Spontaneous Exclamations: Plan B, sue law school

Adam Katz is a senior associate at Harrison & Held, LLP.  He concentrates his practice on federal & state tax matters, mergers & acquisitions, entity structure and formation, commercial finance, and non-profit law.  Adam can be reached at (312) 753-6110 or akatz@harrisonheld.com.  Comments on all posts are welcome!

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Everyone knew this would happen eventually, it was just a matter of when.   At the beginning of the month, the remarkable, yet expected, class action complaint was filed in the Cook County Circuit Court.  You guessed it, a group of recent IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law graduates and a student opted for Plan B.  Upon discovering that Plan A was unavailable— that there were no jobs available for recent graduates— a 2009 graduate, two 2011 graduates, and a soon-to-be 2012 graduate filed the class action against IIT Chicago-Kent.  The complaint against IIT Chicago-Kent is based on claims of fraud and dissemination of information to third parties in connection with the law school’s reporting of employment and salary statistics of graduates.

The complaint can be found at the following link on the plaintiffs’ attorney’s website: http://www.anziskalaw.com/uploads/Filed_Chicago-Kent

In my past blog posts, I have advocated for a change of the way law schools report employment statistics, though I have also described the careful balancing act.  Reporting non-misleading a/k/a “accurate” statistics would almost certainly be self-destructive to law schools because potential applicants would grasp the direness of the job market right now.  As a result, most of these potential applicants would simply not apply to law school and class sizes across the nation would plummet.  This is why law schools should not adjust their statistics reporting from a business standpoint.  However, from an ethical and, if this law suit is successful, legal standpoint, law schools should accurately report graduate employment statistics in order to save these students over a $100,000 worth of onerous debt.  Conversely, when times are good, the accurate reporting of 97 percent employment upon graduation and the first-year big law salary increase from $160,000 to $960,000 in New York, law school applications will flourish again.

Which leads us back to the crux of the matter: Law school tuition is so high that students who can’t find jobs and have been saddled with crushing debt at extraordinary interest rates have resorted to filing a class action lawsuit against their alma matter.  Whether or not the plaintiffs seek the return of their tuition payments, at the very least, they are applying firm pressure to compel schools to change their statistics reporting policy.  Also, bridges are ferociously burning.

Did the plaintiffs make the right decision?  Perhaps most practicing attorneys would say no.  These attorneys would claim that the plaintiffs are burning their bridges with law schools and law firms alike and will never find a legitimate job in the legal field ever.  Furthermore, these attorneys would assert that the plaintiffs brought this trouble upon themselves by attending law school during one of the worst legal recessions in recent memory.  Lastly they’d say that anybody with a shred of common sense could figure out that the law school’s statistics are blatantly distorted.  Boy!  These hypothetical attorneys are harsh!

On the other hand, what’s the downside?  The plaintiffs feel swindled by their schools and seek changes to the way the statistics are reported.  Perhaps they also hope for a return of their tuition and the chance at a debt-free life.  They might not even want to work in the legal industry.   Arguably, the plaintiffs are burning their bridges for the benefit of future law students.  Nobody said changing the behavior of powerful and moneyed forces on this planet was easy.

So what’s the solution?  Should law schools choose the high road and report accurate statistics and potentially decimate their application volume?  Or should law schools keep calm and carry on?  Again, like in many of my blogs, we can reach deep to the underlying problem: the student loan industry.  If tuition and lending terms were more reasonable to students, would people care at all about obviously skewed employment statistics, much less file a class action?

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One response to “Spontaneous Exclamations: Plan B, sue law school

  1. These guys are naive to have believed those statistics in the first place and should have done their own research by talking to current lawyers, business people, etc. Nobody, even the people releasing those numbers, believe them. Plus, they will lose the case. Who will make the call on if they win-a judge who is doing just fine in the profession and thinks they are chumps.

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