More on “The Continuing Disappointment of the ABA’s Response to Law School Transparency Requests”

A commenter on my last post, “The Continuing Disappointment of the ABA’s Response to Law School Transparency Requests: Can No One (Short of Governmental Pressure) Appeal to the ABA to Protect Law Students and Pre-Law Students?” is fairly typical of prospective law students who want to be diligent about analyzing their law school options but really don’t know how to proceed.

Here’s Jason’s comment in full:

“I’ve heard a lot of times about Law Schools not giving their students the kind of information they need to make the right choice to attend their Law School or Law School in general.
What information should you get when making the decision?
How would you recommend getting that information from a Law School?
What if the Law School isn’t helpful? Is there anywhere else you can get that information? Is there an organization fighting this? If so, how can I get involved?”

Like many thinking about law school, he wants a foothold to make good decisions but doesn’t have one. 

Unfortunately, a lot of law schools—and a lot of the LSAT prep and law school admission advisory markets—count on “consumer” inexperience.  A particularly stunning development on the law school side this year was a top 20 school’s request that applicants disclose other schools to which they had applied and the financial aid they had received.  And since the ABA doesn’t think any part of its mission is to protect prospective law students, there’s not much honest help to be had.

Full disclosure:  Advise-In Solutions isn’t just an uninterested observer of the pre-law market.  I make my living when clients decide to go to law school and engage me as their LSAT/admission/law school/legal employment advisor.  On the other hand, I try to give prospective clients an honest assessment of their individual law school reward and risk profiles (a great deal of that is based on how much someone really wants to be a lawyer, and how much they know about what being a lawyer is like).  That assessment is at no charge—and because of my small, individualized client base, I’m not averse to providing risk profiles that may discourage some people from attending law school, and engaging Advise-In and me.  I’ve got enough business to keep me busy, and even if I didn’t, the last thing I want is a client who, in the end, doesn’t think I gave my best advice.  That’s ultimately bad for business, to say nothing of a reputation that I’m pretty protective of.

Jason has stimulated me to commit to putting up a blog post in the next couple of weeks as a more specific answer to his inquiries.  Many of his questions are answered on and off in several past posts under the “Law School Admissions” category on this blog but it sounds as if it would be useful to collect some of that information into a single post.

It won’t be comprehensive, of course.  While there is a batch of information (some of which I’ll mention) that pretty much any prospective law student would want to know, no matter what law schools disclosed, there would always be additional information–or re-slicing of data–that individual applicants will need to make their best decision.  That’s important; even were law schools and the ABA doing a better job than they are now at providing meaningful data, law school applicants, students and their advisors would still have work to do—it’s just that that work would be more efficient, more productive, and maybe you could trust whatever data was provided.

There’s also the question of when, in the current environment, is the right time to ask which questions of law schools.  The amount of information that you can press law schools to provide before admission is limited.  After admission, if you have some leverage, there’s much more you can do, but you want to develop a clear strategy for when to ask which question, and in what way.  There are usually tactically smart ways, on the one hand, and irritating or unproductive ways, on the other hand, of trying to obtain a given set of information. 

That process is a little backwards, unfortunately.  In this environment of ABA inaction, prospective students often need to spend time and money going through the application process (including LSAT prep to obtain their best LSAT score and producing the highest-quality law school application package),  in order to make a decision about whether to go to law school (and whether they should have gone through the application process).  If you don’t want to be a lawyer, it’s probably not worth doing that.  If you do, you can think of the application process as a due diligence investment, and if law school isn’t going to work out, it’s better to find that out a few thousand dollars (and a few months) later, rather than $100,000-$200,000 (and at least three years) later.  It’s unfortunate that the process is backwards but until law schools are forced to provide meaningful, easily accessible data on graduate legal employment, that’s just the world we’re in.

So, a few of the general questions will be in the future post; individual profile questions, of course, can’t be.

Jason’s last question is the easiest to answer.  The Law School Transparency Project (there are some links to them in past blog posts on this site) is doing great work, in my view.  He might try to hook on with the student organizations cited in “The Continuing Disappointment of the ABA’s Response” as well—but I’d recommend getting in touch with the guys who are running the Law School Transparency Project in any case.  There may be others, and if readers know of them, please mention them in comments.

Finally, it’s probably too much to ask law schools to give him much insight into whether law school of the law is the right choice for him.  In their view, of course it is.  I’ve done a lot of posts in the “Law School Admissions” and “Beyond Law School” categories that discuss the decisionmaking process.  The cleanest places to begin your analysis are oft-emphasized themes—how much do you want to be a lawyer?  Do you know what being a lawyer means on a day-to-day basis in a variety of practice types and practice areas?

So, thanks, Jason.  I’ll endeavor to systematize some of the information I’ve provided on the blog in the past, and add a little more, so stay tuned!

~ by Kyle Pasewark at Advise-in Solutions on May 28, 2011.

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