TO: COUNCIL OF THE SECTION OF LEGAL EDUCATION AND ADMISSIONS TO THE BAR
FROM: LEN STRICKMAN, CHAIR, DATA POLICY AND COLLECTION COMMITTEE
RE: PROPOSED CHANGES IN DATES FOR EMPLOYMENT STATUS DETERMINATION AND LAW SCHOOL REPORTING OF SAME IN ANNUAL EMPLOYMENT QUESTIONNAIRE DATA COLLECTION
DATE: JUNE 19, 2013 (a modestly revised version of a memo sent to the Council on June 3, 2013)
In the past, legal employment decisions, even for jobs requiring bar passage, were often made before law graduates’ bar examination results were known to employers. The categories of employers most inclined to make early hiring decisions were large law firms and judges with clerkships available. Those markets have changed in the past decade; large law firms are hiring far fewer entry level law graduates, and there is a distinct tendency of judges, at least at the federal level, to seek clerks with some post-law school experience in the profession. As these numbers have shrunk, the importance of bar examination results has grown, meaning that the timing of the release of bar results and consequent bar admission has become more important than ever in the employment market.
The current date of employment status for the purposes of the Employment Questionnaire required of each law school by the Standards is February 15 of the year following graduation. This works a particular hardship on law schools located in states with late bar examination results and bar admission, and law schools whose students seek in substantial numbers employment in those states. The states having the most exam takers tend to be the latest to report results and the latest to process candidates for admission. California and New York, which together account for more than 17% of accredited law schools and the largest numbers of bar exam takers, are among the states whose bar admission dates often come in December or in the year following the July bar examination.
A preliminary study undertaken by Professor Jerry Organ, a member of our Committee, reported that for graduates in the years 2011 and 2012, 18 of the bottom 37 schools in reported employment rates for the "Bar Passage Required, JD Advantage and Other Professional" categories were located in New York and California. (A more recent, more comprehensive analysis of the data by Professor Organ appears on the DPCC web page of the Section website). Many of these law schools are broadly considered to be highly competitive schools nationally. Of course, this isolated data point may reflect employment market factors not related to bar admission, but simple logic and the experience of Committee members suggests that there is some impact on the date of the reporting of bar examination results and consequent bar admission on the timing of employment commitments to law school graduates.
Some schools sought a reporting date one year from graduation. The Data Policy and Collection Committee decided to reject this request because that length of delay would undermine the currency of data available to prospective law students. Still, the cause is a just one. Hence, the Committee recommends to the Council that in order to achieve some salutary remediation of the current penalty on law schools who suffer from late bar results, the employment status determination date be moved from February 15 to March 15 each year, and that the law school Employment Questionnaire submission date be moved from March 15 to April 7. We should keep in mind that new technologies have enabled us to accelerate the posting of employment data by more than one year since the new comprehensive Employment Questionnaire was instituted. A delay of 24 days in the posting of survey data is, we believe, a cost that is worth the benefit of a more level playing field. That more level playing field will give law school applicants and other interested persons a more accurate picture of the comparative performance of different law schools in the successful placement of their graduates.