In Lawsuits, Graduates of 2 Law Schools Accuse Their Alma Maters of Inflating Employment Data

August 10, 2011

The Thomas M. Cooley Law School and the New York Law School knowingly deceived prospective students and the public by inflating postgraduate employment and salary numbers, several graduates of the schools argue in separate lawsuits filed today against the two institutions.

The suits, which seek class-action status and allege violations of consumer-protection laws, were brought by four Cooley graduates and three New York Law School graduates, with both groups represented by the law firm Kurzon Strauss.

The plaintiffs contend that the two law schools publicized misleading information stating that a high percentage of graduates were fully employed nine months after graduation. In fact, they say, those numbers included jobs of any kind, including positions that were temporary, part-time, and outside of the legal profession. The lawsuits also argue that the mean salaries for graduates reported by the two institutions were not meaningful because they relied solely on a small and primarily self-reporting group of graduates rather than all alumni.

"The real numbers would shock people," said David Anziska, a lawyer for Kurzon Strauss. "There are many, many recent graduates out there who have not secured employment and have tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in bone-crushing and soul-crushing debt that they have no chance of paying off."

False advertising of job placement and salary statistics is a "systemic issue" among law schools, Mr. Anziska said, but the firm chose Cooley and the New York Law School in particular for being "J.D. factories," low-ranked institutions that produce a large number of graduates each year, many of whom end up with high amounts of debt and poor job prospects. With approximately 4,000 full- and part-time students, Cooley has the highest enrollment of any law school in the country; the New York school enrolled 1,600 students in 2009, up 270 from a decade earlier.

Both institutions say that the claims against them lack merit.

"Any claims that prospective students or our graduates have been misled or legally harmed by our reporting are simply baseless," said James B. Thelen, Cooley's associate dean for legal affairs and general counsel, in written remarks.

The two lawsuits come on the heels of a case brought by Cooley in July against Kurzon Strauss and two of its lawyers, Mr. Anziska and Jesse Strauss. The law school said it had been defamed by the firm when the lawyers stated that Cooley was defrauding students by providing them with misleading job placement, salary, and student-loan default rate information.

Lawyers at Kurzon Strauss said they had already begun their investigation of Cooley at that time and that their case against the institution was not filed in retaliation.