Law Jobs by the Numbers: Looking to the Future of Legal Education and the Profession

Zachariah DeMeola Zachariah DeMeola
Former Director of Legal Education and the Legal Profession
September 8, 2020

Just over seven years ago, IAALS launched Law Jobs: By the Numbers, an effort to provide a new perspective on law school rankings. The tool, which pulls employment outcomes data directly from what every law school reports to the American Bar Association, has provided prospective students—along with researchers and the media—with access to the most meaningful, individualized information about the law school options available to them. No guesswork, no editorializing. The tool has guided thousands of people through the data to help them make informed decisions when deciding whether to go to law school and, if so, which school to choose.

Since launching the tool in 2013, over 116,000 calculations have been made by people looking to better understand law school employment outcomes. Users have been able to customize formulas to prioritize the job outcomes that were valuable to them, such as whether bar passage was required, whether a position was full-time, or whether a job was funded by the law school—and see which schools rose to the top. Formulas can get even more detailed, with optional weights and factors in order to compare specific schools, compare schools across specific states or regions, and compare how your unique formula stands up against those from leading publications and organizations.

But, the rankings from those leading publications are still with us. U.S. News rankings are engrained in the national consciousness and considerably drive law school decision making—for better or worse. We hope to see change in the way the quality of a law school is understood by student, educators, and the profession; however, our efforts in transparency haven’t upended current rankings or the editorializing that comes with them . But we’ve made a dent. And our work to change legal education and the profession has changed a lot in the last several years.

Our Foundations for Practice project has fundamentally changed the conversation around what legal education should be—and what competencies, skills, characteristics, and qualities new lawyers should have when they graduate and begin serving clients. Our Building a Better Bar project has drawn significant attention as we seek to define the minimum competence needed to practice law—and whether or not the bar exam, as it exists now, is the right way to admit lawyers to practice. And most recently, our Unlocking Legal Regulation project has been pivotal in building momentum and guiding state efforts to expand the availability of new, innovative legal services.

In an effort to drive broad systemic reform across these areas, we have decided to sunset our Law Jobs: By the Numbers tool. By focusing on changing the learning outcomes for law schools, we will continue our commitment to ensuring better employment outcomes for new lawyers. And by focusing on better ways to license legal professionals and by increasing the types of legal services they can offer, we will continue our commitment to improving the legal profession and its ability to serve the public.

As our world rapidly evolves, IAALS is determined to ensure that our legal system—including our law schools and the legal profession at large—evolves as well.

Law Jobs: By the Numbers was an integral part of our journey to our current work, empowering many across the country to build, analyze, and compare employment outcomes among law schools. Turning our focus to projects such as Foundations for Practice and Unlocking Legal Regulation will allow us to better equip both prospective and present lawyers with the information they need for successful and sustainable practice—and ultimately create a justice system that everyone can believe in.