Keeping an Eye on the Upcoming ABA Law School Survey

U.S. News awaits word on how the ABA will finalize new reporting rules for employment data.

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As we reported in last month's post, U.S. News May Change Its Law School Ranking Methodology, an American Bar Association (ABA) committee approved new standards to be used by law schools to report post-J.D. employment and job placement data. We will know exactly how these new standards will be implemented officially when the ABA posts the instructions for its 2011 ABA Questionnaire, the annual accreditation survey that each law school is required to fill out, within in the next few weeks.

The ABA's goal is to have the new employment questions ready for law schools to complete in early August 2011. At that time, the standards that were passed in June 2011 will be translated into actual questions that each law school must answer and submit to the ABA for their 2010 graduating J.D. class. 

U.S. News will also collect this same data in fall 2011 and early 2012. We have indicated that there is a strong likelihood we will use this new, detailed jobs data to change the methodology used to calculate the 2013 edition of the Best Law Schools rankings, to be published in 2012. Until U.S. News finishes collecting the new data, we are unable to specify how the methodology will change.

The pressure had been building on law schools from a variety of individuals, organizations, and California Senator Barbara Boxer to do something significant about the integrity and quantity of the law school placement data (see our previous post, U.S. News Again Urges ABA to Improve Jobs Data). One of the more recent attempts to discuss the potential problems law schools face is from a paper written by the University of California—Davis School of Law's Joel Murray, titled " Professional Dishonesty: Do U.S. Law Schools That Report False or Misleading Employment Statistics Violate Consumer Protection Laws?"

This paper joins a rapidly expanding body of literature that relate to the law school rankings and examine the impact of the rankings on law schools, the legal profession, prospective students and their parents, and society in general. Murray's paper analyzes the potential for using the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act) against ABA accredited law schools. The paper contends:

In recent years, evidence has emerged indicating that many law schools are misreporting or falsifying employment statistics in marketing materials and to the U.S.News and World Report's law school rankings, the preeminent rankings for United States (U.S.) law schools. The reporting of false or misleading employment statistics to prospective students may violate provisions of the FTC Act that prohibit deceptive practices and false advertising. This paper reviews evidence that U.S. law schools are misreporting employment statistics, examines how the FTC Act applies to U.S. law schools, and argues that U.S. law schools that misreport or falsify employment statistics violate multiple provisions of the FTC Act." 

U.S. News hopes that when the new law school reporting standards for J.D. jobs data are fully implemented, it will result in improved credibility and increased transparency of this important consumer information.

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