Hunger Strike Aims for Job Data From Law Schools – NYTimes.com

Updated, 5:43 p.m. | In the legal world, there are many ways to take a stand: a lawsuit, a motion, a fiery courtroom declaration.

But Zenovia Evans, a Nassau County native, has chosen another route: a hunger strike.

Ms. Evans, 28, ignited the legal blogosphere early this month when she announced on her blog, UnemployedJD, that she was starting a hunger strike in an attempt to get law schools to improve their career-counseling practices and provide more transparent data about the job outcomes of alumni.

Ms. Evans’s move was notable not just because it was a hunger strike, but also because she wrote the blog under the alias Ethan Haines. it was only this week that she came clean about her true identity in a blog in USA Today.

Ms. Haines said in an interview that she chose the name Ethan Haines because it was universal and represented “an eclectic broad range of backgrounds.”

“It’s not about me,” she said. “This whole thing is bigger than me.”

Ms. Evans sent letters to 10 law schools, including Fordham, demanding two things. First, that they provide more specific data about the jobs that their alumni get. Second, that they improve their career-counseling services.

Ms. Evans said she was on day 23 of the hunger strike, in which she allows herself to drink fruit juices and water, and had lost 16 pounds. she said the strike would continue until she got a response from at least one of the law school administrators she sent a letter to.

“Even if they don’t adhere to the request,” she said, she would be happy to get an “acknowledgment that the problem exists.”

“And I would be further delighted if they would stand up and say they would try and do something to fix it,” she said.

Ms. Evans, who graduated last year from Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing, Mich., said she made $600 per week working as an independent contractor doing menial work like document review for a Denver law firm.

What touched off her hunger strike was a report released in July by the American Bar Association that pointed out faults in the U.S. News and World Report law school rankings and the adverse effects they have. Those negative effects included increasing law-school tuition, discouraging need-based financial aid and reducing the incentive of law schools to promote diversity.

Ms. Evans said she believed that better career counseling and more detailed recording of the employment status of alumni could provide metrics that would make the rankings more accurate.

But Ms. Evans’s effort has also inflamed detractors who question whether she is actually even on a hunger strike and her true intentions. Kimber A. Russell, another law school blogger who runs a site called Shilling Me Softly, wrote an e-mail to Courthouse Confidential expressing her thoughts on Ms. Evans.

“While I agree with Ms. Evans that there is an urgent need for law school transparency, she has not been the most transparent herself in how she has orchestrated this supposed strike,” she wrote.

Ms. Russell, a 37-year-old graduate of the DePaul University College of Law who works for a company that prepares graduates for bar exams, continued:

My readers are very skeptical because other than her brief MSNBC interview, she has not released any actual evidence that she is starving for change. she claims to have medical records and photographic proof, but she refuses to release any of it. in addition, based on her interview with Higher Education, she is ingesting fruit smoothies–this doesn’t sound like a serious hunger strike, but a liquid diet.

The issue of law schools reporting the employment status of alumni has also been highlighted by a pair of Vanderbilt Law School students who started a Web site last year called Law School Transparency.

The creators, Kyle McEntee and Patrick Lynch, said that a more detailed report of jobs that alumni get would help prospective students make more informed decisions. as it stands now, the current data that law schools release are generic and do not accurately portray the kinds of jobs alumni are getting, they said.

An alumnus who gets a job as a bartender, for instance, would be listed as having a job in the business sector, mr. McEntee and mr. Lynch said.

“It’s more for aligning career goals with school choice,” mr. McEntee said. “If your goals are to work for a big new York firm, you want to know what schools are most often placing students in those firms.”

This information could help prospective students make smarter decisions about what school to attend, they said. if, for instance, someone wants to go into public interest work, that person may not have to strive for so expensive a school if there are other schools that place a lot of its alumni in that line of work.

Mr. McEntee, 24, and mr. Lynch, 27, sent out letters to about 200 law schools asking them to provide information about specific employers and positions that alumni have obtained.

They said they have received some responses and plan to release the results of their effort next month.

And along the way, they haven’t skipped a meal.

John Eligon and other court reporters for the new York Times bring you inside the city’s halls of law every Friday. have a tip? Send an email to CourthouseConfidential@nytimes.com.

Hunger Strike Aims for Job Data From Law Schools – NYTimes.com


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