There have been many voices of late encouraging law schools to publish much more in-depth and accurate employment data as well as other consumer information on merit scholarships and details on salaries earned by each school's graduates. The American Bar Association's Section of Legal Education, which has oversight of law schools in this area, is meeting June 11 to discuss this issue and to look at recommended changes. This proposal contains many ideas that, if approved, would result in big improvements in the granularity of employment data available to the public and U.S. News, but it's unclear if it will take all the necessary steps to ensure data integrity.
Among those weighing in on this issue is Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who has written two letters to the ABA to insist that it take steps to improve the accuracy and transparency of the information that schools must provide to prospective students. She also urges the ABA to strengthen its oversight of admissions and post-graduation information reported by law schools and to improve access to information for law students across the country.
Her latest letter, dated May 20, also made a key point about the need for independent oversight, which seems to be lacking in the current proposal. She wrote:
It is troubling that the recommendations do not address the need for independent oversight of the data law school deans submit to the ABA and publications like U.S. News and World Report. The Section's recommendations would allow law schools to continue to submit unaudited data, despite the fact that a lack of oversight has been identified by many observers as a major problem.
The editor of U.S. News and World Report wrote a letter to all law school deans, noting a 'crisis of confidence in the law school sector' and asked deans to be more vigilant in their data reporting. This letter and the recent news that a well-known law school admitted to knowingly reporting inaccurate data to the ABA for years indicates that independent oversight must surely be a part of any reform proposal."
U.S. News Editor Brian Kelly's letter in early March says, among other things, that:
• "I write with some reluctance because it is not our role at U.S.News & World Report to be any sort of regulatory body over law schools or anyone else. We are a journalism company that gathers and analyzes information useful to our readers."
• "The main responsibility to gather data and implement quality standards lies with the ABA, which also accredits law schools. For whatever reason, it appears that some schools do not treat the ABA reporting rules with the seriousness one would assume. We understand that the ABA is working toward the creation of tighter, more meaningful standards, which seem promising."
• "Whatever the ABA's ultimate decision, we would urge you to make sure that the information your school is reporting is as accurate as possible, and to consider going beyond the current industry standards."
The ABA has an opportunity to greatly improve the independent oversight, accuracy, credibility, and transparency of the data law schools have to make available to the public.
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