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ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar Update on Job Placement Data

ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar Update on Job Placement Data

By Brian Graupner

CHICAGO, Oct. 17, 2011 — Recent commentary on the reporting of graduate placement data by law schools has raised questions about how the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar manages the collection and publication of such data. The section is writing to clarify its role in this regard.

To become accredited, law schools must comply with each of the Standards for Approval of Law Schools. Standard 509 requires that law schools publish basic consumer information, including placement data. “The information shall be published in a fair and accurate manner reflective of actual practice.” The ABA relies on law schools to provide fair and accurate information, which we publish for use by prospective students. Law schools that violate Standard 509 risk the loss of accreditation or other serious penalty, as was the case with the false reporting of admissions data by Villanova University School of Law earlier this year.

In light of the recent revelations of violations or possible violations of Standard 509 by two law schools, the section chair has directed the Standards Review Committee to draft a new standard that provides for specific and severe penalties for the intentional misreporting of placement data, including possible monetary fines and loss of accreditation. The Standards Review Committee is scheduled to take up the matter immediately.

The Questionnaire Committee of the section is comprehensively expanding the section’s approach to the collection and publication of placement data to ensure that it is more accurate, timelier, more complete and more specific.

Going forward, the section has determined that law schools will be required to report placement data directly to the section — rather than solely to the National Association of Law Placement — in an effort to increase clarity, accuracy and accountability on these issues. Information will be required for each individual graduate as of nine months after graduation.

In undertaking this effort, the Council is improving upon the NALP definitions, so that the most complete and accurate information will be requested from, and reported by, law schools.

The section is expanding and refining the quality of placement data reported by law schools. This will be done in two phases:

  • Beginning with 2010 graduates, we are asking schools to provide employment status, type, location, whether short or long term, and whether employment is funded by the school itself. The 2010 questionnaire reflects these changes, and the information will be reported on the section website and in the next ABA-LSAC Official Guide to Law Schools.
  • Employment data regarding whether the employment requires a J.D. and/or bar passage, relates to other professions, and is full time or part time, will be required going forward. We are refining the questions and the definitions used by NALP so that they are fully clear and accurate. When finalized, they will be part of the 2011 questionnaire going out next spring.

The section is expediting the collection and reporting of placement data. Unlike in years past, employment data for each school will be published one year after graduation, so that students entering in a given fall semester will have placement information for the class that graduated the previous year. The 2011 graduating class data will be reported in the summer of 2012, fully one year earlier than in previous years.

There should be no doubt that the section is fully committed to the clarity and accuracy of law school placement data. By vigorously enforcing the standard that requires fair and accurate reporting of consumer information — and by having law schools report more comprehensive, specific consumer information — we hope to ensure that students who choose to enter law school will be better informed about the prospects for employment than ever before.

The Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and its Accreditation Committee are both recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) as the only federal accreditors for programs leading to the first degree in law. In this function, the Section and its Council are separate and independent of the ABA, as required by DOE regulations.

With nearly 400,000 members, the American Bar Association is the largest voluntary professional membership organization in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law.

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