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US News keeps publishing deeply misleading law school employment statistics

[ 39 ] August 15, 2013 |

I don’t know if there’s much point in continuing to harp on this, but US News just published another ludicrous law school “ranking,” in a story entitled Ten Law Degrees With the Biggest Return on Investment. The publication calculated this by determining “the 10 schools whose students leave with the least amount of debt relative to their first-year salaries in the private sector.”

One of those ten schools was Rutgers-Newark, which made the list because according to the magazine the “median private sector starting salary” for its 2011 graduates was $117,500.

A little digging into the school’s NALP data (note that until about a year ago it would have been impossible to check US News’s claim, since prior to the pressure created by the law school transparency movement only a handful of schools made their NALP numbers available) reveals that this “$117,500″ figure is the median salary among the 44 (out of 248) 2011 graduates who got private sector jobs and had reported salaries. In other words, the $117,500 or higher number represents the salary of approximately 9% of the graduating class (This is further confirmed by the fact that only 16 graduates got jobs with larger law firms).

The real median starting salary for the class was, at most, $43,437. Note that graduates who were completely unemployed nine months after graduation outnumbered those making the “median” (sic) salary $117,500 or more.

Comments (39)

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  1. Anderson says:

    Hm. Law schools have fared well in court when sued for misleading students. How would US News do?

    • cpinva says:

      “Hm. Law schools have fared well in court when sued for misleading students. How would US News do?”

      they enjoy a 1A right to lie and dissemble. further, potential law students should be savvy enough to double/triple/fourple check anything coming out of a law school, or for-profit media.

      • Strong Thermos says:

        This strikes me as an important consumer protection/blatantly misleading the public. I don’t want to chill free speech, but I think this sort of bullshit can be distinguished from individual speech.

        Also, I’d love to make US News print “For Entertainment Only” at the top of their rankings.

        • cpinva says:

          you do realize I was being facetious, don’t you?

          • Strong Thermos says:

            I dunno I’m new around here and haven’t learned who the resident trolls are yet.

            • Warren Terra says:

              Sadly, our resident trolls are into neither wit nor subtlety; nor do they adhere to the consistent use of any given pseudonym, for the most part.

              • NonyNony says:

                Sadly, our resident trolls are into neither wit nor subtlety;

                Many people consider Manju a troll, and he’s funny as all get-out. Sometimes even on purpose!

                But the thing to know about commenters ’round here is that every commenter should have a <sarcasm&rt; tag wrapped around their comments.

          • Jake says:

            Always wondered during the us-news paperback days, they would shelve that magazine near the blue books, consumer reports, and other scientific magazines — were it should have been shelved with the harry potters, magic unicorns, and the hardy boys meet wolverine??????

      • Unemployed Northeastern says:

        Actually, Emory Law professors Morgan Cloud and George Shepherd wrote an article entitled “Law Deans in Jail” that had an entire section on possible criminal liabilities that US News might face for knowingly publishing false information that it portrays as factual. The paper may have been slightly pre-ITLSS, but I can’t recall offhand. It’s a very good read, though, and you can find it on SSRN.

  2. cpinva says:

    alright prof. campos, you’ve convinced me! I shall let my inner computer/accounting geek hold sway, and go for a double masters in CS & accounting. the ROI on those will, I suspect, be multiple times that of a law degree, especially at my age.

  3. Hayden Arse says:

    My favorite line from the article:

    “Schools self-reported a myriad of data regarding their academic programs and the makeup of their student body…”

    A more honest version would be: “We invited schools to manipulate information for the purposes of this article, and they have been very accommodating in that regard.”

  4. (the other) Davis says:

    Holy crap. US News doesn’t even try to justify its use of “median starting private sector salary” as a metric. They just throw it out there without comment, as if this number is obviously the “right” one to use. I can’t tell if this is rank dishonesty, incompetent innumeracy, or a little from column A and a little from column B.

  5. cpinva says:

    “I can’t tell if this is rank dishonesty, incompetent innumeracy, or a little from column A and a little from column B.”

    i’ll take C, all of the above, for $500 alex.

  6. Casual Observer says:

    Paul,

    What is the over/under figure on law school matriculation this year? Last fall it was 44,500.

    I’m pegging the over/under at 39,000. Anyone want the under?

    • The once and future biglaw litigator says:

      Hee hee. “Pegging.”

    • Paul Campos says:

      That’s down 12.3% which seems high to me, as it exactly matches the decline in applications (in the previous two cycles the decline in enrollment was quite a bit less than the decline in apps).

      I’d put the o/u at 40,500, which still represents a 23% decline since 2010.

      • keep us posted says:

        I’m looking forward to you sharing the info with us about how things are shaping up with the beginning of the school year.

      • maxx785 says:

        Are there any statistics out there on the retention rate? Or to put another way, are there statistics out there on how many people drop after the 1st semester, 1st year etc?

        I would have thought that more and more students were learning to cut their losses if they were in the bottom half of their non-T14 school, but perhaps that’s not the case.

        • Paul Campos says:

          The ABA publishes stats on this, although they’re a bit difficult to disaggregate, since they include academic casualties (now very rare except at very low ranked schools), transfers, and people who drop out of law school voluntarily.

          Your question reminds me that I’ve been meaning to look into this, to see whether there’s been any uptick in dropouts in the last year or two.

    • ichninosan says:

      Can you please explain the difference between “LSAC Matriculants” and “ABA First-Year Enrollment” for those of us that try to follow this. I tend to rely on the “Matriculants” figure on the assumption that it is the closer proxy to “Enrollment.”

      Is “First Year Enrollment” an “LSAC Matriculants” plus last years part-time students who are still considered “first year” students sum?

      • Paul Campos says:

        I don’t know why the numbers aren’t the same. One possibility is that first year enrollment includes people who were admitted in the previous cycle but deferred matriculating.

  7. toma says:

    So if they graduated 247 imbeciles that couldn’t get a job in the free market even by offering bribes, but in addition one guy who got hired immediately by a rich uncle to help run his hedge fund – at $500,000 a year – then Rutgers-Newark would be by far the greatest law school in American History. Fascinating.

  8. kindasorta says:

    It’s encouraging that almost all of the comments at the article are about how the metrics are bullshit.

  9. NonyNony says:

    How the hell did US News and World Report ever become THE source for academic rankings? Their ranks are transparent bullshit even if their ranking system is hideously opaque. And yet every college dean and university president seems to think that they’re the most important thing for a department or school to focus on.

    Couldn’t someone, somewhere, come up with some transparent ranking systems that actually work as metrics? Something that might help students actually make a decision about where to go to school and help faculty have an idea of where they should be working to improve their pedagogy? Please?

    • Casual Observer says:

      Above the Law is doing its own rankings, based on outcomes rather than inputs. It should be a very good metric in the future, especially as print publications die.

      The published US News “rankings” are the only think keeping that magazine from dying. If US news competes in an online arena, I see no reason why its ranking system outsurvives Above the Law. Frankly, Above the Law has shown that it doesn’t give a darn about what the legal academy thinks about it. I would expect ATL to have street cred among law school applicants going forward in these post-apocalyptic times.

  10. Ken Houghton says:

    In defense of my alma mater, I will note that at least Rutgers-Newark has produced one Great Law School graduate.

    Then again, she’s eligible for retirement with full Social Security benefits next year (though she is guaranteed a job for the next five).

  11. Unemployed Northeastern says:

    “Law Deans Could End Up in Prison for Misleading Applicants, Paper Suggests”

    “The authors, A. Morgan Cloud and George P. Shepherd, contend that employees of law schools and U.S. News & World Report could face charges of mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, racketeering, and making false statements for their roles in the magazine’s annual ranking of law schools.”

    Law Deans in Jail, available on SSRN. A great read.

  12. Rutgers-Newark Sucks says:

    Early-90s RN graduate — stopped putting it on my résumé a few years later.

  13. [...] Rutgers-Newark puts out for its grads’ “median private sector starting salary”? [Paul Campos] “Sixth Circuit: it was unreasonable for Cooley applicants to believe Cooley’s [...]

  14. [...] Rutgers-Newark puts out for its grads’ “median private sector starting salary”? [Paul Campos] “Sixth Circuit: it was unreasonable for Cooley applicants to believe Cooley’s [...]

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