(1) Law schools have reacted to pressure to release actual employment and salary data. There's much more data out there now than was the case last summer, and indeed due in large part to the ceaseless efforts of Law School Transparency nearly a quarter of ABA law schools have released their 2010 NALP reports. Here's an idea: Why doesn't some graduating class donate its class gift to LST, rather than buying an overpriced gee-gaw for its law school's already-sumptuously decorated grounds?
(2) While lots of progress has been made, extracting employment info out of law schools in many cases still requires employing the rhetorical equivalent of the Jaws of Life. For instance a couple of months ago NYU reacting with remarkably sanctimonious outrage after I raised some questions about apparent inconsistencies between their and Columbia's self-reported employment numbers and the NLJ's report regarding how many graduates were getting jobs with big law firms. This reaction does not read very well in the light of the school's continuing refusal to reveal such key data points as how many of its graduates are in full-time jobs, and how many are in full-time legal jobs.
All this information and much more of interest to both current and potential law students is contained in the school's 2010 NALP report, which it won't release despite the fact that this data is now between two years and 15 months old, and the numerous polite requests from recent alumni that it do so.
As for NYU's friends a few subway stops to the north, it's fair to note that extracting information from Columbia regarding such matters as how many of their own graduates they've been employing has been a strenuous and illuminating process. In March Columbia "could not say" in response to media inquiries how many of its 2010 graduates it had placed in school-funded fellowships. In April the ABA forced all the schools it accredits to disclose how many of their 2010 graduates were in school-funded positions nine months after graduation. Columbia then had to decide what to do about disclosing the same information in regard to the class of 2011, since it had recently published "comprehensive" employment data regarding the 2011 class on its web site.
Steve Schwartz's LSAT Blog looked into this further and dug up some very interesting numbers. Columbia disclosed to the ABA that five of its 2010 graduates were employed by the school as of February 2011. If you visit the employment data published on Columbia's web site, you will find a footnote to the "government" and "public interest" job numbers that notes these numbers include students on "fellowships," along with a hyperlink to more information regarding these fellowships. The hyperlink sends the sophisticated consumer to a paragraph featuring the following information:
In 2010, we offered 10 of these government and public interest fellowships. For the Class of 2011, as the job market tightened, we further increased the number of government and public interest fellowships to 38. As a result of these opportunities, graduates have engaged in challenging legal work at a broad range of public interest organizations and government departments. We are pleased that the skills, networking opportunities, and experience gained during this fellowship year help graduates obtain permanent employment, in many cases, even before the fellowship ends. (Emphasis supplied).The italicized phrase seems fair in regard to the class of 2010, since Columbia put ten graduates in school-funded jobs that year, and, per the information Columbia reported to the ABA, half of those graduates weren't in school-funded jobs at the nine-month reporting deadline. (This of course assumes that none of the five graduates who left the fellowships prior to nine months after graduation were among the ten 2010 CLS grads who were either unemployed or whose employment status was not known at the nine-month mark).
But consider the 2011 information: Columbia put 38 graduates into school-funded fellowships. Surely if "many" out of this group (which included one out of every 11 students in the graduating class) acquired jobs prior to the nine-month reporting deadline, this is something the school would disclose? Schwartz emailed CLS earlier this week regarding this matter, and got the following reply:
Four of the 38 fellows in the Class of 2011 are in permanent positions, however, all 38 were still in fellowships nine months after graduation when we reported to the ABA.
What I find perplexing about CLS's behavior is that it's so unnecessary. Admittedly the school knows that under the ABA's new reporting regime it will have to disclose eventually how many 2011 graduates were put in school-funded jobs; in addition the fact that half the top ten schools (the bottom half, not coincidentally) have "voluntarily" revealed this information already puts additional pressure on CLS to disclose the 2011 data sooner rather than later. So it makes sense for Columbia to disclose the 2011 numbers now. What doesn't make sense is for the school to make a gratuitous and very misleading representation regarding the outcome of those fellowships. It's just not true that "many" CLS grads in school-funded jobs are getting permanent jobs even before the fellowship ends if one is referring to the most current (and therefore most relevant) data: per the school only four of 38 have.
Pushing for more transparency in legal academia is a bit like dealing with substance abuser who is trying to get clean: Schools are subjected to various interventions, get on the transparency wagon (sort of), but keep falling off.
(3) What's happening with law school admissions waiting lists suggests how soft the market is getting. In the past week I've corresponded with a 0L who as of two weeks ago had only gotten into Touro (unranked), Hofstra (#89), and St. John's (#79). He was then admitted to Cardozo (#56) and, much more significantly, offered a $30,000 per year discount on tuition in the bargain. A few days after that he was admitted to George Washington (#20), and shortly afterwards GW offered her a more than 50% discount off the (increasingly fictional) official tuition price. Cardozo reacted by raising its offer to $43,000 per year, i.e., more than 80% off sticker. A glance at sites like TLS reveals that even schools like Chicago are offering significant tuition discounts (20%) to people who they just offered off their wait lists this week.
For some reason all this reminds me of Ingmar Bergman's one-word reaction when he was told that, after the initial airing of his multi-part film Scenes From A Marriage on Swedish television, the country's divorce rate had gone up: "Good!"