Thursday, February 2, 2012

What Do Lawyers Do? They Sue

Law schools may be feeling similar to Dr. Frankenstein as their fledgling graduates turn on them, and it may not be long before graduates in other fields turn on their respective universities. The litigation was brought against law schools in California, Delaware, Florida, Illinois and New York, concerning allegations that they engaged in subterfuges such as hiring their own graduates for temporary jobs and counting law grads working in nonlegal jobs as employed.

Florida graduates face a hard job climate, therefore Gov. Rick Scott and his supporters have stressed that schools aren't giving out the right degrees students need to get jobs. State Sen. Don Gaetz wants universities to shift funds away from liberal arts degrees rather than increase government spending.

"When the No. 1 degree granted is psychology and the No. 2 degree is political science, maybe before we ask $100 million more of taxpayers we should redeploy what we have," he told the St. Petersburg Times. "That way, we make sure we're not sending graduates out with degrees that don't mean much."

If social sciences and liberal arts majors are failing to find jobs, they may be inspired to sue USF and other state schools, even if they don't have the legal expertise of law school students. Robert B. Smith, a higher-education lawyer who was consulted by some of the laws schools being threatened, said to the Chronicle that if the lawsuits have "even a little success, others may be motivated to file copycat lawsuits against other targets."

Lawyers said that the law schools were selected on the basis of alumni complaints, press reports and their locations in parts of the country reporting saturated legal markets. All have also reported placement rates in the 90s in recent years, even amid a tight economy.

Among the law schools being sued are Albany Law School, Chicago-Kent College of Law, DePaul University, Pace University, Southwestern Law School,Villanova University, Brooklyn Law School, Hofstra Law School, St. John’s University School of Law, Widener University School of Law, University of Baltimore School of Law, Florida Coastal School of Law, John Marshall School of Law, California Western School of Law, Golden Gate, University School of Law and University of San Francisco School of Law.

Only 26% of Law Schools Report Percentage of Grads with Legal Jobs, Study Finds
Most law schools still hide critical information from applicants, according to a study of websites by the group Law School Transparency.

The study analyzed employment data for the class of 2010 provided on websites of American Bar Association-approved law schools. Only 1 percent of the 197 law schools—in other words, two schools—disclosed how many grads were in full-time, long-term legal jobs. They are Michigan State University College of Law and Southwestern Law School.

Only 26 percent even disclosed how many graduates worked in legal jobs. “Prospective law students still lack the information they need to make a meaningful decision about whether and where to earn a J.D.,” the report says.

Other findings:

• 27 percent (54 out of 197 schools) don’t provide any “evaluable information” on employment for the class of 2010. Twenty-two schools didn’t provide any employment data at all on their websites, and 32 “demonstrate a pattern of consumer-disoriented behavior.” One common problem: Schools describe the kinds of workplaces where grads found work, without describing the types of jobs or how many were employed.

• 51 percent don’t indicate how many graduates responded to the employment survey. “Without the rate, schools can advertise employment rates north of 95 percent without explaining that the true employment rate is unknown, and likely lower,” the study says.

• 49 percent provide at least some salary information, but 78 percent do so in ways that mislead the reader. Salaries can appear inflated when there is no information on how many people provided the information, or when an average is provided without showing the distribution.

A legal education can cost upwards of $150,000, and students, on average, graduate from law school with $93,359 in debt, according to an analysis of school-reported data.

Nationwide, college student loan debt is about to top $1 trillion.

President Barack Obama proposed a sweeping program to hand out $1 billion to states that do the best job keeping college costs from rising too fast and a $7 billion increase in government college loan money for needy students. But the ideas are getting kickback and are considered by some to be unworkable or a government overreach.

“I don’t believe government’s role is to pick winners and losers,” North Carolina Sen. Richard Burr said in a hearing. “An incredible process happens when colleges get overpriced. People choose to buy something. They choose to go somewhere else.”

U.S. Senate leaders wanted to hear about the Davidson College program, a possible solution to the now-crippling student debt problem nationwide. College President Carol Quillen spent a day in Washington showing lawmakers how Davidson manages the program. But even Davidson’s president acknowledged it’s something on other small liberal arts schools could attempt.

After graduation, the average student is between $20,000 and $40,000 in debt. Most Americans now owe more on student loans than they do on credit cards.

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