Grads Sue Law Schools For Fraud

 Grads Sue Law Schools For Fraud



Two big law schools are being sued by former students for fraud, negligent misrepresentation and deceptive business practices. The dispute is about how the law schools advertised their students’ success rate after graduation. The lawsuits claim that the schools inflated the post-graduation employment statistics, including salaries of graduates, and basically tricked students into attending and left them stuck with large amounts of tuition debt and few employment opportunities. The lawsuits ask for millions of dollars in tuition reimbursement.

I have no doubt that many recent law school graduates are in this situation. But is that really a surprise? Were they really tricked into their current situation?

I believe you make your own magic in this world. One lawsuit is against New York Law School and the other is against Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Michigan. These are two of the largest schools in the country. They have a reputation for being “J.D. factories” – low admissions standards, high tuition, and big graduating classes. Yet as low as these schools are in the rankings, they still produce some excellent attorneys. And Harvard produces some terrible attorneys. Going to a top law school can open doors that wouldn’t otherwise be opened. Even if you’re bottom of your class at Yale, you’re going to get an offer somewhere. But once you’re out in the working world, what you do is much more important than where you went to school. A fancy law degree isn’t going to keep you at the top if you screw up, and it’s not going to get you that 2nd or 3rd job (the ones that really matter). Your success will rest on your reputation – which you get to make.

The complaint against the Michigan school alleges that the school’s actual employment rate after law school (for jobs where a law degree is actually required or preferred) is around 30%, which is much lower than the 75-80% employment rate advertised by the school. If it’s true, that’s a big difference. But as a lawyer, you’re not going to win any cases if you believe everything you hear. I’m not saying the schools shouldn’t fix this – they definitely need to be more transparent. I’m just having a hard time believing that students are getting tricked into attending law school with promises of employers lining up with six-figure salaries when they graduate. It sounds much too good to be true.  Cooley has produced some great attorneys, but their acceptance rate is around 80%.  If you are going there, you must know that you are just hoping to someday have a shot at being in the game, not actually banking on success if you graduate.

All this outrage about how statistics are reported is just a reflection of the real issue, which is that there are more attorneys than there are jobs these days. If you’re going to go to lesser ranked school, in a bad economy, and spend tons of money to do so, you better have a plan. Talk to actual attorneys before going to law school, and do some research on the areas of law you’re interested in (availability of jobs, salary expectations, etc.). Talk to recent graduates about what the job market is like and find out what they and their classmates are actually doing for work.   But in my opinion, suing a law school because you didn’t get your dream job or any job makes you sound spoiled and lazy.  The best way to succeed in this world is to create your own magic.  There is a ton better that these attorneys could do with their degrees than this lawsuit. 

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  • As a recent law grad and newly licensed attorney, I disagree that the lawsuits are silly. I actually applaud the people filing the complaints and wouldn't think it was such a bad thing if the exact same thing happened to my alma mater.

    You are right that the real issue is there are too many attorneys for the market...well actually there are too many unqualified and incompetent attorneys that remain licensed. However, a law school is only as good as the position its graduates are placed in.

    Law schools have become cash-cows. I calculated that my school brought in an average of $200,000 for a three credit course consisting of 40 hours of lecture from a semi-disinterested and mediocre law professor. When the average grad can make 6 figures, maybe that is reasonable. That was the case just a few years ago. Now it is not. The schools should adjust to the times, and I agree that if they are lying to entering students about what to expect, they should be sued for fraud.

    I was a teacher before I was a lawyer, and I can honestly say my law school has an extremely low degree of academic integrity. Plus, I know the numbers from our career center were just plain wrong.

    Becoming a lawyer is a tough pursuit and education should be encouraged. Considering the position that a lot of these schools put their grads in when the grads are making good faith efforts to do what is best for themselves, I think they deserve some shame.

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