Alums Sue Law School After Failing To Find Work

This week, a judge dismissed a lawsuit against New York Law School filed by some of its own recent graduates. They claimed the school's marketing misled them about their chances of getting jobs as lawyers. Robert Siegel talks with Frank Raimond, an attorney who represented them, about the impact of the ruling. Raimond has been filing similar complaints against other law schools across the country.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

Let's say you apply to law schools. You don't get into any school that makes it into lists of the top 25-rated schools or even the top 50. Is it worth it? Let's say you look at the statements made by the schools that did accept you about how many of their graduates find work. And let's say you're sufficiently impressed that you go to that school, graduate, pass the bar exam and then find no work as a lawyer. Did the law school deceive you? Were its numbers fraudulent?

Well, that's what is alleged in a lawsuit that was dismissed by a New York judge this week. In that case, graduates of New York Law School - that's not NYU - but New York Law School were the plaintiffs. But the lawyers who are running this law school litigation project have suits against 13 other law schools. One of those lawyers, Frank Raimond, joins us from New York.

FRANK RAIMOND: Thank you.

SIEGEL: The judge in New York found against you and he writes, in part, that just as you've been able to present much public information that conflicts with New York Law School's claims about its graduates' careers, your plaintiffs could have read the same reports and articles and on the basis of that decided not to believe New York Law and not to go there.

RAIMOND: A lot of the articles and a lot of the materials he cites come from 2011 and all of our class representatives graduated in 2007, 2008, 2009. Those materials were not available to them. And, further, if you go back in time, as it were, to 2007, 2008, 2009, there were anecdotal discussions of how the law graduate employment market was suffering.

But there was no quantification of this. There was no connection between these abstract hiring problems at large firms and a concrete relationship between that and what the law schools are saying.

SIEGEL: But these aren't just any ordinary consumers who are being told buyer beware, here. These are all people who are deep into or already finished with their college education. They're anticipating a career in the law. We would assume some kind of powers of analysis here that they would bring to this question.

RAIMOND: However, under the law, the question is whether or not they're a reasonable consumer. And you know, there is a separate concept in the law of sophisticated consumers, but we feel strongly that that would not apply to our clients here. Ordinarily, sophisticated consumers are multinational banks, people who have lawyers representing them, not 22-year-old kids out of college.

And we feel, and we will argue on appeal, that a lot of the inferential leaps that the judge imposes upon the reasonable consumer are not what the law requires.

SIEGEL: Well, I want you to explain how it is that a law school could report out a number, which purports to be how many of their graduates, within nine months of graduating, are working, which looks huge, and a much smaller number of how many people have the kind of job that people go to law school to get.

RAIMOND: Sure. So the employment rate for a law school includes any job whatsoever. You're working at Starbucks, you're working a jackhammer, you're considered employed by the law school. And we think that applicants going to law school looking to get a law degree probably aren't looking to work a jackhammer.

SIEGEL: I was reminded in reading about your suit that someone pointed out to me some years ago that, every year, American colleges graduate more journalism majors than there are jobs in American journalism. You know, we could fill the entire profession with the number of people who graduate with that degree. This seems to be a pervasive issue in universities that we don't accept - perhaps, for doctors - we don't control the number of seats with the number of positions they will find upon getting their degree.

RAIMOND: And we do feel that there is a larger question going on here about higher education in general in this country and the costs that are imposed upon students and why it keeps increasing and what the connection is between the investment in a college degree and/or education, generally, and what the value of it is. And these cases are a microcosm of that larger question.

SIEGEL: Well, Mr. Raimond, thank you very much for talking with us.

RAIMOND: Sure. Thank you.

SIEGEL: That's Frank Raimond, a lawyer who is part of the Law School Litigation Project. Their suit against New York Law School was dismissed this week in New York.

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