Messing with the data, law school edition

One important outcome measure for law schools is employment of their graduates, especially jobs for which bar passage is required and are long-term, full-time jobs (BPRFTLT). If a law school can boost that number, it will appear to be better than its rivals. A job is “long-term” if it is expected to last at least a year. Can you guess what many law schools have done? Hired dozens of their grads for a little more than a year:

 Funded BPRFTLT2012 / 20132012 % of Employed BPRFTLT2013 % of Employed BPRFTLT
GEORGE WASHINGTON119 / 8825.5%20.7%
WILLIAM AND MARY35 / 4323.3%25.9%
UMASS DARTMOUTH3 / 323.1%10.3%
VIRGINIA54 / 5815.7%16.7%
NYU58 / 4213.2%8.3%
GEORGETOWN41 / 738.9%13.5%
EMORY17 / 648.7%26.0%
COLUMBIA38 / 298.7%7.0%
CHICAGO17 / 138.3%6.5%
YALE11 / 96.0%5.6%
ILLINOIS7 / 205.3%11.9%
MINNESOTA7 / 54.5%2.6%
HARVARD16 / 113.1%2.2%
UCLA7 / 252.9%9.6%
PENN7 / 132.7%5.5%
STANFORD4 / 52.4%2.9%

(First column is the law school; second is the number of law-school funded jobs that the law school described as bar passage required, full-time, long-term (BPRFTLT) to the ABA for the classes of 2012 and 2013; third and fourth columns are the % of BPRFTLT jobs funded by the school for the classes of 2012 and 2013, respectively. The chart includes all schools in the ABA data set who reported more than 2% BPRLTFT funded jobs for the class of 2012. Schools are ordered descending by column 3.  The class of 2013 data was released by the ABA this week.)

Some comments:

1. Most of this activity is by relatively wealthy law schools, who can afford to pay people to hire their grads.

2. Some of these jobs are surely excellent opportunities for public interest groups to obtain free interns/lawyers of the highest caliber and for students to gain interesting experience, but that does not explain the recent dramatic expansion.

3. In 2012, GW and William & Mary led the pack by significant margins. Other highly-ranked schools with large percentages of school-funded BPRFTLT positions include Virginia and NYU (UMass is a special case, with small numbers).

4. This is a game with repeat players. In 2013, several other schools joined the fray, significantly increasing their funded jobs, most notably Emory, Georgetown, Illinois and UCLA.  Schools who don’t play this game more aggressively each year are punished in their USNews ranking.

5. The pace is accelerating. In 2012, only 17 schools funded 2% or more of the jobs. For 2013, 41 schools hit that mark (data not shown here). But the competitive gains under USNews go to the schools who do it more than their peers.

6. Is this a form of post-graduation tuition rebate? If so, unlike most law school financial aid, these funds may well be allocated based on need, not merit.

7. Are law schools feeding optimism bias (again)?

A prediction: If USNews stopped counting these jobs in the “best” category, 90% would disappear.


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