Press Release of U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer

For Immediate Release:
March 31, 2011  
Contact:
Washington D.C. Office (202) 224-3553

Boxer Calls on American Bar Association to Ensure Accurate and Transparent Data Reporting by Law Schools  


Recent Reports Suggest Misleading Post-Graduation Employment and Salary Information Used to Skew Influential National Rankings of Law Schools

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) today called on the American Bar Association (ABA) to improve its oversight of admissions and post-graduation information reported by law schools across the country.  

Boxer’s letter follows news reports that have highlighted several law schools allegedly using misleading data to enhance a school’s position in the competitive and influential U.S. News and World Report annual rankings. Such inaccurate post-graduation employment and salary data can mislead prospective students into believing they will easily be able to find work as an attorney and pay off their loans despite a sharp decline in post-graduation full-time employment.  

The full text of the Senator’s letter is below:  

March 31, 2011  

Stephen N. Zack
President
American Bar Association
740 15th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20005-1019  

Dear Mr. Zack:  

As you know, recent news articles have raised concerns about the reporting of admissions and post-graduation information by the American Bar Association and law schools across the country. It is essential that students deciding if and where to attend law school have access to information that is accurate and transparent. The ABA, as the accrediting body charged with oversight of the nation’s law schools, must ensure standards and accountability.  

As the economy continues to recover from the recession, many new law school graduates are struggling to find jobs as attorneys. According to Northwestern University, at least 15,000 legal jobs with large firms have disappeared since 2008. The Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates that the number of people employed in legal services has decreased from a high of 1.2 million in 2007, to less than 1 million in 2009. Experts predict that fewer than 30,000 new attorney positions per year will be available to the more than 44,000 law school graduates entering the marketplace each year.  

This very serious problem takes on greater significance when viewed in the context of news articles highlighting law schools that allegedly falsify post-graduation and salary information in attempts to increase their position in the annual U.S. News and World Report rankings.  

Most students reasonably expect to obtain post-graduation employment that will allow them to pay off their student loan debts, and rely on this information - which may be false at worst and misleading at best - to inform their decision.  

As reported in the New York Times and other publications, the ABA allows law schools to report salary information of the highest earning graduates as if it were representative of the entire class. Also, when reporting critical post-graduation employment information, law schools are not distinguishing between graduates practicing law full-time from those working part-time or in non-legal fields.  

I understand that some ABA members have been pressing for reform, that the ABA has appointed committees to review ways to increase oversight and transparency, and that U.S. News and World Report has requested greater transparency from law school deans. These are good first steps, but more must be done to ensure potential students have a full understanding of the costs and benefits of a legal education. 

I am requesting that you provide me with a detailed summary of the ABA’s plans to implement reforms to its current procedures to ensure access to accurate and transparent information for prospective law school students.  

Thank you for your attention to this matter.  

Sincerely,  

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator