At the NALP conference in April, a group of panelists discussed the issues around the increased transparency being demanded by the public. The fact that this panel was arranged shows that the law schools are still only paying lip service to the concept of transparency. Instead of being as open as possible with their employment numbers, law schools want to continue their manipulation of the stats to dupe unwitting students into buying a $200,000 lemon.
One of my favorite sports websites was
Fire Joe Morgan. They would take Joe Morgan’s commentary and offer a
line-by-line counterpoint. Some other websites have done it, referring
to it as the FJM treatment. I will attempt to do so with the main points
of this excellent summation by Above The Law. My comments will be in italics.
1. Checking employment status at nine months is unfair to
us because we send a high number of our graduates to the types of
employers who wait for bar exam results to hire entry-level attorneys or
who are otherwise slow in their hiring (e.g., state government or small
If the law degree is as desirable as the law schools
present them to be, then students should have little problem finding a
job. You know why employers are able to wait so long to hire people?
Because there are a thousand more people in line, ready to step in.
Employers are in a buyer’s market that will continue to tilt further in
their favor as long as law schools treat their students as ATM’s rather
than future colleagues.
2. Some observers, such as U.S. News and Law School
Transparency, don’t value part-time jobs as much as full-time jobs. But
some of our graduates — e.g., parents or people with elder care
responsibilities — actually prefer part-time jobs.
How many people go to law school and say, “I need to go
spend another $50,000 this year so I can get those lucrative part time
attorney jobs everyone is talking about”? This is the kind of cognitive
dissonance and intellectual dishonesty necessary to continue with the
status quo, despite all the evidence that graduates are not getting the
outcomes they were promised.
3. Some observers discount “J.D. advantaged” jobs compared
to “J.D. required” jobs. But some of our graduates — e.g., people who
want legal knowledge to help them in another field, like the
entertainment industry — actually want to work in “J.D. advantaged” jobs as opposed to the practice of law.
Do doctors go to medical school so that they can work
as accountants? The majority of people who go to law school expect to be
lawyers. Often times, if a person is in a J.D. advantaged job, it’s
because there are no lawyer positions out there to be had. Again, they
point to a microscopic portion of people who go to law school.
4. There are many gray areas and judgment calls when it
comes to responding to employment data inquiries from the various
authorities. E.g., what is the date of “graduation” for purposes of
“employed upon graduation — the date of the ceremony, or the date of the
registrar certification? What do you do about a graduate who dies in
the middle of a reporting period?
Gee, if it’s so hard to figure out how to respond to an
employment data inquiry, then provide all of it in a correctly
annotated form. Too burdensome you say? Seeing as how the main function
of a law school career services office is to find jobs and track
employment outcomes, this data should be ready. If it isn’t, then all
the people in the career services office need to be fired, because they
are wildly incompetent and undeserving of their jobs. We’re getting
close to the real reason why law schools are so resistant to provide
5. We are not always in full control of our messaging and
public statements about graduate job outcomes. Our deans and admissions
offices pressure us to put the school in the best light. Sometimes what
you see coming out of our school is actually a toned-down
version; the dean or admissions office wanted to go out with something
even more rosy, but we convinced them to tamp it down a bit.
Finally, we get to the actual reason why honest
employment data cannot be openly available. When you have a product that
is grossly misrepresented to the majority of consumers and a system
that encourages continued dishonesty, deans have no incentive to act
ethically. As long as there is no independent body overseeing this data,
separate from the influences of the deans and the ABA, employment data
will continue to be a pig’s ear disguised as a silk purse. The law
schools and deans have abdicated their moral and ethical responsibilities to their students.
Law schools just don’t get it. There is
no incentive for deans to reform our current system, which handsomely rewards immoral
conduct. Panels like this one at NALP are only trying to
figure out how to stay one step ahead of the mob and the pitchforks.
It’s time for someone to step in and save our youth.