Ever since Anna Alaburda sued Thomas Jefferson School of Law over its allegedly misleading employment statistics, we’ve been waiting for TJSL to respond. Today is that day, and the school’s answer does not disappoint.
Thomas Jefferson makes a solid defense of itself. But in the process of trying to quash Alaburda’s lawsuit, the school offers some pretty damning admissions that seem to support Alaburda’s underlying moral, if not legal, point…
It always looked like it might be difficult for Alaburda to actually win this lawsuit, and the Thomas Jefferson responses illustrate why. In its motion to strike, TJSL makes the very good point that Alaburda alleges a number of things that appear to be endemic to the legal education industry as a whole and not specific to TJSL (as Lat predicted in our first story on the suit).
But aside from Alaburda and TJSL, I don’t think a lot of people care if she wins. I think people care that Thomas Jefferson School of Law and other similar institutions are put on notice that the little game they appear to be playing with their employment statistics is getting old. Towards that end, even if it doesn’t make it to the discovery phase, this lawsuit has already forced TJSL to come clean in a direct and embarrassing way about what it’s doing with its post-graduate employment numbers.
Here’s the money paragraph of the TJSL demurrer. I’m using a screen cap so you can all see the emphasis in the original:
There, in the law school’s own words, in the law school’s own defense, is a bold admission of how the school has been playing with prospective law students. Oh, they can dress this up all they want with what a “college educated” prospective law student should know, but we know that the people who read and rely on U.S. News don’t think that way (reasonably or not).
If only such information was captured for them in a chart… a chart like the one TJSL was helpful enough to create for the purpose of responding to this lawsuit:
Boom goes the dynamite. Thanks to Anna Alaburda, we can now say things like, “Thomas Jefferson School of Law, inflating employment statistics by more than 20% with non-legal jobs for six years!”
Of course, even this chart could be misleading to the uncritical eye of the prospective law student. How? Well, do you really think all of the people who graduated from TJSL and passed the bar found work as attorneys? We might never know how many TJSL graduates can expect to find work as full-time lawyers versus how many TJSL graduates end up doing something else non-legal, part-time, or whatever.
Which is, of course, the whole point. All students like Anna Alaburda wanted was an accurate picture of their employment chances based on the true success rates of previous classes. And all TJSL and many other law schools want to do is hide that information. You’ll note in the answer that TJSL spends a lot of time trying to throw U.S. News under the bus. It doesn’t say that U.S. News is guilty of funky math (’cause the magazine isn’t), but they make a big deal over the fact that they have no control over how U.S. News compiles the numbers. Even assuming that TJSL has to follow U.S. News rules when reporting employment data to U.S. News, the requirements of the magazine set a floor, not a ceiling. As far as we know, TJSL doesn’t independently produce its own employment statistics, which could provide prospective students with the detailed information they need to make such an important life decision.
And so it goes. Win or lose, Anna Alaburda has already done her part in exposing one aspect of the game TJSL has been playing. And this was exposed by one unemployed law student, on the very same day the American Bar Association feigned powerlessness.
We can only hope that very soon legal educators of conscience will jointly decide to stop with all of these shenanigans and voluntarily give prospective law students some basic transparency.