Law Schools, Plaintiffs Firms, Venable

The Law School Lawsuits Go to Court: How Did Team Strauss/Anziska Fare Against New York Law School?

In August, New York Law School (NYLS) was hit with a class action lawsuit over the school’s allegedly deceptive post-graduate employment data. The case was filed by plaintiffs’ lawyers Jesse Strauss and David Anziska. In October, NYLS — represented by an alumnus who managed to ascend to the ranks of Biglaw partnership — filed a motion to dismiss that claim. Yesterday, the lawyers ventured down to the New York Supreme Court to argue the merits of the case.

A day later, everyone wants to know what happened during the oral arguments. Were any rulings made in this closely watched and hotly debated case?

During yesterday’s two-hour hearing before Supreme Court Justice Melvin Schweitzer, Team Strauss/Anziska (along with Frank Raimond, a new addition to the team) argued against Venable partner Michael Volpe’s motion to dismiss on behalf of NYLS. The National Law Journal has more information on the substance of NYLS’s arguments in favor of dismissal:

Volpe . . . offered Schweitzer numerous reasons to dismiss the complaint, including that the plaintiffs have failed to show that the law school’s actions caused them harm and that administrators never guaranteed law students a job or a specific salary. . . .

Strauss . . . insisted the issue was not the employment outcomes of the nine plaintiffs; some of them have found jobs in the law but at least one was working at Starbucks. “The harm here is that our clients overpaid for a degree that is worth substantially less,” he said.

We know why this caged bird sings (click to enlarge).

Strauss makes an astute observation there: being debt-strapped for the rest of your life because of where you went to law school isn’t an ideal situation to be in, especially during an economic downturn. In fact, we think Strauss was being a little too eloquent about the plight of the NYLS graduate. A picture is worth a thousand words — which may explain why New York Magazine’s recent feature on the law school lawsuits used a caged bird defecating on an NYLS degree as its illustration.

And while Schweitzer “appeared somewhat incredulous” when Raimond claimed that the plaintiffs weren’t sophisticated consumers, he wasn’t exactly “crazy about” Volpe’s argument with regard to the plaintiffs’ fraud claim. Volpe asserted that the fraud claim should be dismissed because NYLS was just following the American Bar Association’s orders when it came to reporting its employment statistics, but Schweitzer noted that he didn’t think it qualified as “an absolute defense.”

Overall, the National Law Journal categorized Schweitzer as being “skeptical of both sides,” and ultimately, no ruling on the motion to dismiss was made. But how did the lawyers think it went? David Anziska offered these comments to Above the Law at the conclusion of the oral arguments:

Essentially, the judge, as per his reputation, played his cards very close to the vest (he let both sides present their arguments with minimal interruptions and relatively few questions, which is always a good sign for a plaintiff), though we are very happy that he summarily rejected some of their key arguments, including that the New York consumer fraud statute, GBL Sec. 349 does not apply because NYLS’s conduct is regulated by the ABA.

As for the ultimate outcome, we are guardedly optimistic that the judge will deny their motion, but fully expect for them to appeal and for many of these issues to ultimately be resolved on an appellate level.

In the meantime, while we eagerly await Schweitzer’s ruling on the NYLS case, what else is on tap for Team Strauss/Anziska? Law schools in the Northeast better brace themselves, because according to Anziska, “a very big announcement” on the next stage of the litigation movement will be coming in the “next few days.”

Judge skeptical of both sides in law school jobs data litigation [National Law Journal]
Judge Seems Skeptical of Both Sides in Law School Jobs Case [New York Law Journal]

Earlier: The Latest News in the Law School Lawsuits
New York Law School Files Motion to Dismiss Suit Over Employment Data

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