David P. Lewis
In May and August, 2011, class action lawsuits were filed against Thomas Jefferson School of Law, Thomas M. Cooley School of Law, and New York Law School alleging that the schools had induced students to attend, in part, by misrepresenting job placement data. In essence, the claim is, the schools had inflated placement rates by including in them jobs that did not require a law degree.
Following the publicity surrounding these suits, the issue of inflated placement data at law schools has remained in the spotlight. Earlier this week, U.S. News & World Report published an article that focused on the types of “non-traditional” jobs law graduates have been accepting, noting the “creativity” that new law grads have been required to bring to their job searches in the current economic environment.
Now comes word that the attorneys leading the above suits intend to file suits against 15 additional law schools , again alleging that the schools fudged their placement data to entice students to enroll. In one example given, a school initially reported a 94% placement rate for graduates, but, upon further review, the data showed that barely more than half of the graduates were employed on a full-time basis and that a material percentage were working in jobs that did not require a J.D. as a condition of employment.
Considering the 90%+ placement rates that have commonly been reported by law schools in spite the of the poor legal job market over the past four years, it is not hard to understand why the attorneys in these cases predict that “nearly every law school in the country will be sued before long.” While the ABA has proposed some changes to accrediting rules related to job placement reporting, it is hard to understand why the ABA has delayed implementing any changes related to this issue as well as any lingering reticence from law schools to be more forthcoming.