The Truth, The Whole Truth

Calls to force law schools to provide more information about what their graduates really end up doing may eventually be going somewhere.

Law schools provide employment percentages and average salaries to potential students. Students use this information to decide whether or not law school is a good idea or to decide between different law school offers. The trouble is that critics have accused law schools of deliberately providing misleading information to prospective students. By polling only a section of recent graduates, law schools can return higher average salaries and employment statistics to potential students than are actually, well, accurate.

Two U.S. senators, Republican Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Democrat Barbara Boxer of California, are asking the Department of Education to begin gathering good, comparable data about job placement and salaries.

According to a press release issued by Boxer’s office, the letter to the department said, in part:

To better understand trends related to law schools over the most recent ten-year window, we request your office provide the following information:

1. The current enrollments, as well as the historical growth of enrollments, at American law schools – in the aggregate, and also by sector (i.e., private, public, for-profit).

2. Current tuition and fee rates, as well as the historical growth of tuition and fees, at American law schools – in the aggregate, and also by sector (i.e., private, public, for-profit).

3. The percentage of law school revenue generated that is retained to administer legal education, operate law school facilities, and the percentage and dollar amount used for other, non-legal educational purposes by the broader university system. If possible, please provide specific examples of what activities and expenses law school revenues are being used to support if such revenue does not support legal education directly.

4. The amount of federal and private educational loan debt legal students carried upon graduation, again in the aggregate and across sectors.

5. The current bar passage rates and graduation rates of students at American law schools, again in the aggregate and across sectors.

6. The job placement rates of American law school graduates; indicating whether such jobs are full- or part-time positions, whether they require a law degree, and whether they were maintained a year after employment.

Boxer’s office has apparently requested that the American Bar Association, which actually accredits law schools, provide her office with this information. The ABA has apparently declined to do so to Boxer’s satisfaction.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer