Thomas Jefferson Law Graduate Sues Over Allegedly Misrepresentations Over Employment Rates

There has long been criticism of the employment rates claimed by some law schools after graduation. However, Anna Alaburda, a 2008 graduate from Thomas Jefferson School of Law, has taken the matter to court with a lawsuit over alleged misrepresentations that led her to go $150,000 in debt. She cites the statistics given by the school to U.S. News and World Report showing an 80 percent employment rate.

Alaburda graduated with honors and passed the bar exam but could not find a decent legal job. Moreover, in a period of economic downturn, all graduate schools are experiencing difficultly on placement. The most promising legal field is bankruptcy — a sad statement on our economic affairs.

The question remains whether it was reasonable to rely on such figures as a guarantee for employment. Generally such figures do not distinguish between types of legal jobs, including many jobs that she might not consider adequate. The class action demands $50 million one behalf of 2,300 TJSL attendees.

While I would give the lawsuit low chances of success, the claim could be viewed as no different from misrepresentations made by businesses in conventional cases of fraud. Yet, an education is not like a box of soap flakes. Even if employment rates were embellished, it is still hard to establish that such representations could be relied upon as any type of guarantee for employment. Hiring decisions are based on multiple and sometimes highly subjective factors, ranging from the applicant’s personality, school performance, recommendations, and demeanor. Nevertheless, if the employment rates are significantly below those reported to applicants, it could make for an interesting lawsuit and some troubling discovery not just for this law school but law schools generally.

Notably, the employment report below states “The Class of 2009 statistics are based on information obtained on 86% of all TJSL graduates from December 2008, May 2009 and August 2009.”

Here is the report: Employment Statistics for Website 7-14-10

Undermining the lawsuit will be reports like the one below showing the market for legal employment is down across the country.

Here is the report: Classof2010SelectedFindings

Source: National Journalas first seen on ABA Journal

23 thoughts on “Thomas Jefferson Law Graduate Sues Over Allegedly Misrepresentations Over Employment Rates

  1. Frank,

    I was wondering the same about Ms. Alaburda or whether she filled pro se. It’s a bit of a reach.

  2. Setting aside the specific facts of this case, I don’t think the theory of the case is a reach. Apart from going to law school as a hobby, the employment data with respect to the school’s graduates, both percentages of hires and mean salaries, seems like the most logical basis on which to incur hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. It may be true that law schools sweep lots of fringe “legal” jobs into those categories (like jobs in their law libraries), but do they disclose that in any obvious fashion? I don’t think any court is going to let law schools defend such claims on the argument that “You should have known we were lying to you.”

    One could say that people should be generally aware of the state of the legal economy but that still varies significantly from one school to another and from region to region. Most law schools brag that they do a good job placing students withstanding the economy, etc. Since law school tuitions do not reflect these differences for the most part, and since USNWR rankings rely on school-reported data, there appears to be no other basis on which students could rely in making these decisions.

  3. Heaven knows law school teaches us how to argue a case before the Supreme Court but not how to make a living. Still I have no sympathy for her. Let her do the way many of us have done: get some business cards, hang out your shingle and do some law.

  4. Using a near dead news magazine for choosing graduate or professional schools was their first problem. It’s a shame that the gaming of data for these ratings doesn’t cause enough of a scandal to finally put USNWR out of business.

  5. ABA [American Bar Association] Acknowledges Consent Decree Violations and Agrees to Pay $185,000

    In June 1995, the Department [of Justice] filed an antitrust lawsuit against the ABA in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. In its complaint, the Department alleged that the ABA had allowed its law school accreditation process to be misused by law school personnel with a direct economic interest in the outcome of accreditation reviews, resulting in anticompetitive conduct. In 1996, the court entered an agreed-upon final judgment prohibiting the ABA from fixing faculty salaries….

    as acknowledged by the ABA, the ABA violated six structural and compliance provisions in the 1996 consent decree on one or more occasions. Those provisions included requirements that the ABA:

    Annually certify to the court and the United States that it has complied with the terms of the final judgment;
    Provide proposed changes to accreditation standards to the United States for review before such changes are acted on by the ABA’s Council of the Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar;
    Provide briefings to certain ABA staff and volunteers concerning the meaning and requirements of the decree;
    Obtain annual certifications from certain ABA staff and volunteers that they agree to abide by the decree and are not aware of any violations;
    Ensure that no more than half of the membership of the ABA’s Standards Review Committee be comprised of law school faculty; and
    Include on the on-site evaluation teams, to the extent reasonably feasible, a university administrator who is not a law school dean or faculty member.

    http://www.justice.gov/atr/public/press_releases/2006/216804.htm

  6. The overall drop in law school applications this year is down 11.5% from last year. I think the word is out. The drop is probably much steeper for a law school like this.

  7. Attorney or tradesman, a competent and resourceful person will find gainful employment. I think ‘Primigenius’ got it right.

  8. Brafman, the attorney for Dominique S-K, is a graduate of Northern Ohio College of Law. The atty representing the accuser is a graduate of Golden Gate Law School. Both are doing very well in NY. I don’t think Thomas Jefferson Law School has much to worry about.

  9. Bush 43 filled the Justice Department with incompetent Bible School lawyers. Judging from the current state of civil liberties in America, apparently Bush 44 is o.k. with that.

  10. There is no place to put this that would not be OT big time, but it is too bad not to share the misery. Don’t try to eat, drink or think during the video because your bodily functions may shut down. Sarah Palin explains the midnight ride of Paul Revere. Or something.

  11. this is a great idea for a book or movie called “sarah explains”.

    have all the different clips of sarah’s take on history, geography, religion, etc… all in one place.

  12. Come on Otteray Scribe, Sister Sayrah just got the midnight ride of Paul Revere mixed up with Mr. Belvedere cross-dressin’ like Lady Godiva on a midday joust…it could happen…

    Ms. Palin is so ignorant she does not understand how ignorant she is.

  13. Or, it just may be that the supply of new law schools & new grads seriously overwhelms the market.

    I can attest that is precisely what happened to the career of paramedics, where freestanding schools have supplanted what was once a med school education.

    And the beat goes on.

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