12 more law schools sued over job data

A dozen more law schools are being sued over their employment data. University of Michigan Law School alumnus David Anziska, who practices in New York and is representing plaintiffs in some of the suits, made the announcement today.

According to a press release from Anziska, “The lawsuits allege that many schools falsely inflated graduate employment rates by, among other artifices, employing their own graduates in temporary jobs and counting graduates working in non-legal-related jobs and part-time and temporary jobs as ’employed’ even though such jobs either do not require a law degree or do not pay enough to service the massive debt taken on to finance the degree.”

That brings the total count of these lawsuits up to 15. Michigan’s own Thomas M. Cooley Law School was the first. None of the dozen suits filed today involved Michigan Schools. They are:

  • Albany Law School of Union University
  • Brooklyn Law School
  • Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University
  • California Western School of Law
  • Golden Gate University School of Law
  • Southwestern Law School
  • University of San Francisco School of Law
  • IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law
  • DePaul University College of Law
  • The John Marshall Law School
  • Florida Coastal School of Law
  • Widener University School of Law
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‘Pass law school or your money back’: The new way?

Over the weekend, one headline stood out among the others on the Pulse news-aggregating app: “Paying Students to Quit Law School.”

A radical idea?

According to Yale law professors Akhil Reed Amar and Ian Ayres, yes.

And one that just could help students “protect themselves and reduce[] the government’s risk of unpaid loans in the future.”

Their article, published Nov. 18 at Slate, suggests:

Law schools might analogously offer to rebate half of a student’s first-year tuition if the student opts to quit school at the end of the first year. (If the student has taken out government loans, this rebate would first go to repay this debt.) A half-tuition rebate splits the loss of an aborted legal career between the school and the student. Each has skin in the game, so students will not go to law school lightly, and law schools will have better incentives not to admit students likely to fail.

The idea is to mark the end of the first year, after students have received their grades, as a salient decision-making point. At that time, students will have learned more about their legal abilities and inclinations. Law schools will also have learned more about each student’s abilities, and schools could now disclose how previous students with similar first-year grades fared after graduation.

They compare this to a popular online shoe seller’s method:

At the end of a four-week training course, Zappos offers new employees a one-time offer of $3,000 to quit. In part, the company uses the offer as a screening device. If you’re the type who prefers a quick three grand to the opportunity to work at a great company, then Zappos isn’t the place for you.

The thing is, at least the Zappos people would know who they were working for. And considering Amar and Ayres are “lobbying our dean [Robert C. Post] to unilaterally offer our students a bribe to quit,” this radical idea could just have the Yale board thinking that the authors might want to work somewhere else, too.

Cooley sues lawyers, bloggers for defamation: Juicy details edition

Last week, the Lansing State Journal reported that The Thomas M. Cooley Law School, in two suits, went on the offensive against lawyers and bloggers who, the school claims, damaged Cooley’s reputation with a series of defamatory posts and statements.

Yesterday’s LSJ revealed some of what has raised Cooley’s hackles: a 6,000-word post on a website called “The Thomas M. Cooley Law School Scam.” An excerpt from the post, as reported by the LSJ:

“I am probably doing YOU THE BIGGEST FAVOR OF YOUR LIFE by raising public awareness and offering you this advice….all free of charge! As a prior student who was fortunate enough to GET OUT OF COOLEY let me lay a SMACKDOWN on this PIECE OF [excrement] TTTT (Third Tier Toilet Trash) school.”

The post, written by “Rockstar05,” took Cooley to task, says the LSJ:

for its low admissions standards, its high attrition rate, the job prospects of its graduates, [and] the fact that Cooley produces its own set of law school rankings which place it in the number two spot, just behind Harvard.

In his the post, reports the LSJ, Rockstar05 wound things up this way:

You want to spend years of your life that you cannot get back, likely get into 150K or more of non-dischargeable debt, for a degree with a ZERO RETURN ON INVESTMENT????!!!! …

LISTEN TO ME, YOU WILL RUIN YOUR LIFE BY ATTENDING THIS SCHOOL.

Rockstar05’s original post has been taken down and replaced with a response to Cooley’s suit. The comments to the original post, however, remain on the blog.

Two anonymous responders to Rockstar 05’s original post are also named in one of Cooley’s suits. According to the LSJ, the responders:

claimed that Cooley was involved in criminal activity related to federal student loans.

[The school] also sued an anonymous poster to The Huffington Post, who repeated the claims of criminality, and, in a separate case, two New York attorneys who appeared to be soliciting clients for a class action suit against the school.

A Cooley press release explains the claims against the Big Apple attorneys:

Cooley contends that the law firm of Kurzon Strauss LLP and two lawyers in that firm, David Anziska and Jesse Strauss, defamed Cooley by falsely claiming on Internet websites, social media, and email that Cooley, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) Michigan educational corporation, has defrauded students by misrepresenting its graduate employment placement rates, average starting salary figures, and student loan default rates. …

“Cooley has consistently and truthfully reported job placement and salary figures in the manner required by the American Bar Association (ABA), our accrediting agency, and by the National Association for Law Placement (NALP), a national jobs-reporting clearinghouse,” said Charles Toy, associate dean of Career and Professional Development at Cooley and the immediate past president of the State Bar of Michigan.

Cooley sues lawyers, bloggers for defamation

From this morning’s Lansing State Journal comes word that Cooley Law School has sued two lawyers, a law firm and four anonymous bloggers for defamation.

The school is suing New York lawyers David Anziska and Jesse Strauss for more than $25,000 in damages and a retraction of all defamatory statements posted on the Internet.

The suit, filed in Ingham County Circuit Court, also names the New York law firm that Strauss founded – and where Anziska works – as a co-defendant.

Strauss said he intended to countersue Cooley for filing a frivolous lawsuit.

“This is one of the most ridiculous, absurd lawsuits filed in recent memory,” Strauss said. “This suit is nothing more than a naked attempt at intimidation.”

In a separate suit, the school seeks identical damages from four anonymous bloggers.

James Thelen, Cooley’s associate dean for legal affairs and general counsel, said the school hopes to establish the bloggers’ identities during the lawsuit’s discovery process.

Cooley’s suit charges that:

Anziska and Strauss made defamatory comments online against the school as a way to “troll” for plaintiffs for a “baseless purported class- action lawsuit” against Cooley. The false claims included stating the school inflated salary and employment information of its graduates and that four out of 10 Cooley students are defaulting on loans[.]

Kagan won’t want to be part of this ‘elite’ SCOTUS group

A sex-crazed 62-year-old. A Harvard professor who smoked pot with his students. A close friend to the president. A white supremacist. A three-time loser.

Sounds like the ideal cast for this summer’s edition of “Big Brother,” no?

If only.

Instead, they’re Lucius Q.C. Lamar, Douglas Ginsburg, Harriet Miers, G. Harrold Carswell and Reuben H. Walworth, all past hopefuls for the U.S. Supreme Court who didn’t have luck on their side for the aforementioned reasons, respectively. They’ve made the list of “The 5 Most Disastrous Supreme Court Nominees,” as designated by The Week magazine.

So far, Elena Kagan appears to not be a candidate for the list should it get revised next year. However, despite her being a former dean at Harvard, she’s never been a judge. Ginsburg already has one up on her, as he’s a D.C. Circuit Court judge – albeit, as The Week labeled him, the “highest judge in the land.”

In the pipeline

If the profession of law is going to diversify its ranks, it’s going to have to start in the “pipeline” — the period of time when high school, or even junior high school, students are considering what they want to be when they grow up.

That’s where the CLEO Sophomore Summer Institute, which this summer will be offered for the first time in Michigan, is set up to catch young students and prepare them for the academic rigors of law school.

The institute will provide intensive, academic coursework to 25 Michigan undergraduate students at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s Auburn Hills campus from June 1 – 30; applications are currently being accepted at http://www.cleoadmin.com/pre_law_programs/ssionlineMI.cfm and the deadline for submission is April 15.

It’s a perfect fit for Cooley, said , said Cooley Associate Dean John Nussbaumer.

“We graduated more minority students than any other law school in the country except for Georgetown University,” Nussbaumer said, citing data in the ABA Official Guides. “And we graduated more African American law school students than anyone but Howard or Texas Southern universities.”

Why that’s important, he said, is because the profession has not kept pace with other professions, when it comes to attracting lawyers from ethnic minorities.

“As a profession we are way behind other professions, when it comes to diversifying our ranks,” Nussbaumer said. “Doctors are way ahead of us. Accountants are way ahead of us. They’ve found a way and we have not.”

The reason, he said, is that other professions tend to take a more holistic approach when they view students entering their schools.

“But we weigh the LSAT too heavily,” he said.

The impact on the profession is going to be felt at firms’ bottom lines, according to Nussbaumer.

“The business case I would make to change this dynamic is that the U.S. Census Bureau has said that by 2042, the majority of U.S. citizens will be people of color,” he said. “Corporations have said to their legal counsel that they want law firms to look like the people they serve. Firms that diversify are going to be ahead of the curve.”

Then, of course, there is the larger issue — the moral obligation to address the reasons that students of color are shut out of law schools. The result is that they’re also shut out of positions of power, in politics and in business.

“Lawyers are supposed to be the leaders. For beter or worse, our leaders in government and business tend to be lawyers,” Nussbaumer said. “If we can’t solve this probelem within our own ranks, we’ll have a society that is mostly people of color and a legal profession that’s 90 percent white.”

The CLEO  program aims to help disadvantaged groups build the skills and confidence they need to succeed in law school. It will be offered at no cost to the students, as CLEO, Cooley and Oakland University will provide the support needed for the program.

“The Sophomore Summer Institute reflects CLEO’s mission of diversifying the legal profession by expanding legal education opportunities to minority, low-income and disadvantaged groups,” said CLEO Executive Director Cassandra Ogden. “The Program ensures that the legal profession is diversified with underserved populations who, despite scarce resources, have a continued burning desire to overcome any obstacles and attend law school. And, to ultimately become attorneys who ardently work for and impact the social justice system.  We are excited about partnering with Thomas M. Cooley Law School and Oakland University.”

The 22-day program for students completing their sophomore year of undergraduate studies is designed to develop the critical thinking skills necessary to succeed on the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and in law school.  Students will participate in classes on logic and critical reasoning through classical philosophy and attend classes taught by Cooley faculty members in the areas of contracts, civil procedure, professional responsibility, legal writing, and appellate advocacy.

The capstone event of the program will be an oral argument conducted by a panel of Michigan Court of Appeals judges, led by Judge Cynthia D. Stephens. The students will review the briefs in the case, write a bench memorandum and orally argue the case themselves before panels of student judges, and then be the special guests of honor at the Court of Appeals argument.

Students in the program will receive a $750 stipend to cover travel expenses and lost income from potential summer employment. Some students may be eligible for two academic credits. Up to 10 of the 25 seats in the program will be available to OU students. Students will have no obligation to apply to or attend Cooley Law School.

CLEO has developed academic programs for disadvantaged students for more than 40 years, helping more than 8,000 low-income and minority students become successful members of the legal profession. This will be the first such program to be offered in Michigan and it has already garnered support from legal community leaders across the state.

“I speak from personal experience when I say that Cooley is genuinely committed to expanding the educational pipeline to the legal profession for these students and others like them,” said Marilyn Kelly, Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court, who will be a keynote speaker at the Sophomore Summer Institute along with former ABA President and Detroit Mayor Dennis Archer.

Eighteen former and current State Bar of Michigan presidents have also voiced their support of the CLEO program.

“The State Bar of Michigan has for decades championed fairness and access to all in law school admissions, and supported the development and implementation of law school pipeline initiatives,” said the State Bar Presidents in their letter of support. “The ABA CLEO Sophomore Summer Institute has proven its worth as an effective instrument to help achieve these goals.”

Ten bar associations have formally committed to fund career exploration luncheons throughout the program, including panel presentations from their members.  These bar associations include the Arab American Bar Association, Association of Black Judges of Michigan, Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association, Federal Bar Association, Hispanic Bar Association of Michigan, Macomb County Bar Association, Oakland County Bar Association, D. Augustus Straker Bar Association, the Wolverine Bar Association and the Women Lawyers Association of Michigan.

“At a time when nearly two-thirds of all African American and half of all Hispanic and Mexican American applicants to law school are being totally shut-out from every law school they apply to for admission, programs like this one provide reason for hope that one day the legal profession will reflect the diversity of the clients we serve,” said Nussbaumer. Dean Nussbaumer will be taking a sabbatical this summer to direct the program, with the assistance of Cooley Professor E. Christopher Johnson, Jr., Director of Cooley’s Corporate Law and Finance LL.M. program.

In the ballpark

Say what you want, but Thomas M. Cooley Law School president Don LeDuc stands by the school’s decision to buy the naming rights to the minor league baseball stadium in Lansing, home of the Lansing Lugnuts.

When the announcement that the school had agreed to pay nearly $1.5 million so that what was Oldsmobile Park will for the next 11 years be called Cooley Law School Stadium, LeDuc heard the same criticism as every other newspaper reader. Perhaps it was an extravagance that a school which has, like every other college and university, has had tuition increases (and LeDuc has not promised in interviews with the media that there won’t be more of those).

But the school is getting great bang for its marketing buck, LeDuc says. The naming rights, he said, cost less than the school spends on billboard advertising, and makes up just 0.15 percent of its entire expenditures.

And it’s just darn unique.

“It comes out to about $135,000 per year,” LeDuc said. “And I don’t think any other law schools have done this.

“In Michigan we want to have an identity here in Lansing. The building is probably the third-best known in mid-Michigan.”

Aside from exposure in four directions, including visibility from the city’s main thoroughfares, Michigan Avenue, Larch and Cedar.Four directions of frontage, including visibility from the city’s main thoroughfares, Michigan Avenue, Larch and Cedar, the law school does get some ancillary benefits, which include a suite, executive box seats, and four or five events folded into the package.

“Some of the events we would have at another venue or on one of the campuses, we now can have at the stadium,” LeDuc said. And this summer, the school’s Cooley for Kids program will take some 500 kids to the ballpark.

The biggest user of the suite will be the students,” LeDuc said.

“We had to establish a committee to determine who gets to use it and when,” he said. “Our thought is each of our sanctioned student organizations would get to use it. And we’ll be reserving some seats for employers and the like, we will send students there to mingle, which is the same kind of thing we’ve been doing at Comerica Park.”

The reality, he added, is that the law school got an excellent deal on naming rights. Since the stadium has been open, more than 5 million visitors, and 350,000 tickets for events sold last year.

And competition to attract new students is fierce. Law school enrollment is flat nationwide, LeDuc said. Cooley has had modest 1-2 percent growth per year during the last four years, but during uncertain economies, it should have been higher.

“Usually in an off economy like we have now, it’s a boom time at professional universities and colleges,” LeDuc said. “But this recession is so deep that we’re just not experiencing that. Applications are fairly flat nationally, and so is enrollment.”

So LeDuc is taking the raised eyebrows in stride.

“When you do anything novel like this you’ll always hear some pushback,” he said. “But this is not a big part of our total expenses.”