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Tuesday, April 27, 2010



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I've always been a bit puzzled about the distrust people have for law school employment numbers that are "inflated" by the practice of hiring new grads to work at the law school or to provide them stipends to work in a practice setting with a third party. So, I understand the concern is that people are gaming the system. Duke gets 100% employment numbers only if you count these numbers. However, with all the perverse incentives created by US News rankings, isn't this the one thing we should celebrate? As between two law schools, one that has a guarantee of immediate post-graduation employment and one that doesn't, wouldn't you think it is a good consumer protection practice to have the guarantee? Even if it's temporary, it sure is better than nothing and it often leads to post-stipend employment, either at the placement or because of the skills received at the "post-doc." In gov't jobs where they often can't hire you until you pass the bar, it is an essential program. Moreover, even if it's completely make-work employment at the law school, it is still effectively a post-graduation tuition discount for those people unable to get a job right away. It seems like people who oppose this practice are rankings obsessed, but aren't associated with the schools that have the financial resources to offer the same benefit and therefore are more concerned with the relative rankings hit. Having financial resources that are spent directly on students sounds like it should be a distinction with a difference to a prospective student.

Now, none of this precludes being more transparent about the practice and about the percentage of the class who receives the post-grad stipends. The priority should be to be at a school where you get a permanent job right off the bat. However, anything that makes it less attractive for law schools to offer such post-grad programs for students who don't have such jobs seems perverse.

By the way, I think the other restriction to JD required or preferred jobs seems odd too. So, top schools send people to McKinsey Consulting and that should be lumped in with the schools that send people to Starbucks? Perhaps the "desirable" modifier covers this, but who decides whether the JD is desirable? Furthermore, most JD students don't report their information in a way that makes this easy to know. They were hired and they assume the JD gave them a leg up, but it's hard to know that for sure.

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