Thursday, March 24, 2016

Alaburda v. TJLS and the Grand Pyrrhic Victory

Today, jurors in San Diego decided by a 9-3 vote that Thomas Jefferson Law School did not commit fraudulent misrepresentations in its graduate employment statistics to Anna Alaburda several years ago.  While many, I am sure, will take such a verdict, particularly in the context of other dismissals, as a resounding victory for law schools, the following passage seems instructive about why this particular verdict went the way it did:
Juror Wade DeMond, who works on regulatory affairs in the pharmaceutical industry, said he questioned how Thomas Jefferson collected employment data after Alaburda's time but that it made a good-faith effort in her case.

"The jury instructions, the questions we were asked, were very specific and they were time-bound: Did Thomas Jefferson falsely represent employment data for the U.S. News & World Report editions that she reviewed? So that means the whole thing gets narrowed down to the 2004 and the 2005 editions," he told reporters.
The narrowness of this case aside, the verdict should not come as a surprise to anyone who's observed the legal news over the last few years.  Contrary to for-profit shitholes, the public at large has built-in defense mechanisms to protect non-profit higher education, to assault lawyers but not the institutions ruined by them, and to cast the harshest possible light on the personal responsibilities of abstract others who suffer only in news articles.  The lawsuits hit many observers like ipecac, causing them to vomit forth all sorts of inanity that ignored the basics of consumer fraud and demanded that prospective students know the impossible and assume that a law school would defraud them with duplicitous stats.  Courts, mostly of the state variety, had similar nausea. As a result, a whole generation of Americans lawyers was simultaneously highly sophisticated and inherently, unreasonably stupid.

But at the end of the day, consider where we were prior to the litigation compared to now.  The New York Times' marquee article on the so-called "scam" didn't hit until 2011.   LawProf's first post didn't hit until August of that year.  While there was a solid trend of "scamblogging" prior to that, the denial on the institutional side was significantly stronger.  In five years, applications and bar exam scores have plummeted and the institutional position has changed radically.  While the courts have been hostile to claims of shenanigans, the market doesn't lie.  That many of the students who applied in droves in 2010 would not be caught dead applying to law school in 2016 is a sign of progress - and not for the law schools.  Awareness about the true state of the job market has spread, and I would it to you that the lawsuits have been an instrumental part of that process.

While the law schools, like many large institutional actors, figured out how to comply with the letter of the law without regard to the spirit, they are unable to counter the truth.  And from a combination of books, blogs and websites, and - yes - these lawsuits, the truth is now more well-known than ever.  These institutions can claim that the Frank McIntyres of the world are experts and that law degrees are worth a gazillion dollars, but the buyers - sophisticated consumers, right? - seemingly aren't taking the bait like they used to.

So law schools generally might win the courtroom war, but their whole defense is a gigantic Pyrrhic victory.  They have lost so much over the last several years that these legal victories have to ring hollow as the market obviously agrees with the spiritual substance of the lawsuits, even if the suits themselves don't yield the Anna Alaburdas of the world a dime.  Law schools can win lawsuits, but they cannot change their recent graduates' dissatisfaction with the "value" received.

Of course, there still are true believers.
"This is not, you know, Trump University," [TJLS lawyer Michael] Sullivan said. "It is so not that. It is such a really excellent law school."
Emphasis added.  Ten years ago, people honestly believed such a statement and took their 150 LSATs to pay tens of thousands in tuition in the hopes of making six figures.  Does anyone outside of TJLS, its paid lackeys, and truly delusion 0Ls honestly think so now? 

For the bottom half of the class, often the only differences between Trump U. and TJLS is that the TJLS student has no sympathy, three wasted years, and six figures of debt.  Considering that the public at large is understanding that in ways they once did not, the law schools have clearly lost.

13 comments:

  1. "This is not, you know, Trump University," [TJLS lawyer Michael] Sullivan said."

    It certainly isn't!

    Trump University was much, much, cheaper than TJLS.

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  2. http://timesofsandiego.com/education/2016/03/24/thomas-jefferson-law-school-didnt-bamboozle-jury-rules/

    "Michael Sullivan, the attorney for the law school, said the jury verdict showed that TJSL does its best to provide accurate information on its graduates and is not a “fourth-tier” law school.

    “When the jury heard about the excellent faculty and the awards that its students have won — more than Ivy League schools — very prestigious writing awards, all of its faculty being top-drawer, the passion that its faculty has for its students, I think that helped them understand that this is not a Trump University,” Sullivan said after the verdict.

    Sullivan told the jury that Alaburda, 37, did not suffer any damages and that she went to TJSL because it was the only law school where she got accepted.

    http://grad-schools.usnews.rankingsandreviews.com/best-graduate-schools/top-law-schools/law-rankings/page+8

    Keep in mind that juries are comprised of people who are too goddamn dumb to get off jury duty. Exhibit One. TTTThoma$ Jeffer$on Sewer of Law is once again ranked as a FOURTH TIER TRASH PIT - by US "News" & World Report.

    Awards in Moot Court, i.e. fake court, don't amount to anything, Bitch. Have fun gloating about some fake court victories, while graduates of REAL law schools - who are in hiring positions - ignore your ass. On a good day, your resume will make it through, just long enough for the hiring partner to laugh until tears stream down his cheeks. When he's done banging his hot brunette secretary - the one with killer calves, brown doe eyes, and great stamina - he might even laugh about your "awards" and TTTT resume again.

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  3. I wonder where TJLS attorney Michael Sullivan got his own law degree. I can guarantee it wasn't TJLS.

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    Replies
    1. Indeed! You think any of these toilets would hire any of their own [stupid & incapable] graduates? Doubt it...

      Heck, I wish someone would point that out in court: "If your law school is so great, then why don't you hire your own graduates to defend you here in court?"

      Delete
    2. Well, you know, not everyone can be a TJLS rockstar. Some folks have to settle for places like Harvard, Yale, or Stanford....

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    3. I think this must be the guy: http://www.paulplevin.com/attorney_mcs.html

      It says the one of his clients is TJLS. He got his J.D. at
      Boalt.

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  4. sorry I disagree with the phyrric victory classification. as long as there are 2nd tier (as we call them TTT and TTTTs), the LS industrial complex is winning.

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    Replies
    1. You are correct! Unfortunately there appears to be a steady stream of desperate and financially strapped wanna be actors/actresses, ADHD, functioning retards, socially disabled, alcohol/tobacco/caffeine dependent, hopelessly naïve fly-over residents, wealthy/stipend foreign students or refugees willing to make San Diego their home for three years.

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  5. Captain Hruska Carswell, Continuance KingMarch 26, 2016 at 11:55 PM

    It speaks volumes that an alum is so angry with her school that she files suit. She also draws attention to HER school. It's the Barbara Streisand effect. There are a lot of us attorneys, newbies and veterans like me who are underemployed and unemployed. However, we would never consider "biting the hand that fed" us and trash our schools. The mere act of filing suit says it all....

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  6. Thomas Jefferson is certainly one of the worst law schools, and should close immediately. Nevertheless, it won't be the first to close. It has too many advantages in climate, location, and lifestyle.

    The first to close will be the cold-climate hellholes like Albany, Vermont, Detroit-Mercy, Mitchell/Hamline, Roger Williams, New England, Northern Ohio, and Indy Tech. Maybe Buffalo and Case Western as well.

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    Replies
    1. Valpo, John Marshall, Southern Illinois

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    2. Agreed, many people incorrectly assume that the priority for many people attending these SoCal diploma mills is pursuing a law career.

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  7. Yes, you definitely don't want to burn the bridge to your alma mater unless you have given up all hope.

    ReplyDelete