Changes in the Law School Questionnaire

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The American Bar Association has taken new steps to reduce gamesmanship by law schools in reporting their job-placement data. In the upcoming edition of America's Best Graduate Schools, U.S. News will change the way it computes the percentage of law school graduates employed at graduation (and nine months after) as result of changes made by the ABA in its questionnaire.

All ABA-accredited law schools must fill out the annual ABA Questionnaire, in which they report on their enrollment, faculty, finances, financial aid, library, students, courses, placement, and admissions. U.S. News asks the law schools to report the same data as they report to the ABA. On this year's questionnaire (for the 2007-2008 year), when asking about the Feb. 15, 2007, job status of a law school's 2006 graduates, the ABA combined the three categories of unemployment it used previously into one category. The previous three categories were graduates who are unemployed and seeking work, graduates who are unemployed and studying for the bar full time, and graduates who are unemployed and not seeking work. Now, law school graduates will be listed as being employed, going to graduate school, or unemployed.

This change by the ABA will most likely make the placement data that law schools report more accurate and less subject to manipulation. Why? Law schools will have fewer choices to categorize the employment status of their graduates, making the reporting of these data less subject to manipulation or strategizing. As a result of this change in the ABA survey, U.S. News will no longer break these three groups out separately for the purpose of calculating the proportions employed at graduation and those employed nine months after graduation. U.S. News will now be able to count all three of these groups as unemployed. The good news is that this will result in placement rates that are more accurate for prospective law students and the public and therefore better rankings.