In this post, entitled "The Hidden Truth About Law School Employment Stats", Keel laments that legal education analysts underplay JD Advantage jobs without even a microgram of irony:
Much of the stats we see being reported, [sic] point to only those bar passage required positions and J.D. advantage positions typically fall into the "Other" category. This has led to grossly inflated unemployment rates for recent graduates.Here are PSU's 2014 numbers as compiled from its ABA submission:
LT/FT Bar Passage Required: 116
PT Bar Passage Required: 5
JD Advantage: 11
Temp JD Advantage: 1
Professional (all): 5
Non-Professional (all): 4
"Deferred Start Date"- 10
"Not Seeking" - 2
"Seeking" - 14
Unknown - 3
Now let's look for some "hidden truths." The most curious entry on this list to me is "Deferred Start Date." Here is what the ABA placement questionnaire states about "Deferred Start Date":
The graduate has accepted a written offer of employment by the February 15th reporting date, but the start date of the employment is subsequent to February 15th. In order to qualify in this category, the start date must be identified with certainty, or the employer must be compensating the graduate until actual employment begins.Pretty narrow, right? Color me surprised, but 10 PSU graduates had written offers of employment and/or compensation but had not yet started? In 2015? Really?
For reference, here are the top schools claiming "start date deferred" on their 2014 ABA forms:
- Penn State - 10
- CUNY, San Francisco, Cal-Hastings - 9
- Pepperdine, Albany, Fordham - 7
- Connecticut, Cal-Western, San Diego, Seattle, NYLS, Suffolk - 6
Are PSU grads particularly deferral-able? Or are law schools perhaps viewing "start date deferred" as a category in which to siphon off a few unemployed graduates on flimsy pretexts? What were these deferred start opportunities? Advanced tax practice with Morgan Lewis? Doc review in Morgan Lewis's sub-basement? Somewhere in between? Law? Non-law?
These are just questions, of course; in fact, that's all we can do. The consuming public has no way of knowing if these are real jobs, bogus jobs, or even jobs at all. Such things are hidden truths, and law school folks want the benefit of the doubt.
Indeed, the sales game manufactures trust in "hidden truths." Ms. Keel, for example, wants us to believe there is a veritable boom in demand for JD Advantage positions:
With an increase of nontraditional legal careers and the industry shift to utilize more outside resources, there has been a surge in what employers deems [sic] as "J.D. advantage" positions.The self-immolation of my copy of Fowler's Modern English Usage aside, it takes a leap of faith to assume that there's a real added demand for JD Advantage positions rather than law graduates accepting lesser positions that are being up-classified to JD Advantage. And it's sure nice to know that Starbucks barista will become more prestigious with the presence of lawyers, rather than would-be lawyers adopting the prestige of Starbucks baristas.
[O]ther trending legal careers that do not require bar passage are seeing increased demand for specialized legal talent. Almost 15% of class of 2014 graduates held J.D. advantage positions, the highest percentage since the ABA began tracking the data.
J.D. advantage careers has helped [sic] to advance the legal industry by embracing its [?] evolution. The employment growth underscores the next generation of lawyer's [sic] desire for nontraditional careers as well as the need for lawyers to fill these roles. And as more graduates fill advantaged positions, the perception of being less prestigious than bar required jobs begins to break down.
Of course, it has to be a leap of faith for anyone outside of the law school's offices because we have no way of knowing what these JD Advantage positions are, or whether they were the type of thing worth attending law school at the exorbitant tuition rates. Penn State - and if anyone knows otherwise, please correct me - does not report salaries for these positions, does not report what type of students take these positions or any other information beyond the vague - and abuse-prone - definition provided by the ABA.
These opaque, "trust us!" presentations are the real "hidden truths" of the employment stats. Law school administrators want the consuming public to trust them as to what is behind that wrinkled curtain, to believe that there's a pool of good jobs waiting in Californey if you just ride their special golden-ticket train for three years. It's the same shit as five to ten years ago, only now the illusion is the "evolutionary" practice/JD Advantage sector instead of the plentiful BigLaw gigs.
But by this point, everyone should know better. Law schools actively slaughtered their own goodwill with respect to any "hidden truths." The law schools' own conduct has given the public no choice but to be cruelly skeptical, as if these folks were elixir salesmen rolling into town a second time
If Ms. Keel and her peers lament that, they have two options. One is to regain market trust, which takes time and a level of candor the industry generally lacks. The other is real transparency. Give the public viable, usable information upon which to evaluate these JD Advantage positions.
Something tells me they'll continue to take the third option.