Rutgers – Camden School of Law’s Dean Stands by Marketing Campaign

This weekend we wrote about a recruitment letter sent by Rutgers – Camden School of Law’s admissions dean, Camille Andrews. We alleged that the letter contained incomplete, deceptive, and false information, and that as a result Dean Andrews should resign from her post and the ABA should conduct an investigation and bring appropriate sanctions against the law school.

In an article published in Inside Higher Ed, Camden’s Dean Rayman Solomon responded. Neither Dean Solomon nor Dean Andrews responded to us directly, and we have only the portions of Dean Solomon’s statements published by Inside Higher Ed:

Dean Rayman Solomon is standing by Andrews. Solomon said the recruitment material was accurate but that he’s “open to discussion” about the best way to reach prospective students going forward. The promotion in question targeted potential applicants who took the GMAT, not the LSAT, the typical law school admission test. The goal, Solomon said, was to reach a new audience and introduce the Rutgers-Camden program. Students could then go online to get more information.

“This was one letter saying are you interested, have you thought about it?” Solomon said. “This is not our entire marketing campaign. This is telling people that we have a program.”

But were the numbers misleading?

“I don’t know how to respond,” Solomon said. “If you have a hundred people, would four of them be misled? Would one be misled? Would 98 be misled? [It was] a piece that was designed to get people to think about something they hadn’t thought about. This wasn’t the only information they could get about it.”

We appear to agree with Dean Solomon on the purpose. The May 2012 letter was designed to get students to think about law school or a legal career who were not known to be interested in attending law school starting in August 2012. We bet we also agree on the following three points:

  • Camden waived the application fee to reduce the application barrier
  • Camden discussed employment outcomes to show its placement successes in a bad economy
  • Camden discussed salary outcomes and salary potential to inform the cost-benefit analysis of the campaign targets

However, we clearly disagree about whether Camden’s employment outcome claims adequately reflect reality and whether targeting people who had not yet expressed interest in law school was appropriate given the very short decision window and lack of knowledge about their professional goals.

Nevertheless, neither LST nor Camden knows the actual effect of the campaign on the letter recipients. Frankly it doesn’t matter whether many people or zero people enroll. We care about how Camden conducts itself in the law school marketplace; Camden unfairly used employment statistics to augment its argument that the law school is a safe haven from a bad economy. In this regard Camden crossed the ethical (and likely legal) line from mere puffery to deceptive advertising. These facts are troubling irrespective of whether prospective students are sophisticated, unsophisticated, or indifferent.

The brunt of Dean Solomon’s response is that this is but a single letter that isn’t a big deal and shouldn’t affect decision making. To that we ask, what could the employment statistics have been meant to do other than affect application and enrollment decisions? The letter was part of a recruitment campaign, not a teaser for a movie due out next summer. Camden should strive to have all of its communications with students be accurate and honest. Dean Solomon further states that the misinformation is okay because other information is out there. It would appear that he is saying “you should know not to take our statements at face value.” That’d be a pitiful position for a law school dean to take.

It’s not acceptable to provide prospective students with false and misleading information just because the truth is available somewhere else. Interpretation 509-4 to ABA Standard 509 clearly states that reporting consumer information accurately somewhere does not absolve a school’s responsibility to present such information in a fair and accurate manner elsewhere.

Interpretation 509-4
Standard 509 requires a law school fairly and accurately to report basic consumer information whenever and wherever that information is reported or published. A law school’s participation in the Council-designated publication referred to in Interpretation 509-2 and its provision of fair and accurate information for that book does not excuse a school from the obligation to report fairly and accurately all basic consumer information published in other places or for other purposes.

It’s worthwhile to emphasize that Dean Solomon disputed our analysis and not our numbers. He also said he is open to discussion. So are we, and we’ve sent him the following email:

We would like to know what specifically in our analysis you believe is incorrect.

1. Does the category “JD Advantage” include only jobs in the legal field?
2. If #1 is no, did any Camden graduates have a “JD Advantage” job not in the legal field? If so, how many?
3. Do you think the advertised private practice starting salary of $74,000 represents the average of all 2011 graduates employed in private practice?
4. How many graduates reported earning salaries of at least $130,000?
5. Do you believe the answer to #4 can fairly be described as “many”?
6. Are statements about employed graduates meaningful without disclosing how many non-employed graduates there are?

Please respond via email. If you do not have adequate information to answer any of these questions, please say so. In addition to the email, we would be happy to schedule a time to talk about the data, our analysis, Camden’s forthcoming remedial measures, and the internal policies Camden plans to adopt to prevent repeat violations of ABA Standard 509.

We reemphasize that the letter must stand on its own merits. This letter was intended to create a first impression with prospective students and paint in their minds a picture of financial security if they attend law school at Rutgers – Camden School of Law. Later discovering that the letter was deceptive does not erase the deception.

We will post a new story if/when Dean Solomon responds.

LST Calls for Dean’s Resignation and ABA Investigation

Last week we became aware of an ongoing recruiting campaign by Rutgers – Camden School of Law that targets students who were not considering law school. As a part of this campaign, Camille Andrews, Associate Dean of Enrollment, sent students an email with bold statements about the employment outcomes achieved by the class of 2011. When compared to the school’s self-published employment data, we see Dean Andrew’s statements range from misleading to plainly false. Because the statements made in this email are demonstrably deceptive and are in clear violation of ABA Standard 509, Dean Andrews should resign immediately from her administrative appointment.

There are two important layers to this story. First, Dean Andrews made unfair statements about the employment outcomes of Camden graduates. These statements exaggerate the successful outcomes of Camden graduates and attempt to influence student behavior. The realities of Camden’s placement are far different from what Dean Andrews discloses. (More on this below.)

Second, Camden has extended a special offer for people who haven’t followed the normal application process and haven’t expressed an interest in law school or legal practice. (The email recipients had taken the GMAT, not the LSAT.) The Camden Special allows the students to avoid delay and enroll this August. By portraying Camden as some down-economy safe haven that leads to status and riches, Dean Andrews is attempting to enroll the exact students who ought not to attend law school: people who have not had time to carefully weigh the pros and cons of this significant investment.

In addition to ensuring that Dean Andrews resigns, Camden must also take swift, corrective action in all cases where prospective students received emails containing these or similar false, misleading, or incomplete statements. We also call on the American Bar Association to conduct a full investigation and bring appropriate sanctions against the school for violations of the ABA Standards, especially Standard 509(a) and Interpretation 509-4. Not only is Camden an institute of higher learning, but it also serves as a gateway to the legal profession. The degree of recklessness displayed by Dean Andrews, and the Camden administration for permitting a representative to deceive potential students, cannot be tolerated. It’s the latest example of a law school having no accountability for its recruiting practices. These practices must stop.

What follows is an analysis of each unfair statement made by Dean Andrews. We can do this analysis because Camden has made the relevant employment data publicly available, though their accessibility does not excuse false, misleading, and incomplete statements that the administration should know leave readers with incorrect impressions. Each statement is itself a black eye for Rutgers — Camden School of Law, but it’s the cumulative effect of all of the statements and all of law school bad behavior that makes resignation, corrective action, and sanctions imperative.

Analysis of Statements by Dean Andrews for Rutgers – Camden School of Law

Camden Data
Click image to enlarge. Created from the data Camden provided on its website.

“[O]f those employed nine months after graduation, 90% were employed in the legal field”

This is problematic on two levels. First, it excludes non-employed graduates from the calculation to provide a false sense of success. There were 242 graduates in Camden’s 2011 graduating class. Of these, 199 were employed. Camden uses 199 as the denominator with no indication that it has excluded 17.8% of the class from the calculation. While the statement does disclose that it is “of those employed,” the number of unemployed graduates is so large that the statement requires context to avoid misrepresenting what it means. The advertised “90% of employed” actually only represents 74% of the whole class.

Second, “in the legal field” implies “as a lawyer,” yet Camden groups non-lawyers with lawyers to create the “in the legal field” category. Specifically, Camden has combined two distinct categories: jobs that require bar admission (154 grads) and jobs where the J.D. was an advantage (25 grads). The advertised “90% of employed” actually works out to 63.6% of the class in lawyer jobs, with another 10.6% in jobs where the J.D. was an advantage.

The “J.D. Advantage” category that Camden uses to boost its “in the legal field” rate includes jobs as paralegals, law school admissions officers, and a host of jobs not credibly considered “in the legal field.” A graduate falls into this category when the employer sought an individual with a J.D. (and perhaps even required a J.D.), or for which the J.D. provided a demonstrable advantage in obtaining or performing the job, but the job itself does not require bar passage, an active law license, or involve practicing law.

“[O]f those employed nine months after graduation . . . 90% were in full time positions.”

This likewise excludes non-employed graduates without indicating that 17.8% of the class has been excluded. Once again, 90% of employed actually means only 74% of the whole class.

“Our average starting salary for a 2011 graduate who enters private practice is in excess of $74,000, with many top students accepting positions with firms paying in excess of $130,000.”

There are a number of distinct problems with this statement. First, Camden does not accurately state what the average reflects. The average is “for a 2011 graduate who enters private practice and reported a salary” not “for a 2011 graduate who enters private practice.” This is not a trivial distinction. Only 46.6% of graduates in private practice reported a salary. Of those that did so, the numbers were slanted towards higher salaries at large firms. 83.3% of graduates at firms with 101 or more attorneys reported their salaries, while only 37.0% of those at smaller firms reported a salary. The low overall response rate and the bias towards higher salaries being reported mean that the average of responses is not the average “for a 2011 graduate who enters private practice.”

Second, Camden does not disclose the salary response rate. The private practice salary response rate (46.6%) indicates that private practice salaries don’t tell the whole story. The letter also does not state that only 24% of the class was in private practice. This means the “average starting salary” actually reflects the average salary for just 11.2% of the class. None of this was communicated to the recipients of Dean Andrews’ email.

Third, Camden uses the average salary figure without any statistical context. NALP, LST, and many other academics have belabored for many years about how average salaries tend to mislead more than inform. This is because reported salaries fall into a bimodal distribution. For the class of 2010 (across all law schools), there is one peak from $40,000 to $65,000, accounting for nearly half of reported salaries, and another distinct peak at $160,000. This bimodal distribution means that very few graduates make the mean salary of $84,111.

Based on the salary data Camden produces on its website, we see a similar distribution to the national picture across private practice salaries. There were 27 salaries provided; between 8 and 12 were above the $74,000 average by at least 30%; the rest were below the average, with 14 or more at least 20% below the average.

Fourth, Camden claims that many of its top students have accepted positions with firms paying “in excess of $130,000.” To be sure, “many” is ambiguous. It might reasonably mean 40% of the class, or even perhaps 20%. With the “top” qualifier, it might not even strain credibility to claim that 10% of the class constitutes “many” top students. Based on the published data, Camden knows that at most five graduates reported a salary of $130,000+, or 2.1% of the entire class. After analyzing the salary data in detail, we think just one graduate did. Whether it is one or five, “many” is far from accurate.

That said, we do know that eight graduates (or 3.3%) made at least $100,000. We also know that Camden grossly exaggerated the salary outcomes of its graduates right after exalting placement success and right before pointing out how its alumni are among the very richest of all lawyers. Of course, this is the same school that reported to U.S. News that its 2011 graduates had an average of only $27,423 in debt, even though the estimated total debt was well into the six figures for a New Jersey resident graduating in 2011 receiving no tuition discount. Fewer than a third (31.7%) of students received tuition discounts, with just 4.3% of students received more than a 50% discount on tuition.

“Rutgers is also ranked high in the nation at placing its students in prestigious federal and state clerkships.”

Like Camden, we only have the class of 2010 data to use to compare clerkship placement rankings. With federal clerkships, Camden does okay, tied for 33rd. In terms of percentage of students placed in federal clerkships, it’s as close to 16th place as it is to last (188th). Suffice it to say that this exaggeration caps off a legion of false, misleading, and incomplete information used to induce applicants who didn’t even take the LSAT.

Other Coverage

Data Clearinghouse Updates

LST has received a number of inquiries from schools since updating our employment data clearinghouse. In most instances the schools did not understand the data they were publishing, either on their websites or through U.S. News.

Of the inquiries we received, two complaints, which came from administrators at Santa Clara and Toledo, warranted updates/corrections. These schools informed us that we were using wrong or incomplete data. They were right in this regard, though the problems stemmed exclusively from what schools supplied to U.S. News.

In Toledo’s case, a law school representative misinterpreted questions on the U.S. News survey and therefore supplied the magazine with incorrect data. In Santa Clara’s case, the school had policies and procedures in place that led to under-reporting what the school actually knew about its graduates. In both cases we were able to work with the schools to identify the source of the problems and have corrected the errors with data supplied by the schools.

(We’d also like to mention that prior to releasing the class of 2010 data clearinghouse, we
contacted ten law schools that made the same mistake as Toledo with their U.S. News-supplied data. Four of these schools confirmed the discrepancies and have provided us with the correct data.)

We’ve added the following note to Santa Clara’s class of 2010 profile:

After joint review with Santa Clara, we have restored the school’s profile using data provided by Santa Clara following its internal review of each 2010 graduate’s student file. Rather than relying on student-supplied data, which is what the school reported to U.S. News and reported on its website (the original data in the school’s profile), Santa Clara added data the administration culled from conversations and basic investigation.

Note: One major change is with the 28 jobs Santa Clara originally reported as non-professional. Santa Clara tells us “[t]his was done in error.” While these graduates were still employed, Santa Clara does not know what sort of credentials (e.g. bar passage required) those graduates’ jobs required. However, Santa Clara does know 12 of these 28 graduates’ employer types (e.g. law firm) and expected working hours (i.e. FT or PT).

We are happy to report that Toledo chose to resolve questions about graduate employment outcomes by disclosing the 2010 NALP report, joining 47 other ABA-approved law schools who have done so. Toledo’s class of 2010 NALP report now appears in our report database and can be viewed here.

Finally, we welcome law schools to continue contacting us with their concerns. These conversations are always valuable and almost always lead to improving law school transparency.

NYU Plays ‘Hide the Ball’ With Employment Data

New York University School of Law has decided to continue withholding valuable employment data from prospective students. After sending NYU a third request to publish its NALP report, we finally received a reply from Dean Ricky Revesz:

Thank you for your note. I expect you are aware that, since the end of last year, we have added a substantial amount of employment data to the NYU Law website. If there is more information that would be suitable and helpful for us to provide, we are happy to consider doing that. For example, we are now looking into posting data of the type found in Table 12 of the NALP form (Source of Job by Employer Type), since that would likely be of interest to prospective and current students. Please let me know if there is additional information that you think would be helpful for us to publish.

Our letter was quite clear about what would be helpful: NYU needs to publish its NALP report. It was a short letter and referenced the NALP report five times. (Read it here.) There is no other way to read any of our three requests and it’s insulting that Dean Revesz would feign ignorance while referencing the very report we requested.

We responded to Dean Revesz, repeating that we believe the entire NALP report should be published and noting what information NYU has not released (along with the sections of the NALP report that contain this information):

  • Full-time and part-time employment by required/preferred credentials (“FT/PT Jobs”)
  • Classification of business jobs (“Business Jobs”)
  • Position held in a law firm (“Type of Law Firm Job”)
  • When the job was obtained (“Timing of Job Offer”)
  • Salaries by job type (“Employment Status Known” and “Employment Categories”)
  • Salaries by location (“Jobs Taken by Region” and “Location of Jobs”)
  • Salaries by firm size (“Size of Firm”)

Dean Revesz’s response to our last communication was disappointing:

As I indicated in my last note to you, we will continue to add data to the area of our website that contains employment statistics.

We must read this to say that NYU has no plans to publish the additional information we have requested, even though it is of value to both the legal profession and law school applicants. The data NYU indicated it was “looking into” publishing 14 months after collection–the source of job by employer type–has not been added to NYU’s website despite more than another month passing. The immense intellectual, technological, and financial resources of NYU have proven unequal to the task of posting an 8×7 table.

(To see the data NYU knowingly withholds, check out our reconstruction of its NALP report in our data clearinghouse. Fields shown in dark gray represent information NYU possess but has not released.)

NYU to Professor Campos: Come at me, bro!

“Having trouble knowing what to believe? We have a proposal for Paul Campos: come audit our numbers. We’ll show you a list of all NLJ 250 firms to which we sent associates in 2010 and 2011. Pick a reasonably sized sample from that group, and compare them to firm-verifiable data. Then let us, and the world, know what you find.”NYU’s Rebuttal

Professor Paul Campos called in to question NYU’s biglaw placement rate, citing a discrepancy between the numbers reported by NYU and by the National Law Journal. NYU’s response was clear:

Come at me, bro!

Something about NYU’s response (I’m a 2008 grad) just didn’t sit right with me. It wasn’t the acerbic tone the rebuttal took. It was that Law School Transparency had already requested NYU be more open about its job placement rates. LST actually made that request twice, and we have renewed that request again today.

Like all-but-six law schools, NYU has in its possession, right now, a NALP report with detailed job placement statistics for the class of 2010. This report contains a wealth of information, including the size of firms students went to work at; salary information for a multitude of categories; if the jobs are full time or part time, permanent or temporary; what states they are in; if the job at a law firm is as a lawyer, a clerk, or a paralegal; if students found the jobs through OCI, a job posting, or went back to work at a pre-law school employer. It paints a very detailed picture of what happened to the class of 2010, but it’s a picture that NYU has decided to not let anyone else see.

That’s what makes NYU’s response to Professor Campos so strange.

NYU professes its openness, its honesty, its transparency. With one hand it extends an offer to verify that things are as it says they are, but with the other hand it folds up the numbers and locks them away. “Come audit our books…. But not those books!”

Having trouble knowing what to believe? We have a proposal for New York University: disclose your numbers. You’ll publish the employment data collected by NALP for the class of 2010 (and for 2011 when you receive that report this summer). Then let us, and the world, know what you already know.

Read the letter after the jump

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.

View the press release after the jump »»