Saturday, June 6, 2015

Infilaw Allegedly Paid Graduates Not to Take the Bar; Faces Fraud and Discrimination Allegations

For those who haven't seen it, I wanted to repost what National Law Journal and Above the Law have reported regarding a lawsuit that's pending in Arizona by a terminated Arizona Summit employee.  From ATL:
Paula Lorona, a former assistant director of financial aid at Arizona Summit Law School, claims that starting in May 2014, all three of InfiLaw’s schools — Arizona Summit, Charlotte, and Florida Coastal — began offering $5,000 payoffs to students who were unlikely to pass the bar exam.
I guess it's a cost of doing business when you are enrolling tons of 140 LSATs and trying to stay accredited?

Above the Law has graciously posted a copy of the complaint that makes for some interesting reading to learn about the facts as alleged.  For example, Ms. Lorona was enrolled as an evening student in 2009 and became an administrative assistant for the school a few months later.  She received rather rapid promotions and was student accounts/accounting manager by 2011 (See para. 12, 16).  Pages 4-6 make allegations regarding alterations on an Arizona Summit state tax filing; by pointing out such things, Lorona allegedly became the recipient of harassment.

The really good stuff begins around page 8.  Lorona allegedly told Dean Shirley Mays that she they were misrepresenting the success rates of students admitted through the alternative admissions program. Beginning with paragraph 80, they set forth facts regarding the "failure predictor formula," which calculated whether a student was likely to fail the bar and if so, they would be offered $5000.

Lorona, as a 2014 alumna, allegedly received emails from the school regarding low anticipated pass rates and had a school-employed bar coach tell her the school was concerned about losing federal funding, while the school was still boasting high pass rates to the consuming public; the effect being that the school knew it was misleading students (see para. 90-100).

More intriguing, at least to me, is that in Count III the complaint sets forth a consumer fraud claim from an actual insider whose testimony can apparently establish admissions that show intent to deceive.  Lorona may face the same reliance problems that have plagued the class action cases in other jurisdictions, but as an employee of the school, she surely knows more than a run-of-the-mill student, and she's only suing on her own behalf rather than a class; thus, it should be her reliance that would matter, and not that of a vague made-up student with a time machine and unlimited access to things no one knows.

The complaint indicates that Lorona allegedly turned down a confidential waiver when she left employment.  Here's to hoping she and her attorneys continue that line of thought as the matter progresses.

27 comments:

  1. I don't see anything wrong in what Infilaw did as far as providing students funds who were not likely, according to their formula, to pass the Bar exam. They were not paying them to not take the Bar, merely to delay taking the Bar pending additional prep work. That's more than my private TTT ever did for anyone when I was there.. That is, you want BarBri, fine.. It's yours to pay for out-of-pocket. You graduated, you've paid your last student loan money to us. Good Day Sir!

    Sure, there's a side effect of boosting their Bar passage rate. Fine. Those who took the Bar passed or failed. The rest - these students in question - were simply given funds to delay taking the exam until they could bring themselves up to speed.

    The real suit here is her wrongful discharge claim and nothing more.

    Frankly, I just don't see any issue here as far as stat goosing. This is someone bringing a wrongful discharge suit who also wants to try and air some dirty (in her opinion) laundry while doing it and, IMO, that's a distraction from the claim which might actually have some merit.

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    1. Stat goosing it is. But it deserves to be exposed for that alone.

      With tuition at $40,000 per year per student, the stat goosing is the big picture. If they can throw $5,000 at, say, 24 students per class and "discourage" them from taking the bar exam (and failing), and that falsely inflated bar passage rate attracts even two new students into the school, then they're profiting.

      Don't dismiss this as an overreaching wrongful discharge suit. Sure, it is. But it's the underlying behavior of the law schools that is exposed in the process which is the important aspect.

      I don't care how the info is released: janitor selling paperwork that was inadvertently thrown in the trash, disgruntled assistant "professor" who was passed over for tenure again, dean who sees the light and would prefer to try not to end up in hell. Doesn't matter. What matters is that these schools are exposed for what they are: extremely well-oiled machines for extracting profit from the Education System.

      Assume (correctly) that no decision is made without the bean counters' approval. The $5,000 payout to certain students might, on the surface, look harmless and even beneficial, but you can bet your life that "benefiting the students" is the last thing the accountants and MBAs behind these scams are thinking about.

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    2. "The rest - these students in question - were simply given funds to delay taking the exam until they could bring themselves up to speed."

      So why not take the bar exam as additional prep work? The applicant doesn't suffer (other than ego and bar exam fee) from failing and the applicant might actually pass. At a minimum, actually taking the bar exam is good preparation for eventually passing. You learn your weak areas and can better prepare.

      And how can anyone graduate from an ABA approved law school without a reasonable chance of passing the bar exam? Regardless, that's the whole point of the statistic since it assumes everyone who wants to take the bar exam takes the bar exam.

      What's the benefit to the law school graduate to delay taking the bar exam, other than this $5K payout? If the law school didn't want these students to take the bar exam, shouldn't they have failed? Why graduate them and pay them not to take the bar exam? BTW, these are all rhetorical questions. We all know the answers.

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    3. "They were not paying them to not take the Bar, merely to delay taking the Bar pending additional prep work."

      One must wonder: Is this the type of rhetoric they teach at Arizona Summit?

      "Sure, there's a side effect of boosting their Bar passage rate....I just don't see any issue here as far as stat goosing."

      You can't make this shit up.

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    4. You are off the wall with this one.

      Look, They are identifying students who will likely have problems passing the Bar. They are giving them money to do prep work, i.e. BarBri and a small stipend. That beats non-profit TTT's who do nothing for their students and still face declining Bar passage rates yet blame the students. The students between the schools are similar because Bar passage rates are declining.

      You bitch about reverse Robin-Hooding and go looking for wrong-doing in any way you can find but when a school actually does something about it, you morons still complain...

      Listen, the title of the your article is wrong. You are wrong. The school has identified a problem and is taking corrective measures. They are actually giving money away (gasp!) to students who have been identified as needing help.

      Like I said, and I know you idiots are too blood-thirsty to get it: They are not paying students to NEVER take a bar. Did you read the complaint? You know.. reading? They are paying them to defer it pending additional prep.

      That probably means free BarBri or otherwise and a stipend for a few months which beats nothing and working while studying for the Bar because you have to or taking a Bar (bridge) loan.

      Got it?

      Too complicated for you?

      Of course, the effect of this will boost their Bar passage numbers because those students who need the help are DELAYING taking the exam. As far as the school being concerned about maintaining accreditation, they all are because that = federal funds.

      Did you read the National Law Journal piece?

      http://www.nationallawjournal.com/id=1202728422268/Lawsuit-Infilaw-Paying-Law-Grads-To-Put-Off-Bar-Exam?slreturn=20150507144208

      "Put Off" not never take..

      Then the scambloggers and idiots who run various blogs come in screaming bloody murder..

      Look, sure it helps the Bar passage stat. That's obvious.. And why not? Schools have been gaming employment stats for years.. That's what schools do. In this case, why shouldn't they report that number? They are actually helping their problem students, unlike non-profit TTT's.

      You and ATL are looking to make a mountain from a molehill. They have actually identified a problem and sought ways to remediate it. The only real issues here are wrongful discharge and the tax reporting.

      The stat is higher because they are actually DOING something, not simply reporting a bogus number out of nowhere and they deserve the benefit of their actions to alleviate the problem. This is a logical and rational thing to do for those students which have been identified by their formula.

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    5. If you want to white knight for Infilaw/ASLS, that's fine, but could you at least address the main issue?

      Why tell the students they can't take the 1st available bar exam after law school?

      I don't have a problem with any law school subsidizing bar preparation courses. Of course, the obvious solution to said problem would be to not enroll students who are likely to fail and/or to actually teach them the skills necessary to pass the bar during the three years of law school.

      And no where in the article did I write that these students would "never" be able to take the bar exam. Such is a patently absurd interpretation, and easily refuted by the linked material. Honest to God, who would even think that, and how would it be enforceable? If a 3L tells you they "aren't taking the bar exam," do you automatically think they mean "never?"

      The bigger point, of course, is that ASLS *is* paying students a stipend, and part of the consideration is that they forgo taking the bar exam (I guess I need to clarify that it's not indefinitely?).

      But why place that restriction? If ASLS really wants to help its students pass the bar, that's great - they can provide them bar preparation materials and whatnot.

      Even with that good intention, why the restriction? The only party who benefits is ASLS/Infilaw, and the only party who may lose bigtime is the ASLS alum.

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    6. "Even with that good intention, why the restriction? The only party who benefits is ASLS/Infilaw, and the only party who may lose bigtime is the ASLS alum."

      So the party that receives $5 grand isn't receiving a benefit?

      I don't now pay for BarBri and can live a month or two without having to work and then study on top of it?

      That's not a benefit?

      It's a huge one.

      I knew people that took the exam 5 times. And some 3 times. All while having to work on top of it. That's why, I think, they got crushed.

      The way things are now, 50% pass, roughly. So giving someone the best chance to only have to go through the Bar exam one time and pass is huge. The fact they might delay being licensed for 6 mos is irrelevant because roughly half don't pass nowadays anyway... No one is "losing out" on anything with passage rates - and hiring rates - today anyway.

      What I remember is that it was a huge strain to come straight from 3L finals, rush into Bar Prep, and then cram 10-12 hour days for that test..

      And looking back, I learned that there really was no reason to rush. BarBri teaches you everything and by 3L you've forgotten 90%+ of what you learned. It's far easier to take an extra 6 months at a slower pace then cram. And that goes for most tests, etc.

      As far as the Bar Passage rate claim, good luck proving fraud. How is it fraud? "X" took the exam, "Y" passed. Straight calc. The fact that these people are excluded from the pool (but not forever..) is fine. It's done with the intent to help them to pass an exam at a later date. No fraud there. The calc is as simple and straight up as you can make it. Those not in the pool simply come into play for a later exam and later calculation.

      15 lawsuits and no one could prove fraud when it was blatant and obvious because anyone with common sense knows that there is no way 90% of any class is getting jobs within 9+ mos. of graduation.

      And you want to call fraud on this?

      Good luck.. If I ever need a good attorney, remind me NOT to hire you.

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    7. Wow, an Infilaw exec seems pretty upset here. I wonder what the school's motivation is for paying students to NOT take the bar exam. Is there some sort of bar passage percentage linked to SL funding that Infilaw is trying to bypass?

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    8. "The way things are now, 50% pass, roughly. So giving someone the best chance to only have to go through the Bar exam one time and pass is huge. The fact they might delay being licensed for 6 mos is irrelevant because roughly half don't pass nowadays anyway... No one is "losing out" on anything with passage rates - and hiring rates - today anyway."

      Da fuq?

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    9. Here's another in the "Reading Comprehension" category.

      The comment is from the National Law Journal piece. 1st comment:

      Successful and Proud Arizona Summit Law School Alumni
      Jun 05, 2015

      I believe it is important to set the record straight. First let me say this, Arizona Summit Law School did not pay law grads to put off sitting thier bar exams. The school has a program titled, "UP," that is geared towards assisting students with a low probability of passing the bar. The $5000 is a stipend, given to law grads, who are often times unable to work during bar prep. Yes, our school has its fault, however, let‘s not stop at the bad. The bar sitter with the highest score on the July 2014 Arizona bar exam attended Arizona Summit Law School. On the February 2015 exam the bar sitter with the second highest score, also attended Arizona Summit. I also attended Arizona Summit Law, and did very well on my bar exam. Our school may not be perfect but it has and continues to produce talented lawyers. If you look far enough into any organization, including yours, you will find dirt. Instead of constantly reporting the negative aspects, why not focus on some of the positive attributes. I understand that positive news does not increase ratings but I ask you to at least be fair in your reporting. P.S. Please excuse any grammatical errors as I am reponding from a mobile device.

      Read more: http://www.nationallawjournal.com/id=1202728422268/Lawsuit-Infilaw-Paying-Law-Grads-To-Put-Off-Bar-Exam#ixzz3cQhPkYLe

      And, finally, I've been out of law school a long time now. I suppose the difference being I actually learned something. I don't support schools scamming students. In fact, these are probably the first "pro" law school comments I've made. I just don't see that the school actually did anything wrong in this respect. Beyond that, I certainly don't feel it's provable or even winnable as a legal matter. I believe the commentator has it right. There is much wrong with law schools but this isn't among those things. As I said, it's more than the "non-profits" have done - or likely will do - for their graduates.

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    10. That sounds similar to what John Kunich wrote at TaxProf.

      http://taxprof.typepad.com/taxprof_blog/2015/06/lawsuit-infilaw-pays-low-performing-law-grads-5k-.html

      Under the best possible interpretation of the public facts, we still have a law school that's more or less admitting that it enrolled students who were unlikely to pass the bar exam, admitting that three years of law school was not enough time for its students to pass the minimal competency test for lawyers, and then expending more money to pay for extra bar preparation for the worst students it graduated.

      Where does the money for this program come from? InfiLaw is for-profit, so it's not like there's a scholarship or non-profit funding this stuff. The expense of this program almost certainly comes from program revenue, which we have to assume comes almost exclusively from student tuition.

      Right there, you have mediocre students subsidizing poor ones, and new students subsidizing recent alumni. It's the inverse of the scholarship game: the school providing benefits based not on need, but rather on what benefits the school, only this time the worst graduating students benefit rather than the best incoming students.

      And none of this explains why the school would allegedly condition the program on not taking the bar exam. It's a clear condition to manipulate the intended effect of the ABA's accreditation standards (see Interpretation 301-6). And are they disclosing this program when comparing their bar pass rates to that of other schools?

      Are we really still in the world where people will defend law schools for gaming common statistics used to compete with other law schools with technicalities? Are we still excusing law schools dancing around accreditation regulations? Are we actually excusing Arizona Summit on the grounds that it's doing "good" by giving $5k to the students it severely overcharged by tens of thousands who probably should not have been in law school in the first place? Really?

      It's business as usual. This is a corporate risk mitigation program. The $5k payments should be viewed as insurance premiums that are ultimately paid for by consumers to help insure against a potential regulatory crackdown. It only exists so InfiLaw can be more assured it can continue to enroll loads of lemmings going forward.

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    11. At 6:30 PM...

      So now we are supposed to accept as fact what Infilaws execs are posting at other websites?

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    12. Anonymous, you sound like the dean of the school pretending to be a disinterested outside observer.

      Hi professor or dean or whoever you are!

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    13. Once the Cartel-insiders start stabbing each other in the back, you know it's getting good.

      Or maybe that is just standard operating procedure for operations such as these. It's hard to tell, really.

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  2. Two major parts of the Infilaw formula for predicted bar pass success are undergraduate GPA and LSAT score (the third is law school GPA). By telling these students that they are not likely to pass the bar based on at least two items known before matriculation, isn't Infilaw saying that they have admitted students who are not likely to be admitted to the bar, in violation of the ABA standards?

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    1. That's exactly what they're saying (between the lines).

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  3. What an "honorable" and decent "institution of higher learning," huh?!?!

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  4. $5000 REWARD
    WILL BE PAID BY THE
    INFILAW JD CO.
    to any Person who contracts the Increasing Epidemic,
    INABILITY TO PASS THE BAR EXAM,
    after having bought the INFILAW JD.

    $500,000 IS DEPOSITED
    with the Scam Bank, shewing our sincerity in the matter.

    An INFILAW JD
    WILL POSITIVELY LEAD TO JOBS IN THESE EXCITING AREAS:

    Sports Law
    Environmental Law
    International Law
    Entertainment Law
    Dolphins' Rights
    Global Leadership
    The US Presidency

    Many thousand INFILAW JDs have been sold.
    One INFILAW JD will last a lemming's whole life long,
    making it the cheapest credential in the world
    at the price $120,000, post free.

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    1. Maybe Charleston should change its name to Carbolic Law School.

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  5. Who is defending them? A lawyer who graduated from Infilaw or a lawyer from a T14?

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    1. In my third year of law school, I asked each of two friends—who, like me, were top students—how many of the students in our class he could accept as counsel to his mother. One of them immediately estimated 15. I said about 10. The other friend started naming names. Even being generous, we could barely come up with a dozen.

      And that was at an élite school. There must be scores of law schools with not even one graduating student who would make a decent lawyer.

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    2. They are defended by Quarles & Brady. I do not see any Arizona Summit graduates at said firm. If anyone finds any, please do share.

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  6. The toilet in question advertised that 86% of graduates who take the bar exams eventually pass. That's a shameful admission that 14% of those who take it never pass. And bear in mind that many students—disproportionately, one assumes, those with the worst prospects—don't even take the bar exams. If Lorona is right (and I believe her), the company that was "concerned about losing federal funding" nonetheless had the wherewithal to pay its worst students off.

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    1. Imagine being the student gets that email. You just spent three years working your butt off trying to get through law school where it's an uphill battle because you had a 145 on the LSAT. Even though all those other schools told you you weren't good enough, ASLS told you you were a special snowflake who could be a lawyer.

      Three years and $150k later, your educational institution tells you that in its expert opinion you're too stupid to likely pass the minimal competency test for the profession you spent three years learning.

      Now, you can either:

      1) admit that they're right, take $5k to delay your career six months, and have future employers assume you failed because you were admitted almost a year after graduation; or

      2) defy the school and turn down the cash. You may pass, but you risk any future relations with the school, and if you fail you lost $5k AND had confirming evidence that you're an idiot who went to a terrible law school.

      Psychologically, it's a lose-lose proposition.

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    2. That's because going to law school in the first place was a lose–lose proposition for someone with a 145. It's not necessarily good even for someone with a 175, who at least can be expected to pass the bar exams.

      I say to take option 1. Future relations with the school count for little (the school won't give a good goddamn about the graduate whom it has written off as too stupid to pass the bar), and future employers are likely to be of the McDonald's variety. Hell, spin it right on your résumé: "Winner of $5000 award for distinguished students."

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  7. Not to mention, Dean Mays sexually harassing her and acting disgusting

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  8. Tax fraud, sexual harassment, sex discrimination.... The day of reckoning is coming

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