American Bar Association / ABA, Holy Crap, Hot Document, Law Schools

Former Thomas Jefferson School of Law Employee Alleges Falsification of Employment Statistics

Back in March, we reported that Thomas Jefferson School of Law’s motion to dismiss Anna Alaburda’s class action lawsuit over the school’s allegedly misleading employment statistics was “not well-taken,” and the case moved on to the discovery phase. We had previously wondered if Thomas Jefferson could actually lose the case, but given the wave of dismissals in the other law school lawsuits, that glimmer of hope soon faded. But then again, none of those cases ever made it to discovery.

Today, we’ve got news that will make all other schools pray that existing and potential cases against them never make it as far as that of Alaburda v. TJSL, the very first law school lawsuit filed. Everything — and we do mean everything — changes when you get to discovery.

For example, you may find out that your law school was allegedly engaged in a deliberate scheme to inflate its own employment statistics….

According to Law School Transparency, which broke the news earlier today, one of TJSL’s former employees, Karen Grant, admitted in a sworn statement that she fabricated graduate employment outcomes at the direction of her supervisor, Laura Weseley, the school’s former Director of Career Services. More from LST:

[Grant claims that Weseley] instructed her on multiple occasions to improperly record graduate employment outcomes and justified the scheme because “everybody does it” thus “it is no big deal.” TJSL could face sanctions from the American Bar Association as severe as losing accreditation.

Grant was Assistant Director of Career Services at TJSL from September 2006 to September 2007, during which she was tasked with tracking and recording employment outcomes of recent graduates. Grant is a licensed California attorney and made her sworn declaration on August 2, 2012 in connection to the class action lawsuit filed by Anna Alaburda, et al. against TJSL in 2011.

Specifically, Grant admits that she “routinely recorded currently unemployed students as ‘employed’ if they had been employed at any time since graduation,” which is a violation of both ABA and NALP reporting guidelines. Graduates should only be recorded as employed if they are employed as of February 15.

Guys at my high school law school used to record misleading employment data all the time, it was no big deal. Is that one possible line of defense? Sorry to break it to you, but that shtick only works as a meme in the Above the Law comments (and not even very well).

Thomas Jefferson denies Grant’s allegations. But her reported admission is still a big deal, considering that more than a dozen class action lawsuits have been filed over law school employment statistics within the past year. Could developments in the TJSL litigation have implications for the rest of the ongoing lawsuits?

This really makes us wonder what Brian Procel of Miller Barondess LLP is doing that can perhaps be imitated by Jesse Strauss and David Anziska in their quest to “sue as many law schools as possible.” We also wonder how the American Bar Association can continue to stand by and watch as law schools around the country continue to put out employment statistics that even judges have characterized as “inherently untrustworthy.” The allegations made by Karen Grant, if they hold up in court, do look like quite a smoking gun.

In a statement given to Law School Transparency, the ABA noted the following:

The ABA Section of Legal Education and Admission to the Bar is fully committed to ensuring that law schools comply with the letter and spirit of the Standards for Approval of Law Schools and all reporting requirements. We take seriously our responsibilities for collecting and disseminating law school data, including employment data.

The actions of a few schools have called into question the integrity of all. As a consequence, the Section has been called upon to play a greater role in investigating possible non-compliance with our rules and in sanctioning non-complying schools. We regularly follow up on reports and other communications regarding possible non-compliance with the Standards that come to our attention.

But as we hear about more and more misconduct, alleged or admitted, at law schools around the country — from TJSL to Villanova to Illinois — it gets harder and harder to dismiss each as a “one bad apple” situation. And it’s rather unfortunate that the ABA seems unable or unwilling to recognize this. Perhaps the organization ought to do something more than watch from the sidelines and then punish a law school when its misdeeds come to light. Perhaps it’s time for the ABA to do something that should’ve been done a long time ago: require that all employment data be independently verified by a third party.

Law is supposed to be a noble profession. The proliferating allegations of law school administrators playing an active role in the duping of their students are nothing short of shameful. When will enough be enough?

UPDATE (10/25/2012): Here is TJSL’s official response to the allegations. In addition, in an interview with the ABA Journal, Dean Rudy Hasl referred to Grant’s claims as a “crock of crap.”

(Flip to the following page to see the entirety of Karen Grant’s sworn statement.)

(hidden for your protection)

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