ABA takes steps to update data

In response to recent commentary on the reporting of graduate placement data by law schools, the American Bar Association Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has issued a clarification on how it manages and collects such data.

To become accredited, law schools must comply with each of the Standards for Approval of Law Schools.

Standard 509 requires that law schools publish basic consumer information, including placement data.

According to the ABA, it relies on on law schools to provide fair and accurate information, which s published for use by prospective students.

Law schools that violate Standard 509 risk the loss of accreditation or other serious penalty, the organization added.

In light of the recent revelations of violations or possible violations of Standard 509 by two law schools, the ABA said the section chair has directed the Standards Review Committee to draft a new standard that provides for specific and severe penalties for the intentional misreporting of placement data, including possible monetary fines and loss of accreditation.

The committee is scheduled to take up the matter immediately.

In addition, according to the ABA, the Questionnaire Committee of the section is expanding its approach to the collection and publication of placement data to ensure that it is more accurate, timelier, more complete and specific.

Going forward, the ABA said, the section has determined that law schools will be required to report placement data directly to the section — rather than solely to the National Association of Law Placement.

That change, the ABA said, is aimed at increasing clarity, accuracy and accountability. Information will be required for each individual graduate as of nine months after graduation.

The section has announced plans to expand and refine the quality of placement data reported by law schools, an effort planned as follows:

• Beginning with 2010 graduates, schools will be asked to provide employment status, type, location, whether short or long term, and whether employment is funded by the school itself. The 2010 questionnaire reflects the changes, and the information will be reported on the section website and in the next ABA-LSAC Official Guide to Law Schools.

• Employment data regarding whether the employment requires a J.D. and/or bar passage, relates to other professions, and is full time or part time, will be required.

• The section is expediting the collection and reporting of placement data. Unlike in years past, employment data for each school will be published one year after graduation so that students entering in a given fall semester will have placement information for the class that graduated the previous year. The 2011 graduating class data will be reported in the summer of 2012, fully one year earlier than in previous years.

“There should be no doubt that the section is fully committed to the clarity and accuracy of law school placement data,” the ABA announced in a recent press release. “By vigorously enforcing the standard that requires fair and accurate reporting of consumer information — and by having law schools report more comprehensive, specific consumer information — we hope to ensure that students who choose to enter law school will be better informed about the prospects for employment than ever before.”
 

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