Wednesday, January 17, 2018

University of Richmond Law Dean (and AALS President) Wendy Perdue asserts that the ABA-mandated employment survey hurts law students

According to the University of Richmond Law School's last five annual ABA-mandated 10-months-out employment surveys (2012-2016), the school has not once succeeded in placing as many as 100 graduates in full-time law jobs in a single year, even though the size of its graduating class has ranged from 145 to 159.
What accounts for persistently lackluster employment results at Richmond Law and elsewhere? Conventional thinkers keep citing a highly saturated legal job market and deteriorating admissions standards at  law schools. However, University of Richmond Law Dean and Association of American Law Schools (AALS) President Wendy Perdue has shrewdly identified an alternate culprit-- namely, the employment survey itself.

Think about it in terms of misdirected talent and lack of trust. Say that a law school employs a hotshot career services counselor. The counselor could be and should be using her mighty skills to conduct a virtuoso mock job interview for this 3L or to craft the perfect cover letter for that 3L, which in cumulative effect would send employment outcomes zooming high enough to knock Santa out of his sleigh. But instead the counselor must devote long hours to unproductive administrative drudgery in compliance with a burdensome ABA employment survey protocol. 

Imagine acquiring a cat for the express purpose of catching mice and then some bureaucrat comes along and insists that the cat spend two-thirds of her time between mid-January and mid-March documenting her past mousing results.

In a February 27, 2017 blogpost entitled "Ides of March," Dean Perdue provides the following explanation:
". . . But finding out where every graduate is employed is only half the job – the other half is documentation. Schools are expected to be meticulous because their records may be audited. So suppose a student tells the career office that she is employed at a particular firm, then what? If the information came by email, the email must be uploaded to the student’s file. If the information was communicated orally, the staff person must document that conversation and put that in the file. Suppose the graduate provides the employer’s name but not the address of the firm: The career office must have someone go to the web, find the address, take a screen shot that shows the address, and upload that to the student’s file. 
All of this takes a lot of time and staff resources. Between mid-January and mid-March, one of our full time career counselors spends about two-thirds of her time on data collection and reporting. This is for a graduating class of about 150. The time she spends on data and reporting is time she will not spend with our students and graduates helping them identify job opportunities, reviewing their resumes and cover letters, or preparing them for their interviews 
Of course, prospective students care about employment outcomes and should have reliable information about this. But the level of detail and documentation far exceeds the level of detail we must provide about any other aspect of our operation, and it is time to restore some balance."
A few skeptical points and questions from a typically balance-deficient scamblogger:

1. According to the University of Richmond's most recent available IRS Form 990, for fiscal year 2014, Dean Perdue's annual compensation is $412,401, an impressive take even by law dean standards. Could a pittance from Perdue's enormous pay package be re-allocated for the purpose of hiring a two-month temp to assist the Richmond Law Career Services office in its record keeping? With this additional administrative support, the beautifully-crafted cover letters could keep flowing, even during survey season. 

2. Consider the linked ABA protocol for conducting the employment survey as well as the ABA's answers to "frequently asked questions" concerning the protocol. What specific requirements of "detail" or "documentation" would Dean Perdue like to eliminate in her quest to "restore some balance"? And what exactly are the two quantities being balanced here? Reliable information versus scamming hype? Does Dean Perdue believe that too much of either is a bad thing, but that a harmonious balance should be achieved?  

3. Isn’t it alarming that a law dean finds it objectionable that she and her staff are "expected to be meticulous" in advancing claims about recent graduate employment? I mean, how many lawprofs have written articles righteously embracing their responsibility to cultivate professional values and behaviors in law students, or to guide law students towards a proper inter-disciplinary-informed appreciation of social justice? Shouldn't a law school model, as well as teach, ethical conduct? I wonder if Dean Perdue is similarly critical of a lawyer's professional obligation to be meticulous in, for instance, billing clients or in making factual representations in court.  

4. Will Dean Perdue, as President of the AALS, use her organization's considerable influence with the ABA to lobby for a weaker employment auditing regime or at least weaker enforcement?

5. If Dean Perdue is truly concerned with finding jobs for Richmond law grads, perhaps she should consider reducing class size to around 100, the approximate annual demand for Richmond law graduates, or actually a bit higher. Because otherwise one may reasonably suspect that Dean Perdue's criticism of the employment survey is not actually motivated by concern for the job prospects of her students, but by opposition to transparency and accountability, i.e. by scam.

From a scamblog perspective, there are indeed significant defects in the ABA's oversight of the employment survey and in the survey itself, but these defects are indicative of laxity rather than severity.

This blog has criticized the ABA for randomly auditing only 10 schools per year. This blog has criticized the ABA audit protocol for allowing law schools to submit "incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading" employment files for up to 5% of graduates even with a generous cooked-in "presumption" that each file is not deficient. This blog has criticized the ABA for refusing to name the five schools out of the ten randomly audited last year that violated the audit protocol by submitting an excessive number of deficient employment files (and even the two schools out of the ten audited that were found to engage in deceptive practices). This blog has criticized the ABA for declaring that a more comprehensive audit of these five law schools (or shall I say scofflaw schools?) to be discretionary rather than mandatory, in apparent defiance of its own protocol.

But the President of the Association of American Law Schools thinks that the ABA employment survey is too burdensome for law schools, a dispiriting hint that the weak reforms that have been implemented by the ABA may come under renewed attack.  


  1. So, Perdue calls it the Ides of March, eh?

    Ha. The sad thing is that the Cartel is so self-focused that it has forgotten about its original mission, so to speak. No, not making money hand-over-fist as "non-profits," you cynics, but educating the next crop of legal minds. Although having to actually comply with standards that demonstrate this must be SOOOOO burdensome, you know, like dealing with files, and stuff...just think what actual lawyers have to deal with...!

    In reality, with all the other financial and career pressures that people face, thousands of law grads every year cry out "Et tu, Law School?" The same Law Schools that were supposed to be, you know, making a difference, or something?

  2. The unemployment problem in law is not due to a lack of career “counseling” from an overpaid, failed JD calling themselves a Dean of Career Services. This is a simple supply and demand problem. Between 1997 and 2016, the U.S. economy grew 52%. During that same period, the legal services industry declined nearly 3% while the number of licensed attorneys increased 38%! This data is published by the BEA and available to the public. It’s not hard to understand what is going on in the legal sector. These graduates are unemployed because there is a mismatch between the skills of these graduates and the skills demanded by employers. Mock interview training will not increase the demand for lawyers.

    I’m sure Deans and Law Professors like Perdue understand the market is terrible. They publicly tout the great legal market or blame reporting requirements. But anytime one of these toilet law schools close, the law professors file lawsuits. Strange, how is a law prof harmed when a toilet law school closes if they could just enter the great legal market and collect a million bucks a year in big law (as some professors claimed)? They know the reality. If they lose their law prof job their future in law is pretty bleak.

    What Dean Perdue really wants is to go back to the reporting regime of the 2000s. Are you employed in any capacity? Starbucks, ok. We don’t need your salary. Then come March, the school announces the great news. Our school has a 99% employment rate and the average salary in private practice was $100k+!

    Reading this, I realized that my med school does not have a career services office. Amazing that MDs are getting into residency programs and getting jobs without the help of a career services office to review their resume!

    1. "Reading this, I realized that my med school does not have a career services office."

      Checkmate, right here, folks. The AMA and medical schools actually purport to regulate and protect its profession. The ABA and law schools, by contrast, not so much. Take that into account, 0Ls, before taking the plunge.

    2. More to your point, in the salad days the toilets would send out a survey to recent grads knowing that the unemployed and underemployed would not return it due to anger with the school and/or embarrassment. They would then base their reporting on the surveys returned, having cleverly swept the truth under the rug. This is, I believe, what statisticians call a self-selected sample.

    3. Remember when Santa Clara claimed that a significant fraction of its graduating class wasn't interested in looking for work, to juice its employment statistics?

      Apparently Santa Clara attracted a sizable population of wealthy heirs, who had no need to get a job after law school.

  3. Assuming an 8 hour workday, two thirds of the work time is approximately 5.5 hours. Assuming 20 work days in a month, that boils down to approximately 220 hours over a two month period. Does it really take someone 220 hours to compile and document employment info for 150 graduates? That Dean needs to tell her career service staff to work harder and faster.

    1. Yeah, that's an hour and a half for each graduate. And not even a hundred of those graduates have full-time jobs in law. There's no need to keep careful records of the many that are unemployed or stuck in one or another McJob.

      Besides, as Dybbuk pointed out, this sort of work could be assigned to a temporary employee. A couple of thousand dollars a year would get the work done handily.

    2. Hey! Maybe they could hire current students to do the work! That would help them pay their tuition doing pretty mindless work of assembling statistics on unemployed alumni and then . . oh, . . . o.k., never mind.

  4. Does Wendy Perdue have no shame? With all the damage she and her ilk are causing real, living and breathing human beings, how can she sleep?

  5. To some extent she's right because the ABA-mandated information law schools release is b.s. anyway.

  6. Shameless nonsense from the scamster-in-chief at a fifth-tier toilet (

    First of all, those pencil-pushing ninnies in the "career office" do not significantly help students to find jobs. What exactly do those worthies do: deploy their extensive networks of contacts in the service of toileteers? No, their "services" are largely limited to questionable criticism of résumés and maybe organization of the annual circus of on-campus interviews (if any employers are ass enough to bother with the Univershitty of Richmond).

    Second, if the administrative burden is too great, the scamsters have only themselves to blame. The ABA was finally driven to require records precisely because the scamsters were lying through their asses about their graduates' employment.

    Third, Perdue fails to make the case for an onerous administrative burden. Get a load of this whining: "So suppose a student tells the career office that she is employed at a particular firm, then what? If the information came by email, the email must be uploaded to the student’s file. If the information was communicated orally, the staff person must document that conversation and put that in the file. Suppose the graduate provides the employer’s name but not the address of the firm: The career office must have someone go to the web, find the address, take a screen shot that shows the address, and upload that to the student’s file."

    How long does it take to save an e-mail message or notes from a telephone call or a screen shot of a Web page? Twenty seconds at the outside? Cut the crap, Perdue.

    Fourth, the administrative tasks of complying with the ABA's requirements are just part of the cost of operating a law school. The cost here, as Dybbuk suggests, is negligible next to Perdue's obscene salary (no doubt paired with similarly obscene benefits) and other costs that Perdue has not proposed to cut.

    1. Although it’s been a quarter century since I graduated from my T2 slag heap, I can still remember the disdain everyone had for our useless career services office. They put 90% of their effort into an OCI process that only benefited the top 10% of the class. Seeing the same handful of people show up in their interview clothes day after day, while everyone else showed up in jeans - that’s when it first began to dawn on me that we had been played for suckers.

    2. Bingo! Exact same experience at my T2-almost. Actually, the joke of a career services office put 100% of its efforts into OCI, which at my school also only benefited the top 10%-sometimes only the top 10% plus law review. Anyone not top 10% was expressly forbidden-as in, it was in writing at the career services office-from participating in OCI.

    3. Bingo! My experience, almost exactly, at my T2 over 25 years ago. But not exactly-at my school the joke of a career services office put 100% of its efforts into OCI, which benefited only the top 10% of the class. In fact, if you weren't top 10%(sometimes law review was required, too) you were expressly forbidden from submitting a resume.

    4. It's important to keep in mind that these employment numbers are required only because so much...what's the nice word for it?...ok, lying went on. Schools lied about salaries, job placement stats, you name it, for the express purpose of convincing 0Ls to attend their esteemed institutions. Other professional schools aren't required to keep such stats b/c they didn't get caught up in the wilful and knowing misrepresentation of such information.

    5. At my school (a T2), career services didn't forbid anyone from participating in OCI. But the employers who came on campus specifically stated in writing who would qualify for a screener interview. For a white shoe firm, it was usually top 10%/law review. For a state agency or the DA, maybe it was top quarter. One thing is for sure, if you were a bottom halfer, no one was giving you the time of day. In the end, only about 10% of the class actually landed a job through OCI and with few exceptions, they were the same kids in the top 10% and/or on law review.

    6. Yeah it's fairly obvious even decades ago law school enrollment needed to be cut by 90%. I can only imagine it has gotten even worse the past decade after the Great Recession.

      And keep in mind, there had to be at least some overlap between the elites that already had their positions lined up, and the top 10%+Law Review.

      Old Guy's credentials would have qualified him if objective measures were used, but clearly that didn't pan out. And that is the story for those that get something from OCI that aren't connected, at some point they will be quietly removed from the ranks and replaced by the connected. It is extremely difficult to have a lifelong career in law. At some point nearly everyone is culled.

  7. So....a thought.

    This post makes many good points but rather than having it be yet another discussion among scambloggers that will amount to nothing, how about someone actually email this posting to the dean herself? Maybe CC the faculty? You proactive?

    I will do it.

    1. I do not encourage or recommend that readers contact law faculty personally. I never have, though I have received a surprising quantity of harassing or threatening messages from law faculty whose scam-like writing or activities have been profiled on this blog.

      What is the point of such a "proactive" move? You aren't going to convince scammers to stop scamming, and you may put yourself in an awkward position.

      If you found this post valuable, circulate it through social media or link to it elsewhere on the internet. The law professoriate may be the target of OTLSS criticism, but it is not our intended readership.

    2. I agree with Dybbuk. I cannot recommend contacting this scam-dean or other scamsters. I have never contacted any law-school scamster and do not intend to.

      You cannot expect this Perdue scam-dean or any other scam-promoting hack to come over to our side just because we're demonstrably right.

      Rest assured that the major law-school scamsters read everything that we post here. You don't need to send them a copy.

    3. You can not convince a person the truth of something, when their livelihood requires them not to acknowledge it.

  8. "Shouldn't a law school model, as well as teach, ethical conduct?"

    One of my favorite lines from Good Will Hunting: "I just teach this shit, I didn't say I know how do it."

    Thanks dybbuk, good write up.