The American Bar Association now requires law schools to be more upfront about how their graduates perform on the job market, but problems with misleading or incomplete employment data persist, according to a watchdog group.
The nonprofit Law School Transparency, formed in 2009 by two then-Vanderbilt law students, examined postgraduate employment data posted on the websites of all 199 ABA-accredited law schools. It concluded that close to half haven't met the expectations set by Standard 509, the ABA's tougher reporting requirements.
Law School Transparency stopped short of accusing those schools of violating the standard, saying it's not in a position to make that determination.
"There has been much ado about the improved accreditation standards, but the improvements are meaningless without compliance and enforcement," the organization wrote.
It claimed that the ABA has taken no enforcement measures beyond emailing law schools to remind them of the new reporting requirements.
Barry Currier, the ABA's interim consultant on legal education, disputed that assertion. The Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has had behind-the-scenes contact with law schools regarding compliance with Standard 509, and will continue to request information from schools that may not be meeting the requirements, he said.
"One cannot assume, by the absence of public information, that nothing is going on," Currier said. He noted that any ABA probe of a law school must remain confidential unless the school chooses to disclose it.
The ABA conducts full accreditation reviews every seven years, but questions about schools' compliance with its long list of standards can and have been addressed in the interim in some cases, Currier said.
Still, the ABA will examine Law School Transparency's report to see if it merits action, as it has done with other independent reports of potential Standard 509 compliance problems, he said. The ABA hopes to create a process by which it could review or audit the employment information provided by law schools.
"We've stepped up to the plate in terms of adding to the reporting requirements, and we are gearing up our enforcement efforts," Currier said.