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Law Schools Hiring Their Own Students Led to Inflated Employment Data

Under the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar on the ABA website, a new extensive database of “Section for Legal Education Placement Summary Report” has been recently launched. Visitors can select any accredited law school from the dropdown menu, ‘continue’ to the next page and select the Report Year, and then click to “Generate Report.” Both summary reports and complete placement data is available for download in pdf format.

Going through the recently available data has brought one thing immediately to the notice of the media: In most cases where law schools claimed high employment of their students 9 month after graduation, a major portion of that ‘employment’ had been offered directly or indirectly by the school itself.

While three-fourths of accredited law schools did not employ their own students, for the rest the range of employing students of the school ranged from 1 percent to 19 percent. While students were happy at the efforts of their schools to help them in a market with few jobs, the schools were happy with record employment scores on paper.

The list was topped by The City University of New York School of Law hiring 19 percent, the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law hiring 18 percent and the University of San Francisco School of Law hiring 17 percent of their own students.

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Professor Bernie Burk of University of North Carolina had been conducting his own probe into the matter much before ABA released the data. Burk grew curious when he found some law schools continuing to report excessively high employment figures that did not match the reality of the recession. He wrote on his blog ‘The Faculty Lounge’, “I started thinking, ‘What kinds of jobs are these?’ I was actually surprised at how widespread the practice is. It’s a powerful reflection of how hard it is to get a full-time legal job right now.”

According to Burk, figures like 98% employed students from University of Virginia School of Law, 92 percent from Vanderbilt University Law School, or 90 percent employed students from Washington & Lee University School of Law were no breach of trust. Each of these schools had reported to the ABA that almost 11 percent of their 2010 graduates were holding jobs financed by the schools themselves. Burk thinks that the phenomenon was not motivated by law schools trying to vie for rankings but to help out struggling graduates in a horribly adverse economy.

But the result was that in the class of 2010, at least fifteen schools reported employment rates of 95 percent or higher.

The data available at ABA shows that most law schools had reported duly to the ABA that a large percentage of the ‘employed’ number of graduates were in short-term jobs or in jobs financed by the schools. Schools like the Golden Gate University had frankly admitted in writing to the ABA that 43 percent of their ‘employed’ graduates were in short-term jobs. It was just a matter of oversight that the schools failed to mention the same information on their websites or brochures. It was also an oversight on part of the ABA that ABA did not release such data through a publicly accessible database before students started filing cases against law schools. You can now always find old data of 2011 if you visit the ABA website.

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