Tag Archives: Employment Statistics

Spontaneous Exclamations: Plan C, sue 100 law schools?

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 akatz@harrisonheld.com.  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 https://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.

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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!

Join the Spontaneous Exclamations Facebook Group: http://www.facebook.com/groups/289553997756538/

LinkedIn Group: www.linkedin.com/groups/Adam-R-Katz-Chicago-Lawyer-4224634

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?