March 7, 2016

"It has taken five years. But this will be the first time a law school will be on trial to defend its public employment figures."

The case of Anna Alaburda against Thomas Jefferson School of Law is going to trial.
Law schools labor to keep their employment data at the highest percentage level because it is a major factor in national law school rankings, which in turn give schools the credibility to charge six figures for a three-year legal education....

Thomas Jefferson’s lawyers will argue that Ms. Alaburda never incurred any actual injury, because she was offered — and turned down — a law firm job with a $60,000 salary shortly after she graduated. Ms. Alaburda said, in legal papers, that she received “only one job offer — one which was less favorable than non-law-related jobs that were available” — after she sent her résumé to more than 150 law firms and practicing lawyers.

44 comments:

damikesc said...

Unless the school promises big money and not simply a job --- I don't see where she has a case. She declined an offer.

Bob Ellison said...

"You come in here with a skull full of mush; you leave thinking like a lawyer."

traditionalguy said...

If a job was her goal, she needed to spend that time and money to learn Chinese.

Char Char Binks said...

It's really unfair that stupid people have to pay back their student loans. They should get an exemption.

Curious George said...

Can they both lose?

Darrell said...

She could have gone to Trump University.

William said...

There's a Catch 22. If she wins her case and a big settlement, she will have proven that her years in law school were remunerative. If, on the other hand, she loses her case, she will prove that the law school was a waste of time and money.

madAsHell said...

Maybe she can get a job as a community organizer, and then run for President?

MadisonMan said...

If I understand the article correctly, she did receive a law-related job offer at graduation. And she turned it down because it wasn't good enough.

Whatever happened to starting at the bottom and working your way up? Was this woman ever told she wasn't that special?

Yesterday I learned of an acquaintance's daughter: In engineering school, native Wisconsin, Sport Letterwinner, fluent in Mandarin. Think she'll get a job soon? Or should she turn them all down and then sue the Engineering School she's at?

Ipso Fatso said...

In 2012, The Above The Law Blog reported that TJSOL ranked as one of the worst law schools in the country. Another site I looked at ranked it currently as number 201 from the top.

It strikes me that if you are looking to go to law school there are several things that should enter your decision: What are your grades as an undergrad? What Tier is your law school? If you go to a lower ranked school, do you have family or other connections that will get you a job in law after graduation? And if you go to a lower ranked school you will be competing with grads of much higher ranked and prestigious schools who will prove to be tough competition. FWIW.

traditionalguy said...

Here come da Judge.

Big Mike said...

Considering that she turned down a decent-paying law-related job, and had other job offers besides, I think I'd like to be on that jury.

TreeJoe said...

I'd be curious how many interviews she went on at law-related jobs during that time and whether any of the interviewers could be deposed as to whether she was a good candidate based upon her interview. That'd be awesome. :)

Howard said...

Cops have a saying for this type of situation: NHI

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

When I was in law school, the placement office -- oops! I mean the Office of Career Development -- was big on suggesting clerkships, JAG and public interest law.

Not terrible advice, mind you, but one could be forgiven for being a little bit suspicious of their motives.

RLB_IV said...

I would not recommend going to law school today unless you get a full-tuition scholarship,you have employment as an attorney secured through a relative or close friend or you are fully aware beforehand that your huge investment does not guarantee a job as an attorney.

She should have accepted the job offer.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

She should have accepted the job offer.

I'll bet the firm that made her the offer is looking at the lawsuit and thinking that they dodged a bullet when she didn't accept.

mccullough said...

90% of higher Ed is Trump Univeristy. At least the taxpayers won't be on the hook for Trump's victims. The student loan program needs to go. I'm for bailing out the students, and hitting the universities with big fines, but this idiocy has to end. The government has to pop the bubble it helped to create.

Bob Ellison said...

When I was at Harvard College, OCS (Office of Career Services) was a joke. They did nothing. They had binders and pamphlets. That was 25 years ago.

Grow up, little girl.

Brando said...

I hope more cases like this get publicity, to serve as a warning to people thinking going to law school is a good way to make big money. Part of the reason law schools charge so much is they know people will line up to pay it.

Now there are too many applicants for too few jobs, and they're carrying massive loan debt. Stop the bleeding, at least. Whoever's fault this is, it's not good for the economy in the long run.

Brando said...

"The student loan program needs to go. I'm for bailing out the students, and hitting the universities with big fines, but this idiocy has to end. The government has to pop the bubble it helped to create."

Here's a start--change the bankruptcy law so that student loans are no longer nondischargeable. Second, allow the lenders to charge different interest rates based on likelihood of repayment (which seems obvious but is not permissible). Third, stop having the federal government act as a secondary market for those loans or subsidize those loans.

That'll put downward pressure on pricing, and magically it'll turn out that these schools can get by just fine with much lower tuition costs. End the racket.

Larry J said...

Brando said...
"The student loan program needs to go. I'm for bailing out the students, and hitting the universities with big fines, but this idiocy has to end. The government has to pop the bubble it helped to create."

Here's a start--change the bankruptcy law so that student loans are no longer nondischargeable.


IIRC, the reason why student loan debt is nondischargeable is that at least one professional (lawyer or doctor) grad filed for bankruptcy to ditch his debt. It's similar to how the Alternative Minimum Tax was created because a very small number of wealthy people back in the 1960s took advantage of the tax laws to owe no income taxes. Oh, the horror, that will not do! In short, a few people took advantage of the laws at the time (the bastards!) and ruined it for everyone else.

If you want of make student loans dischargeable in bankruptcy, there needs to be some conditions. For example, there would be a time limit before they could declare bankruptcy. With the federal taxpayers on the hook for the debt, I don't see anyone forgiving over a trillion dollars in student loans any time soon.

cubanbob said...

If you don't qualify to get into a top 30 law school then you should reconsider your career path.

Brando said...

"IIRC, the reason why student loan debt is nondischargeable is that at least one professional (lawyer or doctor) grad filed for bankruptcy to ditch his debt. It's similar to how the Alternative Minimum Tax was created because a very small number of wealthy people back in the 1960s took advantage of the tax laws to owe no income taxes. Oh, the horror, that will not do! In short, a few people took advantage of the laws at the time (the bastards!) and ruined it for everyone else."

That's true--what would likely result is lenders only making such loans for people who are good credit risks or who put up some collateral. Which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing--easy credit for people to take out these loans has enabled consumers to absorb these absurd tuition hikes.

Currently I think the bankruptcy laws allow you to have good credit again in seven years. Perhaps for these loans they stay on your credit report for 14 years, or 21 years, so you can declare bankruptcy but you screw your credit for a very long time after and likely have to give up buying a house.

damikesc said...

Here's a start--change the bankruptcy law so that student loans are no longer nondischargeable. Second, allow the lenders to charge different interest rates based on likelihood of repayment (which seems obvious but is not permissible). Third, stop having the federal government act as a secondary market for those loans or subsidize those loans.

I'd also add make the schools responsible for half of the charges of bankrupted loans. Let them put some skin in the game so they stop suckering kids in with idiotic claims of success in asinine fields of study.

cubanbob said...

The federal student loan program needs to go. It's not a good enough reason to pay taxes for. let the principal beneficiary-the student, arrange the finance based on their means. As for universities and colleges with large endowments, those ought to be taxed unless the income from them is directly used for scholarships. If these two measures were taken the cost of college educations would drastically be lowered as colleges would have to cut the bloat that can only be sustained with the subsidies. When my uncle immigrated to the US in the early sixties he managed to get a job and put himself through night school at City College and from there get his masters in electrical engineering from Colombia while working. My cousin with some help from scholarships and my widowed aunt busting her hump managed to graduate Columbia and Columbia Law in the same cohort as Obama while it was still affordable for the working class. His daughter is now at Barnard and he is paying an insane amount in tuition. My younger daughter is at UPenn and that is costing me an equally insane amount of money. Are any of these prestige schools vastly better than they were thirty, forty years or fifty years ago? Are the state universities on the whole qualitatively better than they were back then? It is true that all of the schools have only so many slots and the population is significantly higher than back then and we have a greater number of foreign students but with all of that the costs is far greater than it ought to be if market forces were in play and not all the government subsidies and cost drivers. Notice that these problems have accelerated since the creation of the Department of Education without any discernible benefit to offset the costs. Abolish the DOE and abolish the student loan program.

n.n said...

The beginning of class action lawsuits filed against universities by underperforming students with social and capital debt mandates.

Brando said...

"I'd also add make the schools responsible for half of the charges of bankrupted loans. Let them put some skin in the game so they stop suckering kids in with idiotic claims of success in asinine fields of study."

That too. If any presidential candidate has proposed this, I don't know why it has not gotten more air at the debates. I think it would be popular.

Left Bank of the Charles said...

If this sort of case is allowed, shouldn't the federal government have a right of subrogation to sue schools whose students defaulted on their federally-guaranteed loans? Indeed, that might clear the problem up right quick.

The most harmed students are not going to sue, because any money they might win will go to pay off loans they aren't going to be able to pay off anyway.

Sammy Finkelman said...

But were the non-law degree -jobs that were offered to her, or the salary offered to her, offered to her because she graduated law school?

Sammy Finkelman said...

"I'd also add make the schools responsible for half of the charges of bankrupted loans. Let them put some skin in the game so they stop suckering kids in with idiotic claims of success in asinine fields of study."

Brando: That too. If any presidential candidate has proposed this, I don't know why it has not gotten more air at the debates. I think it would be popular.

I think the problem with that is that alot of schools would go banrupt or close before they started correcting things. Also that might mean that alot of students wouldn't get admitted.

I'd also have - no tuition is owed unless you pass the course, and no tuition is payable in advance. Not even via a loan.

Sammy Finkelman said...

Of course in that kind of situation, the same people doing teh teaching can't be the same people doing the grading. Separating teaching and grading would make things really honest.

Sammy Finkelman said...

cubanbob said...3/7/16, 12:23 PM

When my uncle immigrated to the US in the early sixties he managed to get a job and put himself through night school at City College

He didn't put himself through City College. City College at that time was free, and remained so until 1977. He only had to support himself, and maybe buy books.

As college tuition rose, first the federal government made gransts, and then, starting about 1990, the principal method of making college affordable became loans. And the loans had kickbacks to the borrower.

and from there get his masters in electrical engineering from Colombia while working.

That would not have been free. Cooper Union was free.

My cousin with some help from scholarships and my widowed aunt busting her hump managed to graduate Columbia and Columbia Law in the same cohort as Obama while it was still affordable for the working class.

Obama did not go directly to law school from college. He graduated college in 1983, and law school in 1991. Theer was a hiatus of 5 years. He may have had to take out student loans, although I think his employer encouraged his going to law school.

He and his wife were not concerned about being careful with their money and he didn't pay off his student loans until after he'd written his first book.

Or was that later, because his first book wasn't too much later.

Yes, he and his wife only paid off their loans in 2004.

http://news.yahoo.com/blogs/ticket/obama-only-paid-off-student-loans-eight-years-193125256.html

He didn't make paying off the student loans a priority. But he says he and his wife paid more on their student loans than they did on the mortgage on their condo during their first eight years of marriage.

He got a book contract upon graduation or so. He was not able to write the book he planned, or contracted for, and wrote a different one.

His daughter is now at Barnard and he is paying an insane amount in tuition. My younger daughter is at UPenn and that is costing me an equally insane amount of money. Are any of these prestige schools vastly better than they were thirty, forty years or fifty years ago? Are the state universities on the whole qualitatively better than they were back then?

No, but they may be comparatively as good compared to other schools - actually they schools aren't so good -- they just pick good students. They may have better libraries and other things, of course. UPenn is Ivy League.

Tuition isn't paid out of current income, but a percentage of lifetime income, and once that happens, there can be inflation.

If a student's father has a lot of money, he can pay the tuition, but not too many are in that situation.



Sammy Finkelman said...

Brando said...3/7/16, 11:28 AM

Now there are too many applicants for too few jobs,

Then how come legal fees haven't gone down? That needs an explanation too.

In the 1990's, I think it was, someone loaned money to a girl who told him a maybe false hard luck story. (She also claimed her father was a retired judge; he was really maybe a disbarred attorney or something close to that) He was told by an attorney, that for $400 the attorney would write an attorney's letter. And it wouldn't pay to sue to collect $800. The best advice he could give was not to do this again.

Big Mike said...

@Brando and Larry J, it wasn't just one or two med students and law students who played the gambit of taking out very large student loans then declaring bankruptcy while in the early phases of their careers and not making much money. Back in the 1970s this was a very common practice. Doctors who graduate from med school make very little money during their internships and residencies, and most lawyers go through a period when they are poorly-aid associates (yes, some are very well-paid associates, but that number is very small). If "everybody's doing it," meaning discharging student loans through bankruptcy, then the pressure to declare bankruptcy and clear the books for the period of your life when you start making real money would be pretty strong.

Brando said...

"I think the problem with that is that alot of schools would go banrupt or close before they started correcting things. Also that might mean that alot of students wouldn't get admitted."

They could still admit them--just a lot of students wouldn't be able to afford to attend. The loans would be given out a lot more like scholarships--to the academically gifted on the idea that this person is likely to graduate and get a job to pay back the loan. If someone can afford the tuition on their own, or get a private loan (not guaranteed by the school or government) they can still attend, only the school would not have a direct interest in their post-graduation marketability.

"I'd also have - no tuition is owed unless you pass the course, and no tuition is payable in advance. Not even via a loan."

I could see that being gamed though--wouldn't the school be more likely to pass someone so they get the tuition paid? And the school would take a total loss on a student failing near the end.

Right now, school reputation is the only real incentive the school has for accepting only students who are likely to go on and be a successful lawyer. But if there was some financial pressure as well, we might see this to a greater degree. Right now, the system of tossing money at students of dubious futures and dubious academic merit (and creditworthiness, ultimately) is creating a huge liability for the feds and lenders, as well as growing a large class of people with debt loads and little to show for it.

damikesc said...

Then how come legal fees haven't gone down? That needs an explanation too.

Notice how much bars go after "do it yourself" lawyer software and the like? It's a protection racket. Most legal documents are just boilerplate and involving an ACTUAL lawyer is just a waste of money.

Brando said...

"Then how come legal fees haven't gone down? That needs an explanation too."

I think for high end legal work, the fees have remained high because that is still a small market. But there are a lot of relatively inexperienced recent grads out there, scrounging for whatever work they can get (and many giving up and doing non-legal work instead). One additional downside of this for the economy is that the surplus lawyers--unable to compete for other opportunities--now are more willing to take the weakest plaintiffs' cases, making nuisance suits more likely.

"If "everybody's doing it," meaning discharging student loans through bankruptcy, then the pressure to declare bankruptcy and clear the books for the period of your life when you start making real money would be pretty strong."

All the more reason bankruptcy needs more disincentive than "wait 7 years then it's clear and I can start building my credit again."

Crazy Jane said...

One thing we aren't mentioning is that 2008 was possibly the worst year ever to finish a professional program and seek a job. Law firms particularly were sloughing off associates and junior partners, and few were looking to hire. Even at that moment, though, $60,000 was a low-ball offer and seen as almost insulting. Since then, the attrition has continued apace, and offering salaries have declined right along with it; 60K now may be the new normal.

James Pawlak said...


Shakespeare proposed a solution!

Rhythm and Balls said...

Is there any way she can find a personal injury if their placement rates match what they advertised?

chickelit said...

Why not keep opening up law schools to more and more foreign students -- especially the ones with better English skills? Hell, law schools could even expand if they offered courses in nation-specific legal studies. Of course, an increase in H-1B visas would be needed so that we could keep and retain the best ones. That's exactly what happened to STEM careers. Medicine might benefit from the same mind set.

cubanbob said...

@ Sammy my uncle was a spick who had to learn English while going to college and supporting himself without any government handouts. My aunt who already had a pharmacy degree had to first learn English and work while saving so she could go again to a university just to get the very same degree in English and then help put my cousin through Columbia while Obama was there in undergraduate school with no student loans or other welfare. That Obama paid of his loans, yeah sure, he did so while he was a US Senator and his wife just got a mid-six figure job in a public hospital that never had the job open before her and not open since. Just because you believe in fairy tales doesn't mean the rest of us live in fantasy land. As for your comment that tuition is paid out of future earnings, truly that is idiotic. When the schools guarantee both the job and the income then you would have a point but they don't and you don't.

Chris N said...

Darrell, you're probably thinking of Trump Law School.

You get a Trump steak just for applying, and top of the class gets on The Apprentice.