Amiricanmade wrote:Great site and thanks for the info. I'm taking a look at Western State and the site indicates 66 our of the 105 work in the private sector (what do they do, no clue) but that's a decent number seeing as how 66/105 students weren't top 5% yet they still have a job-trying to optimistic?
Also, when it says that 29% of the graduates were not employed after 9 months, could this be because they didn't pass the bar and perhaps they are studying for the bar? Or are these the # of people who graduated and passed the bar?
This is what I would make of the available information on Western State (sorry for the delay in getting back to you on this):
For the Class of 2008, a full 29% of the class was reported as being unemployed (irrespective of whether they passed the July 2008 bar exam). That number is very high for an ABA-approved law school, considering that any job would have counted a person as employed. Of the 66 graduates who reported being employed, you need to recognize the variety of jobs they could have obtained. This group includes anyone employed full-time or part-time, paid or unpaid, in any legal or non-legal position, so long as it is in a for-profit business (it does not include public defender jobs, an area in which the school advertises as a strength within the OC). Among other jobs, this category can include bartending parttime, temp work a few hours a week, returning to a job held prior to law school such as tutoring, working for a parent of family member in a non-law-related field, or serving coffee at Starbucks. Also, in 2008 the job market was significantly better than it is now, and we are unlikely to see a return to 2008 hiring levels for a very long time. It is likely that more graduates in the Class of 2010 will find nonlegal employment than in 2008 given how saturated the legal market is right now.
I understand many applicants are cautious about assuming that graduates end up in nonlegal jobs, and you might be inclined to fill in the gaps with more favorable jobs. But per this article I found here: http://www.law.com/jsp/nlj/PubArticleNL ... hbxlogin=1
the same Class of 2008 achieved just a 65% bar passage rate of those taking the CA bar. Given that only 65% passed the bar but 70.8% of the class is counted as employed 9 months out from graduation (after bar results come out), this means we can say with near certainty that at least 5.8% of employed grads were working in a position that does not require bar passage. Some of these may have reported their salaries, particularly those who returned to pre-law school employment and actually had an annual salary to report. So you can't construe the median salaries as consisting only of legal jobs, or only of jobs for which earning a JD increased that person's earning opportunity. Of the 65% who passed the bar, we also don't know how many of them were able to find legal employment that made studying and passing the bar worth their time. Without more information from the school, a risk-averse applicant should try and fill in the gaps with the least favorable information.*
Given that, let's look more closely at the available salary information. Just 48 graduates in the private sector reported salary, out of 66 graduates. Of the 48, the 25% salary percentile was $39,250. However, another 25% (actually 27%) of the 66 private sector graduates reported no salary whatsoever. It is very likely that many (if not all) of them had salaries that fall below the published 25th percentile, and some may have found unpaid work. Filling in the gaps with the worst plausible information means that the published 25th percentile salary could actually represent the average salary of all employed graduates. When you factor in the remaining 1/3 of the class who were unemployed 9 months after graduation, the average salary for all graduates is much lower. If it's true that a third of the class found no job after 9 months of searching and that the rest only found a mix of legal and nonlegal jobs that paid on average less than $40,000, I would say there's a strong argument that the law school is defrauding its applicants by not making that information clear at the outset. The law school is required by law to report basic consumer information. You can see which information it considers to be basic here: http://www.wsulaw.edu/student-consumer- ... rview.aspx
Finally, while filling in the gaps with less favorable information may help you better gauge the starting salaries of the class as a whole, you still know nothing about the quality of the jobs for which salaries were reported, and how many of them you might find desirable as an applicant. And you have no idea how many of the employed graduates who reported salaries found work through family connections or other means that can't be attributed to the law school itself.
* To get more information from the school, I recommend you contact Career Services and ask for a complete list of the employers who have hired Class of 2010 graduates so far. If they tell you that information isn't available, be sure to let them know you can wait until they finish collecting it in February and ask if they can send it to you then. If they tell you the information is private, you can let them know you are concerned that the information published by the school is potentially misleading and that without more information you cannot justify investing $100K of your (or your parents') money. They have the information you need since they report most of it already to NALP, and since they only need to track down a relatively small number of graduates they should be able to compile and send you the information in a relatively short amount of time.
Amiricanmade wrote:I also checked out Chapman, would you also include Chapman in the not worth your $/time category?
I strongly recommend doing a similar analysis of the available information for Chapman, and then contacting the school to ask for more current data on the Class of 2010. Regarding your comment on debt, I don't think we can say the current concerns about legal education apply only to people who must take on personal debt to finance their degree. Although you won't be paying for the legal education, you will still spend three very difficult years in an atmosphere where many of your classmates will compete for a very small number of legal positions. Many of them (perhaps people who end up becoming close friends of yours) will become discouraged, convincing themselves (perhaps correclty) that the law school intentionally lied to them about the realities of the legal hiring market. They will have no recourse to recover their debt and will be pressured to accept any job that will allow them to make monthly payments. Many of them will feel like they let their families down, especially if they have a spouse and/or children to support (see here: http://www.wsulaw.edu/student-consumer- ... rview.aspx
). Please note that BC Law is considered to be a top regional law school with national placement ability, and that USNews currently ranks it within the top 25.
And without family or other connections to legal employers, you may find that your own prospects of finding a legal job are nonexistent unless you manage to outperform most of your classmates in law school. Even then, we don't know enough about the jobs available to top performers at Western law school, other than that at least some achieved starting salaries that would permit them to repay their debt. Unfortunately most of what's available from third party sources about job prospects focus exclusively on the top performers from the top 10-50 or so ABA-approved law schools. For the tens of thousands of applicants who will be attending one of the other ones, all they have to go on is the information disclosed by the law schools.