American Bar Association / ABA, Federal Judges, Law Schools, Plaintiffs Firms

Class Action Lawsuit Against Thomas M. Cooley Law School Dismissed

Last summer, the Thomas M. Cooley Law School 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 2011, Cooley Law filed a motion to dismiss that claim, adopting a “blame the ABA” theory in defense of its employment statistics.

On June 5, lawyers ventured to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan to argue the merits of the case. Although Judge Gordon Quist sided with the Cooley grads on several issues, he noted that they faced an “uphill battle” on some of their other allegations. And now, before hordes of Cooley graduates sit down to take the bar examination, we’ve got news on whether the class action suit survived that motion.

What result? The class action lawsuit filed by Team Strauss/Anziska against Cooley Law over its allegedly deceptive employment statistics has been dismissed….

When the class action lawsuit against New York Law School was dismissed in March at the state court level, many plaintiffs were disappointed with the result, but forged ahead under the guidance of Jesse Strauss, David Anziska, and Frank Raimond. Now that one of the very first law school lawsuits filed has been dismissed at the federal level, some may be reexamining their motives.

Cooley Law’s Dean Don LeDuc was pleased with Judge Quist’s decision. MLive.com has his statement:

“We are committed to graduating law students who are ready to practice law, and their success in a tough job market is our success too. We have always been in compliance with American Bar Association and National Association for Law Placement employment reporting standards.”

Apparently Dean LeDuc forgot to mention in his victory statement that Judge Quist out-and-out rejected Cooley’s defense of adherence to the ABA/NALP standard, noting that they constituted “a floor not a ceiling.”

At the very least, Judge Quist’s opinion clears up some important information for incoming law students — in particular, that in the past, they were dealing with employment reports that were “[w]ithout question . . . inconsistent, confusing, and inherently untrustworthy.” Even so, the employment reports here were “literally true,” and these plaintiffs unreasonably relied on the Cooley’s apparently dubious representations.

The opinion is available on the next page. Unlike Judge Melvin Schweitzer’s assessment of college graduates, Judge Quist isn’t so sure about their level of sophistication. He does, however, have some scathing words for those who chose to attend Cooley Law School:

This Court does not necessarily agree that college graduates are particularly sophisticated in making career or business decisions. Sometimes hope and dreams triumph over experience and common sense. Nevertheless, it would be unreasonable for Plaintiffs to rely on two bare-bones statistics in deciding to attend a bottom-tier law school with the lowest admission standards in the country.

To be fair, perhaps these plaintiffs were not unreasonable in their reliance on these statistics. Come on, you said it yourself, Judge — how much common sense could they really have had if they decided to attend a law school with the “lowest admission standards in the country”?

In his conclusion, Judge Quist had even harsher words for the ABA and the organization’s previous reporting requirements for law schools’ employment statistics:

Let the buyer beware of the fact that in the past, law schools’ employment statistics were virtually meaningless. Granted, the ABA has since changed the requirements for the reporting of job statistics, but in the end, law school graduates are still left holding the bag.

Flip to the next page to see Judge Quist’s opinion, as well as a statement from Team Strauss/Anziska….

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