Suit alleging law school’s misleading post-grad numbers dropped

A $300,000 class-action lawsuit against The Thomas M. Cooley Law School was dismissed by U.S. District Judge Gordon Quist on Friday.

The lawsuit, filed August 2011 by 12 Cooley graduates, alleged they were misled by Cooley’s post-graduate employment reports.

In granting Cooley’s motion to dismiss, Quist noted that while the school’s employment and salary figures were “vague and incomplete,” the students should have relied on more than statistics when making their decision to enroll.

“Plaintiffs and prospective students should have approached their decision to enter into law school with extreme caution given the size of the investment,” Quist wrote. “With red flags waiving and cautionary bells ringing, an ordinary prudent person would not have relied on the statistics to decide to spend $100,000 or more.”

In addition, the graduates alleged fraud and negligent misrepresentation on Cooley’s part, and violated the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.

But Quist said the MCPA applies to “providing goods, property, or service primarily for personal, family or household purposes.” As such, “the MCPA did not apply because the plaintiff purchased the services for a business or commercial purpose,” he wrote.

Besides saying that the plaintiffs unreasonably deduced that the “percentage of graduates employed” statistic included only graduates who were employed in full-time legal positions, Quist wrote that it was unreasonable to believe Cooley’s stated average starting salary of $54,796 represented a figure for all its graduates. That figure represents the average salary of graduates who responded to the school’s survey and chose to reveal their salaries.

Pro bono fairs set for next month

We’re less than two weeks away from Pro Bono Month, and the State Bar of Michigan’s Pro Bono Initiative is giving attorneys plenty of opportunity to find what suits them best.

The group will launch its first ever Michigan Pro Bono Fairs, and will host them at the following locations and dates:

Oct. 6: Oakland & Macomb Pro Bono Fair; The Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Auburn Hills; 4:30-6:30 p.m.; Info: Dionnie Wynter, (248) 751-7800, Ext. 7742.

Oct. 11: Detroit Pro Bono Fair; Dykema Gossett PLLC, Detroit; 4-6:40 p.m.; Info: Heidi Naasko, (734) 214-7710.

Oct. 11: Grand Rapids Pro Bono Fair; The Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Grand Rapids; 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m.; Info: Karen Rowlader, (616) 301-6800, Ext. 6708.

Oct. 17: Lansing Pro Bono Fair; The Thomas M. Cooley Law School, Lansing; 4-6:30 p.m.; Info: Dionnie Wynter, (248) 751-7800, Ext. 7742.

Attorneys attending the pro bono fairs are under no obligation to take a case or to make a time commitment. The fairs are meant to be a chance to learn more, network with colleagues, and to consider new ways to provide pro bono services.

To learn more, contact Robert Mathis, SBM pro bono service counsel, at (517) 346-6412 or rmathis@mail.michbar.org.

Cooley suit alleges fraudulent graduate job placement stats

Remember The Thomas M. Cooley Law School’s defamation suits against anonymous Internet commenters and the New York law firm that had made claims that Cooley misled prospective students with fraudulent job placement stats?

Earlier this week, the attorney for “Rockstar53,” Berkley attorney John Hermann, blasted the school in the Detroit Free Press, accusing it of abusing the system to silence critics:

“In contrast to their own mission statement, Cooley Law School is now seeking to use its power to stymie the constitutional right of free speech of its own students — albeit speech that negatively portrays the school consistent with other empirical data,” Berkley attorney John Hermann said in the motion, filed on behalf of his client, Rockstar05. “Ironically, Cooley is now the emperor who appears angry at being told he is not wearing any clothes.”

“Rockstar53” wrote on his blog “The Thomas M. Cooley Law School Scam” that the suit has caused “The Streisand Effect” i.e. by loudly objecting to something it wants silenced or deleted, it has actually done the reverse and brought more attention to it.

Today, New York law firm Kurzon Strauss filed a class-action suit against Cooley based on its earlier claims about the placement statistics. [Lansing State Journal]

“This action seeks to remedy a systemic, ongoing fraud that is ubiquitous in the legal education industry and threatens to leave a generation of law students in dire financial straits,” Kurzon Strauss attorneys said in the suit. “Essentially, plaintiffs want to bring an element of ‘sunlight’ or transparency to the way law schools report postgraduate employment data and salary information, by requiring that they make critical, material disclosures that will give both prospective and current students a more accurate picture of their postgraduate financial situation, as opposed to the status quo where law schools are incentivized to engage in all sorts of legerdemain when tabulating employment statistics.
“The school during the class period claims that a substantial majority of its graduates — roughly between 75% and 80% — secure employment within nine months of graduation. However, the reality of the situation is that these seemingly robust numbers include any type of employment, including jobs that have absolutely nothing to do with the legal industry, do not require a JD degree or are temporary or part-time in nature.”

The firm filed a similar case against New York Law School today.

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.

Attorneys, professors land new jobs

There’s been some recent movement into and out of colleges, courts and the Capitol.

First James B. Thelen has left as principal in Miller, Canfield, Paddock and Stone, P.L.C.’s labor and employment group to become associate dean for legal affairs and general counsel at The Thomas M. Cooley Law School.

He takes over the spot from James Robb, who has been named associate dean for development and alumni relations. (Lawyers Weekly readers will recognize Robb as one of our 2008 In-House Leaders in the Law.)

This isn’t Thelen’s first time in the college arena, having served as assistant general counsel and assistant vice president for legislative affairs at Western Michigan University.

Over at Strobl & Sharp, P.C., Mark Solomon has joined of counsel role in its taxation and estate planning practice areas. He comes to the firm after 30 years of serving as chairman of the taxation and business law department and director of the masters of science taxation program at Walsh College in Troy.

In what could be the last of the Granholm administration landing a job, Steven Liedel, the former governor’s legal counsel, is now at Dykema Gossett PLLC’s regulated industries department. (Ex-Attorney General Mike Cox joined the same firm two months ago.)

And with former partner Kathryn Viviano now on the Macomb County Circuit Court bench, Mount Clemens-based Viviano Law has changed its formal name from Viviano & Viviano, PLLC to Viviano, Pagano & Howlett PLLC.

The name change took place when Jake Howlett, former president of real estate company Crown Enterprises, Inc. and former Bodman PLC business lawyer, was named as partner of the firm.

Add to FacebookAdd to DiggAdd to Del.icio.usAdd to StumbleuponAdd to RedditAdd to BlinklistAdd to TwitterAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Yahoo BuzzAdd to Newsvine

Take me out to the law game

Cooley Law School StadiumThe Cooley Law School Stadium is the new home-field name for the Lansing Lugnuts, the capital’s Class “A” minor-league baseball affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

The ubiquitous law school, the nation’s largest with 3,600 students on four campuses in Michigan, bought the naming rights for the ball park in an 11-year, $1,485,000 sponsorship deal announced yesterday.

Naming rights for the field, formerly known as Oldsmobile Park, went on the market when General Motors gave up its sponsorship during the automaker’s bankruptcy reorganization last year.

The ball club and the city of Lansing will evenly split the revenue from Cooley’s sponsorship.