Law Schools More Transparent Than Ever

January 19th, 2016 / By

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.

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 get any schools to disclose: “However worthy the effort, I doubt that this group will have much success.” In late 2011 we asked every law school to publish their NALP report for 2010 graduates. 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 initiatives.

Today, a majority of law schools publish their NALP report.

You can view a full list of participating schools over the last five years, along with their reports, here. From year to year, there’s relative consistency. Often a school will decide to publish for the first time and publish previous reports too. Other times a school will either forget to publish the report, despite several reminders from LST, or decide its interests are best served by withholding important information from consumers.

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 there’s nothing wrong with ushering non-participating schools subject to open record laws into the era of transparency through formal legal requests.

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.

What exactly is in the NALP report?

Salary Data. Employed graduates can be described in many different ways. Employer type, job type, location, and sector are several examples. The report includes salary information (interquartile range, median, and average) for these traunches and more.

Job Source. Categorizes employed graduates by how each graduate first made the contact that resulted in his or her obtaining the job. Some students enter law school expecting career services to hand them a job, while many others think the jobs will come through OCI. Even before the economy crashed, many graduates found their jobs without the direct help of career services, either through connections or other self-initiated contact.

Job Offer Timing. Categorizes employed graduates by when each graduate received the offer for the job held as of March following graduation. The options are before graduation, between graduation and bar results, after bar results, and unknown.

Job Status. Categorizes employed graduates by whether each graduate continues to look for a new job, despite already being employed. The options are seeking, not seeking, and unknown.

Job Region and Job States. Categorizes employed graduates by the state in which they obtained employment.

Job Type Breakdowns by Employer Type. Categorizes employed graduates first by employer type and then by the type of job. For instance, the report includes what percentage of graduates employed by law firms as associates, staff attorneys, paralegals, or administrators.

The standard NALP report format allows students to compare these metrics across schools without hassle or disadvantage stemming from differences in terminology and presentation on school websites.


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