Monday, July 16, 2007
On this year's questionnaire (for the 2007-2008 year), when asking about the Feb. 15, 2007, job status of a law school's 2006 graduates, the ABA combined the three categories of unemployment it used previously into one category. The previous three categories were graduates who are unemployed and seeking work, graduates who are unemployed and studying for the bar full time, and graduates who are unemployed and not seeking work. Now, law school graduates will be listed as being employed, going to graduate school, or unemployed.
This change by the ABA will most likely make the placement data that law schools report more accurate and less subject to manipulation. Why? Law schools will have fewer choices to categorize the employment status of their graduates, making the reporting of these data less subject to manipulation or strategizing. As a result of this change in the ABA survey, U.S. News will no longer break these three groups out separately for the purpose of calculating the proportions employed at graduation and those employed nine months after graduation. U.S. News will now be able to count all three of these groups as unemployed.
On the theory that law schools are far more likely to tell the truth to the ABA, than to U.S. News, this will likely result in somewhat more accurate job placement data being reported. Under the old system, "unemployed and not seeking work" was the fudge category, where schools would dump unemployed grads on the flimsiest of pretenses (e.g., he didn't return a call from the Career Services Office; she was offered an RA job, and turned it down) in order to exclude them from the data. For school's whose actual employment rates are not that good, there is likely to be more pressure to hire unemployed grads as RAs or in other temporary positions...or perhaps to enroll them in non-tuition-charging LLM programs at the school, so that they count as "going to graduate school"! Or perhaps schools shall simply start pushing the envelope with the ABA, which may require the ABA to be ready to use its accreditation stick to insure truth in reporting. We shall see....