April 24, 2020
President’s Message By Lori McMaster
So much has changed in our daily lives as we live through the COVID-19 pandemic. We are working remotely while approaching our duties in entirely different ways, separated from our loved ones, and living in relative isolation. At the same time, many of our essential work responsibilities remain the same.
This is also the case for law school career services counselors, who spend the beginning of the calendar year, especially from February through mid-April, gathering employment data outcomes from their alumni who graduated in May of the prior year. This is an incredibly time-consuming and detail-oriented process mandated by the American Bar Association pursuant to its accrediting function. The cumulative data is reported on each law school’s website in the prescribed format required by the ABA. The data is intended “to promote confidence among the ABA, law schools, law school applicants, and other interested parties that law graduate employment data is complete, accurate, and not misleading.” ABA Guidance Document: Employment Protocols for the Class of 2019, p. 2. (September 4, 2019). Law schools report their postgraduate employment outcomes to the ABA and to the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) each April.
These results are entered electronically and individually for each graduate for the ABA and NALP, and conveyed confidentially, without any identifying information linking the data to the graduate. The resulting reports, published on every law school’s website in the exact same format, allow law school applicants, employers, etc. to conduct a true “apples to apples” comparison of law schools’ graduate employment outcomes.
Significant percentages of third-year law students receive their post-graduate job offer after graduation; therefore, law school career counselors are required to contact each individual graduate to determine their employment status. Throughout the first quarter of 2020, law school career counselors throughout the United States have been contacting the members of the Class of 2019 to determine their employment status as of March 16, 2020. A law student who graduated in May 2019 may be reported as “employed” if, on or before March 16, 2020, they have a position for which they are receiving compensation or a stipend. The following information is a sampling of what must be reported on an individual graduate basis to the ABA and to NALP for each graduate. By the way, essentially the same information is conveyed to U.S. News and World Report via a different reporting mechanism the following October.
1. If the graduate is employed or unemployed
2. If the position is full-time (35 hours/week) or part-time
3. If the position is long-term (intended by the employer to last for 1 year or more) or short-term
4. If the position is one where:
(a) formal bar admission is required, or from the perspective of the employer will require the graduate to pass a bar exam and be licensed in one or more jurisdictions;
(b) a JD is deemed an advantage; the possession of a JD by the graduate was sought by the employer, required by the employer or provided a demonstrable advantage in either obtaining or performing the duties of the position from the employer’s perspective
(c) professional training is required (such as an engineer, nurse, teacher);
(d) non-professional (such as a retail salesperson)
5. Employment start date
6. Employer’s name, address, and website
7. If the graduate is employed in a law school or university funded position
8. If the graduate is employed in a private law firm (including the number of attorneys employed at the firm), corporation, judicial clerkship, government, public interest, academia, military, etc.
The following additional information is required by NALP: whether the graduate was a transfer student; the date on which they received their job offer; whether they received their job offer before graduation, after graduation but before receiving their bar exam results, or after graduation and after receiving their bar exam results. Law schools are required to create and maintain proper supporting documentation (in hard copy and electronic form) for each graduate’s reported employment data.
Collecting, maintaining, and reporting graduate employment information is considerably challenging because law schools are largely dependent upon self-reported information from graduates, many of whom are no longer on campus. Graduates often cannot be readily located; therefore, law schools must find employment information in other ways, such as from employers, licensing authorities, employer websites, LinkedIn, and other social media. Obtaining information from these third-party sources is time-consuming and difficult. Pitt Law has, for several years, requested that its third-year law students provide the contact information for a family member so that we can reach out to them in the event we have not been able to reach the graduate after commencement. I have spent many evenings calling and texting recent law school graduates, and their families, while attempting to determine if the graduate is employed or not.
Law schools are required to document the name of the staff member who obtained each piece of reported data, the date on which they received it, how the information was conveyed by the graduate (via phone call, email, text, in-person, etc.), and to keep a printed or electronic copy of the source of the information. If the communication was oral, the responses and related documentation must be entered contemporaneously with the communication. Copies of the graduates’ law firm bio, LinkedIn page, public state licensing information page, email communications, and completed employment survey forms, etc. are maintained in hard copy and electronic form.
Such data gathering is essentially a full-time endeavor over a period of several months, and many law school career services offices throughout the country have only one or two staff members. While the process of collecting and reporting law graduate employment data is both necessary and laudable, it does require significant expenditures of time which would otherwise be spent counseling and assisting current law students and recent graduates who are still seeking a position. It is an arduous, meticulous process; I cannot tell you how many times I’ve had dreams about seeking or reporting this data! Therefore, the next time you see Maria Comas of Duquesne Law or Jamey Mentzer of Pitt Law, please shake their hand and offer them a chair. They’re probably very tired.
I welcome hearing your thoughts about this message, so please do contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-648-2359.
All my best, Lori.