Posted by: johnocunningham | February 24, 2012

What We Have Here Is a Failure to Communicate

If you are old enough, or if you like to watch old movies, you might remember that line from the 1967 film “Cool Hand Luke,” in which a prison guard warns prisoners – and Paul Newman in particular – about the consequences of a “failure to communicate.”

Now, it appears that recent law grads are the ones claiming harm from a “failure to communicate” by their law school alma maters. The Chronicle of Higher Education has reported that more than a dozen law schools are facing suit now from graduates who allege that job placement numbers and job placement promises published by the schools were “misleading.”

These plaintiffs, who now seek class action status, have had to take jobs as temporary lawyers, paralegals, or even restaurant workers or Starbucks baristas due to the softening labor market for lawyers in recent years. They also contend that law schools, many of which report only “the number of graduates in full-time employment within X months after school,” are profiting from their failure to report the growing numbers of grads that end up in non-lawyer jobs.

In fact, according to the Association for Legal Professionals, more than 30 percent of 2010 law school grads are in jobs that do not require them to have a law license – the worst record since such data has been collected in 1996.

The situation is bad enough that a committee of the American Bar Association has recommended major overhauls in the way that law schools report job data for graduates.

If these schools had bothered to survey their recent graduates, or had taken the trouble to seek their input on better communications regarding admissions and graduate opportunities, this could have been avoided. But insular thinking and insular protectionism has led not only to lawsuits, but a great volume of negative press (see Lawyers and Settlements blog and Inside the Law School Scam, for example).

As often happens with “failures to communicate,” the consequences will be disastrous, not only from an economic viewpoint, but to the reputations of the law schools.





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