First it showed up in the New York Times. Then it appeared on the Today Show. Now the story of law schools allegedly misrepresenting their graduates’ employment outcomes is in every New Yorker’s favorite commuter
rag newspaper, Metro New York:
What news development on the law school lawsuit front brought this story to the front page of Metro?
Today there’s going to be oral argument in one of the cases in New York Supreme Court, our fine state’s trial court, as reported by Metro New York:
[Law schools' reported employment] rates are often fudged with “misleading” numbers, alleges Jesse Strauss. Strauss is an attorney suing 14 law schools across the country on behalf of jobless graduates, including three in New York City: Hofstra, Brooklyn Law School and New York Law School.
Strauss will argue in Manhattan Supreme Court today against New York Law School, which touts about a 90 percent job placement rate, according to the complaint.
However, that rate includes any kind of employment, and fewer than 40 percent of school grads are actually working in jobs that require a law degree, the suit alleges.
What do the schools have to say in their own defense? Again from Metro:
Schools like New York Law School and Hofstra defended their data.
On its website, New York Law School noted, “There are several approaches to calculating the single number that blends all the things law graduates do in their first year after graduation.”
And Hofstra spokeswoman Kristen McMahon said the school “stands by our job placement statistics.”
Does the school also stand by its debt statistics? Because these numbers are just plain depressing:
This is the average debt per student at the three schools listed in the suit:
$119,437 – -Average debt of a New York Law School graduate, according to the complaint
$97,631 — Average debt of a Brooklyn Law School graduate, according to the complaint
$115,705 — Average debt of a Hofstra Law School graduate
$100,000 — Average debt burden for law school graduates nationally, according to the complaint
The law schools are obviously constrained by various factors in responding to this litigation. They don’t want to say too many bad things about themselves. From the recent New York Magazine article:
Among alumni [of New York Law School], opinions are split, as you might expect, according to which side of the unemployment line the graduate falls on. “Mathematically, it’s a ton of graduates, yes, and no, there aren’t enough jobs for them,” Daniel Gershburg, a 2006 graduate of NYLS and an attorney with a successful practice in Manhattan, says.
“At the same time, what are schools supposed to say? ‘No, no, don’t come here! Run for your lives!’ Where does personal responsibility start?”
Personal responsibility was also the theme of the tipster who brought the Metro article to our attention. Said this source:
Anybody who has applied to, or decided to start, law school since 2008 is an idiot. Regardless of what Hofstra says its statistics are or how NYLS does its calculations, one need only perform a Google search to see that going to law school, especially at these dumpster schools, is a sucker’s bet. Plus, it’s Hofstra and NYLS running the numbers, so they were going to be wrong anyway because if they were so great at math they wouldn’t be at Hofstra/NYLS.
Ouch. That was way harsh, Tai. (I know many fine people who have graduated from or who teach at these two law schools.)
That being said, these schools need to get with the program and stop lying to the public. One way to do this is to start having Yelp reviews for all law schools where people can share their harrowing tales of debt and unemployment. But as a side note, I think the law school’s best defense here is, yeah, we engaged in puffery, but you would have to be willfully ignorant to think that going to Hofstra (Hofstra?!?) was the gateway to a career at Wachtell followed by the Supreme Court. There is plenty of information out there — ATL, the New York Times in multiple articles, partner profiles on firm websites — that would would clue in a prospective law school student at Nova Southeastern Law that it might not be the smartest investment. But then again, the people who would consider going to these schools aren’t that smart, so you run into the eggshell brain plaintiff issue.
Elie is on vacation today, but it seems that this opinionated tipster is more than capable of filling his shoes.
This source did end on a somewhat softer, less Bill-Robinson-esque note:
Still, my heart goes out to these people who have ruined their lives through debt and now work at Starbucks. One mistake in your life shouldn’t have to cost you everything and haunt you forever. I really mean that.
In defense of working at Starbucks, it’s not that bad — and it’s arguably better than a fair number of legal jobs (including certain temp attorney positions). You get discounts on drinks and food (the new chocolate hazelnut tarts are killer), you enjoy great benefits (including health care), and you won’t get called in at midnight to make a venti soy latte. What’s not to like?
Three city law schools named in suit for misleading job data [Metro New York]
The Case(s) Against Law School [New York Magazine]