Law students are consumers of legal education, which students hope will enable them to get jobs. The economic bust has focused attention on law schools that, their critics' claim, exaggerate the employment rates and salaries of their recent graduates. Bill Chamberlain of Northwestern Law School has written this piece calling for greater law school transparency regarding the labor market. Here's an excerpt:
Critics suggest that law schools are luring unsuspecting would-be students with false promises of a six-figure job and that, instead of acting as a guarantor of the students' future financial success, we are abandoning them loaded with debt while we gleefully run to the bank with their tuition dollars. At the core of these assertions lies the issue of transparency and the way law schools report their graduates' employment results. Like the first wave of criticism which targeted the [law] firms, the discussion over transparency contains equal amounts of cold hard fact and sensationalism. Law schools should not sugarcoat the fact that there are way too many newly-minted attorneys hitting a much-reduced job market. For example, when advertising their graduates' starting salaries, law schools should go beyond just the reporting of average salaries. They should provide more robust salary distributions and include the percentage of students who responded when reporting these figures. After all, it is the students who are making the most money and enjoying the most success who tend to be the most inclined to provide the information in the first place. Law schools also need to produce more detailed statistics about how many of their students are working in full-time legal jobs and how many are working in part-time or temporary legal and non-legal jobs, even if the ABA and US News don't require it. * * * Economic pressures may result in the closure of some law schools and more transparent reporting on our websites (particularly if the ABA begins to require it). The reality is that there probably are too many law schools and too many students in many of our law schools. As a result, we are churning out many more graduates than today's and, most likely, tomorrow's compressed market can absorb.