Breaking: 12 more law schools facing class actions

The Law Offices of David Anziska, together with Strauss Law PLLC and six other law firms, publicly announced moments ago that they have filed complaints against 12 more law schools. To date, 15 of the country’s 197 ABA-approved law schools are facing class action suits. (Thomas Jefferson, New York Law School, and Thomas Cooley have already been sued, with the first lawsuit already in discovery.)

These lawsuits should be of grave concern to the ABA, both as the only federally-recognized accrediting body and as the legal profession’s largest and most powerful trade organization. Nearly 8% of its member schools have been formally accused of fraud by 74 former students. While positive results for the plaintiffs would further confirm what LST has drawn attention to over the past two years, the underlying problem of poor ABA governance will remain unchanged by the results. Recent efforts to reform the accreditation standards are a start, but the ABA has yet to show that they will take any significant corrective action against schools. While these lawsuits will attempt to hold schools accountable for past misleading actions, it will be up to the ABA to ensure its member schools do not continue the fraud that is widespread throughout American legal education.

The new batch includes 11 schools from Anziska and Strauss’s October 2011 announcement. The twelfth is Golden Gate University School of Law, as Above the Law announced late last year.

All 12 Schools:

  • Albany Law School
  • Brooklyn Law School
  • California Western School of Law
  • Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • DePaul University College of Law
  • Florida Coastal School of Law
  • Golden Gate University School of Law
  • Hofstra Law School
  • John Marshall School of Law (Chicago)
  • Southwestern Law School
  • University of San Francisco School of Law
  • Widener University School of Law

As momentum for holding law schools accountable grows and people start to realize the courts are their only remedy, LST expects more class actions will be filed this year. These allegations concern a long history of consumer-disoriented behavior, which unfortunately continues today at a great number of schools. LST’s Winter 2012 Transparency Index shows just how poor the newly-sued schools are doing when it comes to being honest about what their graduates found for work. Just one of the twelve schools currently discloses the number of graduates who found full-time, permanent jobs for which bar passage was required.

Transparency Index Performance of Newly-Sued Schools

School State Transparency Index Performance
Albany Law School NY Does not indicate # in FT/PT jobs or LT/ST jobs. Provides Legal Employment Rate.
Brooklyn Law School NY Does not indicate # in school-funded jobs, FT/PT jobs, or LT/ST jobs. Provides misleading salary figures.
California Western School of Law CA Struggled with its graduate survey response rate more than most schools. Does not indicate # in school-funded jobs, FT/PT jobs, or LT/ST jobs. Provides misleading salary figures.
Chicago-Kent College of Law IL Does not indicate # in school-funded jobs, FT/PT jobs, or LT/ST jobs. Provides misleading salary figures.
DePaul University College of Law IL Does not indicate graduate survey response rate. Does not indicate # in school-funded jobs, FT/PT jobs, or LT/ST jobs. Provides misleading salary figures.
Florida Coastal School of Law FL Struggled with its graduate survey response rate more than most schools. Does not indicate # in school-funded jobs, FT/PT jobs, or LT/ST jobs. However, it does provide the Legal Employment Rate. Provides misleading salary figures.
Golden Gate University School of Law CA Struggled with its graduate survey response rate more than most schools. Does not indicate # in school-funded jobs or LT/ST jobs. However, it does provide the FT Legal Employment Rate.
Hofstra Law School NY Does not indicate # in school-funded jobs, FT/PT jobs, or LT/ST jobs. Provides misleading salary figures and employer list.
John Marshall School of Law (Chicago) IL Does not indicate # in school-funded jobs or LT/ST jobs. Provides the FT Legal Employment Rate. Provides many misleading salary figures.
Southwestern Law School CA One of the best performing schools with 12 met criteria. One of two schools that currently provide the Full-time, Long-term Legal Employment Rate. Does not indicate # in school-funded jobs.
University of San Francisco School of Law CA Does not provide employment statistics on its website.
Widener University School of Law DE/PA Struggled with its graduate survey response rate more than most schools. Does not indicate # in school-funded jobs, FT/PT jobs, or LT/ST jobs. However, it does provide the FT Legal Employment Rate.

Press Release

Law Offices of David Anziska (New York, New York), Strauss Law PLLC (New York, New York), Law Offices of Frank Raimond (New York, New York), The Clinton Law Firm (Chicago, Illinois), Concepcion Martinez & Bellido LLP (Miami, Florida), Finkelstein Thompson LLP (Washington, D.C. and San Francisco, California), Kershaw, Cutter & Ratinoff LLP (Sacramento, California), and Stone & Magnanini LLP (Short Hills, New Jersey and New York, New York) announce that proposed class action law suits will be filed today against twelve law schools around the nation. The law schools sued today, and the primary counsel, are as follows:

Each lawsuit has been filed by multiple graduates as representative plaintiffs. The lawsuits allege that many schools falsely inflated graduate employment rates by, among other artifices, employing their own graduates in temporary jobs and counting graduates working in non-legal-related jobs and part-time and temporary jobs as “employed” even though such jobs either do not require a law degree or do not pay enough to service the massive debt taken on to finance the degree. The representative plaintiffs further allege that many schools reported “average” salaries based on a small sample of high earning graduates. As a result, the representative plaintiffs enrolled and remained enrolled at the school only to find themselves burdened with debt and with limited job prospects.

“We believe that some in the legal academy have done a disservice to the profession and the nation by saddling tens of thousands of young lawyers with massive debt for a degree worth far less than advertised” stated David Anziska, on behalf of Plaintiffs’ counsel. “Now that fifty- one additional recent law school graduates, represented by some of the most accomplished consumer protection lawyers in the country, have sued their law schools, it is time for the schools to take responsibility, provide compensation and commit to transparency. These lawsuits are only the beginning.” With the addition of these twelve lawsuits, there are now seventy-three recent law school graduates suing fifteen law schools across the nation for similar conduct. Copies of the filed complaints will be posted at www.anziskalaw.com.

21 thoughts on “Breaking: 12 more law schools facing class actions”

  1. “represented by some of the most accomplished consumer protection lawyers in the country,”

    I cannot find Mr. Anziska’s name as counsel of record in any case on the New York courts wesbite. This sort of comparative statement of his accomplishments versus those in the rest of the country is certainly less than “transparent.”

  2. So USF fraudulently advertised its graduates’ employment rates by not disclosing them? And other schools failed to collect the information that plaintiffs’ wish they had?

    Where is the misrepresentation? Fraud requires an intentional misrepresentation — even if they failed to point out as loudly as plaintiffs wish that not all law graduates go to work for Big Law, that isn’t fraud or anything close to it. Do these plaintiffs think that is fraud if their lawyers don’t post a full record of every case they’ve won or lost on their website?

    These lawyers need to back to law school, or at least to look up the elements of fraud.

    By the way, how can fraud be brought as a class action? Even if the plaintiffs could prove that the law schools intentionally made false statements, which seems doubtful, they still need to prove reliance. Each plaintiff must prove that s/he reasonably relied on the defendant’s representation — which means, at a minimum, that s/he must prove that s/he read it and took it into consideration in making a decision to attend. And that the reliance was reasonable, even though the ABA publicly discloses its requirement that “employment” include non-legal jobs, part-time jobs and jobs that don’t pay enough to cover law school loans.

  3. Question for LST people — what do you expect these lawsuits to accomplish in terms of systemic remedies that are not already in the works through your efforts with the ABA standards committee, etc.? There are already changes in the 2011 stats which will remedy most of what you listed as the wrongs to be addressed by these lawsuits. Are you hoping these schools enter into settlements saying they must disclose things in a different way than other schools who were not sued? And if a judge rules against these plaintiffs, won’t it hurt your cause?

  4. at 4:15:

    Have you seen the data from the schools on this website? Clearly not because if you had seen it, you would not be posting such a misinformed comment. Look at the fricken data and open your eyes. It is STILL terrible. Despite pressure from everywhere, the schools are still resisting transparency. It takes them NO TIME to come clean yet they refuse and hide behind ABA standards, which are terrible. The argument could be made that this resistance shows intentional misrepresentation.

    Get a clue, pal.

  5. At least law schools are doing something right–they have taught some how to start lawsuits. Maybe they should retain some of their professors to defend them. That way we can see who is better, the student or the teacher. I would put my money on the student.

  6. @3:49

    The USF suit does not concern the information currently available. Instead, it addresses alleged harm from past information made available by the school. As @6:38 pointed out, schools are still resisting honesty. Please read our Transparency Index Report.

    @4:15
    These lawsuits are attempting to hold schools accountable for past misleading actions. We lend our expertise to these suits when appropriate, but that is the extent of our involvement. These attorneys are not bringing these suits on our behalf.

  7. I am curious how Law School Transparency determined that seven of these schools’ salary figures were “misleading”, while also determining in the current live index that Seton Hall’s 2010 median private sector salary of $125,000 currently posted on its website was “not misleading?” From Brian Tamahana: http://balkin.blogspot.com/2011/10/depth-and-breadth-of-misleading.html

    “In March 2011, Forbes asked Payscale—which has a huge body of employment data from self-provided information by people who want to compare earnings with others similarly situated—to examine its database for the median salaries of recent law graduates from 98 law schools. It had salary information on 8,500 law graduates from these schools working full time in the private sector—90 percent of whom were working as lawyers—within five years of graduation. ….. [using class of 2009 figures] Sixteen schools—including many with medians listed between $130,000 and $160,000—came in around half of what they claimed. The biggest gap was Seton Hall, with an advertised median of $145,000, but a Payscale median of $64,500.”

    It appears that Law School Transparency is saying that they believe Seton Hall’s median figures, while questioning much lower figures from other schools.

  8. @11:33

    Thanks for the note. The school discloses how many graduates go into the private sector salary figure. For Seton Hall, 48/113 grads in the private sector reported a salary, with a median salary of 125k.

    Is the 125k reflective of the entire class? Certainly not. But the school has not done that. If they do, they would be misleading applicants and everybody else.

  9. LST – Thank you for the clarification. However, you seem to be talking about something other than “provides misleading salary figures.”

    Take for example, Chicago Kent – which is tied with Seton Hall in the US News rankings at #61. Using 2010 figures on each of their websites — which you indicate above and in the Winter Transparency Index you are using — Chicago Kent reports a median private sector salary of $70,000. Seton Hall reports a private sector median of $125,000. LST has concluded that Chicago Kent’s salary figures are misleading, Seton Hall’s are not.

    And of course Chicago Kent has been sued and Seton Hall has not. This all seems rather arbitrary.

  10. We created a rule and applied it uniformly. We are not equipped to meaningfully evaluate whether the figures are misleading in a different way. Our intuition isn’t enough.

    For what it’s worth, Chicago Kent’s figures are misleading because the school does not disclose how many graduates reported in two of the three categories it provides salary information for. That’s the only flaw according to our methodology — and it is a very significant one.

    As for the arbitrariness of the law suit targets, it should be apparent that more went into deciding who to sue first than just whether a school misleads because virtually every law school has met that criterion over the statute of limitations period. Moreover, David Anziska is on the record saying that this will be the year of law school litigation, so it clearly will not end with Chicago Kent.

  11. >>We created a rule and applied it uniformly. We are not equipped to meaningfully evaluate whether the figures are misleading in a different way. Our intuition isn’t enough.

    Sounds a lot like what US News always says about their rankings.

  12. Your silence on the dismissal of the case against NYLS is deafening. Guess your deceptions didn’t do the trick or maybe they just were not lying.

  13. We tweeted a quote from the order (with a link to the order) and retweeted the Above the Law story. We’ve also done interviews with multiple outlets on the dismissal. Please keep in mind we are not a part of these suits. We’ve interacted with the plaintiffs’ attorneys and deans from the law schools who have been sued alike.

    We appreciate your concern, but it appears to be misplaced. If you’d like to discuss this further, please send us an email and we can schedule a time to talk over the phone.

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