Sunday, May 5, 2013

Nine-Month Post-Grad Employment Rates Don't Tell the Whole Story

Recently, Above the Law decided to develop its own law school ranking system based on employment rates nine months after graduation.  For the list of top ten schools look here.  I especially like the first comment to that story.  This list clearly fails to recognize that most students will not have the GPA and LSAT scores to get admitted to the law schools Above the Law ranks at the top of its list.  Moreover, the list covers only the top 50 schools, leaving about 150 ABA-accredited schools out of the analysis.  See here.

My last post here discussed how the reported employment numbers could mislead a prospective student.  This new ranking system reflects only the last category of numbers I discussed:  full-time, long-term, bar-required employment within nine months after graduation.

I am not the only law school professor frustrated with the coverage these numbers get.  Brian Leiter of the University of Chicago has lodged his concerns here and refers to a post by Northwestern Dean Dan Rodriguez here explaining a broader perspective on the topic.  He discusses the other categories of employment that may matter to graduating law students, especially the J.D.-preferred category.

This past week Debra Cassens Weiss also reported data showing that employment rates nine months after graduation don't tell the whole story.  Her article appears here.  She describes the empirical research conducted by Prof. D. Benjamin Barros, Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development at Widener Law School.

His research shows that  80.4 percent of Widener's 2010 grads had jobs requiring bar passage, up from the nine month post-grad percentage of 47.5.  For the class of 2011, 74.1 percent of grads had jobs requiring bar passage, up from the nine month post-grad percentage of 46.8.

Barros says: "It is not reasonable . . . to treat the nine-month numbers as the final word on employment for a particular class of graduates."  Barros recognizes the role the bar exam may play in delaying job offers.  In addition, the bad economy likely makes job hunting more difficult.

He concludes: "[I]t is a mistake to be unduly fixated on initial job outcomes in evaluating any higher educational program."

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