Law School Transparency (LST) has done an invaluable job of drawing attention to law school employment data and encouraging prospective law students to make more informed decisions. Reporters covering LST should take care not to amplify its criticisms of American Bar Association data by perpetuating misrepresentations by amplifying LST criticisms of it.
LST uses American Bankers Association data to estimate student loan and tuition costs that are neither accurate nor publicly available, leading to errors in its estimates of attendance costs.
An expensive legal education is an investment with significant returns, with tuition increasing far above inflation for decades and students borrowing large sums of money to attend law school. This has contributed to a speculative market that may prove unsustainable over time and may contribute to decreased demand for legal degrees. Law school transparency advocates have worked tirelessly to highlight this problem, leading to significant positive changes over time.
One significant change for prospective law school students is that law schools now must publish cost of attendance data on their websites, enabling prospective students to make more informed decisions when considering whether or not to attend law school while also helping them compare costs among schools. Furthermore, the American Bar Association recently revised its accreditation standards, so schools must provide this information more promptly.
Law schools are now required to report job outcome statistics, giving prospective students access to comparative job rates at various schools and gaining insight into what jobs their graduates find after graduating. This has reframed conversations around law degrees while forcing some schools to make misleading employment rate claims.
Law schools must also disclose information on scholarship and loan programs, enabling prospective students and their families to make more informed decisions when considering law school, thus helping them avoid unnecessary debt and pursue career-oriented paths if they do not wish to become lawyers.
Even with these successes, many challenges remain. For instance, the U.S. News rankings still place too much weight on prestige, selectivity, and faculty resources as competing schools spend more money to increase them and try for higher spots. This approach is fundamentally flawed and should be replaced with more holistic measures of school quality evaluation. Other initiatives have also taken shape; LawHub provides LSAT prep materials, application process tutorials, and other resources for law school applicants and law students.
Decision-making decisions about law school and its cost, career prospects, and salary expectations must be considered. Your future salary should cover your expenses and pay back any debt accumulated.
Many free or inexpensive resources now provide prospective students with invaluable information, including LSAC’s LawHub, AccessLex Institute, Educating Tomorrow’s Lawyers, and Above the Law. These websites collect data from law schools and make it publicly available; additionally, they use standard methodologies and quality control procedures to ensure accuracy.
Accessing high-quality information helps prospective legal education students better comprehend the actual cost of legal education and make more informed career choices. Furthermore, providing this type of data holds law schools accountable for enrollment and price growth as well as reduces unnecessary U.S. News jockeying while stimulating curriculum innovation.
While employment rates for law school graduates continue to improve, overall labor markets remain challenging and entry-level salaries have stagnated for 30 years – leading many graduates to find it increasingly difficult to repay their student loans quickly. This decline has decreased the long-term value of law degrees, with many graduates experiencing difficulty repaying them.
The American Bar Association is taking steps to remedy this situation, agreeing to collect, report and audit granular employment data on law school graduates, using that data in online tools designed for prospective students, as well as making it more straightforward for law schools to provide this data directly to both their students and employers.
However, the American Bar Association is still trying to address inflated job and salary statistics within its rankings system. While this may be progress, it alone cannot overcome powerful incentives that drive law school enrollment and pricing behavior.
Kyle McEntee founded Law School Transparency, a non-profit promoting transparency in legal education. Together with his team, they work to hold other stakeholders accountable, make information easy to digest, and advocate for policies that make legal education more cost-effective and equitable.
Law school applicants need a clear sense of their chances of finding employment after graduating, which can be challenging. That is why Kyle McEntee and Patrick Lynch founded Law School Transparency; through this organization, they pushed the American Bar Association (ABA) to collect more detailed employment figures on graduates and police their accuracy; thanks to this group’s work the ABA now makes this information publicly available on its new website called LawHub.
LawHub’s transparency initiatives have profoundly positively affected law school culture and operations such as admissions, career development, and prelaw advising functions. For example, participating law schools must now publish timely consumer information like employment rate and salary figures of past graduates – this makes these figures much more accessible to prospective students, journalists, and others than when ABA Standard 509 allowed schools to publish incomplete or misleading employment statistics.
Transparency initiatives have made it more difficult for law schools to inflate enrollment numbers artificially. Law School Transparency has forced schools to pay more attention to the quality of students they admit and the employment opportunities available after graduation rather than simply adding seats available – leading many observers to speculate that demand for legal school education has reached its zenith.
Preliminarily, prospective law school students require access to accurate data regarding graduation rates, employment prospects, and bar passage rates of past graduates. The ABA requires law schools to report these statistics for inclusion in its rankings; unfortunately, its methodology is flawed in several ways as the orders fail to account for jobs that do not require law degrees while giving credit schools for positions few law grads pursue.
Predictably, this more extensive and more diverse class of law school graduates is expected to enter a more challenging legal market than previous graduates, which will be reflected in national employment rate figures published by the ABA. Therefore, Law schools will face increased pressure to help their graduates find jobs quickly, making tuition increases harder to justify in future years.
Are You Applying or Attending Law School? It is crucial that all prospective law school applicants or attendees understand the financial implications. Aside from tuition costs, law students also incur living expenses like food and housing; most schools offer limited scholarships to assist with these costs. Federal regulations mandate law schools submit a total cost of attendance budget each year, which determines student loan borrowing limits; typically, these budgets tend to be quite conservative – New England Law School sets an estimated budget of $40k, allowing room for various borrowing amounts from student loans.
Law school budgets are critical but shouldn’t be seen as the final word on funding sources; federal and state grants, scholarships, private loans, and work-study jobs may also provide funding options. To improve your chances of receiving assistance and scholarship money from these sources, file the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) as soon as possible each year to maximize your chances of receiving grant/scholarship money.
Financially speaking, your legal career choice after graduation can also affect your finances. Certain fields offer higher pay than others, directly translating to increased earnings.
Law School Transparency (LST) is a consumer advocacy and education organization founded in 2009 that strives to hold law schools accountable, make legal profession entry more transparent and affordable, and pursue policies to support those goals. We serve as the largest source of information about admissions decisions and employment outcomes from law school admissions processes and recruitment outcomes.
One of the early goals of the organization was to enhance data on law graduate employment compiled and collected by the American Bar Association. Together with other advocates, it pushed for more specific data regarding job placement to become available to the public.
The LST website features podcasts and resources applicable to prospective students, such as podcasts. Following its acquisition by LSAC, LST will continue providing valuable resources through LawHub, which offers LSAT prep materials and tutorials on the application process; other tools will include AI-powered legal analytics, workflow tools, and premium legal & business news services.