In 2009 a couple of Vanderbilt Law students established “Law School Transparency” (LST) with the goal of encouraging law schools to provide more (and better) information to prospective law students. In particular, the founders of LST wanted to provide prospective law students with more information regarding cost, bar passage rate, and prospects for employment for law schools in the US.
For the past four years they’ve worked toward this goal and recently unveiled an alternative to the US News and World Report rankings that schools have become so reliant on in selecting applicants (with the hopes of moving up in the US New Rankings). Their alternative, they stress, is not a ranking system. Rather, their system provides information regarding cost, employment outcomes, and admissions data in a sortable format to help students make their law-school choices.
Let’s say, for example, that you are considering attending South Texas School of Law. You can check out LST’s “School Profiles” page:
Here, you can learn that South Texas graduates will have a mean LSAT of 153 with a mean GPA of 3.24. The page also reports what LST describes as the “real cost” of attending South Texas, which is about $179,000. Perhaps most interesting are the data LST provides on employment outcomes. According to LST, about 0% of South Texas’s students receive Federal Clerkships, and only about 2.5% of their graduates go on to work in “large firms,” that is firms with more than 100 lawyers.
You can learn even more by going to the “Job Characteristics” page for South Texas.
We know that about 15% of South Texas’s graduates are unemployed, and of the employed, about 94% stay in Texas. Further, by clicking on the salaries, we can learn that South Texas does not release the salaries of its graduates, making it difficult to assess income potential of a South Texas Law School degree.
This kind of information can be obtained for every school. For example, you can learn that the unemployment rate for Texas Tech grads is a little more than 10%, while the Texas Southern unemployment rate is more than 20%, or that almost a quarter of UT’s grads go to work for “large firms” and 7% of their students get federal clerkships.
Or how about this? Did you know that if you go to Fordham University, you can expect to pay $3,289 a month on school loans for ten years? That figure is $1,954 at the University of Houston, and $1,610 at Texas Tech, and $1,154 at University of Arkansas Little Rock (7th best in the country). That’s worth comparing against the job characteristics numbers.
Law School Transparency is providing a great service to prospective law students, providing information that every lawyer wannabe should know and consider before making the law-school leap.