Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Law School Transparency publishes comprehensive 2010 employment data

Law School Transparency has produced a clearinghouse of collated employment and salary data for the class of 2010 at all  ABA law schools.  LST took the numbers reported by schools themselves, USNWR, and the ABA and created a series of metrics that attempt to measure, within the limitations of the available data, how many graduates of particular schools got jobs, what those jobs pay, and whether these outcomes are minimally acceptable, given the cost of acquiring a law degree from the schools in question.

Let's select a random law school to see how it works.  RLS  has an "employment score" of 59%, which means that 59% of the class had, nine months after graduation, a job requiring a law degree, if we don't count solo practitioners or people known to be employed temporarily by a law firm.  (Why LST excluded only temp jobs with law firms from the employment score, as opposed to all temporary jobs, is unclear, but I imagine it has to do with the difficulty of coming up with a consistent metric in the context of inconsistently available information across law schools).

RLS has an "underemployment score" of 24.6%, which consists of unemployed graduates, all graduates working part-time, and all graduates working full-time in "non-professional" (not merely non-legal) positions.  This number attempts to capture the percentage of the class that had an unambiguously bad outcome, given why people go to law school.

50.3% of RLS's class was employed and reported a salary.  At least 10.7% of the class had a salary of $80,000 or more.  This latter number represents the number private sector salaries at or above the median reported salary for that sector.

The non-discounted cost of attendance with debt at RLS for the entering class of 2012 is estimated to be $193,290.  This number is derived by extrapolating the likely total cost of (non-resident) tuition and living expenses for a 2012 matriculant, assuming a 3% annual tuition increase and a 2% annual COL increase, then assuming this sum will be 100% debt-financed at current rates, then calculating what the graduate's total debt will be in the summer of 2015.

These numbers represent just a piece of the picture that LST has put together. There's much more information here -- for example what percentage of graduates are getting federal clerkships, and big firm jobs, and public interest jobs, and jobs funded by their own schools.  A particularly nice feature is LST's attempt to reconstruct as much of the 2010 NALP forms as possible of the three quarters or so of ABA schools which have refused to release this data, which as LST points out could be scanned and uploaded to a school's web site in about five minutes. (Here's the list of the schools which have released their NALP data).

I encourage readers to browse through LST's numbers in regard to a few of their favorite legal academic institutions, to begin to get a sense of the extent to which the advertised price of legal education no longer bears any rational relationship to the economic outcomes the typical law school graduate can expect from that education.

What's happened in legal academia is roughly analogous to walking into a car dealership for the first time in 20 years, and seeing that the MSRP of a seven-year old Ford Focus is $75,000, while that of a top of the line new Lexus is $85,000. If cars were priced like that the sales of seven-year-old compact cars would instantly fall to zero. But legal education doesn't work like that, apparently because it's literally priceless.

Speaking of priceless, throw these people, who have performed this extremely valuable public service for free, some money.  In the alternative, if you're affiliated with Vanderbilt's or NYU's law school, you might try to help your alums out a little more, so that your extremely intelligent, hard-working, and public-spirited graduates don't end up with quite so much time on their hands.


  1. There is a lot of vitriol tossed at the law schools and their faculty because they have been so willing to treble the cost of a law education, and they deserve much of it. However, it is the case that the institutions and profs are merely taking advantage of a market distortion-- something that, upon reflection, should come as no surprise. Much as rent control has been shown repeatedly to decrease housing stock, so the federal government's guaranteeing of student loans has encouraged this terrible situation. If we could get the government out of this, there would be some natural correction when lenders, who stay in business only by knowing who can repay a debt, refuse to lend for law school. Will it help those now in trouble? No. But it would be solution going forward. Fewer loans, fewer law students, less money to the schools, fewer schools, fewer lawyers.


  2. "Why LST excluded only temp jobs with law firms from the employment score, as opposed to all temporary jobs, is unclear, but I imagine it has to do with the difficulty of coming up with a consistent metric in the context of inconsistently available information across law schools."

    We started with the people who had bar passage required (PBR) jobs, and then made deductions. But, we wanted to avoid deducting people who weren't in the original BPR count.

    We know that some people at firms are in non-BPR jobs, such as paralegals, but those numbers are very small, and we don't think that compromised the results.

    But, going to something like government, we have no idea how many of those jobs are BPR, so we can't safely deduct short term government jobs.

    Or to put it another way, if someone who was previously unemployed landed a short term non-legal job with the government, that shouldn't hurt their employment score (wouldn't help it either).

  3. BL1Y,
    The scroll bar for selecting a school isn't as user friendly as it could be. If you drag the scroll bar down to find a school you want the list disappears as soon as you let go of the mouse button. Maybe not, I think it just closes the box if the cursor moves slightly outside of the box? Anyways, just some user feedback FWIW.

    I'm looking through the content now which at first glance is interesting. Good job.

  4. Law Prof,

    I love that you pick on your own law school. Very ballsy, and it only makes you seem more credible (although, undoubtably, less popular in the faculty lounge).

    I wanted to ask you a Q:

    I've notice that your law school, CU-Boulder, reports every year that a large portion of its class isn't trying to find a job. In other words, they are filling out their employment surveys and selecting -Unemployed, Not Seeking.

    This is quite odd for a number of reasons, but what I noticed in particular is that no other school reports this phenomenon. For 2010, Boulder reported 10% not looking nine months out, and 30% not looking right after graduation. No other school that I've looked up comes anywhere close to this.

    I graduated a few years ago from a T10 school, but I actually went to high school in Boulder, CO. I don't know how to put this.. For some reason, the fact that 1/10 students there doesn't care to be employed makes sense to me..? My question is basically: am I just associating my stereotypes of the town with the law school; is there another reason why these students "aren't seeking" employment?


  5. It's probably technically true that most people aren't actively looking for a job right after graduation as they're busy studying for the bar. A lot of jobs are interested in people that haven't passed the bar yet anyways.

  6. Lawprof,

    I just heard you the other day on an Intelligence Squared debate. When will we get to hear you do one of these with Brian Leiter?

  7. FWIW...not to derail the conversation about NALP and what continues to be startling information that illustrates just how much law school personnel deserve to be scrutinized publicly; but I thought this was interesting, especially this part "but some law schools have already sought waivers for some applicants"; I don't know that it is nefarious, but I'm not sure why a law school would seek to waive the requirement for the LSAT (disability related?):


  8. Can you post a link to the debate?

  9. @8:24AM (1st)

    I've just done a write-up on this.

    Some schools sought waivers for programs like Michigan's Wolverine Scholars program (discontinued) and UIllinois' iLEAP program (active).

    If this ABA measure passes, bottom-tier law schools might waive the LSAT requirement in order to take tuition money from those who likely would've bomb the LSAT. If the LSAT requirement were eliminated, such schools would be able to matriculate such students without harming their medians.

  10. @Steve, so in relation to yesterdays LP post, it is most likely true that those "summer program" students aren't being calculated for entrance average statistics? Who are these students? Only affirmative action plan recipients? Legacies? Again, sorry for a sort-of derailing.

    Also, to get mainstream narrative: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2012/05/01/one-law-school-reduces-admissions-says-thats-future-legal-education

    Thought this was interesting: “How you manage to do that without the revenue is going to pose a very formidable challenge for most American law schools.”

    I guess he could be referencing maintaining quality in the face of revenue decreases, so maybe it isn't a crass as it seems, but I don't know. Seems pretty ugly.

  11. These are great questions.

    In yesterday's post, LawProf linked to a PDF on LSAC's website about Nova's AAMPLE program. (See 2nd page, bottom-right corner.) Interesting to note that only 1/3 of those enrolled in the online program were successful.

    We know these students' LSAT ranges, but not any other details. I'd guess that they are included in entrance averages, since the ABA has the data on them.

    I'd guess the one thing these students all have in common is that their LSAT scores were abysmal.

  12. Your car analogy only works in the for profit world. In the non-profit world, the question really is why the top schools cost so much -- when they have much larger endowments and the cost of educating students should be about the same. They should really cost a lot less than their poorer, lower ranked counterparts.

  13. LawProf Why do you concentrate so much on employment figures? Law schools are cheating in other ways. GPA, LSAT, student-faculty ratio, merit scholarships, etc. It's all about one thing-raising the law school's rank on US News. Any way the deans can cheat they will do so. You need to tell the rest of the story.

  14. @9:50 -

    LawProf hits on every issue. He has focused more on employment recently because this is the time of year where employment information becomes available.

  15. If the employment data was true would anyone care at all about the other lies? Doubt it.

  16. @9:50

    The answer is that the employment results that a law school gets are ultimately the "acid test" of the law school's real reputation. If you read up on the details of USNWR reports data gathering - the tiny response rate to its surveys of law firms, it would tell you that its methodology is hopelessly flawed.

    On the other hand, whether hiring partners in law firms are willing to the graduates of a law school, at leads some of whom have been through the multi month interview that is a summer associate position - and other who have clerked for the law firm/lawyer tells you how good a job that law school is doing. Moreover, ultimately every graduate of a law school should be locatable - although I have to say that no lawyers I know have ever actually seen a NALP questionnaire - which makes me wonder if the placement office is filling them out itself at several schools.

  17. Wow! William Ockham

  18. MacK: Schools get the data from NALP, not the other way around. So, they couldn't be filling it out for students.

  19. Whoops, my bad. While NALP does send the reports to the schools, it's based on data the schools send to NALP, so there is room for hanky panky.

  20. I'm currently trying to get NALP data for my low-ranked school. In response to my first e-mail, the head of Career Services directed me to the general NALP statistics and the law school's page on LSAC.

    I responded that that information wasn't helpful. It will be interesting to see if they play ball or if they try to weasel away from giving me the info.

  21. send the CSO head to this page for your school: www.lawschooltransparency.com/clearinghouse/?school=nyu&class=2010&show=NALP

    This shows exactly what they have and can be exactly what you're looking for.

  22. I don't understand some of t he data on the website.

    For example, why would one use the higher tuition rate rather than indicating the cost based on each tuition rate?

    Am I misunderstanding the data?

  23. Not responsible for my student loan debt. See my post about all that.

    BTW, Geraldo Rivera seemed pretty receptive to the Sl debt issue when discussing the Occupy May Day activity today on the radio. (WABC)

  24. @3:15: "For example, why would one use the higher tuition rate rather than indicating the cost based on each tuition rate?"

    Not sure I understand the question. What do you mean by "each tuition rate?"

  25. 3:15 is probably referring to in state and out of state tuition rates.

  26. Ah. We've just added the in-state numbers.

    There were two numbers we didn't want to use though.

    The first is average tuition, that is tuition discounted by the average scholarship (if we could even get this data). It's not too hard to take our numbers and deduct the scholarship you were offered. It's harder to figure out what full boat is based on the average.

    Average debtload has the same problem, plus an additional problem. It has a superlinear progression. Some people have savings, part time jobs, or parents helping out with the costs. But, tuition is rising faster than student savings, parental income, and part time pay. So, average debt ought to be going up faster than tuition.

  27. I had Linda Greene while at Wisconsin. Worthless professor who is living the good life off the law school scam.

  28. @BL1Y

    As I understand what happens is that NALP's ERSS, or Employment Report and Salary Survey is based on forms sent to recent graduates by their law school (I could be wrong.) The trouble is - I certainly never saw such a form and I know no lawyer who has ever received the survey form.

    My understanding is that the form may come from and be returned to NALP but via a graduates law school. A survey form is supplied to each law school which they can copy and then send to their graduates. The law schools then collect the data and use NALP data entry software to upload that school's survey reports to NALP, see http://www.nalp.org/uploads/ERSS/Erssguidelines10.pdf

    So my point BL1Y is that the large proportion of law graduates who never seem to have seen the NALP form from a wide array of law schools has always struck me as odd (or off), especially when the law schools are acting as data collectors.

  29. BL1Y I see you spotted the point...

  30. A quick survey - how many law graduates reading this blog from say 2006 onwards remember seeing/not seeing a NALP survey form or being called by their law school for reporting information?

    It would be useful to know yes/no and what schools.

  31. I just think its important to be clear by referencing in-state tuition rates and out of state tuition rates.

    You don't want to come across as if you are not giving the full picture.

    If this is now in the mix (in that you have put those numbers on the site in the clearinghouse), then never mind.

  32. I can't help but wonder if many law schools are as reckless about gathering job placement data as they are about reporting job statistics. In other words, do some of the law school deans/placement people simple say "f@&*-it, this is too much trouble--we'll just make up some figures that sound about right." As outrageous as that sounds, could it be possible? Because, really, what organization with any semblance of credibility is checking on the collection of the raw data?

  33. Instead of lowering tuition dollars so that new lawyers aren't saddled with 100k debt and have to try for high paying clients, NY has decided that requiring 50 hrs of pro bono work before getting licensed will help the indigent with their legal needs (no mention of the indigent attorneys financial needs however). God the leaders in this profession are the absolute worst.


  34. I just came across the same story about pro bono in NY. I guess it's easy to be generous with someone else's time.

    Lawyers who want to protest this should provide legal services for each other. Help understanding CLE requirements, advise on ethics issues, help with taxes, etc.

  35. It'll take a while for legal people to get this. It's pretty basic math, but then again in our society most people can't even add so it's perhaps very complex math.

    But "50.3% of RLS's class was employed and reported a salary" is a pretty good figure actually for a low level tier 1.

  36. @ MacK,

    I'm a 2010 grad, and my school's CSO had us fill out a short online questionaire (presented as their's not NALP's) we were also supposed to update it before the 9 month mark. As it happens I filled mine out but got my ($12 an hour) job at the 10 month mark, so I show up as unemployeed seeking employment.

  37. 1. LawProf, please please please do a post on the ridiculous 50 hour pro bono requirement for news attorneys to be admitted in NY. I'm hardly shocked by anything in this profession any more, but this is almost unbelievable, and it's begging for a Campos-style takedown.

    2. Huge thanks to LST and BL1Y for your work on the employment data. Just amazing work--you've done alot of people a real favor with this. Give yourselves a pat on the back, and I for one will send some money for the cause.

  38. SD and BL1Y,

    How wonderful. I probably did more pro bono in law school than most people do in their careers. Those of us not at the top of the class have to do clinics instead of journals and volunteer internships instead of paid associateships.

    Oh well. Just as long as a couple of old guys can feel better about themselves. That's what's important. Let's just keep eating the young.

  39. While I'm sure it's inconvenient I don't understand why there's so much backlash against the pro bono requirement. Possibly keeps a few more people from being admitted which is good for everyone right?

    UVA '09 - They had us enter our information in an online form prior to graduating.

  40. Thanks for the work LST, but your next project needs to distill the data into the few most important items and present those graphically.

    People are stupid. They also have low attention spans. This is PARTICULARLY true of the imbeciles going to TTTs. You think a Brooklyn Law applicant is going to take the time to figure out what your numbers mean? You might as well ask them to figure out the space shuttle design manuals.

    No no no. You're dealing with retards. Dumb it down for them.

  41. The more I think of it, we need something really idiot proof for these TTT applicants. If you're applying to GW numbers probably scare you.

    Those cigarette box warning people were on to something. You need simple warnings. Something like, "If you go to this law school you will die." (Meaning financial death but don't add this paranthetical as they won't get it). Add some pictures too, of homeless people. Maybe of homeless white men sucking black dick on the street corner for money. Even then it will probably have no effect on these imbeciles. All they think is, "gimme that IBR, gimme that loan, gimme that three year vacation." Fucking asshole punks.

    What we need to do is have public whipping for graduates who don't pay back their debt. Hold these things at the school where the student graduated from - preferably on the day when potential applicants do their tour. Now that would work. Seeing someone getting their ass whipped would scare even the dumbest moron, even someone going to a shit overpriced school where half the grads are fucked such as USC.

  42. I hope the visual of a poor white men sucking black dick on the streetcorner for money didn't give BL1Y any flashbacks or anything. Sorry bro.

  43. 6:59,
    I think the silver lining here is that with any luck the debt will prevent these morons from breeding.

  44. 7:04, Come on man you're smarter than that. Poor dumb people breed way more than responsible people.

  45. I don't think you can simplify things much more than "Employment Score: 57.9%" without becoming misleading and losing credibility.

    If that, a 20.5% under-employment score and a price tag of $250,000 aren't enough to make you think twice, there's probably nothing we can do.

  46. @MacK,

    GWU '09, I have never set eyes on a NALP form. The day of graduation they gave the whole cohort prepared cards that had two statements that boiled down to 'employed or unemployed' with check boxes for the graduate's situation. The cards were collected after we lined up as their supposed purpose was for us to write out how to announce/pronounce our names at the ceremony.

    I was unemployed at graduation so I checked the Lemarchand's box. Nine months out... it was all crickets. I figured the lack of nine month follow up was GW assuming I died in a ditch so they wouldn't have to report a poor outcome twice.

  47. @tdennis

    I understand your point. There have over the years been a continuing stream of cases where survey gatherers have simply made up the data reported because, tasked with gathering the data, and under severe pressure to complete the job, have found the task too difficult or lacked the resources. My recollection is that some of these were sanctions situations in trademark and antitrust cases (which tend to rely a lot on market surveys.) I recall, when I was a junior lawyer, the raw survey data for a case being carefully checked, because it seemed too good to be true.

    It is by no means unusual for un-policed survey gatherers to either (a) make up the data or (b) when tasked with say getting 400 reports, to take the data from the 80 or so they have obtained and reproduce it for the missing 320. Given that there are 200 odd law schools responding to NALP I would be unsurprised to discover that at least some did make up reports - indeed I might add that it would be surprising if a few did not...

  48. Mack
    Your perceptions always bring a new layer to the discussion. If law schools are simply making this up, that is a scandal in and of itself. If the various judges allow the lawsuits suits to delve deeply into employment statistics, I wonder if we will discover they were made up.

  49. That is why the idea that schools should only be made to report the number of JD required jobs graduates obtain makes sense. There is almost no presentation that will not be seen as misleading by someone, or will not be misleading in some fashion.

  50. I'm a 2010 graduate of Toledo, and these numbers confirmed my suspicions. The school has actually released our class' data, and estimates our degree of bar-required employment to be 55%: http://law.utoledo.edu/students/career/employmentinfo.htm

    I guessed that if you only counted full-time, long-term salaried jobs, you could probably cut this number down to around 30%. LST puts the Employment Score at 37.9% and FT Legal Rate at 30.4.

    But I don't quite understand the difference between these two numbers? How is it that the bar-required number is higher than FT Legal?

  51. Instead of lowering tuition dollars so that new lawyers aren't saddled with 100k debt and have to try for high paying clients, NY has decided that requiring 50 hrs of pro bono work before getting licensed

    As I'm reading that, it's not necessarily as bad as it sounds - you could probably fulfill the requirement by doing any number of the gazillion volunteer things while in law school. Take a clinic class, whatever. It sounds like that's the goal - to require applicants to the NY bar to do 50 hrs of volunteer work while in law school.

    Having said that, it's still a shitty move. Can you be sued for malpractice if you're not yet a licensed atty and you're doing pro-bono work? The article does include the weapons-grade stupid notion that "poor people struggling with foreclosures" will be helped by this. Who the fuck is going to trust some untrained 24 year old to be able to provide competent legal advice in an area as fraught with potential pitfalls as bankruptcy.

  52. Listen to On Point Radio (part of the NPR) right now (10 to 11 am EST), they are broadcasting about problems of the legal profession.

  53. LawProf and BL1Y,

    I have a question about the salary data. My school, Duke, says that 33 percent of the class have public sector jobs with an unknown salary(and an additional 8 percent have private sector jobs with no known salary). Is this because it's likely that these graduates are unpaid interns somewhere, or if that were true would they not be placed in the FT employed category? Either way, it seems to make the employment score of 80 percent look far too generous.

  54. @tdennis

    It is important to understand that there can be some innocence in the made up data situation - in that it can be a low level employee under pressure who does it. Certainly in the law firm cases I have heard of it was the survey company that cooked the numbers and the firm that used them in the case likely did not know - but should have checked.

    By the way, always ask for the raw data in discovery when a survey is used and look for duplicate sets, statistically unlikely distributions, etc.

  55. @Rob Switzer The Employment score starts at the Legal Rate, which is FT and PT jobs, and not the FT legal rate. The number we'd like to use is actually lower, but based on the current level of disaggregation, we can't. We should also be excluding other short-term jobs.

    @7:12 Did they talk about legal education any? Hopefully there will be an online broadcast up soon.

    @7:17 This is because Duke does not disclose its NALP report, or in the alternative the salary information for the entire public sector. They do provide salary info for all of the public sector's subcategories except academia, however. But these are only LT salaries which doesn't jive with the way the rest of the law school world handles salaries, so it's difficult to reconcile. We'll need to consider whether this makes sense to add, and if it does, if it makes sense to replace the "public sector" salary chunk with that info.

  56. "That is why the idea that schools should only be made to report the number of JD required jobs graduates obtain makes sense. There is almost no presentation that will not be seen as misleading by someone, or will not be misleading in some fashion."

    I agree and say we carry this to all statements. The word "truth" should be erased from the dictionary, and society.

  57. I concur. It's really more of an issue of truthiness anyway...

  58. "I have a question about the salary data. My school, Duke, says that 33 percent of the class have public sector jobs with an unknown salary(and an additional 8 percent have private sector jobs with no known salary). Is this because it's likely that these graduates are unpaid interns somewhere, or if that were true would they not be placed in the FT employed category? Either way, it seems to make the employment score of 80 percent look far too generous."

    If they are true full-time employees, it should be the easiest thing in the world to track. Government employees in the legal field are typically 1)paid on a scale, 2)that scale is easily discoverable since it is publicly funded, and 3)Recent law grads would almost universially fall on the same rung of that scale--entry-level.

    It should take nano-seconds for a career services "professional" to ascertain these salaries--particularly since presumably many of them attract students every year (public defenders, legal aid, assistant district attorneys, etc.)


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