The Ides of March

The Ides of March is approaching, and that means one thing for law schools: It is time for career services offices to turn into sleuths and archivists. All law schools must report very detailed employment data on their recently graduated class, and March 15 is the magic date to which this data is keyed. How detailed? Law schools must report, as a separate data entry, each student, the name and address of the employer, and the nature of the position, and they must keep careful records of how they came to have learned all this information.

So how does the school get this information? Well, first it reaches out to each of its graduates and asks them to provide the information. Now remember, these are graduates who left school 10 months ago. They have generally moved out of their student accommodations and are not necessarily regularly checking emails from their law school. Of course, in today’s internet age, people can be tracked through LinkedIn or Facebook, and if that doesn’t work, there is the old-fashioned detective work of asking faculty, staff, and other students. But all of this is time intensive – and once you locate your grads, you have to get them to give you the necessary information. Graduates have no obligation to share information about their employment status, and some are not inclined to do so. And because only direct information from the graduate, direct information from the employer, or publicly available information is considered reliable, the sleuthing does not always end with locating the students.

But finding out where every graduate is employed is only half the job – the other half is documentation. Schools are expected to be meticulous because their records may be audited. So suppose a student tells the career office that she is employed at a particular firm, then what? If the information came by email, the email must be uploaded to the student’s file. If the information was communicated orally, the staff person must document that conversation and put that in the file. Suppose the graduate provides the employer’s name but not the address of the firm: The career office must have someone go to the web, find the address, take a screen shot that shows the address, and upload that to the student’s file.

All of this takes a lot of time and staff resources. Between mid-January and mid-March, one of our full time career counselors spends about two-thirds of her time on data collection and reporting. This is for a graduating class of about 150. The time she spends on data and reporting is time she will not spend with our students and graduates helping them identify job opportunities, reviewing their resumes and cover letters, or preparing them for their interviews.

Of course, prospective students care about employment outcomes and should have reliable information about this. But the level of detail and documentation far exceeds the level of detail we must provide about any other aspect of our operation, and it is time to restore some balance.