The Paper Case

Former students from various law schools are targeting their alma maters with fraud claims based on allegations that their schools provided overinflated employment statistics in order to convince students to spend thousands of dollars on their legal education. However, the attempts to hold law schools liable for post-graduation employment woes have proven largely unsuccessful, including a recent federal ruling in Michigan that dismissed a $250 million claim filed by former graduates of Thomas M. Cooley Law School in Lansing.

In the dismissal, U.S. District Judge Gordon Quist of Grand Rapids noted that Cooley Law’s contested employment statistics are “literally true,” in addition to being “so vague and incomplete as to be meaningless and could not reasonably be relied upon.” The statistics in question are generated by every law school under a standard imposed by the American Bar Association, although Quist described such reports as “inconsistent, confusing, and inherently untrustworthy.” Quist’s dismissal order, which should be required reading for anyone considering law school, also includes some sage advice about the proper way to start one’s pursuit of a legal degree: “Plaintiffs and prospective students should have approached their decision to enter into law school with extreme caution given the size of the investment.” The Michigan case follows an earlier dismissal entered in favor of New York Law School in March. The New York and Michigan cases represent two of 14 similar claims filed by a group of attorneys against law schools across the U.S.

These cases highlight two important lessons:  first, these cases disprove the oft-repeated notion that our “silly” legal system means citizens don’t have to think for themselves anymore. In both New York and Michigan, we see judges telling their newest colleagues that while their law schools’ behavior is not commendable, it doesn’t excuse some personal responsibility by prospective students. 

The second lesson is that despite the frequent admonition that the legal profession is a monopoly, even lawyers aren’t immune from the vagaries of the marketplace.

Posted: 8/22/2012 1:22:09 PM by Editor | with 0 comments

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Thanks for stopping by On the Merits, the first blog from the Texas Center for Legal Ethics. On the Merits will take a close look at significant legal stories with an eye toward addressing the legal myths and misconceptions that turn up in news stories, movies, TV programs, websites, anonymous emails and other forms of mass communications. Our goal at On the Merits is to provide readers with a thoughtful examination of what the media and others are saying about the legal profession and to apply the frequently-absent context of how the legal system actually works.

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