Luring Law Students With Phony Employment Statistics Is (Somehow) Not Fraud

In 2011, Anna Alaburda alleged that the Thomas Jefferson School of Law fraudulently reported its post-graduate employment statistics in an effort to lure prospective students who didn’t know any better. She learned that her school (along with other law schools) tried to fool prospective students by including low paying non-legal positions including retail, food service, and tractor sales in determining the post-graduate employment percentage.

Soon after, law schools around the country were sued under similar theories. Almost all of them have been dismissed at the pleading stage.

But Alaburda’s case survived multiple attempts to have it thrown out, and her case made it to trial five years later. Alaburda’s supporters were hoping a jury would understand what judges did not. After less than a day of deliberation, the jury decided 9-3 in favor of Thomas Jefferson on all counts.

We can only speculate as to how the jury came to its decision. During the trial, Alaburda testified she turned down a $60,000 per year legal position and accepted a $70,000 per year position with a legal publisher. But there were no details as to whether the position she turned down was a temporary or permanent, career-track position. Or the jury could have agreed with the judges’ reasoning: prospective law students were sophisticated consumers and should have done their own independent research before attending.

While this is likely to be the end of the law school fraud lawsuits, they were the catalyst for reform. The American Bar Association and U.S. News have since required more detailed information from law schools on post-graduate job placement. And the publicity has resulted in a drop in law school attendance, particularly in the lower tier schools.

Staci Zaretsky of Above The Law believes that Alaburda should be congratulated for coming forward and enduring public ridicule. I agree. While it is our personal responsibility to make the most with the cards dealt to us, we have to expose and condemn the casinos that play the game with a trick deck.

Featured image: “thoughtful businesswoman in casual cloth sitting on the chair at office” from Shutterstock.

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