On December 16th, I wrote a column for Above the Law on the ABA’s annual data dump. In it I highlighted nine schools that “reportedly” eliminated conditional scholarship programs. I used the quoted caveat in my column because I was skeptical that a few of these schools had actually eliminated the program.
One school I contacted was Arizona Summit. The school previously operated a very large conditional scholarship program and had a substantial percentage of students who lost these scholarships after the first year. It would have been a substantial budgetary hit to change the program at Arizona Summit in particular. However, the school’s 509 report indicated that it had. (more…)
Since 1974, the National Association for Law Placement has surveyed ABA-approved law school graduates with the help of roughly 200 schools and a nod from the ABA. NALP’s annual survey asks graduates to describe their jobs, their employers, how and when they obtained the positions, and their starting salaries. (More details here and here.)
NALP checks the data for discrepancies and produces statistical reports of post-graduation employment outcomes for each law school. NALP must keep these “NALP reports” confidential, but individual schools may publish their reports.
Before the law school transparency movement, law schools did not publish NALP reports online for prospective students and others to see. Instead, these detailed, immensely useful reports occupied dusty filing cabinets. I recall when my organization first requested these reports from law schools, several career services deans told me they did not know where they were.
Though publishing a NALP report carries zero cost, skeptics doubted we’d succeed: “However worthy the effort, I doubt that this group will have much success ….” We obtained just 34 NALP reports from the initial request, but that number grew to 54 reports just a few months later after a handful of LST initiatives.
For the class of 2011, 68 schools published a NALP report until our annual Transparency Index, which grew the number of participating schools to 85. Prospective students and interested readers were even more fortunate for the class of 2012. To date, 108 schools—that’s 55% of possible schools—made their NALP reports public.
If you’re interested in viewing the data we gathered from these NALP reports, please head over to the LST Score Reports. We indicate on school profiles whether a school has decided to withhold information from the public. You can also view a list of the schools publishing NALP reports for the classes of 2010, 2011, and 2012 in our NALP Report Database. Note that we now have access to 60 2010 reports, 94 2011 reports, and 108 2012 reports.
Law schools deserve a lot of credit for increasingly living up to proclamations in favor of transparency. So too do prospective students, current students, and alumni for demanding information. We accomplished actual transparency without formal legal requests, though we also believe it’s time that the non-participating schools subject to open record laws be ushered into the era of transparency.
Law school opacity harms not only the reputation of the schools who do not participate, but of the legal education system at large. Law schools are tasked with training the legal professionals of the future. They hold students to honor codes, require them to attend a class on professional responsibility and ethics, and send them into a profession where they must uphold the values of that profession on a daily basis. However, when it comes to their own conduct, too many schools take a position that the minimal level of integrity required to maintain ABA accreditation is good enough. Our hope is that schools who value their academic and social leadership roles will go beyond the bare minimum—and do so without sticks and carrots from LST.
Next week, the ABA will publish much of the class of 2013 employment data it collected from law schools in accordance with recently-refined accreditation requirements. Many law schools are already publishing information above and beyond the ABA requirements, and we hope these schools continue this positive practice later this summer when they receive their class of 2013 reports from NALP.
If your school does not yet publish what it has at its fingertips, ask why and explain how inaction is unprincipled, prevents informed decision-making by applicants, and harms the school and profession’s reputation. Our profession needs affordable, transparent, and fair entry. It starts with something as simple as law schools doing the obvious.
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