Professor Tamanaha writes: "Thus, only about one third of graduates actually ended up as lawyers (nine months after graduation), and most of the graduates that landed lawyer jobs did not earn enough to manage the average debt of the class." Kyle McEntee writes "how can Professor Olivas claim that graduates are well trained for a variety of roles, despite the increasing reticence of clients to pay for junior associates?" immediately following Dean O'Brien's post. People would not often confuse Dean O'Brien and me, as he is the good looking one. But I would have said that--as I believe that the worst of all worlds would be to engineer a project for evaluating and measuring placement by narrowly construing what constitutes a lawyer's work. It might be that having gone to law school in DC skewed my perception of this issue, as many lawyers undertake many different kinds of work in the city (and, of course, in every city). But I do not believe that working in a law firm or going to court is the sole measure of lawyers or the only appropriate metric for job placement. In fact, doing so would be a strategic error, especially now when the field is wide open and we are in flux about who will do the measuring and when they will do it.
Like many others, I have an idea of what it is that our graduates can do, but I do not know how to measure them doing it. At one end, ginning up a makeshift job or a law school hiring its own recent grads to game the system is wrong, and such temporary positions should not count. But on the continuum to the stereotypical associate's position at the other end, such as those apparently envisioned by the bloggers I cited, and there are many--perhaps most--job descriptions in between that properly count, and that our graduates should consider and take as evidence that the system works. I only caution that we not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Of course, schools should not lie about their data. Of course there should be increased student-consumer awareness of how well schools do, on these and other dimensions. And, of course, we should have comparable and reliable data so that school output measures are accurate and truthful. But let's not kid ourselves--people who graduate from law school can do many things, and do them better than can non-law-trained employees. At the least, the data gathering and evaluation efforts should do no harm, and should not create more havoc than is currently the case.
—Michael A. Olivas