ABA council adopts changes in collection of law school data

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The Council of the American Bar Association Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar has approved changes in the collection and publication of graduate placement data provided by law schools. The changes are aimed at enhancing the accuracy, timeliness and level of detail law schools must report to the ABA.

The changes – recommended by the Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar Section’s Questionnaire Committee – were adopted at its annual meeting Dec. 3. Law schools will have to gather more detailed information, which includes graduate employment status, salary, whether the position is short or long term and whether the position is funded by the school itself. Schools will also have to report on whether the graduate’s job required passing the bar, is full time or part time, and if there is an advantage to having a J.D. for the position.

The data law schools collect will be reported directly to the Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar section, and this information will be posted online the year after it’s collected. Right now, data on specific classes are often posted two years later.

Section chair John O’Brien, New England Law/Boston dean, said in a news release that these changes will better inform future law students about the prospects of employment.

The announcement this summer by the ABA regarding the changes in the collection of data caused tension between the bar association and NALP. NALP keeps postgraduate employment data for law schools and was surprised by the ABA’s announcement that it would begin collecting its own data. In the past, placement data was reported only to NALP, which then sent a report to the schools. The law school reported the information to the ABA in the bar’s annual questionnaire.

But only a few weeks after attempting to cut NALP out of the collection and reporting process, the ABA announced that the section and NALP agreed to collaborate going forward.

Indiana Lawyer reported in August that the ABA data collection process will be a two-step, two-year process that was set to begin this October when the ABA collected an abbreviated data set for each graduate of the class of 2010.

The ABA plans to collect full data in February 2012 for each 2011 law graduate. NALP said it will continue to request a single electronic file from each school, while the ABA may ask for schools to input student record data one student at a time through an online data submission form.


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