The ABA has responded to Senator Grassley’s request for information about law school scholarships and accreditation. The escalation of tuition and enrollment has been under scrutiny, particularly in light of the dim employment outlook for new grads, many of whom were counting on six-figure salaries to pay off their student loans. (I won’t link to examples of the blogs out there railing about the perceived bait-and-switch, but the bitterness is acute.)
The ABA’s position is that an accrediting agency must approve the schools that are properly educating students, regardless of whether adequate job prospects await those who join the profession.
Perhaps. But it does seem that the ABA could better require schools to provide accurate data about post-graduate employment of recent graduates. This has been a problem for a long time. While some schools may be telling the story (Dean Matasar states “we explicitly tell them that most graduates find work in small to medium firms at salaries between $35,000 and $75,000”) a more specific mandate from the central accrediting agency would provide a a more accurate snapshot for all potential students.
The ABA also could circulate data about the actual conditions of the profession, countering the engrained myth that a law degree guarantees a job and an immediately high income. Spreading the word that the majority of lawyers earn a moderate income in small or medium firms would serve the profession by better aligning expectations with reality. Students who knew ahead of time that their best job prospect might be self-employment would approach law school a bit differently and demand correspondingly pertinent educational opportunities.
Sadly, there is no shortage of work for lawyers. It just isn’t well-paying work. ABA action in this area could better attract to the profession those people who are fully aware of this challenge and prepared to meet it.