Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Law School Transparency: Discussions with Kyle

Earlier this week I pitched an idea to Kyle McEntee, the founder of Law School Transparency. For those of you that don't know, LST is a non-profit watchdog organization that was established with the hopes of getting the law schools to spill the truth on their employment statistics.  As Kimber covered in Shilling Me Softly, LST released the law schools' answers to their initial request for information.  Most of them, except for Ave Maria School of Law, declined citing reasons such as "compliance costs would be to great" or "privacy issues."  I admire what LST is doing, but I'm not surprised.  Even with the ABA's recent consideration of a proposal requiring that Law Schools provide accurate data to incoming students, the law schools are still resistant.
Well, back to my conversation with Kyle.  Here's was the idea that I pitched to him:

Why don't we go over the law schools' heads?  Why do we have to wait for them to comply with LST's requests?  With the scam bloggers' assistance, we can post a survey or a link to a survey on LST's website and ask the "people" what they are doing after grad school.  We can even open it up to graduates who, like me, are years out and now finding themselves living below the poverty level.  I realize that it would be nearly impossible to get 100% percent to report.  However, if we got 10 of 100 graduates from TTToilet school of law to answer the survey claiming that they are unemployed--that information would debunk the statistics of that same school which claim 95% employed 9 months after graduating.

Well, he had concerns.  One of the concerns he cited was verification.  For example, a spiteful law school grad could fill out the survey from several different ISPs claiming that he is unemployed to screw up the statistics for his school.  I, for one, would never lie on a survey like that.  I guess I feel like the truth is probably bad enough, why lie?  Plus, I really want to know the truth.  I'm curious.  But today, two comments on Hardknock's post earlier today made Kyle's concern very real to me:

EvrenSeven said...
It's a certainty that any student who participates in this program won't receive an employment survey from the school after 9 months, because they will already be considered "employed" and won't even have a chance to answer.
When I get mine, I'll be answering as "unemployed and searching" to make up for at least one person who hasn't responded to a survey in shame.
NOVEMBER 16, 2010 12:55 PM  
Anonymous said... 
Even though I was working, I made sure to put myself down as unemployed and searching when mine came.
NOVEMBER 16, 2010 2:41 PM  
Oops. I guess I don't understand the mindset of new grads.  His point came through loud and clear.

He had other concerns as well.  He doesn't want to discredit his organization by providing false statistics.  I guess the scam bloggers have been discredited.  I know that we're referred to as whiners, etc.  People want us to do something.  I think that my idea is the "something" that needs to be done.  I, unfortunately, have no idea how to go about doing it.
LST seems to have lots of faith in the ABA coming through with higher standards for law school.  Of course, I don't.  At the end of the day, I feel that the ABA (made up of Biglaw Partners) has an interest in keeping labor cheap.  I'm sure the organization would decrease tuition if it were in their power, so that the cheap labor wouldn't be so cash strapped.  If that is their real intent, then any proposal that would affect the number of law students that attend law school and slow down the flow of cheap labor as a result is not likely to be a priority of the ABA.  We differ on that point.
In any event, I'm fully behind LST in its efforts.  I hope that the ABA brings the hammer down on the law schools for defrauding students every year.  In the meantime, I feel the weight of 45,000 students on my shoulders every May and the pain that many of them must feel when their expectations are dashed.  I hope that I'm not considered a whiner.  My goal is to put the information out there for those that are open to it, and help steer some students correctly.  I know that everything we post is skewed by our opinions, but we're we aren't dishonest. We stand to gain nothing by telling people information we wish we knew before attending law school.  That is the God's honest truth.
So, what do you think of my idea?  Do you think its something I should approach LST with in the future (after the ABA doesn't deliver)?  If so, do you know how to do it?  Maybe we can talk.


  1. I don't think having anonymous grads posting their job placements will have much effect - statistics are easily dismissed. I think the scamblogs would be much more effective compiling a database of struggling lawyer/law student testimonials about their real employment outcomes. Studentloanjustice.org is a great example to use - a quick read through there testimonials can ruin anyone's day.

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  3. I'm just spitballin' here, I haven't been through law school yet.

    I know that, when you become a registered patent agent, you get a number and people can actually go online and see that you really are a registered patent agent.

    I don't know if it's like that for the BAR? If so, you could set up a secure client that has people enter their name and BAR admission number. The client would then simply scroll through the state BAR's database to confirm the info. Once confirmed, a person can answer questions such as:

    "How long out of law school?"

    "Are you working in a JD/BAR admission required position?"

    "What is your salary?"


    Someone who knows more about the BAR etc. than me, is this remotely feasible? The statistics should have a high degree of fidelity, I doubt attorneys are handing out the BAR registration numbers and full names to random people.

    You just need one piece of info that isn't public knowledge in addition to the BAR registration number. Additionally you need your client to be able to access those two bits of info. You might need to request special access to a database or something.

  4. I emailed LST because they had an Excel chart from Vanderbilt Law that listed "employment" and it had me listed as employed even though this was a temporary clerkship that paid $10/hr. I gave up on law after Vanderbilt and didn't waste my time or money on the Bar.Fortunately, I have a Masters in a non-legal profession that allows me to make close to or more than a Jr. Associate.

  5. I'm not sure about how to do the specifics technologically, but maybe they should have people provide some information, solely for authentication purposes. Doesn't even have to be your name. Something like 84% of Americans can be uniquely identified by their date of birth, gender, and zip code. Add to that law school and date of graduation and you can probably get even more granular than that.

    Anyway, regardless of what information they collect, they can use it to delete repeat entries, then delete any information that they want since really they're only interested in the aggregate number. Then when they publish their survey, they can explain how they collected the data and what steps they took to try and prevent repeat survey-takers.

  6. I'm Nov. 16 at 2:41. For the LST, I would tell the truth.

    Screw my law school. That $125,000 median starting salary in the private sector and 98% employment after 9 months figure HAS to go down.

  7. yeah, LST is a different entity than a survey from my law school. Not only would I tell the truth to a third party watchdog, I would give them the contact info of all of my classmates.

    Also, if one could get graduating class lists of any given year of any given school, I bet 85% of them have facebook accounts or even linkedin.

  8. I think it's a good idea. Law schools could be given a choice: Provide us with accurate, verifiable statistics or we will do the best we can with an internet survey. If a few bitter people make the law school look bad, it will give the school that much more incentive to participate.

  9. I agree with what's above. A 3rd-party consumer reports-type organization is far different from a biased institution.

    I routinely lie for fun to my undergraduate institution. They call me all the time for donations even though they have an endowment up the rear, I'm broke, and I've told them previously their calls are borderline harassment. (Education is the only industry where you buy a $120,000-$160,000 product and they ask you for more after you're dissatisfied with it).

    To a 3rd-party with an honest purpose (it's clear at this point schools don't have an honest purpose), I would be honest, as there's no incentive to treat them like dirt.

  10. It's very telling that this blog-post and its comments document lawyers and lawyers-in-training lying and manipulating the system for their own benefit.

    Is it any wonder that society thinks it's overlawyered and needs fewer, not more, lawyers?

    98% of the legal industry in the US is nothing more than people robbing other people without having to resort to a gun -- and everyone knows it.

    I have little sympathy for people eager to employ themselves toward that end getting the shaft from their own kind. Call it karma. You should have learned to do something productive, not destructive.

  11. In your survey you forgot underemployed, as in 'working as a legal secretary' or 'working as a paralegal' albeit in your field, but for almost no money.

  12. 1. Wow. Big Business lying to get more money. I have NEVER seen that. Really. If you drink that beer, you will get that beautiful woman. When you drive this car, your life will markedly improve. If you go to this college...ad infinitum. Get over it. As Bobby Knight once said when speaking about date rape, "If it's inevitable, you might as well lie back and enjoy it." Same goes here. You were fucked. Relax. Enjoy the afterbirth of said fucking. You thought you were smarter than that. I get it. You weren't.

    2. Why would they change? Are they making money? No reason to change. Good luck searching for a moral compass, that thing was broken many years ago...IF IT EVER EXISTED.

    3. For Christ's sake, stop talking. Just stop talking. The whole industry, STFU. Really. Now. Enough already. I saw your lips move. No more.

  13. Why not try some kind of middle route. For instance, start by contacting the 200 or so SBA presidents of all the accredited schools. Get them on board. Then, you could go one of two routes, either get SBAs to pressure compliance w LST, or have the SBA conduct it's own research and report their findings directly to LST. The second option should diffuse concerns about reliability.

  14. On September 15, the House Judiciary's Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law passed H.R. 5043, the Private Loan Bankruptcy Fairness Act of 2010. This is an important step forward for students and consumers, and we are hopeful that the bill will continue to move forward.

    Please urge your representatives in Congress to support these bills to provide fair treatment of borrowers with private student loans.

    CLick on the following link to fax petition-Fax one every day from now until the current sessin ends




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