Every year the top law schools vociferously canvas their graduates for information about their employment opportunities and salary offers. They then proudly post statistics about how many of their students receive jobs and high salaries upon graduation. However, these numbers may be misleading.
The National Law Journal reports that Anna Alaburda, who graduated with honors from the Thomas Jefferson School of Law in 2008, has sued Thomas Jefferson, claiming the school has committed fraud by providing inaccurate employment statistics: “for more than 15 years, TJSL has churned out graduates, many of whom have little or no hope of working as attorneys at any point in their careers.” Although Alaburda has passed the bar, she has been unable to find employment as an attorney, and with $150,000 worth of loans not working in the field of law is just not an option.
Alaburda argues that she was drawn to the program because in the U.S. News & World Report in 2003 it reported that 80% of TJSL graduates had found employment less than a year after graduation. What the report did not mention is that these figures included recent graduates who were employed in any job—not simply the ones who found legal jobs.
What makes Alaburda’s suit a groundbreaking case is that it questions the accuracy of a metric that all law schools use to measure the success of their graduates in the job market. When you attack one law school you attack them all.
Beth Kransberger, associate dean for student affairs at Thomas Jefferson, explains, “The school has always followed the guidelines established by the ABA,” just like other law schools. The nonprofit organization Law School Transparency, which was founded in 2010, is examining the situation further and has found many more inconsistencies with TJLS’s statistics.
But for now current law school applicants should simply view Alaburda’s case as a lesson. While its outcome may or may not end up changing the way law schools report statistics, it can change the way prospective students read them. It certainly should encourage applicants to question them.
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