Boxer has more questions for ABA about law school transparency
The National Law Journal
U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) is apparently unconvinced that the American Bar Association is pushing hard enough for transparency about potential law students' job prospects.
Boxer wrote to the ABA on Friday, asking the organization to widen the scope of pending reforms to the way law schools report job placement and salary data. Boxer previously wrote to the ABA on March 31, urging it to push law schools to "ensure potential students have a full understanding of the costs and benefits of legal education" and requesting a "detailed summary" of efforts to increase transparency.
ABA President Stephen Zack responded to Boxer on April 27 with a letter that promised, "The ABA will do everything possible to ensure this next generation has rewarding careers in the law that serve the American people's needs." Attached was a memorandum from the ABA's Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar that detailed the organizations transparency efforts.
In her reply, Boxer noted that she saw no provision for independent auditing of employment numbers. "It is troubling that the recommendations do not address the need for independent oversight of the data law school deans submit to the ABA and publications like U.S. News & World Report," she wrote. "The section's recommendations would allow law schools to continue to submit unaudited data, despite the fact that a lack of oversight has been identified as by many observers as a major problem."
Zack issued the following formal statement on Friday: "Senator Boxer shares our concerns and we appreciate the ongoing dialogue we're having about the important issues of how law students finance their educations and learn about their employment prospects post-graduation. We're glad the Senator is 'encouraged' and 'pleased' by what the American Bar Association and its Council on Legal Education have been doing."
Boxer noted that Robert Morse, the editor who oversees U.S. News' law school rankings, has called for law deans to be "more vigilant" in their reporting. Although Boxer did not mention Villanova University School of Law by name, she referred to news reports in February that the school had admitted providing inaccurate admissions data to the ABA for a number of years.
Boxer asked the ABA to address whether law schools ensure that recipients of merit-based scholarship understand their terms and conditions. That matter was the subject of a recent article in The New York Times, which reported that recipients who failed to maintain their grades lost the assistance and wound up deeply in debt.
The lack of auditing of law school employment data is an important problem, said Patrick Lynch, policy director at Law School Transparency, a group formed last year to push for more accurate and detailed job statistics.
"It's an honest question and something the [ABA] has yet to address, although its members have thought about it," Lynch said. "Many people have been suspicious that law schools purposely misreport their numbers, so it's understandable that Sen. Boxer would call for independent oversight."