Thursday, October 21, 2010

The sh#t (maybe) gets real: ABA considers mandatory law grad salary transparency from schools

If a person dies from smoking in 2010, he won't get my sympathy.  That person took the risk despite (more than) adequate warnings.   Likewise, if a prospective law student knows the average salary new grads make as well as the amount of non-dischargeable debt likely to be incurred, I won't have a tear in my eye when I read your law school scam blog (of course what everyone wants is the perfect melding of expectations and reality - students who understand that being a lawyer means lots of hard work for (most often) low wages yet still matriculate out of a genuine passion for law practice).   

My beef is that many law students don't have realistic expectations about average starting salaries nor the financial consequences of assuming so much non-dischargeable debt and law schools aren't doing much to inform them either.  While the information is out there for anyone who wants to do a Google search, law schools aren't required to put a warning a label on the side of their buildings like other potentially hazardous products.  As a result, our grads may wind-up getting [financially] hurt big time. 

Bloggers like Elie Mystal of Above the Law have been arguing for years that law schools need to be more transparent on this issue.  Now Steve Zach, newly elected president of the ABA, is also calling for more transparency from law schools on the salary/debt issue.  According to the National Law Journal:

President Steve Zack told a gathering of law school deans and professors last week that the organization is considering requiring law schools to disclose cost and employment statistics to all accepted law school applicants. The effort, dubbed "Truth in Law School Education," is still in the planning phase, but Zack hopes the ABA's Young Lawyers Division will consider the proposal in February.

"A lot of attention has been focused on employment data, and our subcommittee will be proposing much more rigorous requirements," said David Yellen, dean of Loyola University Chicago School of Law and chairman of the standard 509 subcommittee. "The current standard is very general -- you could even call it vague. People have been comparing apples to oranges because schools report what they want."

For example, schools have to disclose to the ABA what percentage of their graduates are employed nine months after graduation. They don't have to disclose whether students have part-time jobs, full-time jobs, jobs paid for by their law school or jobs that don't require a J.D., Yellen said. Much of his information is already collected by the National Association for Law Placement, and should be required and disclosed by the ABA, he said.

. . . .

The Truth in Law School Education resolution could come sooner, said David Wolfe, the chairman of the ABA's Young Lawyers Division. Presuming it passes its first test before the young lawyers division, the House of Delegates would consider the resolution in August.

"It's still in the works, but it will link the requirement to disclose employment and cost information with accreditation," he said. "You would get that information with your letter of acceptance to a law school. We want people to go to law school with their eyes open."

You can read more from the National Law Journal article here.


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