A Search for Future Truth
Posted in Mass Dissent - June 2013
By “Every Law Student”
When it comes to the statistical side of law school, sins of omission are the worst disservice for students. Future law students rely on both admissions and employment data to decide which law school will help them attain their dreams. Graduates need this data, too, because it is supposed to be an accurate representation of who is working and where. And yet, there are still so many unknown factors. Law schools do not always choose to publicize salary data, and they do not necessarily break down the data in a way that is helpful for students. Worst of all, this data does not tell the full story of how graduates attained (or did not attain) employment.
That’s not to say that law school statistical reporting hasn’t improved since many of us started law school. On March 31, the American Bar Association began to require every law school to place its class of 2012 employment outcomes data chart on its website. This requirement is under ABA Standard 509, which requires the posting of basic consumer information in a “fair, accurate and not misleading” manner. Law School Transparency, a nonprofit dedicated to reporting the most accurate statistics possible about admissions and post-graduate employment, now publicizes this data in an easily digestible way. The group also advocates for legal education reform, including student loan reform.
But despite these improvements, there is still so much information that students and graduates need. Employment data are collected nine months after graduation, but graduates who are living on loans need to know how long their fellow grads waited to get that dream entry-level job or that temporary job that will be over in six months. Graduates may not have a large safety net that will let them pay rent and utilities until they can get a job. In the modern era, how difficult would it be to contact students to double-check their employment status twice a year for at least two years? This method could create work-study jobs for current students and foster a conversation about how to prepare graduates for an unexpected career trajectory.
All law students need accurate, detailed salary data. Expectations about how much new lawyers should be paid can run the gamut from $40,000 to $150,000. Considering how costly law school is and since private loans are non-dischargeable, knowing how much or how little that a graduate could expect to make will help students modulate their expectations and prepare a realistic budget.
Of course, the tricky part is that these needs conflict with the desire of law schools to continue attracting new students. Graduates can overcome this issue by banding together and telling the truth on their own. There is no dedicated group that collects and analyzes anecdotal data to explain how graduates got their jobs or survived that long period of unemployment. Many grads are hiding this information from most of us – their LinkedIn profiles have not been updated in months and they are cagey when you ask them what they’re up to these days. If graduates spoke the truth, and spoke it loudly so that everyone could hear, current students would have a better idea of what to expect after they remove their caps and gowns. All graduates need is a website and decent organizational skills. These anecdotes would send a clear message that these unemployment and underemployment issues do not disappear after one set of job data spanning nine months. Perhaps these anecdotes could inspire legislative improvements.
There is not much that current students can do to change the job market, but there are ways to arm us with better information so that we have a better idea of what to expect. We just need everyone’s help.
– “Every Law Student” anonymously speaks for ever-present anxieties, worries, and frustrations of most of recent law school graduates and those who are still in school. –