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