Reforms proposed to law school data reporting

The Council of the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar unanimously has voted to propose changes to Accreditation Standard 509.

Standard 509 addresses the content, quality and dissemination of consumer information published by law schools and imposes stronger sanctions for non-compliance.

The proposed changes, approved at a recent council, require law schools to publish more detailed data on their websites in a more prompt manner than previously mandated.

The revised standard will now be published for notice and comment, and a public hearing on it will be held, before final consideration and adoption by the council and concurrence by the ABA House of Delegates later this summer.

Specific changes to Standard 509, when finally adopted, will require that graduate employment data — including employment status; employment type; whether employment is full- or part-time, long or short term; whether employment is funded by the law school or university; and employment location — be displayed in a uniform chart provided by the council and in accordance with instructions and definitions that the council approves.

The data must be gathered and published on each law school’s website by March 31 of each year for the last graduating class and must remain posted for at least three years.

If the changes are finally adopted, prospective and current law students will have access to information about the most current graduating class in less than one year.

Additionally, conditional merit scholarship retention data must also be published on a law school’s website in the form designated by the council, and must also be distributed to all applicants being offered conditional scholarships at the time the scholarship offer is extended.

“These changes are designed to ensure that all law schools are reporting data in a uniform way that allows current and prospective law students an easy means of comparing law schools,” said New England Law/Boston Dean John O’Brien, chair of the section.

“Accurate, detailed and transparent data is important consumer information,” O’Brien said, “and the council is committed to ensuring that law schools collect and publish it.”

The council specifically declined to require the collection and publication of salary data because fewer than 45 percent of law graduates contacted by their law schools report their salaries.
The council said it felt strongly that the current collection of such data is unreliable and produces distorted information.

Pursuant to the revised Standard 509, if adopted in its current form, schools may voluntarily choose to report salary data, but must now specify the number of respondents and the percentage of graduates the data represents.

Changes were also made to Rule 16, which would impose additional sanctions for providing incomplete, inaccurate or misleading consumer information in violation of Standard 509.
The proposed sanctions may include, among others, significant monetary penalties, public censure and even the loss of accreditation.

Additionally, enhanced sanctions of probation and removal from the list of approved law schools may be imposed even when a school is in compliance with the standards at the time sanctions are imposed.

As required by the Department of Education, Revised Standard 509 and Rule 16 are now open for public comment on the section’s website.

Following a public hearing this summer, both the Revised Standard 509 and Rule 16, will become final upon adoption by the council and concurrence by the ABA House of Delegates.

The Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and its Accreditation Committee are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the only federal
accreditors for programs leading to the first degree in law.
 

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