As numerous law schools around the country are pressured into deflating unreliable career data, Penn Law School can rest easy.
Recently, the American Bar Association has come under fire for not providing enough oversight of career data reporting at law schools. Many law schools report a high number of graduates who found employment within nine months of graduating. However, this number may be misleading as it does not distinguish what percentage of those graduates found full-time employment compared to part-time.
Anger at this discrepancy has spurred two graduates from New York Law School and Thomas M. Cooley Law School to file lawsuits against their respective schools and has led to class-action suits against 15 other schools across the country.
Penn Law is already ahead of the curve, however. Their career services site has published figures on how many graduates have gone into law, how many are full-time and what the median salaries have been for graduates over the past three years.
While the class-action lawsuits are pending, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is pressing the ABA to force accredited law schools to release more reliable career and salary data. In a letter to ABA President William Robinson, she questioned why schools were not required to separate part-time and full-time jobs. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) has also been pushing the ABA on this issue.
The senators have said that the ABA has remained complacent about responding to their complaints, though according to Heather Frattone — associate dean for Career Planning and Professionalism at Penn Law — the ABA is already taking steps to improve career reporting at law schools. Frattone explained in an email that all accredited law schools are required to fill out a career data questionnaire. “This year’s ABA questionnaire reflected changes designed to improve the completeness and transparency of the data,” she wrote.
And as of their 2011 House of Delegates meeting held last month, the ABA will be urging all ABA-approved law schools to disclose “whether graduates have obtained full-time or part-time employment within the legal profession, whether in the private or public sector … or whether in alternative professions and whether such employment is permanent or temporary.” However, these guidelines are still not required.
First-year law student Luke Eldridge said that in today’s legal market it’s “tough to get a job.” The fact that Penn Law graduates tend to find jobs easily was one of the reasons he was drawn to Penn.
Second-year law student Tim Mullins agreed. “The goal is to come out marketable,” and to get the job I want, he said.
But in the end, career statistics are only part of what brought these two students to Penn. Eldridge believes that Penn’s peers are all pretty similar.
“What [school] felt like a better fit was most important in the end,” he said.
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