Monday, April 3, 2006
U.S. News prints both the bar passage rate for each school in the jurisdiction where most graduates took the bar, as well as the 9-month employment rate, as self-reported by the school. The latter figure is, as noted before, a "work of the imagination," partly because of the loopholes in the reporting criteria that U.S. News employs (so, e.g., hiring unemployed grads as Research Assistants counts as "employment"; counting as "not seeking employment" any unemployed graduate who turns down an offer of a Research Assistantship by the school), and partly because U.S. News has no effective way to verify the reported data.
There is one public piece of data that might be thought a useful check on the self-reported employment figures, namely, the bar passage rate. It turns out, however, that almost all schools report a somewhat higher 9-month employment rate than their bar passage rate. Two obvious explanations for how this could legitimately be so are as follows: (1) at many large firms, associates who failed the bar will be able to remain employed while preparing to take the bar again; and (2) the very best students are more likely to have opportunities to work outside the immediate jurisdiction, meaning the pool of students who take the "local" bar are likely to be somewhat weaker than the overall pool of students seeking employment. (A third factor may be that the bar passage rates do include a small number of repeat test takers, folks who may not have been in the relevant employment pool.)
For most of the top law schools, the gap is modest between the precentage of all graduates reported as employed 9 months out and the percentage who passed the bar in the local jurisdiction: Harvard reports 3.6% more graduates employed 9 months out than passed the New York Bar; Chicago reports .8% more; Stanford, 7.1% more; Duke, 6.1% more; Texas, 6% more; Vanderbilt, 6.6% more. (It is striking how many of the top law schools now list New York as the bar exam that the largest number of its graduates take: not just Columbia, NYU, and Cornell, but also Harvard, Yale, Penn, Michigan, Duke, and Georgetown.) There are three exceptions among the top schools that stand out, all in California (which, of course, has the most difficult bar exam in the nation): Berkeley reports 15.1% more graduates employed after nine months than passed the bar in California; UCLA reports 13.7% more; and USC reports 18.5% more. The entire explanation in these cases may have to do with (2), above.
If we now look at the rest of the top 100 according to U.S. News, here are the schools with the largest gaps (20 points or higher) between employment rates after 9 months and bar passage rates in the primary jurisdiction in which graduates practice; in each case the figure, below, represents the additional number of graduates reported as employed compared to the bar passage figure:
University of Denver (32.8%)
Loyola Law School, Los Angeles (31.7%)
University of San Francico (29.5%)
McGeorge School of Law, University of the Pacific (27.6%)
Santa Clara University (26.6%)
Northwestern School of Law, Lewis & Clark College (25.6%)
Tulane University (24.8%)
Florida State University (21.9%)
Rutgers University, Newark (21.9%)
Seattle University (21.4%)
George Mason University (20%)
Seattle University, for example, reports 100% graduation after nine months, while only 79.6% of graduates pass the Washington Bar (the statewide average for Washington is 79%). Given U.S. News reporting instructions, it is possible that most of those failing the bar were not "seeking employment" and so were excluded from the calculations. Notice, of course, that California schools are also disproportionately represented among those with unusually large gaps.
Any thoughts on how to explain these kinds of discrepancies? No anonymous postings; comments may take awhile to appear, so post only once. Thanks.