Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Law School Transparency Project prevails upon USNWR to change how law grad employment stats are reported.

Beginning with the 2011 rankings, USNWR will change the way it reports two significant law school grad employment stats - "employed at graduation" and "employed nine months after graduation."  The changes are the result of successful lobbying efforts by the Law School Transparency Project (which, as we reported the other day, will be meeting with the ABA on Monday to lobby for changes in the way the accrediting body collects and reports employment data).

Among the expected changes in how USNWR publishes data (there are presently no changes in the way USNWR will use the data to calculate rankings) are the following:

Summary of Suggestions:

Better Language: Changed “Graduates employed at graduation” to “Employed at graduation rate
Better Language: Changed “Graduates known to be employed nine months after graduation” to “Employed at nine months rate

This reflects the fact that the percentage does not actually reflect the graduates employed at graduation, but a rate calculated using a proprietary formula. The language must indicate to readers that the percentages that follow below are school-reported rather than U.S. News-derived.

New Section: “Class of 2008 Graduates – Class Breakdown at Nine Months” is a new section, which adds new fields and includes the entire “Areas of Legal Practice (Class of 2008)” section

This reflects that the percentages included are for the nine-month measurement period. The goal here is to show more realistic percentages, especially when the percentages of a category add up to 100% but do not reflect 100% of the class.

New Fields: This section includes 7 new fields:
     “Graduates whose employment status is unknown”
     “Graduates whose employment status is known”
     “Graduates known to be enrolled in a full-time degree program”
     “Graduates known to be unemployed and seeking work”
     “Graduates known to be unemployed and not seeking work”
     “Graduates known to be employed”
     “Percent employed in a judicial clerkship by an Article III federal judge”

The “Graduates whose employment status is unknown” and “Graduates whose employment status is known” fields, along with the “Graduates known to be employed” field, are the most important new additions. These figures are required for determining how much of the class is actually employed with certain types of employers, particularly those in private practice (law firms + business and industry). The private practice percentages are crucial for determining how many graduates schools used data for in calculating the salary information. These numbers would allow us to relax our assumptions in LST’s data clearinghouse.

The other fields round out the full picture of a school’s graduating class. While the underlying data are still missing, these nuances help draw attention to the complexity these apparently-simple percentages have.

Changing Location of the Salary Reporting Percentage:
     “Percent in the private sector who reported salary information”

One of the most glaring problems with how employment information is presented is the prevalence of the “median private sector salary” statistic, which is in reality only the median salary for the sometimes small percentage of graduates who actually reported salaries. This change puts the percent reporting salary up front, before people see the often exaggerated 25th, median and 75th salary statistics. While moving the location of the percent reporting is a small change, it could help combat the tendency of prospectives to look at the reported median salaries and assume they are actually the median, when in reality they are often significantly higher than the actual (but undisclosed) median salary.

You can read the rest here.

Hat tip to Brian Leiter's Law School Reports Blog.


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