Janet Babin, Economic Development Reporter, WNYC News
Janet Babin is a reporter at WNYC covering economic development.
Law school alums facing a tough job market are suing their alma maters. At least 15 individual class action law suits have been filed by a total of 73 law school grads who allege that the schools falsely inflated graduate employment rates.
The suits allege the schools inflated the data, in part, by employing their own graduates in temporary jobs and counting graduates working in non-legal-related jobs and part-time and temporary jobs as employed. “We believe that some in the legal academy have done a disservice to the profession and the nation by saddling tens of thousands of young lawyers with massive debt for a degree worth far less than advertised,” stated David Anziska, on behalf of Plaintiffs’ counsel.
The suits also allege that the schools inflated salary data as well.
Attorney Jesse Strauss, who represents some of the plaintiffs who filed the suits, said inflated employment and salary figures pushed more students to go to law school. He argues that if they knew job figures for recent law school grads were weak and they were unlikely to get a job when they graduated, they might not have decided to plunk all that tuition down. Law school can cost upwards of $75-thousand dollars including living expenses.
Schools being sued include four in New York, including Albany Law School, Union University, Brooklyn Law School, and Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University. New York Law School was named in another suit.
The law schools say they complied with all the standards of their trade association, the National Bar Association and other legal trade groups.
“We adhere to the reporting guidelines set by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP) and the American Bar Association, which set the standards for measuring employment data for accredited law schools nationwide,” said a spokeswoman for Hoftra Law School.
Albany Law School also defended its statistics as following American Bar Association guidelines, along with those set by the National Association for Legal Career Professionals.
“The plaintiffs have been clear in their true goal to remedy a systemic reporting issue across legal education and are using a class action suit to force institutional change,” Connie Mayer, Interim President and Dean of Albany Law School said in a statement.
Still, Strauss said that complying with trade group standards is not enough. “Their defense is that they’re somehow allowed by their trade association to report employment and salary data in a misleading way,” said Strauss. “You can’t have a trade association pass regulations that immunizes schools from fraud.”
Update: According to the National Association for Law Placement, the phrase used in the article by Albany Law School is a tagline and not the Association’s name. It should read NALP: the Association for Legal Career Professionals.