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Law Schools Found Misrepresenting Jobs Data
October 9, 2011 9:27 AM   Subscribe

Over the past couple of months, there have been a series of scandals that have rocked the legal education community. First, there were tandem lawsuits against Thomas M. Cooley School of Law and New York Law School for misrepresenting jobs data. Then, Villanova University and the University of Illinois were found to be fudging their employment numbers. A legal team is now preparing to sue 15 different law schools because of misrepresentations made to students regarding job and salary data.
posted by reenum (43 comments total) 16 users marked this as a favorite

 
False advertising on a $500K+ product is damn well a big thing. Meanwhile, isn't the library science education community going through the same thing as well?
posted by griphus at 9:36 AM on October 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


good.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:36 AM on October 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


pop law will eat itself?
posted by slater at 9:44 AM on October 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


If only there were judgments sufficiently large as to make the schools no longer profitable, necessitating broad swathes of closures and a resulting mass of unemployed law professors.

Sweet justice.
posted by leotrotsky at 9:48 AM on October 9, 2011


Is there a German word for schadenfreude?
posted by tommasz at 9:57 AM on October 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Unless there's another scandal I'm not aware of, Illinois is in trouble for fudging its LSAT and GPA, not employment numbers. The articles you link to also only mention LSAT and GPA, not employment numbers.
posted by sbutler at 10:02 AM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


What sbutler said. If there's an article about employment numbers, please post. Thanks.
posted by vincele at 10:03 AM on October 9, 2011


The lawyers got jobs suing the law-school because they couldn't get jobs as lawyers..

soooo.... everybody wins?
posted by TomStampy at 10:03 AM on October 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Check the first sentence of the last link: misleading about their job prospects after graduation.
posted by jph at 10:04 AM on October 9, 2011


Screw with the English majors. Screw with the math majors. But whatever you do, don't screw with a bunch of unemployed lawyers with inferiority complexes.
posted by miyabo at 10:05 AM on October 9, 2011 [7 favorites]


Check the first sentence of the last link: misleading about their job prospects after graduation.

It's a little hard to piece together, but University of Illinois isn't mentioned in that article, or listed in the penultimate link as being sued. I see 17 as:

California: California Western School of Law, Southwestern Law School, and University of San Francisco School of Law (3)

Florida: Florida Coastal School of Law (1)

Illinois: Chicago-Kent College of Law, DePaul University College of Law, and John Marshall School of Law (3)

Maryland: University of Baltimore School of Law (1)

Michigan: Thomas M. Cooley Law School (1)

New York: Albany Law School, Brooklyn Law School, Hofstra Law School, Pace University School of Law, St. John’s University School of Law, and New York Law School (6)

Pennsylvania: Villanova University School of Law and Widener University School of Law (also has a campus in Delaware) (2)
posted by sbutler at 10:14 AM on October 9, 2011


Ohh... and Thomas Jefferson School of Law in CA. I thought I missed on in there.
posted by sbutler at 10:19 AM on October 9, 2011


A legal team is now preparing to sue 15 different law schools because of misrepresentations made to students regarding job and salary data.

Recognizing where industry growth is occurring, the schools should be training lawyers for a future in suing schools.
posted by Trurl at 10:48 AM on October 9, 2011


When the lawyers get through with the law schools, I hope they recognize that there's big money to be made suing ITT tech. People who fall into that trap are so astonishingly screwed, it's mind-boggling.
posted by MrVisible at 11:12 AM on October 9, 2011 [6 favorites]


If this plays out how I suspect it will, a few ex-students will get token payments. Lawyers representing the unemployed ex-students will get huge sums of money. And a bunch of schools who employ real people will be left wounded and bleeding. I'm all for consequences resulting from misrepresentation of facts, but I suspect the people who are most hurt by this will not be the ones who benefit. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope so.
posted by jeffamaphone at 11:28 AM on October 9, 2011


Lots of law schools give unemployed grads bullshit fellowships and then count them as employed at graduation. My friend did that. He got a few grand and sat in the library working on an article. Because he didn't have a real job. Except on paper. Makes me angry.

Law schools are full of lies. The list of defendants doesn't begin to approach the real list of law schools that basically sell naive applicants the Brooklyn Bridge. I'm starting to think that people who are applying to law school today must be a little stupid or a little crazy.

And I fucking loved law school. But it's a scam. A law degree should not be required for the practice of law.
posted by prefpara at 11:36 AM on October 9, 2011 [5 favorites]


I suspect the people who are most hurt by this will not be the ones who benefit...

That's always a problem with cases like this: some bad actor inflicts a modest injury to a huge number of people. They make out like bandits, while none of the injured really have enough of a stake to make it worth going after them. So some enterprising lawyer puts together a class action, spanks the bad actor, and makes out like a bandit himself. The injured rarely get anything out of it; the reason we allow it is that otherwise, the original bad actor gets off scot free.

Of course, as you point out, the (relatively) innocent people who work for the school suffer collateral spankage, but to the extent that the suit discourages the original bad guys, and others who might otherwise consider going into the lucrative business of ripping off students, it improves things overall.

What would really improve things, IMHO, is jail terms for directors and executives who coordinate, or even know of, these activities. You don't have to put them in jail for 5 or 10 years. Even 30 days would probably be a significant deterrent for a lot of this stuff.

But those guys are rich and/or white, so good luck with that.
posted by spacewrench at 11:47 AM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Next, can we go after all the *other* institutions of higher education which insist, despite mounting evidence to the contrary, that college/graduate school/an associate's degree is all you need to live a comfortable life with a car and a mortgage and a yearly vacation just like your parents? There's a lot of people that's not happening for, lately. Not just lawyers.
posted by gracedissolved at 12:00 PM on October 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


As far as I can see from my non-Law school perspective, this goes on all the time in many University departments. Universities and departments admit students all the time for the tuition cheque; there are many people who should not be admitted but who are; there are many people who will never make back the money they invest in their degree. The stakes (and tuition) are of course higher in Law schools.

It goes on everywhere; for instance, we now have a compulsory campaign where faculty 'give' back to a special university development fund (that has its own advertising budget, and which has hired people to administer it), because one of the college ranking newspapers has a metric that has something to do with the % of faculty who support their own university. So if we arm-twist faculty into giving, our ranking presumably might go up.
posted by carter at 12:06 PM on October 9, 2011


> That's always a problem with cases like this: some bad actor inflicts a modest injury to a huge number of people

$200k nondischargeable indebtedness for a largely worthless piece of paper is not a "modest" injury imo.

> There's a lot of people that's not happening for, lately. Not just lawyers.

I agree. Since about a decade ago when tuition rates exploded, higher education has become one of the most exploitive and destructive industries in the US. However, as for starting with law schools; have to start somewhere.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 12:08 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait. Law schools engage in unethical activities? But, they're so prestigious, and their alumni are so fair, just and more intelligent than rest of us. Oh woe! What shall we do?
posted by malaprohibita at 12:13 PM on October 9, 2011


A lot of this chicanery also goes into USN&WR rankings, which are also bullshit. There's a lot of pressure at law schools to cook the books for employment statistics, so you wind up with bizarre situations in which it's better rankings-wise for schools to invest in temporary "fellowships" than to invest in, say, clinical programs.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:15 PM on October 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


If this plays out how I suspect it will, a few ex-students will get token payments. Lawyers representing the unemployed ex-students will get huge sums of money. And a bunch of schools who employ real people will be left wounded and bleeding. I'm all for consequences resulting from misrepresentation of facts, but I suspect the people who are most hurt by this will not be the ones who benefit. Maybe I'm wrong. I hope so.

Well, I think the ones who will benefit will be the future students who don't mortgage their entire lives on the basis of misrepresentations.

It's always unfortunate when people are put out of work, but when I weigh how unfortunate it is for a handful of people to have to find a few job, vs. how unfortunate it is for hundreds or thousands of people to take on loans that they will never pay off and will prevent them from ever reaching a solid middle class existence, I think the latter is a lot worse.
posted by Ashley801 at 12:28 PM on October 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


Before buying a house you get a buyer's inspection, which costs $500 or so, takes a day, and results in a sober and objective assessment of everything that could possibly go wrong when you're a homeowner.

Maybe prospective students should hire a "degree inspector." You'd pay the degree inspector a few hundred bucks, and he's use his expertise and network of informants to research the program with special regard to your planned career path. He'd talk to students, alumni, professors, and employers about the pros and cons of the school you're interested in. You'd get back an objective evaluation of the program -- including a worst-case scenario if you pay for the degree and can't get a job.

US News' job is to sell magazines, while the admissions counselor's job is to get as many students as possible. The degree inspector would have unambiguous responsibility to the student alone.
posted by miyabo at 12:41 PM on October 9, 2011 [2 favorites]


An interesting data point would be the number of applicants these schools before and after this news comes out, which I guess would be next fall? I would put money on this not hurting any of these schools at all, so strong is the belief that law school is a ticket to riches. Even with "law school is a ripoff for all except the top 14 (maybe top 6?) schools" being a weekly story for anyone who bothers to do any research.
posted by roquetuen at 12:51 PM on October 9, 2011


Some schools, such as Albany and Touro, have been electing to admit fewer students, in light of the hiring climate.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:52 PM on October 9, 2011


It seems that the message is finally sinking in: Law school applications were down 10% last year.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 1:05 PM on October 9, 2011


That said, there is and will continue to be people who think they can beat the odds and I don't feel a ton of sympathy for those who decide to make a $200k long-shot gamble or those who don't even bother to do some research before committing to that kind of debt. Maybe it was different five or six years ago, but if you do your due diligence now, you will find hoards of people on the internet warning you away from places like NYLS, Cooley, etc. (Though I am a little disheartened to see that the first Google result for "should I go to New York Law School" is an Ask MeFi question where the OP is given equivocal encouragement to attend. It was in early 2008, at least; I suspect the answers might be different today.)
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 1:13 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


US News' job is to sell magazines, while the admissions counselor's job is to get as many students as possible. The degree inspector would have unambiguous responsibility to the student alone.

The thing that's really galling though, is that it's hammered into law students from orientation, that they will have to face a Character & Fitness evaluation after graduation, where their finances, mental health, and everything else will be up for scrutiny, to judge their character. And that the most important thing is candor, both in that situation and in law school, to prove honesty, character and trustworthiness.

It's absolutely astonishing for them to saying that sort of thing to the students, and to be up to things like this in private.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:17 PM on October 9, 2011


Anybody that's gone through law school or even done one iota of research about law school before applying would've know that the employment stats bandied about by law schools are absolutely crap. While I do feel sorry for people who were duped by law schools into taking on 6 figures of debt for very dim job prospects, just doing a little bit of research would've save a lot of people from that debt. The motto from recent law grads all seem to be "don't go, no jobs, die alone".
posted by gyc at 1:20 PM on October 9, 2011


Anybody that's gone through law school or even done one iota of research about law school before applying would've know that the employment stats bandied about by law schools are absolutely crap.

I don't know that it's necessarily true that it would be crystal clear. Sure, you can find some articles and some internet talk about this. But there are other articles, even now, still saying it's a good bet, and there are tons and tons of lawyers in their 50's and 60's who have no clue what's going on now and will assure a prospective student that it's a good idea. I don't think it's unrealistic that a 22 or 23 year old will listen to the older lawyers they know, or follow the advice of their parents, rather than heeding what they find online.

And I think the onus should be on the administrators of law schools to be honest regardless, and especially because they are infinitely more sophisticated about all these things compared to a bunch of 22 years olds who have no clue.
posted by Ashley801 at 1:45 PM on October 9, 2011 [3 favorites]


Even the employment statistics as given don't support what a lot of people seem to think--that law school is a ticket to the sort of job that'll pay off $200k in student loans. I'm not paying to go and I feel pretty good about my prospects because I live in a sub-$500 apartment and I'm happy here. But I was having a hard time finding steady work in a "recession-proof" industry after finishing undergrad summa cum laude, before this, so I've got a pretty practical outlook on life.

I look at some of my peers talking about their daily Starbucks habits and exensive handbags and how annoying the extra classes you have to take for having a low GPA are and how it's so unfair that we have a forced curve... and I'm not sure what planet they live on, at this point.
posted by gracedissolved at 1:47 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Even the employment statistics as given don't support what a lot of people seem to think--that law school is a ticket to the sort of job that'll pay off $200k in student loans.

Right, this. The numbers quite simply don't make sense. If being able to put "esq." after your name wasn't so prestigious, half of the law schools in America would close tomorrow. This is especially the case because the kind of work that lawyers actually do is not all that well-suited to most people. It really is all just driven by an ill-informed idea that, evidence to the contrary be damned, law school is a ticket to a stable, upper-middle class, prestigious career.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 2:16 PM on October 9, 2011


Bookmarking this one for the next time there's a "Should I go to law school?" AskMe.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 3:31 PM on October 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Meanwhile, isn't the library science education community going through the same thing as well?

Really? That's not good - my g/f is doing a masters in that right now. From memory, there were similar claims about placement rates.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:00 PM on October 9, 2011


Screw with the English majors. Screw with the math majors. But whatever you do, don't screw with a bunch of unemployed lawyers with inferiority complexes.

One of those things is not like the others. Law is a trade degree. English and Maths are not. Has anyone been making the same claims to English and Maths majors?

This is basic false advertising. Society doesn't like it when powerful organisations lie to individuals in order to get their money. There are laws against it.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 4:05 PM on October 9, 2011


This is basic false advertising.

Critically, the schools never actually lied outright. They just obscured the truth -- mostly by counting anyone with any job as employed, but only counting lawyers in their salary averages. I'm not sure if there was fine print disclosing this fact, but if there was it wouldn't really matter; no one reads the fine print anyway.

Marketing claims for almost everything are routinely exaggerated in similar ways. Come on, does anyone really believe the Volt gets 300 miles per gallon, or that the house for sale down the street just needs "a little TLC?"

I'm not defending the schools, but I don't have a ton of sympathy for people who buy a multi-hundred-thousand dollar product without being the least bit skeptical about it.
posted by miyabo at 5:33 PM on October 9, 2011


I'm not defending the schools, but I don't have a ton of sympathy for people who buy a multi-hundred-thousand dollar product without being the least bit skeptical about it.

Would you be as cavalier if this involved medical schools instead of law schools? Because those two routes are traditionally considered the path to upper-middle class (and beyond) success.
posted by autoclavicle at 6:16 PM on October 9, 2011


Yes :)

Doctors operate a cartel, just like lawyers did for many years. Cartels are hard to keep intact; I think it's pretty likely that the medical cartel will fall apart within the next few decades.* I weep for anyone who's in med school or is a recent graduate when this happens. But anyone who goes to med school after that point and expects to make a cartel-level salary is a fool.

* I expect DSNs will get more and more responsibility until MDs are no longer required for most medical procedures. DSNs in the US have more rigorous training than full-on physicians in the UK, so this is a realistic possibility.
posted by miyabo at 7:08 PM on October 9, 2011


And I fucking loved law school. But it's a scam. A law degree should not be required for the practice of law.

Is it? I thought passing the bar was the only requirement.
posted by jeffamaphone at 7:17 PM on October 9, 2011


Only in California and a couple of smaller states. You need four years of formal study with a lawyer instead of classes, so it's not some kind of amazing loophole.
posted by miyabo at 7:36 PM on October 9, 2011


in many states, you cannot sit for the bar without a degree from an accredited law school. so, yes, you need only pass the bar, but you cannot sit for it without the degree.
posted by crush-onastick at 7:37 PM on October 9, 2011


Is it? I thought passing the bar was the only requirement.

In 18 states taking the bar requires a JD or an LL.B from an ABA-approved law school. Everything you might ever want to know about this (and a lot that no one ever wants to know, I'd wager) can be found in the ABA's Comprehensive Guide to Bar Admission Requirements [pdf].
posted by jedicus at 7:38 PM on October 9, 2011


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