Recent Suits Allege Deception From Law Schools About Employment Numbers

Posted By Eliana Osborn on November 19, 2015 at 1:49 pm
Recent Suits Allege Deception From Law Schools About Employment Numbers

It isn’t just students at for-profit schools complaining that they’ve been misled.  In recent months, many students have filed lawsuits against their law schools, claiming they were lied to about job prospects.  The amount of money involved and the years required to get a law degree ramps up the problem many graduates face when the job marketplace doesn’t match up to their expectations. About 20% of 2010 law graduates are currently working jobs that do not require a law degree, and just 40% are working in law firms – that’s down from 60% a decade earlier.

The Wall Street Journal reports, however, that these class action lawsuits have not fared well.  More than a dozen cases were filed in 2011 and 2012, and nearly all have been thrown out.  And while complaining graduates say they were defrauded by the law schools, it’s worth noting that the schools at the focus of these suits are ones with low rankings, schools with names that do not carry much cache in terms of hiring.

Judges who have declined to hear such cases say that law students are sophisticated and capable of looking at data regarding job placement and salaries themselves.  Unlike first-time college students, law students have previously attended college and experienced the higher educational system – and, it follows, should be able to make more informed choices about their education.

Some cases are moving forward, but with individual clients rather than as class action lawsuits.  One of the first trials will take place in 2016 in San Diego, involving Thomas Jefferson Law School.

In 2013, the Jefferson case lost its chance to be class action when lawyers asked a judge to certify everyone who graduated over a seven year period as one group for the lawsuit.  The judge ruled that there were too many differences involved, but allowed the original case filed by four graduates to continue.  The claim?  That Jefferson provided misleading job statistics that harmed the students, even if they were later able to get jobs as lawyers.

Thomas Jefferson Law School has faced other recent problems as well, including defaulting on a bond payment in 2014.  As a “tier four” law school, Jefferson students know they aren’t heading somewhere elite.  But they are still spending big bucks, betting on a payoff after graduation.  Schools at all levels of higher education have been under greater scrutiny – or even sanction – regarding their honesty in marketing.   Students need to be increasingly careful when making large financial commitments like taking out loans.  Oversight and lawsuits can only go so far, leaving individuals responsible for researching what each school truly has to offer.

Eliana Osborn
Eliana Osborn is an associate English professor at Arizona Western College, with degrees from Brigham Young University and Northern Arizona University. She’s published widely in forums such as The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Christian Science Monitor, and the Chronicle of Higher Education.

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