than doing nothing, because at least it's getting some attention, but whether 10,000 kids apply for the 250 seats at a school or 500 kids apply for the 250 seats, the same number of people are getting hosed each year.

    You can't force a school to lower its prices. This is probably true even if you wiped out student loans altogether. Having to pay in cash for a law degree would make it seem even more prestigious compared with all of the losers who now can't afford it, and I'll bet they'd still fill their classrooms.

    But the real issue here is the people graduating with no job and much debt, so the real issue is the loans. I know that's old news...but addressing that is the only solution to the problem.

    The statistics the schools report are just a red herring. Improve them and it does nothing to solve the problem people are crying about.


  29. "The statistics the schools report are just a red herring. Improve them and it does nothing to solve the problem people are crying about."

    I disagree. If Brooklyn published "33% of our grads are employed in full time non-temporary jobs as attorneys," enrollment would plummet. Law school applicants are extremely risk averse as a group.

  30. 8:03: I think what Avor is hinting at is that current and past graduates will get no remedy even if schools provide real employment data. While, it is likely to deter future students, today's student remains truly fucked with no easy remedy available. Transparency is the first and the easiest step, something that could be done by February of 2012.

    I do not see how current and past students can be made whole. It is clear that schools unlikely to give people refunds and it unlikely court will make schools do so. The only answer I see is to allow students to discharge student debt via bankruptcy, however, this is a bad remedy because those students will have bad credit, will not be able to get certain jobs, will not be eligible for more loans to go get another degree. In the best case scenario, current and past students will have a tough life ahead of them even if debt goes away.

  31. I guarantee you that if you camped out in front of your old law school, in a tent, with a drum and a megaphone and reminded them every day of the horror of your life - they would refund you money in an instant. Or you could confront them in one of millions of other ways. You have a body and free will, that you could use to cause so much pain for your former law school who you admit victimized you. But you won't, "madstudent" because you're a coward who is afraid to act in the real world. So you post bullshit on the net all day.

  32. BL1Y OWS is at your old stomping grounds.


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