TJSL Responses to Media Reports on Past Admin’s Admitted Fraud

Update: Added additional court filings by TJSL. See below.

Last week, we broke the news of a former employee of Thomas Jefferson School of Law, in a sworn testimony, admitting that she falsified data and alleging that she was instructed to do so by her direct supervisor. Since that time, TJSL has made a number of on-the-record responses to Karen Grant’s admission and allegations.

To the ABA Journal:

In an interview with the ABA Journal, Thomas Jefferson School of Law dean Rudy Hasl called the allegations a “crock of crap.”

To the National Law Journal:

Grant’s declaration not a smoking gun, Thomas Jefferson law dean Rudy Hasl said when asked about the statement. He reiterated the school’s position that it did nothing wrong.

“This is the action of a counsel desperate to find any hook to create embarrassment for Thomas Jefferson,” Hasl said.

To the Wall Street Journal:

Thomas Jefferson Dean Rudy Hasl said that the school presented accurate data about its graduates’ employment, and that ”no employee was every directed to falsify information.” The school also denies misleading students, saying it has always complied with reporting requirements.

On the TJSL website (but note that TJSL incorrectly indicates that 25 law schools have been sued — the correct number is 15):

Thomas Jefferson School of Law (TJSL) is one of over 25 law schools across the country that has been sued by a few former students who claim that their post-graduate employment opportunities were more limited than they were led to believe when they applied to attend law school. We believe that this litigation is meritless and will be decided in our favor.

Recent media accounts have drawn attention to a declaration filed last week in the litigation. In the declaration, an ex-employee of TJSL claims that six (6) years ago her former supervisor (who departed TJSL in 2007) instructed her to classify graduates as “employed” in reports to the National Association of Law Placement in cases where those students were employed at some point post-graduation, but were not employed on a specific reporting date. She does not specify how often this change in employment actually occurred.

Claims of false reporting are serious and we take them seriously. TJSL policy has always been to report accurate employment data, and the declaration is the first time the declarant, or anyone else, has made such an assertion.

By way of background, the declarant worked at TJSL only briefly in 2006 and 2007, without ever raising this issue to the Dean or senior staff. Moreover, we have also found no other document or witness who corroborates the declarant’s new contention.

Notably, TJSL was recently praised for the transparency of our publicly available placement data. See, e.g., http://thecareerist.typepad.com/thecareerist/2012/01/law-schools-are-still-mum-about-grads-jobs.html (Law School Transparency lists TJSL as one of only six schools earning its “good” rating for transparency); see also http://www.law.seattleu.edu/prebuilt/pdf/NJM_Transparency.pdf (National Jurist giving TJSL an “A” grade and ranking the school in the top 15 law schools for transparency).

In sum, as we have consistently stated, we do not believe that there is any legitimate basis for this lawsuit. Accordingly, we will continue to vigorously defend TJSL against these meritless claims.

Updated Court Filings from TJSL

TJSL has passed on to us three of their filings in this case.

Breaking: Ex-CSO assistant director from Thomas Jefferson admits to fraud, alleges deliberate scheme by law school

In a sworn statement, Karen Grant, a former career services assistant director at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, admits that she fabricated graduate employment outcomes for the class of 2006. Grant alleges that her fraud was part of a deliberate scheme by the law school’s administration to inflate its employment statistics. She also claims that her direct supervisor, Laura Weseley, former Director of Career Services, instructed her on multiple occasions to improperly record graduate employment outcomes and justified the scheme because “everybody does it” thus “it is no big deal.” TJSL could face sanctions from the American Bar Association as severe as losing accreditation.

Grant was Assistant Director of Career Services at TJSL from September 2006 to September 2007, during which she was tasked with tracking and recording employment outcomes of recent graduates. Grant is a licensed California attorney and made her sworn declaration on August 2, 2012 in connection to the class action lawsuit filed by Anna Alaburda, et al. against TJSL in 2011. (Complaint; Original Story.) Grant’s statement was filed in court last week in connection to Alaburda’s motion for sanctions.

Specifically, Grant admits that she “routinely recorded currently unemployed students as ‘employed’ if they had been employed at any time since graduation,” which is a violation of both ABA and NALP reporting guidelines. Graduates should only be recorded as employed if they are employed as of February Exhibit B, A handwritten note by Karen Grant from a meeting with Laura Weseley on Oct. 16, 2006. 15 following graduation.

Grant’s admitted actions likely mean that TJSL violated ABA Standard 509 and Interpretation 509-3. Possible sanctions under Rule 16 for violating Standard 509 include monetary penalty, censure, probation, and losing accreditation.

Paul Campos, professor of law at the University of Colorado Law School, says that “the ABA ought to be pursuing an investigation vigorously.” He continued, “if the ABA is at all serious about transparency, they will have to crack down on this.” The ABA is preparing its public comments, which will be available shortly. (Update: see below for ABA comments.)

In addition to her own admission, Grant alleges that Weseley, her then-boss, instructed her to misrecord graduate employment outcomes and justified the actions based on a belief that such practices were widespread throughout the legal education community. From Ms. Grant’s testimony (emphasis added):

4. … I was instructed to “probe” graduates because “they may say no,” meaning that graduates may indicate they were currently unemployed and I therefore needed to ask whether they had been employed any time prior to graduation.

5. … Ms. Weseley instructed me to “update ERSS prior to Feb if [unemployed] & become [employed] but not vice-versa.” … I expressed my concern at the time that it did not seem right to update graduates’ employment data only if the graduate became employed, but not if they became unemployed.

Grant continues by explaining her data recording process and Weseley’s alleged influence on it:

6. Ms. Weseley later reiterated that, when talking to students, I was to first ask if they were currently employed. If the graduate indicated he or she was not currently employed, I would then inquire whether he or she was employed at any time after graduation. If the graduate indicated he or she was employed at any time after graduation (even though currently unemployed), I was instructed to record the graduate as “employed” in TJSL’s Excel software.

7. I again expressed my concern and told Ms. Weseley that it not seem right to report currently unemployed students as “employed” merely because they had been employed at some point after graduation. Ms. Weseley responded by saying “it is no big deal, everybody does it.”

8. I followed Ms. Weseley’s instructions. I routinely recorded currently unemployed students as “employed” if they had been employed at any time since graduation. As a result, the employment data that I entered into the Excel files included currently unemployed students who were inaccurately categorized as “employed.”

It is the nature of the process that schools do not follow up with certain graduates before submitting data to NALP by the end of February. Schools begin collecting post-graduation job outcome data shortly before graduation and continue through the February 15 reporting deadline. Once a school knows that a graduate has a job, career services staffers will often cease follow-ups because they believe their time is better spent elsewhere.

However, Grant alleges that the accepted practice in the TJSL career services office, at least during her tenure, went beyond cherry picking which students to follow up with. She alleges that she participated in a scheme that guaranteed that TJSL’s employment stats would be better than the reality by affirmatively ignoring new, true, and proper outcomes of graduates whose jobs were terminated or ran their course before the reporting deadline. Grant admits that TJSL submitted false information to NALP, U.S. News, and the American Bar Association as a result of her counting as employed at nine-months any student who was employed at any time after graduation regardless of whether they had a job at that time.

A look at the statistics TJSL reported to the ABA for the class of 2006 confirms that the numbers from Grant’s spreadsheet, Exhibit D of her declaration, were submitted to the ABA. These numbers were not submitted to the ABA until after her termination in September 2007.

In an email to LST, Rudy Hasl, dean of Thomas Jefferson School of Law, questioned Grant’s reliability, disputing the accuracy of her sworn testimony and her motivations. “The law school stands behind the accuracy of the data that we submitted to the American Bar Association.” Sources report that Grant was terminated in 2007, though when asked for clarification, Dean Hasl would not comment on internal personnel matters beyond suggesting that LST “do a due diligence analysis … including the reasons for her departure from the School of Law.”

Grant’s admission marks the first on-the-record account of a law school administrator falsifying employment data. It remains to be seen whether she was a rogue employee, or whether there was a deliberate scheme by the law school to inflate the appearance of its employment outcomes. Nevertheless, her allegations of a culture within American legal education where fraudulent reporting is a legitimate strategy are sure to reignite concerns about the quality of data that schools report, how schools present data to the public, and whether the current level of public investment in legal education is appropriate in light of this culture.

UPDATE: Comment from ABA

The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar is fully committed to ensuring that law schools comply with the letter and spirit of the Standards for Approval of Law Schools and all reporting requirements. We take seriously our responsibilities for collecting and disseminating law school data, including employment data.

The actions of a few schools have called into question the integrity of all. As a consequence, the Section has been called upon to play a greater role in investigating possible non-compliance with our rules and in sanctioning non-complying schools. We regularly follow up on reports and other communications regarding possible non-compliance with the Standards that come to our attention.

Under our rules, all matters concerning the accreditation of an individual school must be confidential. Thus, we cannot comment on the matter that is now being reported. Given the confidentiality requirement, no one should assume that a matter has not been, or is not being, addressed.

Last year, in an effort to increase clarity, accuracy and accountability in the reporting of employment data, the Section began requiring law schools to report employment data directly to the Section; in the past, schools reported this information to NALP. We have established detailed definitions and instructions for the reporting of employment data. The Section is fully committed to the clarity and accuracy of law school placement data. By vigorously enforcing the Standard that requires fair and accurate reporting of consumer information, and by having law schools report more comprehensive, specific consumer information, as a result, those students who choose to enter law school will be better informed about the prospects for employment than ever before.

UPDATE: Context of Court Filing

LST received a copy of the evidence as it was filed last Thursday by Anna Alaburda’s attorneys. It was filed in connection to her latest motion, a motion for sanctions.

ABA House of Delegates Approves Standard 509 and Rule 16

Comment from LST’s executive director, Kyle McEntee:

Approval of the improved Standard 509 and Rule 16 represent an important step for law school transparency. I hope that the ABA vigorously pursues violations of Standard 509 and exacts serious, swift punishment on law schools that continue to seek unfair advantages over peer schools and prospective students. To date, no school has been punished for a violation of Standard 509, and it should be impossible for this continue.

Our work is not finished. The Interpretations need additional fine-tuning and the standard form schools will use pursuant to Standard 509(e) has significant flaws. We look forward to working with the Council to make those improvements in the coming months and years.

You can view the resolution here.

LST Requests Class of 2011 NALP Reports

Following our success in collecting NALP reports from schools last year, we are asking schools to now make their reports for the class of 2011 available.

For the class of 2010, we managed to collect 50 NALP reports. These reports helped us expand our data clearinghouse so that we could become the place to go for the most thorough and easy-to-compare employment information. This year, our goal is to double the number of reports we collect.

Even with the improvements to law school transparency, thanks to immense pressure on the ABA, these reports contain helpful data that schools are not required to be make public.

  • Salary Data (aggregated in categories)
  • Job Source (e.g., OCI, networking, direct mailings)
  • Job Offer Timing (before graduation, before bar results, after bar results)
  • Job Status (employed graduates who are still seeking or not seeking)
  • Job Region and Job States
  • Job Type Breakdowns by Employer Type (e.g., government JD Advantage)

Check out Seattle University School of Law’s Class of 2011 NALP report, which the school sent to us unprompted, to see what schools have to offer this year.

We hope that schools share our sense of urgency and help us put comparable employment information into the hands of consumers. Check out the full letter after the jump.

Continue reading LST Requests Class of 2011 NALP Reports

Update to 2011 Clearinghouse

We were alerted a few minutes ago that we transposed the data for Indiana University — Bloomington (Maurer) and for Indiana University — Indianapolis (McKinney). We’ve updated the clearinghouse accordingly.

As always, we seek to remedy mistakes as quickly as possible. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you even suspect there’s been a mistake.

Class of 2011 legal employment and underemployment numbers are in, and far worse than expected

LST’s Press Release:

Mister Hart, here is a dime. Take it, call your mother, and tell her there is serious doubt about you ever becoming a lawyer.
– Kingsfield, The Paper Chase

The ABA has released Class of 2011 job outcome data for all domestic ABA-approved law schools. The data are far more granular than ever before. Law School Transparency has analyzed the data and made the school-specific data available on its website for easy comparison.

The ABA data shed considerable light on how poorly the 2011 graduates fared. We can now say with certainty that the employment picture is far worse than previously reported. Only 55.2% of all graduates were known to be employed in full-time, long-term legal jobs. A devastating 26.4% of all graduates were underemployed.

According to the ABA data from 195 law schools:

Full-time, Long-Term Legal Jobs:

  • These jobs require bar passage or are judicial clerkships and are for at least 35 hours per week and have an expected duration of at least one year.
  • The national full-time, long-term legal rate is 55.2%.
  • At 73 law schools (37.1%), less than 50% of graduates had these legal jobs.
    • 30 schools (15.2%) had less than 40%
    • 10 schools (5.1%) had less than a 33%
  • 89 schools (45.2%) exceeded the national rate of 55.2%.
    • 31 schools (15.7%) had more than 67%
    • 19 schools (9.6%) had more than 75%
    • 5 schools (2.5%) had more than 90%

Underemployed:

  • We define a graduate as underemployed when he or she is “Unemployed – Seeking”, pursuing an additional advanced degree, in a non-professional job, or employed in a short-term or part-time job.
  • The national underemployment rate is 26.4%.
  • 180 schools (91.4%) reported a rate greater than 10%.
    • 144 schools (73.1%) had more than 20%
    • 109 schools (55.3%) had more than 25%
    • 57 schools (28.9%) had more than 33%
    • 20 schools (10.2%) had more than 40%

Large Firms (at least 101 attorneys):

  • 10.7% of graduates were employed at large firms in full-time, long-term positions
    • Graduates seek these jobs in part because they’re the jobs that tend to pay the highest salaries.
  • At only 45 schools (22.8%) were more than 10% in these jobs.
    • 20 schools (10.2%) had more than 20%
    • 15 schools (5.6%) had more than 33%
    • Only 3 schools were over 50% – Columbia, Northwestern, and Penn.

Law School Transparency’s executive director, Kyle McEntee, urged caution to students planning to enroll this fall. McEntee said, “Law school still costs way too much money compared to post-graduation employment outcomes. If you plan to debt-finance your education or use your hard-earned savings, seriously think twice about attending a law school without a steep discount. For the vast majority of prospective law students who have not received an extensive scholarship, it will make sense to wait for prices to drop.”

There has been some speculation that the class of 2011 may represent the bottom, though this view is grounded more in optimism than evidence. Rather, evidence points to a structural shift in legal employment, especially at the entry-level, that signals a new normal far below pre-recession levels. Technology, globalization, and law firm strategies are substantially changing our profession.

To view every ABA-approved law school’s profile, visit http://www.lawschooltransparency.com/clearinghouse/.

To view comparison charts, visit http://www.lawschooltransparency.com/clearinghouse/?show=compare&sub=jobs

Established in 2009, Law School Transparency is a nonprofit legal education policy organization. Our mission is to improve consumer information and to usher in consumer-oriented reforms to the current law school model. We operate independently of any legal institutions, legal employers, or academic reports related to the legal market.