September 10, 2011
ScamLaw: Transparency is a No-Brainer (Postscript)
Posted by joanheminway

Thanks to Usha for organizing and contributing to this Master's forum.  Regrettably, I got tied up in travel and family affairs relating to my mother's memorial service yesterday and was unable to participate.  I earlier had posted this as a comment on Usha's September 8 post, but the formatting got completely messed up.  Usha graciously offered me the opportunity to make a late post that follows up on her post here, and Gordon helpfully deleted my prior unformatted comment.  (Thanks, again, Usha and Gordon.)

I want to focus on a few of Professor Paul Campos's observations.  Like many commentators on Professor Campos's posts, I sometimes marvel at the difference between his world and mine.  I am, however, grateful that he is sharing his world with all of us and raising a bunch of engaging and thorny issues in the process.

In his September 7 post ("Additional disclosures"), he says:

One thing that seems clear is that law faculty have an obligation to educate themselves, to the extent they can, about their graduates' actual employment status (Faculty will have much better access to this information than anyone outside law schools, although I don't doubt many a law school's administration will resist sharing this data even with its own faculty).

I totally agree with him here.  I actually had thought (until recently) that folks all over already were doing this (which, I take it from his post and others across the Web, they may not be).  Although I never have discussed the matter with colleagues from other schools, I always have considered advice on the job market to be an important part of my job as a law faculty member.  In fact, when Law School Transparency got started a few years ago, I inquired as to what my employer was doing to inform prospective and current students, as well as faculty and alumni, about the jobs and salaries obtained by our graduates.  I was pleased to see that we do produce and publish a bunch of data (although not as much or as detailed as some might need or want . . .).  I also was pleased that I was able to get further breakdowns on some of the  data when I needed it for a Knoxville Bar Association CLE.  This may be consistent with Usha's observation about public schools versus private schools, although Professor Campos's September 8 post ("More fun with law school employment numbers") focuses on transparency issues in Ohio's public schools.  I cannot imagine working in a law school (which, after all, is a professional school) that hides professional placement data from the world (and especially from prospective and current students).  I would hope that the market would punish this kind of behavior.  Perhaps the conversations around ScamLaw generally and Professor Campos's posts specifically will result in market adjustments . . . .

To another point in Professor Campos's September 7 post, as a law professor who practiced for 15 years before entering the academy, I do tell prospective and current students that law--at least Big Law and private practice--is not for everyone and that some law schools may be better than others for prospective students.  I also help students to transfer schools if their objectives change or they otherwise determine that Tennessee is not the right school for them.  And I work with a lot of students whose aspirations are to work in government or for-profit and non-profit businesses in law and law-related roles.  

Leaving aside Usha's reference to predictions about the changing nature of law practice and Larry Ribstein's exciting work on the same, If we all keep track of the current overall market for lawyers and legal services on an ongoing basis, we at least should be able to better advise prospective and current students about near-term prospects for employment that appeal to those students and about ways for students to use the law curriculum at our respective schools to pursue the same.  I do think this is our responsibility as lawyers and law professors--part of our teaching and service missions in the academy.

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