Law schools brought to court over job rates

Experts say the U’s Law School could improve in its transparency.

Law schools brought to court over job rates

Jill Jensen

Law schools nationwide are coming under fire and litigation, for inflating their employment rates for recent graduates to prospective students.

Students alleged that they were duped by law schools that reported misleading statistics about employment for their graduates âÄî a critical factor when choosing a program âÄî and a law firm is taking legal action against them.

David Anziska represented students in cases against two law schools and intends to file lawsuits against 15 more for âÄúfalse advertising.âÄù He said he believes within the next year almost every law school will be sued for misleading prospective students with bloated post-graduation employment data.

The University of Minnesota Law School reported that 98.9 percent of its 2010 graduates seeking employment secured it, and 88 percent of graduates had a job where bar admission was required, according to data from its Career Center.

But the numbers donâÄôt specify whether those graduates were employed in part-time or temporary positions.

The school follows the guidelines set forth by the American Bar Association, the Association for Legal Career Professionals and U.S. News & World Report when they survey their graduates, said David Wippman, Law School dean.

But even following these guidelines is completely irrelevant to fixing the data, Anziska said.

He said finding full-time, permanent employment in a legal position is âÄúvery hardâÄù for recent graduates.

In the economic recession, Anziska said, the discrepancy between the reported law school graduates with employment and those who are actually employed has become more pronounced. The percentages donâÄôt accurately reflect the number of post-law school students who find employment.

âÄúIt doesnâÄôt make sense,âÄù Anziska said. âÄúWe know the reality of the situation.âÄù

A fall 2010 Minnesota Daily survey of spring law graduates showed 48.5 percent were employed in their field. Another 22 percent were employed, but outside of a field relating to their major.

Anziska said the goal of this litigation is to win a partial tuition reimbursement and spur structural reform that would employ third-party auditors to verify employment information.

 

How the U measures up

On its Career Center website, the University Law School discloses the percentages of its graduates who work in specific job types or employment sectors. Most law schools donâÄôt do this, said Kyle McEntee, executive director of the nonprofit Law School Transparency.

âÄúWhile itâÄôs better than pretty much everyone else, it still doesnâÄôt go far enough to maybe say itâÄôs not misleading,âÄù he said, âÄúand it certainly doesnâÄôt go far enough to inform prospective students.âÄù

McEntee said these figures could be improved by specifying which of these jobs are full-time versus part-time or permanent versus temporary.

The Career Center says 88 percent of graduates work in jobs where bar admission is required, but the data does not include 7 percent of graduates who did not report a job type.

âÄúOur law school plays under the same games as every other school,âÄù said Sanjiv Laud, law council president at the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly.

He said he hasnâÄôt heard specific concerns from law students, but that doesnâÄôt mean it isnâÄôt happening.

He said the difference between the University Law School and universities being sued for misleading their students is that the University has good job placement in the local market for graduates.

Dominic Haik, a second-year student at the Law School, said heâÄôs not concerned about finding employment post-graduation even in the tight economy because the school has connected him to the law community.

Through the Law SchoolâÄôs employment website, he secured a summer job as a law clerk at Robichaud and Anderson after his first year at the school.

âÄúI think the University of Minnesota Law School is doing a great job of connecting their students with employers âĦ and putting them in the best situations possible to obtain clerkships,âÄù he said.

Wippman said the law school takes active steps to place their graduates in the legal community.

For example, he said, some graduates are employed by the University in law fellowships, which were created in 2009 to bridge their graduates to full-time legal employment.

These fellowships are counted as employment in the UniversityâÄôs job placement figures.

While the job market for law school graduates is âÄúcertainly not as goodâÄù as it was three years ago, Wippman said, itâÄôs been looking up in the past year.

âÄúObviously weâÄôre doing everything we can do to place all of our graduates,âÄù he said.

Laud said while students should be able to rely on employment data reported by a law school when choosing it, the reality is that many schools inflate this data to make their school seem more appealing.

âÄúI think everyone has their tricks,âÄù he said.