ABA Reforms Disclosure of Employment Outcomes

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jenesaislaw
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ABA Reforms Disclosure of Employment Outcomes

Postby jenesaislaw » Sat Jun 11, 2011 8:07 pm

The ABA Council on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar completed an enormous step this morning towards helping prospective law students make informed decisions. The Council, which is the sole accrediting body for U.S. law schools, unanimously approved the Questionnaire Committee's recommended procedures for the improved collection and sharing of employment data.

For more on this story, please read --LinkRemoved--

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Bronte
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Re: ABA Reforms Disclosure of Employment Outcomes

Postby Bronte » Sat Jun 11, 2011 8:11 pm

Looks better. Good work.

scammedhard
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Re: ABA Reforms Disclosure of Employment Outcomes

Postby scammedhard » Sat Jun 11, 2011 8:52 pm

I think random auditing would be very helpful, and let's hope that these improved rules and regulations are actually enforced by the ABA.

Great news and thanks for the hard work.

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Justathought
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Re: ABA Reforms Disclosure of Employment Outcomes

Postby Justathought » Sat Jun 11, 2011 8:55 pm

A huge leap in the direction of true transparency. Future candidates should be able to make a much more informed decision.

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thesealocust
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Re: ABA Reforms Disclosure of Employment Outcomes

Postby thesealocust » Sat Jun 11, 2011 9:05 pm

You're a hero of the revolution dude, way to go!

MrAnon
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Re: ABA Reforms Disclosure of Employment Outcomes

Postby MrAnon » Sat Jun 11, 2011 9:32 pm

don't worry, they'll do whatever they can to ensure that students continue to enroll in T2, T3, and T4 schools at full price.

scammedhard
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Re: ABA Reforms Disclosure of Employment Outcomes

Postby scammedhard » Sat Jun 11, 2011 10:23 pm

Will the "state-specific salary information based on graduates reporting from all law schools" match the school-specific "Employer Type"?

So, if I am interested in Univ of Georgia (UGA), for example, and I see that UGA places most of its student in say firms of 6-10 attorneys, will I be able to go to the GA state data and see what newly-minted JDs that got jobs in GA are making at firms with 6-10 attorneys?

Also, I disagree with the notion that providing school-specific salary data provides “limited and perhaps confusing information” to applicants; without such info, how can each individual school be properly evaluated then? Going back to the Georgia example, how can one assess if UGA or Emory is better in terms of prospective salary? In states with few schools trying to infer the prospective salary might not be a huge problem, but in a state like CA, where there are a gazillion law schools, it would be almost impossible to draw any conclusions.

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jenesaislaw
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Re: ABA Reforms Disclosure of Employment Outcomes

Postby jenesaislaw » Sat Jun 11, 2011 11:08 pm

scammedhard wrote:Will the "state-specific salary information based on graduates reporting from all law schools" match the school-specific "Employer Type"?

So, if I am interested in Univ of Georgia (UGA), for example, and I see that UGA places most of its student in say firms of 6-10 attorneys, will I be able to go to the GA state data and see what newly-minted JDs that got jobs in GA are making at firms with 6-10 attorneys?


I'm not sure I follow the first question, but let me take a stab at answering it by showing the exact mechanics.

Say UGA places 30% of its graduates in firms of 2-10 attorneys. Also say that UGA grads most commonly go to Georgia, Florida, and Tennessee. The ABA will provide, alongside the UGA-specific page in the Official Guide, all-graduate, aggregated salary information for GA, FL, and TN. For each state, provided that there are enough data points (5) from all law school graduates working in each state in firms of 2-10 attorneys, you will see the 10th, 25th, 50th, 75th, 90th and average salary data for that category for each state.

scammedhard wrote:Also, I disagree with the notion that providing school-specific salary data provides “limited and perhaps confusing information” to applicants; without such info, how can each individual school be properly evaluated then? Going back to the Georgia example, how can one assess if UGA or Emory is better in terms of prospective salary? In states with few schools trying to infer the prospective salary might not be a huge problem, but in a state like CA, where there are a gazillion law schools, it would be almost impossible to draw any conclusions.


The argument is not necessarily that the aggregated data are better than school-specific data. The argument is that the school-specific data provides limited and confusing information because there are often insufficient data points. It is limited in the sense that if there are fewer than 5 data points in a category for a school, they should not report it (according to the 509 Subcommittee's proposal), and then there is no salary information about those graduates. The data disappears. With this solution, the data can still be used.

The goal, then, is to use the aggregated data to provide a better idea of what people in the area make at certain jobs. Opening up the dataset allows for more data and more statistical significance. This comes with a general assumption that salaries are not based on where the person went to school. This is not entirely warranted, especially in states where there are genuine regional differences in salary but not genuine differences in the types of employers. You'll see why we're going after more still with this in mind...

scammedhard
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Re: ABA Reforms Disclosure of Employment Outcomes

Postby scammedhard » Sun Jun 12, 2011 3:10 pm

And will law schools still be able to massage their employment data on their own websites and brochures? Will they be banned from representing employment data in any other way than in a manner consistent new guidelines dictate?

Overall, the new guidelines sound like a vast improvement, but we must remain vigilant because law schools in the past have been incredibly ingenious and creative with regards to misrepresenting career prospects.

Also, what if schools simply don't comply or are caught providing inaccurate data, will the ABA act? IMO, the biggest problem has been not the lack of adequate rules or regulations, but a useless ABA that refuses to do anything about any problem. I guess we'll have to see how these new guidelines turn out.

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Re: ABA Reforms Disclosure of Employment Outcomes

Postby BlueDiamond » Sun Jun 12, 2011 3:26 pm

I feel like this still only helps the people like those on TLS who actually go out and look for this information.. the other 90% of law students will still not have a very good idea of what they are actually getting into... yes, that is their own fault, but that we have institutions that are aware of that and exploiting it is the sad part in my eyes.. maybe I'm wrong and it will help

It is a lofty suggestion, but I'd honestly rather just see the first step be that the ABA will not allow any more accredidations for the time being.. then use this employment data to strip accredidation from schools that don't stack up to some pre-defined measure

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observationalist
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Re: ABA Reforms Disclosure of Employment Outcomes

Postby observationalist » Sun Jun 12, 2011 3:51 pm

scammedhard wrote:And will law schools still be able to massage their employment data on their own websites and brochures? Will they be banned from representing employment data in any other way than in a manner consistent new guidelines dictate?

Overall, the new guidelines sound like a vast improvement, but we must remain vigilant because law schools in the past have been incredibly ingenious and creative with regards to misrepresenting career prospects.

Also, what if schools simply don't comply or are caught providing inaccurate data, will the ABA act? IMO, the biggest problem has been not the lack of adequate rules or regulations, but a useless ABA that refuses to do anything about any problem. I guess we'll have to see how these new guidelines turn out.


Great points regarding law school advertising... those are the problems being addressed by the Standards Review Committee in their reforms.

There are basically two separate but interrelated activities we have been working to improve: 1) the reporting of data to groups like the ABA, NALP, and U.S. News, and 2) the presentation of employment data by law schools in their attempts to directly recruit prospectives. This weekend saw improvements in problem #1, but we're still working on how to limit misleading presentation of data. That will hopefully be coming soon, in the form of new standards proposed by the Standard Review Committee.

Our hope is that the new standards will give examples of prohibited behavior in the presentation of data, as well as contain a clear requirement listing what data must be presented in a fair and accurate manner (rather than the current standard, for which the 'fair and accurate' language only applies to very limited 'basic consumer information.') Once the new standards are on the books, it will be far easier for the ABA to investigate and enforce allegations against individual schools.

Of course, nothing is preventing people right now from filing an official complaint with the ABA Section of Legal Ed against a particular school. The problem is that nobody has bothered. There are basically two ways a law school can be investigated: either someone files a complaint which initiates a fact-finding and potentially full-out investigation, or a Site Evaluation Team reports an alleged violation of one or more standards during their site visits (which usually only happen once every five years). One can certainly argue that the ABA Section of Legal Ed hasn't been doing its job by delegating investigations to Site Evaluation Teams, but the fact remains that not a single complaint has been filed alleging violation of Standard 509, going back for at least five years. We fully encourage the filing of complaints where people believe their school has violated Standard 509, as it will help keep the regulators true to their mandate and can lead to an investigation, sanctions, and accreditation probation.

I should point out that we actually don't know whether or not Site Evaluation Teams have reported alleged violations, since the ABA considers them to be private reports. When contacted for information about the Standard 509 complaints, we were told that in general all investigations fall within the confidentiality exception to the release of information, even though the standards clearly give the ABA discretion in voluntarily releasing information. This is another issue which we are hoping to address down the road. While there is probably a need for some complaints (like those involving personnel disputes) to remain private, we see no reason why confidentiality should extend to legitimate consumer complaints about the services provided by a particular law school. Even when a complaint is eventually dismissed, it's still relevant for an applicant to know that previous students believed they were being defrauded. If nothing else it raises another red flag and suggests that some legal educators are just as prone to making ethical violations as some attorneys.

Either way this was a good week for the ABA Section of Legal Ed, and we're hopeful that they will continue approaching these issues from the viewpoint that prospective law students are consumers who have a right to know the truth about the employment outcomes of graduates.

scammedhard
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Re: ABA Reforms Disclosure of Employment Outcomes

Postby scammedhard » Sun Jun 12, 2011 4:27 pm

observationalist wrote:Of course, nothing is preventing people right now from filing an official complaint with the ABA Section of Legal Ed against a particular school. The problem is that nobody has bothered. There are basically two ways a law school can be investigated: either someone files a complaint which initiates a fact-finding and potentially full-out investigation, or a Site Evaluation Team reports an alleged violation of one or more standards during their site visits (which usually only happen once every five years). One can certainly argue that the ABA Section of Legal Ed hasn't been doing its job by delegating investigations to Site Evaluation Teams, but the fact remains that not a single complaint has been filed alleging violation of Standard 509, going back for at least five years. We fully encourage the filing of complaints where people believe their school has violated Standard 509, as it will help keep the regulators true to their mandate and can lead to an investigation, sanctions, and accreditation probation.

I am not surprised that nobody has bothered to file a complaint because:

1. It's really hard, if not impossible, for students to gather proof that misrepresentation of employment data has taken place.

2. Without any sort of whistle blower protections, no students will step forward to complain about their own schools because that is equivalent to shooting themselves in the foot. After all, these complaints can potentially bring down or shame their own institutions, where students have already invested a lot of money. I saw this happening during the Villanova ABA scandal. In TSL posts about it, the most ardent defender of Villanova were also the biggest potential losers: Villanova students.

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jenesaislaw
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Re: ABA Reforms Disclosure of Employment Outcomes

Postby jenesaislaw » Mon Jun 13, 2011 12:39 am

BlueDiamond wrote:I feel like this still only helps the people like those on TLS who actually go out and look for this information.. the other 90% of law students will still not have a very good idea of what they are actually getting into... yes, that is their own fault, but that we have institutions that are aware of that and exploiting it is the sad part in my eyes.. maybe I'm wrong and it will help.


I think this is a pretty big underestimation. Based on the traffic of Law School Numbers, somewhere north of 25-30% of prospectives used the site either with an account or just to browse. This indicates to me the desire and ability to use internet resources.

That said, the process goes beyond reforming the quality of information; it is also important to improve access and understanding of the information. And to go a step further, there needs to be market reconditioning to will cause prospectives to actually use the information they've accessed and understood. This is is a long, long process because very few people realize that the legal professional is a middle class profession.

Once the information is higher quality, however, prospectives go from somewhat blameworthy to very blameworthy.

BlueDiamond wrote:It is a lofty suggestion, but I'd honestly rather just see the first step be that the ABA will not allow any more accredidations for the time being.. then use this employment data to strip accredidation from schools that don't stack up to some pre-defined measure


What might this pre-defined measure look like? I will say that I do not agree on principle, but the actual substance of your suggestion is a worthwhile discussion to have notwithstanding my personal views on the practicality and rightness of using employment outcomes as a bar to accreditation.

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DaveBear07
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Re: ABA Reforms Disclosure of Employment Outcomes

Postby DaveBear07 » Mon Jun 13, 2011 1:13 am

Great stuff here guys. Way to repesent TLS!

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observationalist
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Re: ABA Reforms Disclosure of Employment Outcomes

Postby observationalist » Mon Jun 13, 2011 4:35 pm

scammedhard wrote:
observationalist wrote:Of course, nothing is preventing people right now from filing an official complaint with the ABA Section of Legal Ed against a particular school. The problem is that nobody has bothered. There are basically two ways a law school can be investigated: either someone files a complaint which initiates a fact-finding and potentially full-out investigation, or a Site Evaluation Team reports an alleged violation of one or more standards during their site visits (which usually only happen once every five years). One can certainly argue that the ABA Section of Legal Ed hasn't been doing its job by delegating investigations to Site Evaluation Teams, but the fact remains that not a single complaint has been filed alleging violation of Standard 509, going back for at least five years. We fully encourage the filing of complaints where people believe their school has violated Standard 509, as it will help keep the regulators true to their mandate and can lead to an investigation, sanctions, and accreditation probation.

I am not surprised that nobody has bothered to file a complaint because:

1. It's really hard, if not impossible, for students to gather proof that misrepresentation of employment data has taken place.

2. Without any sort of whistle blower protections, no students will step forward to complain about their own schools because that is equivalent to shooting themselves in the foot. After all, these complaints can potentially bring down or shame their own institutions, where students have already invested a lot of money. I saw this happening during the Villanova ABA scandal. In TSL posts about it, the most ardent defender of Villanova were also the biggest potential losers: Villanova students.


I think it's generally true that people think 1) and 2) are the case, but that could be changing as more people learn about how the ABA complaint process works. For starters, the name of the complainant is only released to the school, and confidentiality requirements would likely keep a complainant's identity private even if the school was eventually sanctioned. If the school's the only entity that finds out you filed a complaint, then it won't have a direct effect on your status in the profession. And I think there are plenty of graduates who wouldn't mind if their alma mater was placed on probation or eventually closed down... the same reasons motivating someone to complain would probably also want them seeing sanctions. Given that many graduates don't have a relationship with their alma mater to worry about damaging, I don't think it's necessarily a huge disincentive. If anything the fact that these complaints are investigated secretly (by an organization very few people trust) is the real reason for deterring people. Why bother complaining if you have no faith that it will actually be investigated?

As to your first point, I agree that it would be difficult to prove intentional misleading, but all you need to get started is evidence that the numbers don't add up. The school will then have to explain what it did and why it was justified under the rules. One graduate who is convinced they weren't counted correctly might not be enough, but five or ten graduates might. Say a school reports a 95% employment rate as of February 15th: all you need are 6% of the class willing to come forward and provide emails showing they had listed themselves as "unemployed and seeking." Since there is no easy explanation for how 6% of graduates could be unemployed but only 5% reported as such by the school, the ABA would initiate a fact-finding. This would then force the school to dig out its records and explain how it arrived at that figure. The larger the disparity between the percentages, the easier it will be for the ABA to buy the argument that the miscount was accidental, thus the greater likelihood of sanctions. (And contrary to the general opinion on the ABA, there are most definitely people at the ABA who would very much welcome a legitimate opportunity to investigate a law school).

Of course the complainants would need to be careful that they weren't actually lying when they said they were employed, since that could come back to bite them pretty hard. It's not enough to say they were unemployed if they actually had something lined up, no matter how crappy the job was. Schools can rely on other sources in determining a person's employment status, including colleagues, websites, and (I'm assuming) professional networking sites like Linked-In. So if someone said they were unemployed but the school had reason to believe otherwise, the school is probably acting within the guidelines. But I still think there are instances in the past where a group of graduates could have brought a complaint against their alma mater, and as time goes by and the legal market doesn't let them in I expect there will be more people willing to come forward.

At least, that's one reading of the procedures and where we currently stand in all of this. I'd welcome any thoughts to the contrary.




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