Revisiting Issue of Reporting on Law School-Funded Jobs

Sep 12, 2017 at 12:00am ET By Joanna Hughes

The American Bar Association’s Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar is currently evaluating recent revisions to the ABA law school employment questionnaire. Up for debate? Whether law-school funded jobs should be identified as “school funded” in the Employment Summary Report. Here’s a closer look at the subject, as reported on by the ABA Journal.

Understanding the Controversy

Formerly, school-funded jobs -- often comprising public interest and/or government work -- were identified as such in annual employment summaries. However, under revisions which went into effect in 2015, graduates holding “jobs funded by law schools that are full-time, long-term, require bar passage and pay more than $40,000 annually” are now excluded in the totals.

Seen as a “simplification” of the process by some, others suggest that the revisions are a move away from a trend toward greater transparency in employment data for law school grads. Explained council member Paul Mahoney of the revisions, “In short, we applied a curse that is more misleading than the original disease. Recall that we began down this path because a number of commentators were concerned that some law schools were actively deceiving prospective students by hiring unemployed graduates to perform menial tasks and counting them as employed. But over time our concern has become an obsession.”

Others, including law school administrator Susan J. Curry, counter Mahoney’s claim. Said Curry, “These are not just throwaway jobs. These are student-designed, market-based positions...There seem to be people who think there’s a transparency issue with the new employment standard reporting. I don’t get that at all. It’s not as though the law students aren’t realizing that the law school funds fellowships. We aren’t hiding that, we’re celebrating it.”

The Larger Issue

According to some stakeholders, meanwhile, the debate is as much about the process through which the revisions were made as about the topic itself.  Asserted Law School Transparency executive director Kyle McEntee in Above the Law, “There is nothing positive to say about the process by which the council adopted the proposal. Trust in law schools and the ABA have not been restored. Substantially changing the available consumer information without any input makes restoring that trust even more challenging.”

 

Joanna worked in higher education administration for many years at a leading research institution before becoming a full-time freelance writer. She lives in the beautiful White Mountains region of New Hampshire with her family.

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