Cooler heads prevail in ABA-NALP rift

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MontgomeryNewsAnalysisWhen the American Bar Association sent a memo to law school deans and career services offices July 27 announcing it would begin collecting its own postgraduate employment data, leadership of NALP (formerly the National Association for Law Placement) was – to say the least – a bit surprised.

NALP has been the king of postgraduate employment data for law schools for more than three decades, and it intends to keep that title.

The July 28 response was addressed to Justice Christine Durham, chair of the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar Council, along with Hulett Askew, ABA consultant on legal education. NALP leaders said that the council’s executive committee’s decision to move forward with plans to collect data independently – without any input from the public – was counter to recommendations from its own Section of Legal Education’s Questionnaire Committee.

The complaint, signed by NALP Executive Director James Leipold and President Marcelyn Cox, stated: “It is also hostile to the cooperation and collegiality the Section has long enjoyed with NALP, and lays waste to a year’s worth of work between NALP and the Questionnaire Committee to prepare for what we had been led to believe would be a very different outcome.”

NALP alleged the ABA had pulled the classic bait-and-switch, luring the organization into discussions about collaborating to collect data, then stealing its ideas. NALP said it “objects in the strongest terms possible” to the ABA’s use of the research terms it had crafted and refined over the years.

And then, on Aug. 6, in the midst of its annual meeting, the ABA seemingly had a change of heart. Perhaps the cool northerly temperatures in Toronto caused the ABA to think differently about its objectives. Or maybe it was NALP’s thinly veiled threat of an intellectual property lawsuit. Whatever the motivation, the ABA certainly didn’t make a big show out of amending its 10-day-old memo. In a press release on the ABA website, at the end of the third paragraph, was this sentence: “The section and NALP have agreed to collaborate going forward.”

But what does “collaborate” mean in this context? Ask the ABA, and you may receive a copy of the very press release that contains the statement in question. Ask NALP, and you may receive a memo that portrays NALP as less agitated, but still wary.

Leipold forwarded NALP’s Aug. 9 memo to Indiana Lawyer.

In the memo, Leipold told NALP members that he and Cox attended the ABA meeting and spoke with ABA council members about its ill-received memo. Justice Durham, Leipold explained, assured NALP that the ABA intended to cooperate with NALP in collecting employment data. “The Council stopped short, however, of reversing its decision to collect individual student record level data directly from law schools,” Leipold wrote.

NALP and the ABA have agreed to establish common definitions and reporting dates, so law schools don’t become overwhelmed by two organizations asking for two wildly different data sets. Leipold wrote that the best approach would be for both organizations to request the exact same data at the exact same time. “That is the ideal we will be working towards, but the devil may be in the details,” he wrote. “NALP will be working to sort out the details with the ABA’s Questionnaire Committee, with guidance from the ABA Council, in the weeks ahead.”

According to NALP, the implementation of the ABA data collection process will be a two-step, two-year process, beginning this October when the ABA will collect 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. It seems that NALP may be correct in its assumption that the ABA’s data collection will cause more work for schools. But with NALP and ABA still negotiating the details of their collaboration, it’s too early to say how – or if – the ABA’s request for data will affect law schools’ ability and willingness to report the same or similar data to NALP.

The ABA’s efforts are motivated by public outcry from groups like Law School Transparency and a sea of disgruntled unemployed and underemployed graduates who claim that law schools may be deceiving students about career prospects. Because the ABA is the accrediting organization for law schools, many have claimed the organization hasn’t done enough to ensure schools are accurately reporting data. But if it is true that some law schools have fudged postgraduate employment data, what’s to stop them from lying to the ABA? Unlike NALP, the ABA is not in the business of crunching numbers and producing detailed analyses. One has to wonder if the ABA has the resources to handle the work it’s setting out to do.

Christine Corral, executive director of the Career Planning Center at Valparaiso University School of Law, said she was unsure what the end result would be of the NALP and ABA collaborating to collect data.

“I think the biggest thing is that both groups are at the table,” she said.•


  • ABA self interested and not at all representative of average lawyer
    ABA probably thinks that its in the ABA's own interests to have a bunch more unemployed lawyers running around. More possible ABA dues payers right? And it creates a bigger reserve army of the unemployed which benefits the biggest legal employers too, and they probably control the ABA anyhow. Just like big business plus big labor equals workers lose. SSDD.

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  1. Especially I would like to see all the republican voting patriotic good ole boys to stop and understand that the wars they have been volunteering for all along (especially the past decade at least) have not been for God & Jesus etc no far from it unless you think George Washington's face on the US dollar is god (and we know many do). When I saw the movie about Chris Kyle, I thought wow how many Hoosiers are just like this guy, out there taking orders to do the nasty on the designated bad guys, sometimes bleeding and dying, sometimes just serving and coming home to defend a system that really just views them as reliable cannon fodder. Maybe if the Christians of the red states would stop volunteering for the imperial legions and begin collecting welfare instead of working their butts off, there would be a change in attitude from the haughty professorial overlords that tell us when democracy is allowed and when it isn't. To come home from guarding the borders of the sandbox just to hear if they want the government to protect this country's borders then they are racists and bigots. Well maybe the professorial overlords should gird their own loins for war and fight their own battles in the sandbox. We can see what kind of system this really is from lawsuits like this and we can understand who it really serves. NOT US.... I mean what are all you Hoosiers waving the flag for, the right of the president to start wars of aggression to benefit the Saudis, the right of gay marriage, the right for illegal immigrants to invade our country, and the right of the ACLU to sue over displays of Baby Jesus? The right of the 1 percenters to get richer, the right of zombie banks to use taxpayer money to stay out of bankruptcy? The right of Congress to start a pissing match that could end in WWIII in Ukraine? None of that crud benefits us. We should be like the Amish. You don't have to go far from this farcical lawsuit to find the wise ones, they're in the buggies in the streets not far away....

  2. Moreover, we all know that the well heeled ACLU has a litigation strategy of outspending their adversaries. And, with the help of the legal system well trained in secularism, on top of the genuinely and admittedly secular 1st amendment, they have the strategic high ground. Maybe Christians should begin like the Amish to withdraw their services from the state and the public and become themselves a "people who shall dwell alone" and foster their own kind and let the other individuals and money interests fight it out endlessly in court. I mean, if "the people" don't see how little the state serves their interests, putting Mammon first at nearly every turn, then maybe it is time they wake up and smell the coffee. Maybe all the displays of religiosity by American poohbahs on down the decades have been a mask of piety that concealed their own materialistic inclinations. I know a lot of patriotic Christians don't like that notion but I entertain it more and more all the time.

  3. If I were a judge (and I am not just a humble citizen) I would be inclined to make a finding that there was no real controversy and dismiss them. Do we allow a lawsuit every time someone's feelings are hurt now? It's preposterous. The 1st amendment has become a sword in the hands of those who actually want to suppress religious liberty according to their own backers' conception of how it will serve their own private interests. The state has a duty of impartiality to all citizens to spend its judicial resources wisely and flush these idiotic suits over Nativity Scenes down the toilet where they belong... however as Christians we should welcome them as they are the very sort of persecution that separates the sheep from the wolves.

  4. What about the single mothers trying to protect their children from mentally abusive grandparents who hide who they truly are behind mounds and years of medication and have mentally abused their own children to the point of one being in jail and the other was on drugs. What about trying to keep those children from being subjected to the same abuse they were as a child? I can understand in the instance about the parent losing their right and the grandparent having raised the child previously! But not all circumstances grant this being OKAY! some of us parents are trying to protect our children and yes it is our God given right to make those decisions for our children as adults!! This is not just black and white and I will fight every ounce of this to get denied

  5. Mr Smith the theory of Christian persecution in Indiana has been run by the Indiana Supreme Court and soundly rejected there is no such thing according to those who rule over us. it is a thought crime to think otherwise.