November 01, 2011

ABA Provides Enhanced Law School Data Collection

ABA President Wm. T. (Bill) Robinson III provided Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) with a letter last month from the association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar detailing the steps the section is taking to provide accurate and timely information to assist prospective law students and law school graduates in making informed choices about law schools and legal careers.

The U.S. Department of Education recognizes the ABA section’s Council and its Accreditation Committee as the only federal accreditor of the nation’s law schools, and the section’s letter was part of a continuing dialogue with Boxer and Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) addressing the senators’ concerns about law school transparency.

Robinson transmitted the section’s response to an Oct. 6 letter from Boxer in which she expressed several concerns, including that recent improvements in the section’s collection and reporting of employment data still do not require that law schools report the percentage of their graduates working in the legal profession or the percentage of graduates working in part-time legal jobs.

In response, the section assured the senator that the section recently has changed the way it manages the collection and publication of graduate placement data provided by law schools to ensure data integrity.

Beginning this year, the ABA section is collecting the information directly from the schools rather than through the National Association of Law Placement to ensure that the information is more accurate, timely, complete and specific. In addition, the section, subject to council approval, will significantly expedite the collection and reporting of placement data. Under the section’s new timetable, data will be reported approximately one year, rather than two years, after graduation.

The section also has expanded and refined the quality of placement data to be reported by the schools, a process that will be implemented in two phases. In the first phase, law schools must report the following information for each graduate of the class of 2010: employment status, employment type, employment location, salary, whether a position is short-term or long-term, and whether a position is funded by the school. In the second phase, for the class of 2012, additional data will be collected and published for the first time, including whether positions are full-time or part-time.

To address Boxer’s concerns about alleged violations of Standard 509 of the Standards and Rules of Procedure for Approval of Law Schools, under which law schools must publish basic consumer information, the section’s Standards Review Committee will begin this month to draft a new standard for imposing specific and severe penalties for the intentional misreporting of basic consumer information, including admissions and placement data. 

The section also is investigating issues raised by Boxer about scholarship retention. Law schools are not required to offer scholarships and, as a result, the terms and amount of scholarships vary widely among the schools. In its letter, the section recognized that it does not specify requirements for the renewal of law school scholarships but will be considering the consumer information implementation of this matter through the questionnaires and standards.

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