Adam Katz is a senior associate at Harrison & Held, LLP. He concentrates his practice on federal & state tax matters, commercial finance, mergers & acquisitions, entity structure and formation, and non-profit law. Adam can be reached at (312) 753-6110 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Comments on all posts are welcome!
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Last blog post, we expected that some disgruntled law students and recent graduates would sue their law school over the blatantly misleading employment statistics you find in almost every admissions booklet from almost every law school. Well, almost every school may or may not be an exaggeration, but you get the gist of it. Law school admissions statistics are frequently ambiguous in that the definition of “employed” within a year of graduation includes positions like coffee barista, zamboni driver, professional underwater synchronized scuba ballerina, and various other occupations that do not require a J.D. degree. (See http://h20cooler.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/spontaneous-exclamations-plan-b-sue-law-school/). Many of you have responded to me along the lines of: “Adam, caveat emptor— these students graduating within the last year or two entered law school after the start of the worst legal job recession in recent memory. It’s their fault for going to law school knowing there’d be no jobs when they came out!” In certain situations, this is could be a valid argument. However, in addition to my points in the last article, shouldn’t law schools, which are tasked with teaching ethics and professionalism to the very students they enroll, refrain from purposefully publishing misleading and/or vague employment data?
Yet this just in: It appears that Plan B, “sue your law school,” was just bypassed for Plan C, “sue 100 law schools!” According to Above the Law, and an interview conducted by Bloomberg Law, the attorneys behind the IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law class action and suits against 11 other law schools, have at least 20 additional suits planned. Furthermore, Chicago Crain’s reported that these attorneys plan on suing as many schools as possible in 2012— 20 to 25 new suits every few months. If this is true, this may be a shocking year for universities across the nation, that is, if any courts actually allow these cases to proceed.
As reported in Chicago Crain’s, Dean John Corkery of The John Marshall Law School stated that the attorneys intended to file suit even before even having any students or graduates to constitute a class. Without addressing these attorneys’ questionable ethics for filing class actions potentially (but not necessarily) for their own personal gain (and are these ethics different from those underlying a significant proportion of class action lawsuits?), we now need to question whether the plaintiffs constituting the classes are generally miffed students and new attorneys or whether they may have been influenced to join the classes by the potential to recoup tuition and get back at the institutions that saddled them with so much debt and no job.
If this is the case, to all of the lovely commentators who expressed their lack of sympathy for recent graduates, perhaps these disgruntled young lawyers aren’t fully to blame. Either: (1) they are whole-heartedly regretful for attending law school and seek payback (in which case your argument has some validity); or maybe, just maybe, (2) they were drawn in by the attorneys filing the class actions and aren’t the eloquent phrases conspicuously analogous to the word “brat” that a number of readers have claimed these law students to be (we’re lawyers, we hide behind ominous walls of words). If No. 2 is true, while ethically ambiguous, is it really that bad? In truth, should law schools really be intentionally reporting misleading statistics? Perhaps these class actions are the only viable way to stand up to a heavily entrenched and ethically-borderline practice by a powerful industry. Considering the news coverage these class actions have received, the class’ attorneys have already got your attention.