orgtheory.net

law students sue law schools

The LA Times reports on a series of new class action lawsuits. Former law students are suing law schools for misleading students about job prospects:

Besides Southwestern, alumni have sued San Francisco’s Golden Gate University, the University of San Francisco and San Diego’s Thomas Jefferson and California Western schools of law. Each school charges about $40,000 a year in tuition.

J.R. Parker, a lead lawyer in four of the California cases, said graduate jobs included “literally folding shirts in Macy’s.”

Parker said he found it “galling” that the schools gathered data that showed graduates were ending up in non-legal jobs but omitted that information from what they disclosed to the public — a contention that is in dispute. Job data are a highly influential factor in law school rankings. The suits allege the schools also inflated their graduate earnings, reporting the results of only a carefully selected sample.

An interesting question for both attorneys and social scientists. The legal question is whether educational institutions are required to provide accurate information to potential students. The sociological question is whether the courts will determine that an educational promise can now be bundled into a promise of employment and what reason may be provided for such a bundling.

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Written by fabiorojas

April 4, 2013 at 12:01 am

Posted in fabio, professions

7 Responses

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  1. These cases are not about “educational promise.” They are about consumer fraud. I suspect that if the schools says absolutely nothing about employment outcomes, the students would have no grounds to sue. However, if you provide advertising materials to potential consumers/students–particularly in a state with stringent consumer protection laws–you are in fact required to tell the truth in said materials.

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    Mikaila

    April 4, 2013 at 2:08 am

  2. I agree with the previous point about fraud, but I think part of why it is fraudulent is because there is an implicit “educational promise” being made with such statistics. Schools may not say explicitly that x% of their graduates get jobs in the legal field, but I think a prospective student is reasonable in concluding that employment statistics provided by schools are intended to represent such results. Strictly speaking, saying x% of graduates are employed is “the truth” even if some of those graduates are “folding clothes at Macy’s,” but I don’t think that is what has people upset.

    This makes me wonder about business schools … they provide such statistics too, but would there be any grounds for complaint if MBAs discovered that alumni were “folding clothes at Macy’s”?

    All of this gets back to the issues associated with ranking systems, and how organizations “juke the stats” as a form of magical thinking.

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    Alex

    April 4, 2013 at 1:47 pm

  3. I think the general assumption is that “everyone knows everyone is gaming the system”. Very easy to see how ethical considerations take a backseat when the rankings become seen as a game where you need to do as well as possible.
    There is something slightly sinister about law schools breaking the law, though.

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    henri

    April 4, 2013 at 1:53 pm

  4. Henri’s point is pretty interesting. If everyone know that everyone else is gaming the system it becomes something of an open secret. But are prospective law students aware of this open secret? If not, who does the secret defraud and what are the rankings for in the first place? Of course, some prospective students might have access to information beyond the formal statistics–this puts them in a better position to decide on schools–but i doubt that additional information is equitably distributed.

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    Richard Benton

    April 4, 2013 at 3:30 pm

  5. Schools do not sell jobs. They sell degrees. Lying about placement statistics is fraud. Sampling in a manner that flatters your program is not.

    A vanishing number of schools have contracts with employers for placement. Moreover, schools cannot predict labor market trends any better than the BLS. I doubt the case will go anywhere, but outcry about educational advertising is probably a nice healthy check on program honesty.

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    Graham Peterson

    April 4, 2013 at 4:59 pm

  6. They’ll all get a gift card for $100 towards their next degree, and terrible law schools will start adding a footnote to their promotional materials, noting, “results not typical.”

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    Imogen

    April 10, 2013 at 9:43 pm


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