NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Law Schools Fight Bar Association over How Graduates' Jobs Are Counted

August 4, 2015

Some law schools have been paying to place graduates at nonprofit and government organizations until they find permanent jobs. The positions help improve schools' standings in the job-placement metrics that figure heavily in a widely watched national ranking, but they may not be as meaningful to students hoping to put their degrees to work.

Now, the American Bar Association\'s accrediting arm is further tightening the rules on how such jobs are counted. After telling schools this spring they will have to report the fellowships separately from positions found on the open market, it is going further by proposing that these jobs not fully count unless they are expected to last a year and pay an annual salary of at least $40,000.  Otherwise, they get tallied in a short-term category.

Sara Randazzo writes that the dispute highlights the growing tension between schools, their students and accreditation authorities amid a sharp decline in legal employment:

  • The employment rate is down to 86.7% for class of 2014 graduates, compared with almost 92% for the class of 2007.
  • School-funded positions accounted for 3.2% of all full-time, long-term legal jobs for the class of 2014, the ABA said, up from 2.9% the previous year. 
  • Among the class of 2014 graduates, the ABA reports that nearly 60% found full-time, long-term employment requiring a law license.

The tension over how to define school-funded jobs highlights the tremendous stress on legal education right now, said James Leipold, executive director at NALP. "It\'s the survival of the fittest, it\'s a bloody arena," he said. "Law schools are battling for a diminishing number of students."

Source: Sara Randazzo, "Law Schools Fight Bar Association Over How Graduates' Jobs Are Counted," Wall Street Journal, July 30, 2015.


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