Monday, April 02, 2012
When True Numbers Mislead: 98% Employment "Not Fully Accurate Picture," ASU Dean Says
Last week I asserted that law schools continue to report dubious employment numbers and I explained why the ABA transparency reforms will not work. One of the schools I raised questions about was ASU, which claimed that 98.2% of its 2010 graduates obtained employment, up from 89.8% in 2009. This leap in employment is remarkable (and suspicious) given that we remain mired in the depths of most dismal job market for law graduates in decades.
The practice of law is adversarial.
Law schools train students to be lawyers.
Ergo, the business of law schools is adversarial.
(That's the best "sillygism" I could come up with this early in the morning. By the way, I have added to my reading list A. Benjamin Spencer's recent "The Law School Critique in Historical Perspective" available at SSRN:
I have only read Section "II. From Blackstone to Langdell" that covers from colonial days to early 20th century, for a research project of mine. But when I get the time, I plan to read the entire article. Hopefully, it will be of help in better understanding the serious issues that Brian has been raising.)
I think this is an excellent start and that more important work should be done to enhance accountability at law schools. I would tweak your Yale placement standard and make it a top-six placement standard to account for the fact that there are probably a not insubstantial number of Yale grads who eschew practice for other ambitions, and also to add a bit of geographic diversity. I really wish there were more data points along the lines of those you've started collecting.
I read Prof. Spencer's article (78 pages in length) and found it quite interesting. He states in the first paragraph: "We thus have what appears to be a perfect storm in legal education: Law school graduates are underemployed, over-indebted, and under prepared for practice." He does not focus on student debt in the course of the article. Nor does he spend any time on the "numbers" provided by law schools, with only casual mention of U.S. News & World Report classifications. Rather, the focus is on the educational failures of law schools, putting this into historical perspective, which I found to be quite interesting. The last footnote, 414 on page 78, does reference Brian Tamanaha's "My 'Dean's Vision' Speech" posted on this Blog on Nov. 16, 2010.
Because of the length of the article, perhaps those following Prof. Tamanaha's posts at this Blog should first check the Table of Contents on the first page in determining whether to read it.
I think this is much clearer and more fair than your original post, Brian, so thanks for that.
I still think its important to make it clear, though, that it is not "law schools" that are posting misleading employment stats. They report ALL of the relevant data to US News--in fact that's how you got it--and US News then chooses to emphasize the "overall employment" above all others. If we need to bring more pressure to bear, it is probably on the folks at US News to be more sophisticated in how they use employment in the rankings.
I know that my institution, for example, doesn't necessarily approve of the the US News strategy, and so posts ALL of the stats, in very easily digestible form, on the prospective students section of the webpage. This includes data for the last four years, and includes everything from school funded jobs, to nonprofessional Starbucks type stuff.
Maybe if schools did more to publicize this stuff, and to pressure US News, we could do more to dispel the misleading part of the numbers....
I'm glad you find this post more acceptable than the last. Having said that, I do not believe there was anything unclear or unfair about my previous post. The only difference is in that one I pointed out a series of anomalies that raised questions, while in this one I provided underlying data to show that those questions were indeed merited. The two posts are consistent.
As for US News, there is no doubt that they can produce a better ranking. But we can't continually point the finger at a rating service when law schools post sparkling 93%, 96%, 98% employment rates during a dismal job market.
We are the ones that look bad in the eyes of the public, not US News. And until we take responsibility for the situation things will not improve.
The very fact that law schools spend so much time and money thinking up white lies, finessing, and manipulating their placement statistics tells you all you need to know about whether they think prospective students rely on their manipulated statistics, or whether they actually believe prospective students are rational actors that are able to obtain the real, unbiased truth.
Seems like they want to have their cake and eat it too: produce skewed placement statistics to lure applicants, but disclaim any responsibility because prospective students should all know that they're lying.
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