Judge Orders Lawsuit Over Law School’s Job-Placement Rates to Proceed

A California judge has cleared the way for a lawsuit accusing the Thomas Jefferson School of Law of lying about its job-placement statistics to entice students to enroll. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported on Thursday that a Superior Court judge in San Diego, Joel Pressman, rejected the stand-alone law school’s bid to dismiss the case last week.

The plaintiffs are four former students who say they would never have enrolled if they had known the school had inflated the proportion of graduates who landed jobs for which they had studied at Thomas Jefferson. In a court document cited by the Union-Tribune, a dean at the school denied knowing about any incorrect job-placement statistics.

Judge Pressman had previously denied the students’ request to turn the lawsuit into a class action, which would have involved many more plaintiffs than just the four and would have exposed the school to much larger damages.

The lawsuit is part of a wave of similar actions filed as the number of law-school applicants has plunged over the last dozen years, especially since the recession, with many lower-tier schools struggling to attract students.

Heavily indebted, Thomas Jefferson has struggled to stay afloat in recent years, with one former president of the Association of American Law Schools describing it as “a canary in the coal mine of legal education” and an example of the nation’s excess of law schools.

Fewer than three in 10 of the school’s 2013 graduates landed full-time, long-term jobs requiring a law degree nine months after graduation, and the average law-school debt for its graduates that year was more than $181,000, the highest of any law school nationwide, according to U.S. News & World Report.

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