Law Grads Happy With Their Alma Maters

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Law school grades are unfair on many levels. Most times, you’re evaluated strictly on one exam. Not to mention, you’re measured on a curve, where only a select few can earn the highest marks. To make matters worse, that almighty distribution determines your almighty class ranking! And people wonder why law students are so manic, competitive and ornery!

When it comes time to evaluate their alma maters, you’d expect law grads to apply a pretty strict bell curve as payback.  According to a new Kaplan Bar Review survey of the class of 2014 published today (Aug. 19), law grads actually give their schools high marks overall. However, when it comes to job placement, law schools earned more F’s than A’s.

Law Schools Grade Out Higher Than Expected

Let’s start with the good news. Overall, 40% of grads awarded an A to their alma maters, a 3% increase over the class of 2012. Another 45% assigned a B grade to their school. And 11% scored their school with a C (meaning only 4% gave their alma mater a below average or failing grade).

Schools also notched relatively high marks when it comes to professor quality, practice readiness, and return on investment.

Some 52% of respondents gave their instructors A’s, while another 37% rated the faculty as B-level performers. In fact, only 1% of the sample considered their teachers to be below average or failing.

Despite complaints that law schools aren’t producing practice-ready graduates, the class of 2014 felt differently. Schools earned A’s from a quarter of the graduates – and B’s from another 40%. However, 21% marked their alma mater as average – with 9% giving schools a D and 4% an F.

The class of 2014 was surprisingly upbeat when asked whether law school was a worthwhile financial investment. Despite average debt hovering around $140,000 and long-term full-time employment only inching up to 57%, law grads appear satisfied with their choice. On the question of return on investment, law schools received A’s from 20% of respondents and B’s from 33%. However, schools merited average (27%), below average (11%) and failing (9%) marks from nearly half of the sample. In other words, the old syllogism is true: When the other guy is unemployedit’s a recession. When you’re unemployed it’s a depression.”

Job Placement Scores Lag

It’s the never-ending argument as old as academia itself. Career centers complain that students don’t ask for their help until late in the process. And students counter that centers don’t work hard enough on their behalf. The truth? Perception is reality depending on your side.

In this survey, nearly 60% of the class of 2014 gave their alma maters average or failing grades. In fact, 15% red-marked their schools with F’s (with D’s comprising another 17%). And only 40% assigned above average grades (with A’s securing an anemic 13%). This makes job placement the only category where the majority didn’t confer above average grades to their law school.

However, this result doesn’t surprise Steven Marietti, vice president and general manager of the Kaplan Bar Review. “Jobs are top of mind…in what continues to be a challenging job market for new attorneys, so it’s not too surprising that students are tough graders on this front,” he says.

Along with encouraging laws to continue looking for ways to help graduates land work, Marietti also offers some advice for current students: “…take advantage of every networking and internship opportunity, which means visiting your law school’s career office early and often.”

The Kaplan survey was completed online by 1,273 law school graduates who took a bar review course with Kaplan Bar Review. It was administered in August 2014.