Thursday, December 15, 2016

A Tale of Two Schools

I just read a Boston Globe article about DeVry University agreeing to pay $100 million to settle a lawsuit.  (Hat tip to “the Chow.”)  The suit alleged that DeVry provided misleading employment data to prospective students.  The school had boasted a 90 percent employment rate.  However, “DeVry was counting students who found jobs outside the fields they studied” including “a graduate who studied in the health care field but found work as a restaurant server and another who worked as a car salesman[.]”

But the false-advertising lawsuits that were filed against law schools ended quite differently.  Most judges in most states dismissed these lawsuits outright, holding that if prospective law students were willing to believe what a law school was putting in the brochure, so to speak, it was their own fault.  In other words: buyer beware. 

But in California, one lawsuit against a law school made it all the way to a jury.  According to this New York Times articleThomas Jefferson Law School had boasted “that just over 80 percent of its graduates were employed nine months after they graduated.”  But the plaintiff claimed that T-Jeff Law “did not reveal that its employment figures included such work as a pool cleaner, waitress or sales clerk[.]”

So far, the cases seem very similar: the schools’ definitions of “employed graduates” include a “restaurant server” and “car salesman” on the one hand; and a “waitress,” and “sales clerk” on the other.  Sure, the “pool cleaner” was unique to T-Jeff Law, but still.  Anyway, when the dust settled the jury found T-Jeff not guilty – or not liable or whatever they say in civil court. 

These differing outcomes could be reconciled.  The T-Jeff case went to a jury; the DeVry case settled.  The T-Jeff case was brought by a lone plaintiff; the DeVry case had the power of the FTC behind it.  The T-Jeff case was about an applicant who was already a college graduate and (arguably) should have known that the employment data was unreliable; the DeVry case involved high school grads who were less sophisticated.  And on and on.

But in the end, there is one thing that simply cannot be explained.  After the jury’s verdict, the Dean of T-Jeff Law said: “Today’s decision by the jury further validates our unwavering commitment to providing our students with the knowledge, skills and tools necessary to excel as law students, pass the bar exam and succeed in their professional careers.”

Dean, don’t you know that people are going to hear that, reporters are going to quote that, and then T-Jeff’s bar exam results are eventually going to be published?  Well, they recently were.

Only 31 percent of T-Jeff Law grads passed the California bar, which ties the school with two others at #18 out of 21 ABA accredited law schools in California.  For those prospective law students who aren’t good with math or statistics, that means that only one of the state’s law schools did worse than T-Jeff.  And if you don’t understand why there aren’t two or even three schools beneath #18 T-Jeff, then you don’t have a prayer of deciphering law school employment statistics.     


  1. Michael
    So glad you wrote about this! FTC notwithstanding, I still find detestable the double-standard between the likes of DeVry and Thomas Jefferson Law School (and frankly, law schools generally). How I wish the jury had tagged T-Jeff if only to have preempted the pompous, asinine self-serving inanities of that school dean.

    1. The things that flow out of their mouths are truly amazing. I also love when they try to distinguish their schools from the other schools, when in fact nearly every law school is a cookie cut out of the same mold. In that situation they have to get really creative, often citing some magical quality of their school and its students.