New York, Chicago Law Schools Among Group Sued Over Job Data

John Marshall Law School in Chicago and the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University were among a group of law schools sued over claims they misrepresented employment data, leaving graduates with mounting debt and limited job prospects.

The schools sued today include Brooklyn Law School and Albany Law School of Union University in New York and the DePaul University law school and the Chicago-Kent College of Law at the Illinois Institute of Technology. Still more cases were brought in state courts in California and Florida and in federal court in New Jersey, plaintiffs’ attorneys have said. Those filings couldn’t immediately be confirmed.

“We believe that some in the legal academy have done a disservice to the profession and the nation by saddling tens of thousands of young lawyers with massive debt for a degree worth far less than advertised,” David Anziska, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said in a statement.

Law schools are facing increasing pressure as graduates struggle to find work at firms recovering from the recession. About 15 law schools nationwide have been sued by more than 73 law school graduates over allegations the schools falsely inflated graduate employment rates and salary statistics to recruit and retain students, the lawyers said.

Last year, the American Bar Association adopted two resolutions asking for more assistance for student loans and urging schools to provide more detailed employment data.

Reporting Guidelines

Albany Law School and Hofstra said in statements that they stand by their job-placement statistics, which adhere to reporting guidelines set by the American Bar Association and the National Association for Law Placement. Both schools declined to comment on the specific lawsuits.

“We have documentation that supports the accuracy of our data,” Connie Mayer, Albany’s interim president and dean, said in an e-mailed statement. “Students are well aware of the realities of today’s economy and we believe the information we provide during the admission process does not mislead our applicants.”

Bethany Blankley, a spokeswoman for Brooklyn Law and Marilyn Thomas, a spokeswoman for John Marshall, didn’t immediately return phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.

‘Enron-Style’ Accounting

The DePaul complaint, filed at the Cook County Circuit Court in Chicago, accuses the law school of engaging in “Enron-style” accounting techniques to manipulate its employment statistics.

Enron Corp., a Houston-based energy trading company, collapsed in an accounting scandal almost 10 years ago.

“Far from giving their graduates ‘a competitive edge,’ and placing them in good, secure, well-paying jobs,” its eight suing former students alleged, “DePaul consigns the majority of them to years of indentured servitude, saddling them with tens of thousands of dollars in crushing, non-dischargeable debt that will literally take decades to pay off.”

Similar allegations were lodged by the four students who filed suit against the Chicago-Kent College of Law.

Robin Florzak, a spokeswoman for DePaul, declined to comment on the allegations, saying school officials hadn’t yet received the complaint. Susan O’Brien, a spokeswoman for the Chicago-Kent law school, also declined to comment.

Group Status

Claiming violation of Illinois consumer fraud laws, students from the two Chicago schools are seeking certification of their ability to sue as a group, plus an award of unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

The New York cases are Austin v. Albany Law School of Union University, A00014/2012, New York state Supreme Court, Albany County (Albany); Bevelacqua v. Brooklyn Law School, New York state Supreme Court, Kings County (Brooklyn); Richins v. Hofstra University, New York state Supreme Court, Nassau County (Mineola). The Chicago cases are Johnson v. The John Marshall Law School, 12CH03494; Phillips v. DePaul University, 11CH03523; and Evans v. Illinois Institute of Technology, 11CH03522, in the Circuit Court of Cook County, Illinois, Chancery Division (Chicago).