Surprise, Surprise: Law Schools Resist Transparency in Employment Data

The National Law Journal reports that The Law School Transparency Project, founded to invite/pressure law schools to provide more detailed employment data to the public, has met resistance (or at least a severe lack of interest) from law schools.  So far, only 3 schools have agreed to provide the requested data—American, Michigan and Vanderbilt.

This is as surprising as my beloved Yankees being in a pennant race in September and my nearly-as-beloved Mets being, well, not.

You didn’t have to be the Amazing Kreskin to predict, as we did, that law schools would largely ignore Law Transparency’s efforts.  It’s also no real surprise that two of the three schools who have agreed to provide more detailed data (we’ll see what they actually do provide) are in the top 20 of the US News rankings.

The founders of the Transparency Project should be applauded for their efforts (I also like that one is named Kyle).  It’s certainly possible that once the project gains a toehold, US News and the ABA will be influenced to insist that law schools give prospective students more than the cursory data they now provide.

But Law Transparency is a long-term effort and isn’t likely to succeed in time to help those who are thinking of going to law school in 2011 or 2012, much less current law students.  Back in July, though, along with calling currently available public data “basically useless,” I suggested that there’s a lot that prospective law students can do to gather the same information that the Transparency Project is seeking.  A few questions and approaches to law schools were included in that post and I won’t repeat them here.  Your law school admissions advisor should work with you closely to develop more questions—and more important, strategies—that effectively address your particular situation.

Why will your well-considered strategies and questions succeed if a public effort can’t?  The biggest factor is that you’ll never be in a stronger position with respect to law schools than when you’re deciding between them.  Once you’ve accepted, well, you’ve accepted.  But while you’re deciding (and they’re aware of that), law schools are only too glad to talk with you and will generally answer good questions with good answers.  Be nice in asking, of course—but important issues can be addressed (often more effectively) nicely.  There’s also the fact that people are generally more forthcoming in one-to-one conversations.

Even if the Transparency Project were an earlier success than it appears it will be, as a prospective law student, you’d still want to think strategically and ask perceptive questions.  First, it will give you a sense of just how forthcoming and open your potential law school is to students—that’s an important thing to have a feel for, since it may well matter to you both in law school and after you’ve graduated.  Second, data can be massaged and it will be important for you and your advisors to identify gaps or inconsistencies in the data.  Third, no matter what data a particular law school provides, you’ll have to think about what it means for your particular desires and ambitions.  Most important in that calculus is what kind of lawyer you want to be and what you hope to achieve in your legal (or other) career.  That’s a big reason why the extremely blunt numbers now provided by law schools are so limited in value—they don’t tell you anything.  But even better and more complete data will still have different meanings for different people, so you’ll need to have thought carefully about what you want from law school and will then have to cut the data more finely to see how it applies to you.

Kudos to the Transparency Project.  It has the potential to make the work of prospective law students deciding between law schools easier, more focused and better founded.  But its success appears to be a long haul and even if it comes to fruition, it won’t eliminate the need for you and your advisors to do your work—but it may well assist that work.

~ by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on September 15, 2010.

5 Responses to “Surprise, Surprise: Law Schools Resist Transparency in Employment Data”

  1. […] strategies to obtain it.  I work closely and hard with my private clients to do this.  Here’s a link to the last post on these topics (which includes links to other posts), so I won’t repeat what I’ve said before about the […]

  2. […] of the Times article—the significant average debt load of law school students, the ridiculously vague and deceptive employment data that law schools report, the flat tuition structure (virtually the same tuition at a bottom-tier […]

  3. […] the kind of data that the ABA doesn’t require all law schools to disclose.  Consequently, almost none of them do, despite the roundhouse criticism of the opacity of law school employment data from this blog, the […]

  4. […] fault.  I’ve made the point before that whatever information is required to be disclosed, entering law students will always want more in order to make their best law school admissions decisions.  The question, on one level, is just […]

  5. […] fault.  I’ve made the point before that whatever information is required to be disclosed, entering law students will always want more in order to make their best law school admissions decisions.  The question, on one level, is just […]

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