As the spring semester comes to a close and we move into the summer months, many aspiring law school students ask about the best tools to prepare for the application process. One of the most overlooked and underutilized resources is the Required Disclosure Section for the American Bar Association (ABA) (https://abarequireddisclosures.org/). The American Bar Association’s Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar section is nationally recognized as the accrediting body for American legal education. Under the section of legal education are three reports: 509 Required Disclosures, Employment Outcomes and Bar Passage Outcomes. Each year, law schools must file and disclose information regarding admission, employment and bar passage rates. This trifecta of reports is powerful. Below is a short summary of each report and a few key questions to ask as you use the report to inform your law school decisions:
- Standard 509 Disclosure: This report includes statistical information on the first-year class, enrollment according to demographics, curriculum offerings, tuition and fees, grants and scholarships. Potential questions to consider: How many applicants applied? How many offers of admission did the school make? How many legal clinics are offered to students? What are the percentages of full and partial scholarships/grants awarded to first year students?
- Employment Outcomes: This report provides employment statistics for the law school’s graduates including a breakdown of law firm hires according to size, type of employment and location. Potential questions to consider: How many graduates enter employment for which their JD degree is required? Is there a trend for graduates to enter law firms of 500+ or firms with less than 100 attorneys? How many graduates chose federal clerkships? What are the top three states in which graduates find employment?
- Bar Passage Outcomes: This report includes an overview of the bar passage rates for graduates with detailed statistics for first time bar passage and jurisdictions. Passing the bar can be essential for the practice of law and employment. Taking the bar is costly and many graduates study intensely to prepare. Potential questions to consider: How many graduates sat for the bar within the first year of graduation? What is the percentage of testers who passed the bar the first time?
As with any data that you use in your application, these reports serve as information to help you make decisions. The reports are not prescriptive, telling you what you must choose or how you must orient your personal priorities in pursuing a legal education. Use them with wisdom as a starting point for asking questions about what matters most to you and which institutions might fit your educational and professional interests.