Sunday, July 22, 2012

A few notes on the Cooley decision

Federal district judge Gordon Quist has granted Cooley's motion to dismiss the class action suit brought against it. The short version of the opinion is that the plaintiffs should have known Cooley is a horrible law school, that the ABA reporting standards regarding employment with which Cooley complied are a joke, and that Cooley's self-published employment reports are so "inconsistent, confusing, and inherently untrustworthy" that a reasonably prudent person would not have relied on them.

In short the opinion creates a new common law exception to caveat emptor, which is that, as long as the defendant does not literally lie, it is not liable for representations that are so misleading on their face that they should put a reasonable person on notice that they are misleading, and therefore shouldn't be relied on.

Yet even by this astoundingly lax standard Judge Quist shouldn't have granted the motion, since he misapplies it to what Cooley actually did.  Consider his analysis of this portion of Cooley's 2010 employment report:

 

THOMAS M. COOLEY LAW SCHOOL EMPLOYMENT REPORT AND SALARY SURVEY

2010 GRADUATES

Theodore Souris, Augustus B. Woodward, and James Witherell classes

(September 2009, January 2010, and May 2010)
Number of 2010 graduates934
Number of graduates with employment status known780
Percentage of graduates employed76%
Average starting salary for all graduates$54,796

The learned judge then observes:

In the 2010 Employment Report,  [*18] Cooley indicates that 76% of its graduates were employed within nine months of graduation. This statistic could, at most, refer only to the 780 graduates who responded to the survey because Cooley could not know the employment status of those who did not respond to the survey. Since 780 of Cooley's graduates responded to the survey, this statistic, standing by itself, says that 593 of Cooley's graduates were employed. 187 were unemployed, and the employment status of 154 of Cooley's graduates was unknown (934 minus 780).
 But that's not what this table says.  The table says, "Percentage of graduates employed: 76%."  It does not say "Percentage of graduates employed whose employment status is known: 76%.  After all, if 91% of Cooley's graduates with a known employment status were employed, then that would mean 710 graduates (76% of 934) were employed.  In fact if I were reading this table and didn't know it had been published by a law school, I would have assumed, oddly enough, that "Percentage of graduates employed" ought to be understood to mean "Percentage of graduates employed."

Clearly, what the plaintiffs Souris, Woodward, and Witherell should have done, if they had been reasonably prudent persons, was to construct a time machine.  They could have then used this machine to visit April, 2012, when the ABA first published school-specific employment data. Then, after examining this newly available data and noting that Cooley's "employment" rate for its 2010 graduates was actually 17.5% lower than the school claimed it was in the above table, they could have used the same machine to go back to the middle of the previous decade, when they were actually deciding whether to enroll at Cooley.  (Why employment statistics published in 2011 have any relevance to enrollment decisions made at least four years earlier  remains a mystery).

Indeed while they were visiting the future, they also could have enlightened themselves via recently published New York Times and Wall Street Journal articles regarding the deceptive reporting practices of law schools, or even perused a scam blog or 50.

Note that Judge Quist claims "the 'percentage of graduates employed' statistic is not objectively false," because the school did not represent that 76% of its graduates got jobs as lawyers. But he's simply wrong about that: Cooley's claim, made in the most straightforward English, that it knew 76% of its 2010 graduates were employed -- in any capacity -- in February of 2011 was as objectively false as a claim can be.

This is just one of several absurdities in Judge Quist's opinion.  The judge cites several cases in which plaintiffs relied on inaccurate statements from defendants, but failed to recover because they had information readily available to them which would have informed them that the statements they were relying on were inaccurate:

"[T]here can be no fraud where the means of knowledge regarding the truthfulness of the representation are available to the plaintiff and the degree of their utilization has not been prohibited by the defendant." The court in Schuler held that misrepresentations about the inventory of an automotive dealership were not actionable for the plaintiff who bought the dealership because the true figures and value appeared in schedules that the plaintiff received before making the deal. "Plaintiff either knew or could have readily discovered every material fact that was known by defendants at the time of sale."  (emphasis added)
So how were the plaintiffs here supposed to "readily discover" that Cooley's representations regarding its employment and salary figures were wildly misleading and featured at least one facially untrue statement?   The answer, it seems, is that it "should" have been self-evident to the plaintiffs that Cooley's published statistics were "inherently untrustworthy!"

Without question, the Employment Reports are inconsistent, confusing, and inherently untrustworthy. For example, whether Plaintiffs are referring to the median or mean average, there is an ambiguity in the descriptor of salary because the average salary stated in Cooley's dissemination assumes the existence of a salary in the first place. 8 In other words, a question arises, as it arose in oral argument, does the statistic  [*29] consider the "salaries" of those Cooley graduates who were not employed or who were sole practitioners who listed a salary of zero? Plaintiffs argued, as stated above, that to have failed to consider a "zero" salary would be misleading. But maybe not. This is the kind of question that a person serious about considering this statistic would ask. Plaintiffs and prospective students should have approached their decision to enter into law school with extreme caution given the size of the investment. Thus, even though Plaintiffs did not know the truth of how many graduates were used to calculate the average salary, at the very least, it is clear that the Employment Report has competing representations of truth. See id. at 683 (citing Schuler, 197 N.W.2d at 495). With red flags waiving [sic] and cautionary bells ringing, an ordinary prudent person would not have relied on the statistics to decide to spend $100,000 or more.
In other words, prospective law students who were imprudent enough to believe Cooley's "obviously" bogus statistics got what they deserved.

And the judge makes clear that what he's saying applies with equal force to anyone who should be reckless enough to ever believe any statistics published by law schools pursuant to ABA "disclosure" requirements. Indeed, the judge goes so far as to quote the plaintiffs' response as evidence for the proposition that everybody knows or should know that law schools lie about their stats, so what's the big deal?

'[I]t is widely accepted that American law schools, Cooley included, employ all  [*32] sorts of legerdemain to boost employment rates in a contracting legal market' (Pls.' Resp. at 5); once again, Plaintiffs state that they had other reasons to not rely upon the Employment Reports.
(This of course is yet another example of the Negligent Failure to Employ a Time Machine defense).

Judge Quist ends on a note that is sure to fill the members of our learned profession with pride:
The bottom line is that the statistics provided by Cooley and other law schools in a format required by the ABA were so vague and incomplete as to be meaningless and could not reasonably be relied upon. But, as put in the phrase we lawyers learn early in law school—caveat emptor.

I will have more to say about Cooley tomorrow morning.




110 comments:

  1. There needs to be a massive proactive education/outreach campaign, spearheaded by an organization like LST, to undergrads, their advisors, and their parents on the realities of the scam that is law school.

    If you care about this situation, do your part by posting links to Lawschooltransparency and Inside the Law School Scam on applicant profiles at Top-Law-Schools.com and Lawschoolnumbers.com.

    Tell everyone you can.

    Hit the schools where it hurts: their lemming supply.

    Take this situation out of the hands of the schools, so that the rug is pulled out from under them, while their narcissistic faculties continue to focus on meaningless garbage like SSRN downloads, entry level faculty hiring, and professors that tweet.
    Applicants, and as a result, matriculants will continue to decrease as the truth becomes common knowledge.

    That is the only way! (well, requiring some sort of standards on lending would be very useful, but I ain't holding my breath for that).

    The courts aren't going to help and self interested law faculty don't give a damn.

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  2. Are the quotes on page 2 of the ruling actually from the plaintiffs' pleadings? The quotes that say "serious" instead of "seriously" and "incredulous" when they mean "incredible"? If so, I wonder about the quality of representation the plaintiffs got.

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  3. @12:56 The judge pretty much makes fun of the plaintiffs in a footnote talking about how they apparently (still) don't understand the difference between "median" and "mean."

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  4. C'mon guys, the Plaintiffs are Cooley alum, afterall.

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  5. Rule 8.4(c) of the Rules of Professional Responsibility makes it professional misconduct for a lawyer to “engage in conduct involving fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.” This prohibition applies to attorneys in whatever capacity they are acting—it is not limited to conduct occurring during the representation of a client and is, therefore, facially applicable to the conduct of attorneys in a non-representational context. See ABA Formal Op. No. 336 (1974) (lawyer must comply with applicable disciplinary rules at all times).1

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  6. Judge Quist's decision is a travesty and a mockery of justice. Given that you cannot sue the worst law school in America on the basis of fraud, it sets a precedent that all law schools are protected from future similar lawsuits. This is tort reform from the bench. Moreover, acquiring a law degree is not a consumer but a business transaction. Really Gordo? The Internal Revenue Service and other Federal Courts disagree with you and classify student loans within the ambit of CONSUMER loans. If going to law school was a business transaction, then where is the Small Business Administration offering loans to attend Cooley?

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  7. Great post, LawProf.

    You have taken what we scamblogging pioneers started several years ago to a higher level.

    Even though Cooley won this round, the PR will hurt their enrollment, so much so that I will be putting Cooley on my Law School Death Watch blog.
    I sure hope plantiffs appeal this ruling....

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  8. @1:41 Characterization of a loan under the Internal Revenue Code isn't necessarily the same as characterization of the same loan under a state consumer protection statute. I don't agree with Quist regarding the various fraud claims, but I think he got the consumer protection stuff right under the Michigan statute.

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  9. Interesting. I know you've dismissed this before, but I still think that we're on course for a collision between caveat emptor and the fundamental nature of education. I see little difference between educators who work in professional programs and lawyers and clients, doctors and patients, etc. As a student, and even more so as an applicant, you have to just submit to the belief that those whom you are engaging to provide you guidance will put your best interests ahead of their own. I'm sure there is someone already writing a reply to that, calling me naive, and perhaps for current applicants that is a legitimate point. When I went to law school, nearly a decade ago now and well before the bubble burst (which it has), I don't think this was quite as unreasonable to believe Point being, as long as the discussion is about the application of caveat emptor, it is assumed that caveat emptor applies. With each judge's utterly inept reasoning, however, it starts to seem like the "sophisticated consumer" approach just doesn't work well to dispose of the actual facts on a caveat emptor basis, such that not only is the outcome untenable but the reasoning for it just completely misconceived.

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  10. LSDW,

    You're right. This is winning the battle, but losing the war. Applications are down 25% in two years. The courts of public opinion are rendering their own verdicts.

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  11. @1:49 I think the 6th Circuit might be ready to recognize a higher level of duty for educational institutions towards their students. Time will tell.

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  12. Funny. Many years ago when I was in law school we were taught that federal judges tended to be more competent than state judges. Of course, what would law professors have known about that?

    --Porsenna

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  13. Instead of caveat emptor this line of reasoning is more analogous to "do as I say not as I do." Law schools are entrusted to train members of a profession who much pass an ethics exam (MPRE), have a fiduciary responsibility to their clientele, and become "leaders of society", yet the level of accountability law schools are held to is that apparently it is unreasonable for anyone to trust what law schools publish because it is commonly known the statistics are so blatantly inaccurate. Good times.

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  14. Since Gordon Quist was so nice of taking judicial notice of Bob Morse's Annual Law School rankings, can we also take judicial notice that he is a very bad judge according to "the World's Most Trusted Judge Rating Site?"

    http://robeprobe.com/find_judges_result2.php?judge_id=2312&judge_Gordon_J._Quist

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  15. Morse Code for J: Cooley's first-year enrollment was down 28% last year, and the school expects it to be even lower this year.

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  16. We cannot expect a judicial or legislative, i.e. political, solution to this problem. The banks love the current system, and they own Congress - as well as the nation. Too many groups - including academics and judges - have so much riding on people buying into the $y$tem. In the end, we need to continue to educate consumers and the general public. The facts support our side. Reduced class sizes are the best chance to hurt the sewers of law.

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  17. Thank you for publishing on a Sunday.

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  18. I know nothing about Michigan law. But if I looked at that table, and it said that the number of graduates was 934, and the number of graduates for whom they had salaries was 780, I would not think they were saying that 76% of all Cooley graduates that year were employed, because I would know they did not have salary reports from all 980.

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  19. I think Cooley should have had to answer a bit more for it's fudging with the numbers. That said, I still think that the majority of the people on this forum are the kind of entitled crowd that was so prevalent at Occupy Wall (Fail) Street. Did you honestly think you were going to go to law school for three years and come out starting at $160k? There is something to be said about realistic expectations.

    Again, that being said, I think that if a law school fudges its numbers by a huge margin, it should have to answer for that. However, that gives no person an excuse to whine for the next decade or threaten suicide on the internet. Life is not about money, status symbols, or developing an already inflated ego. Consider this a life lesson. One that seriously needed to be learned. In fact, I would say those with the huge egos that thought they were going to be big shots have received a blessing. Some of you I'd cringe to see rich. Cringe Cringe Cringe.

    The World Traveling Law Student | 18%

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  20. Sorry-- I meant all 934.

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  21. I agree with the first comment posted on this board. If change is wanted and future prospective students need to be protected, it sure isn't going to come from the legal community: they have too much personally at stake.

    The ABA and courts (the very system the law school system engendered) are not going to help. Who will? Who is already helping?

    Future law students read, and they get their info. from social media. This blog has been an enormous help to many. While I agree that Cooley, with this decision (which I hope LawProf quotes liberally from), may have temporarily won the battle, they have lost the war. They cannot expect to have many future lemmings - I mean prospective students - when a judge in its own opinion basically portrays the school as a school that no one in his or her right mind would attend.

    If the legal profession isn't going to regulate itself and make it once again into a self-respecting profession, that doesn't have to mean that we are doomed to have a dishonest, unethical profession. Getting the word out through this blog, other blogs like it, and the general media will have an enormous effect - it already has: Cooley's applications dropped by 28% and I predict, with the description of its organization as written in this opinion, will continue to plummet. While it would have been nice to have had the leaders in the legal profession take the lead in reform and take pride in the profession, just because they have determined to stick their head in the sand, doesn't mean progress won't be made. It will. It just is coming from an unexpected direction.

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  22. According to the judge, Cooley has the lowest standards for admission around. The question is, what does it take to get a rejection letter from Cooley?

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  23. Sorry, again. I meant employment reports for all 934.

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  24. World Traveling Law Student:

    You are truly behind the times if you think that any recent legal graduate expects $160,000 for a starting salary or even an ending salary. That train has left long ago. Anyone who has graduated law school w/in the last 5 years or who is currently attending knows that the real world is more about graduating from law school, doing years of unpaid internships, and, if one is still practicing in the legal field after that, hoping for a paid salary of $12,000 - $40,000 a year, if one is lucky enough to even achieve a paying legal job.

    Since you haven't yet graduated and grasped that reality and are still talking about $160,000 salaries that haven't existed for many years now or are for a very few individuals (ie: less than 2%), you might want to adjust YOUR expectations, since they are obviously way off base.

    This isn't about luxurious salaries as those salaries don't exist and never have but for a very few - it's about the honesty and integrity of a profession that holds itself out to be honest, but is far from it. It is about lying about important statistics in order to induce individuals to buy your product. That isn't tolerated in other fields - it shouldn't be tolerated in this field.

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  25. in re World Traveling Law Student,

    Don't feed the troll.

    He (or she, but I am pretty sure he) is 18% of the way to his ass-stick removal surgery. Just let the troll be.

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  26. 2:53:

    I don't think they have them. If you apply, you're accepted. That's the way it used to be, anyway.

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  27. Did Cooley win the battle but lose the war? This decision is very telling. What little they won with this decision will be lost in public perception with quotes like this from the opinion:

    "It [Cooley]is ranked in the bottom tier by
    every major law school ranking . . . Cooley has the lowest admission standards of anyaccredited or provisionally-accredited law school in the country . . . In 2010, the incomingstudents’ mean Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) score was 146, and the mean undergraduate Grade Point Average was 2.99 . . . Don LeDuc, the Dean of Cooley, was paid more than $500,000 in 2008 and 2009.

    ***

    Cooley publishes its own law-school rankings, which have been met with “great skepticism,if not outright ridicule, and no reputable academic or legal commentator takes it serious.” . . . Dean LeDuc and former Dean Brennan publish these rankings. “Incredulous[ly],” . . . these rankings place Cooley as the second best law school in the country . . . Apparently, Dean LeDuc and former Dean Brennan think that the overall size of the student body, library totalsquare footage, and library seating capacity are some of the factors that make a law school better than others."

    Can't help but hear the lack of respect the judge seems to have for the institution when you read quotes like this one. Not something I'd want written about my organization.

    I think Cooley lost a lot with this one. Disseminate this opinion and the above quotes far and wide, and I'm sure there won't be a lot of prospective students lining up to attend Cooley.

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  28. I know some really great lawyers from Cooley; I also know some people who only lasted a year and were left with a ton of debt.

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  29. This piece of shit, the World Traveling Law Student, was banned from the Third Tier Reality for posting his senseless drivel there. He posted under false pretenses of being a law prof, a successful lawyer on East and West coast, a banker and so on while using the same IP address. Now this puke surfaced here. Do not waste your time and ban the scumbag.

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  30. Sorry folks, but I would be very happy with a job that would give me $30k-$40k after law school. Ever hear of IBR? Income Based Repayment.

    For the record, I NEVER said I was a law professor. That was someone else. Nor did I say I was a successful lawyer. Again, I am merely a student.

    What I am appalled at is that some of you kids don't think $40k is enough. You seem to want so much more even though you have yer IBR! And yer whinin' is gettin' old.

    World Traveling Law Student | 18%

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  31. Plus, if you ban me, you are basically saying you won't allow a contrary opinion to be heard. In other words, you are showing your argument is weak. Further, it is quite tyrannical to try to shut up the opposing side. That is no way to win an argument. That's tyranny.

    Further, that's what the fools at OWS tried, and that's one reason they were shut down.

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  32. World Traveling:

    You better be happy w/ $30,000 or $40,000 because that's what you'll be making IF YOU ARE EXTREMELY LUCKY ENOUGH TO GET A LEGAL JOB THAT PAYS after you graduate. Note I said extremely lucky: about 50% of those I know that graduated from law school in the last 4 years work in retail for less than $10 an hour. Another 20% work in unpaid internships or volunteer. Only about 30% managed to get paid legal work, and pay is frequently very low - usually $12,000 a year, although I know one or two law graduates who were lucky enough to get a paid, $30,000-$40,000 a year job. They were, as I mentioned previously, EXTREMELY lucky and rare.

    In case you haven't noticed, people aren't whining because they're making $40,000. Most would be extremely happy w/ that kind of a salary.

    I have no problem with you noting that you think some individuals are whiney. Just make sure you got the reason down right: it's not because they expected $160,000 a year. It's because it sucks taking out $100,000 in student loans while your school reassured you that you had a great chance of being exmployed upon graduation only to find out that you had only a very small chance of being employed, that your school knew that all along, and by employed, they were referring to working at Wal-Mart for $8.50 an hour.

    How about we let you post (I do think alternative viewpoints are important), but try to be truthful in your postings, OK? Stop implying that posters were just greedy bastards out for a $160,000 a year salary and try to stretch your imagination a little bit to understand their viewpoint and the fact that many only hoped for $40,000 to begin with. It might help you to make that effort, because very soon you may be that individual, hoping and praying that you are one of the wildly lucky ones upon graduation who ends up with a position making $30,000 a year if all the stars align correctly in your favor.

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  33. ":Plus, if you ban me, you are basically saying you won't allow a contrary opinion to be heard. In other words, you are showing your argument is weak."

    Are you 8?

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  34. I trust they will appeal.

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  35. So let me get this straight... the judge is basically arguing that Cooley's stats are so obviously bogus that only an idiot would believe them, and therefore they're OK?

    Like, if Cooley had published BETTER stats, THEN it would be a scam, because that would make it harder to see the deception? What the hell?

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  36. What doesn't make sense about Quist's decision is his ruling that a legal education is not a consumer product but rather a business purpose. Then how come you cannot take out a business loan to cover law school tuition? Also, the Bankruptcy Code as interpreted by many federal courts has determined that there are two types of debts: consumer and non-consumer. An SBA loan is a non-consumer loan but a student loan is construed as consumer debt because it usually covers tuition, room and board (i.e., living expenses) and other costs necessary for living. Quist's "reasoning" is twisted and defective. Quist also acknowledges that it is ok for law schools to manipulate data since prospective students should know better. He may have a point now since the scamblog movement took off in the last 2 years but the Plaintiffs in this case had applied to law school before the recession started and way before blogs started exposing the law school scam. The war against the law school scam will not be won in the Courts; rather, the victory will be achieved when it becomes common knowledge that a law degree is toxic in light of its cost. I imagine the lower tiered (below T50) law schools are scambling to get asses in seats before orientation starts a few weeks away. It will be a period of reckoning and I cannot wait to see some of these schools dry up into non-existence.

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  37. Yeah, 5:01!!! What the FUCK? If I bought a consumer product, then the loans I took out aren't non-consumer, or educational, loans, so frankly, fuck it. Give me my fucking bankruptcy!!

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  38. Yeah, 5:01, it will be a day of reckoning. The only sad thing is, the ones left doing the reckoning will be the students who attended these schools, with their $100,000 (and steadily increasing) student debt.

    In the meantime, the deans (with their $500,000+ salaries) will be waltzing off to their expensive, Florida retirement homes to do their reckoning. They are hurting the students and the graduates of these institutions and in the end, the schools will be closed, but the deans will be able to keep every penny they made off this entire thing. Hardly seems like justice, although I guess we should be glad that there won't be any more victims who are duped.

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  39. This weekend on prawsblog they have been discussing the plight of the poor law professor looking for a job and the current state of the law schools.

    http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2012/07/what-would-you-tell-aspiring-law-professors.html

    http://prawfsblawg.blogs.com/prawfsblawg/2012/07/what-ails-the-law-schools-a-discussion-draft.html

    mack seems to have paid a visit in his usual longwinded way leaving at least one or two profs and vaps apoplectic. His know-it-all style really pisses them off so that is two

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  40. Too bad there are not more consumer protections in education. It ought to be more like buying a security. In that realm, one cannot offer to sell a security to the public without a detailed disclosure document. What I have always found very odd is that there are no protections in important areas like buying a $250,000 degree spending three years of your life doing that. It is also odd that there are no protections against employment at whim, in that so many lawyers loose their jobs without a good business basis and without really having any personal issues.

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  41. WTLS,

    If you get banned, everybody here is a tyrant and a hypocrite for not letting you speak your mind.

    But everybody else here should shut up, and not speak their minds, because they're whining, and you don't like what they're saying.

    Got it.

    Sorry for feeding the troll.

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  42. "I imagine the lower tiered (below T50) law schools are scambling to get asses in seats before orientation starts a few weeks away. It will be a period of reckoning and I cannot wait to see some of these schools dry up into non-existence."

    Not only 2nd tier and below. I happen to know that there are at least 3 tier one schools that have extended their enrollment periods well past the normal cutoff in a desperate attempt to put asses in seats. This goes all the way to the top.

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  43. This opinion reads like some drivel Jack Marshall would spout. And WTLS sounds like Leiter.

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  44. Which three? Why not say it?

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  45. Why not say it? Maybe because he's pulling shyte out of his ass.

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  46. It sounds as if Illinois may still be accepting applications. Their website states that they are waiving the application fee for the class of 2015 and below this is a link to the online application.

    http://www.law.illinois.edu/prospective-students/apply-jd

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  47. I am surfing my parent's internet connection as my wife & I prepare to give the children a bath. We are in the process of moving to a new town. I'm a year out of school & I'd do gay porn for beer money about now. I have not read the Cooley v. The World opinion, and I cannot see myself being drunk enough tonight to face it. Law school is a scam. Let there be no doubt about it. Fuck. At least I have my health.

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  48. what a total disgrace the legal profession is.

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  49. Pulling it out of my ass? Sure I am. PS- I am female.

    Fun exercise. If you go to a tier one school or know someone in administration, give that person a call and ask if the school is still accepting people.

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  50. If you knew for a fact, you could just say it. There is zero chance that anyone could trace this to you. And so what if they did? It can't be a secret. If they are doing it, the people who are their targets know it. So people on this site are supposed to call 50 schools to figure this out when you, who raised the issue, could just say the names of the schools. The only thing that could happen is that we would be able to call the three schools and see if it's true.

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  51. Since Cooley has the absolute lowest admission standards, what does it take to get rejected by Cooley? Does anyone have a Cooley rejection letter?

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  52. Dear 7:35/Mr. Leiter: I stand by what I said and feel no need or desire to get more specific. If it's such common knowledge then I wasn't exactly breaking major news, rather I was telling an earlier poster to think bigger in terms of who is feeling the pinch. Let it go already.

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  53. @ 7:37 PM

    Presumably absence of a pulse would merit rejection. But then again, maybe not.

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  54. As I read the language of the opinion, I am coming away with the distinct impression that the Judge WANTED to find against the plaintiffs.

    Legitimate question, if you accept for a moment that 50,000 graduates for 20,000 jobs hurts the entire profession in terms of debt burden and downward pressure on salaries all, why would his Honor WANT to find against the plaintiffs?

    No way that the elderly truly hate us as much as we hate them, right?

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  55. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  56. Couple of things,

    1) The judge refers to Cooley as a for-profit law school. Cooley is a non-profit and the plaintiffs even state this in their complaint.

    2) The opinion cites the NYLS lawsuit but not the TJSL lawsuit that was allow to move into discovery. Now I know the NYLS suit was brought by the same law firm and the complaints were virtually identical, but why didn't the judge at least acknowledge the other suit?

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  57. "The opinion cites the NYLS lawsuit but not the TJSL lawsuit that was allow to move into discovery. Now I know the NYLS suit was brought by the same law firm and the complaints were virtually identical, but why didn't the judge at least acknowledge the other suit?"

    It makes it harder to get to the desired result.

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  58. Bad lawyers make bad law.

    Pissant

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  59. I'd say the chances are very good that this opinion was drafted by the learned judge's law clerk, probably a class of 2011 grad with great grades from Michigan Law School. This person is probably very smart and cannot fathom how a person could be stupid enough to enroll at Cooley, knowing full well that they are the laughing stock of legal education. To a degree, this clerk is right -- enrolling at Cooley is a bad idea even if their outcomes aren't objectively fraudulent. Nevertheless, dumb people should still be shielded by consumer protection laws.

    I think this clerk lacks the capacity to understand the depths of human stupidity, and that's a shame.

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  60. The World Traveling Law Student,

    If you think that IBR will be around for 20/25 years, or even 10, you are dreaming. Barclays is estimating that between now and 2020, IBR (and defaults) will cost the government AT LEAST $220 billion. If Romney gets elected, and maybe even if he doesn't, IBR is a gravely endangered law - an extremely expensive bill that doesn't benefit the wealthy or the connected. Hell, you can almost fund the Air Force AND the Marines for one year on $225 billion!

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  61. Nando 2:26 "...banks love the current system and they own Congress..." President Obama reformed the student loan program in 2009. The federal government now makes all student loans. The banks no longer make student loans.

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  62. NPR piece on law school admissions today.

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  63. @Studentdebtforlife

    caveat emptor is Latin for let the buyer beware.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caveat_emptor

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  64. Reasonable reliance is a necessary element of a fraud claim. That is to say, the plaintiff must reasonably rely upon the defendant’s false claims and suffer specific (as opposed to theoretical) damages as a result. For example, if I bought the Brooklyn Bridge based upon the seller’s false claim that he owned the bridge, I would not have a fraud claim against the seller since no reasonable person would rely on the seller’s obviously false claim. So basically, the Federal Judge has reasoned that Cooley’s claims regarding employment etc ... are so obviously false, that no reasonable person would rely upon them. I’m not sure I agree with the judge on this point. We know that Cooley is a joke, but it still manages to lure 900 1L’s into its spider web every year. At the very least, reasonable reliance would seem to be an issue for a jury to determine rather than the court.
    -20 years out.

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  65. For the Brooklyn Bridge case, too? To the jury?

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  66. It is fucking hilarious how judges are taking the decision of what constitutes fraud out of the jury's hands.

    I exasperatedly state, WHAT THE HELL FUCK IS GOING ON? WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO JURIES OF OUR PEERS? WHY THE FUCK ARE THESE JUDGES STRAINING SO DESPERATELY TO PROTECT THESE SCHOOLS? SERIOUSLY, WHAT THE HELL FUCK?

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  67. I'm going to law school for the $160,000 salary.

    Let's not deal in hyperboles. Those jobs still exist, and they exist for a lot of grads (I think about 5,000 spots a year). However, it is of course true that 0 of those spots will go to Cooley grads.

    I don't think this decision is particularly important. The school will eventually have to close down due to the dwindling classes. I remain optimistic.

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  68. The lawsuit brought by former law students against Thomas M. Cooley Law School has been dismissed. While this probably doesn’t come as a surprised to most, the court’s reasoning is interesting, and gives some hope to similar lawsuits in other states.

    The court’s decision was based on The Michigan Consumer Protection Act, as interpreted by the Michigan courts. The district court first held that the Michigan Act does not apply because the purchase was not for personal family or household purposes. “Plaintiffs purchased a legal education in order to make money as lawyers so that they could live a lifestyle that they believed (perhaps naively) would be more pleasing to them. This is a business purpose.” [The court seems to indicate plaintiffs would have a claim if the went to law school “so that they could leisurely read and understand Supreme Court Reports.”] The court then dismissed two other counts “because one representation is literally true and because Plaintiffs unreasonably relied upon the representations that comprise Plaintiffs’ misrepresentation claim.”

    This result is similar to that reached by the court in NY in a suit against New York Law School, and does not bode well for other pending lawsuits. But unlike Michigan, many state consumer protections law, e.g., Texas, are not as limited in scope, do not accept “literal truth” as a defense, and require reliance, not reasonable reliance. It will be interesting to see how future suits in other jurisdictions, turn out.

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  69. This is an awesome post. Yes, Cooley won the battle but they are losing the war. The information is getting out there and the truth will win sooner or later.

    I am really disappointed in this opinion. Basically the judge is saying that since the stats are obviously ridiculous, the plaintiffs should have known Cooley was a waste of time and money, ergo they have no claim. LawProf is 100% correct that plaintiffs are being punished for not using a time machine. If they graduated in 09 or 10, that means they enrolled in 2006-2007 before this whole scam was being exposed.

    Schools are now begging people to enroll, giving away lots of free rides, and saying patently ridiculous things to justify going to law school ("lots of jobs will be opening up when older lawyers retire" "you can still have a legal career if you move to Nebraska and hang out a shingle" etc). We are watching the beginning of the end for lots of law schools.

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  70. Another disadvantage of having a law degree: scamsters are free to defraud you. That three years of law schools means that you should be able to see through any and all lies which are told to you.

    But didn't the good judge bother to look at the restatement of torts. A person has no duty to investigate the factual claims made by a fraudster. In a case like this, the law school has access to information which is not available anywhere else.

    But, then again, the good judge was appointed by a Republican. For those who have not practiced in Federal Court -- you should know that the Federal judiciary is filled with Regressives who were appointed by Regressive presidents.

    This might cause one to rethink a decision to file a case like this in state, rather than Federal court.

    High Plains Lawyer

    ReplyDelete
  71. The consumer fraud statute involved in the NYLS case (General Business Law § 349) does not have a reasonable reliance element. All that is required is that a materially false claim is made to the consumer and that the consumer is injured as a result. The trial court gave lip service to this point of law, but in applying a “sophisticated consumer” standard, may have improperly imposed a reasonable reliance requirement when it dismissing the GBL § 349 claim. If reasonable reliance is not required, a prospective law student’s purported “sophistication” should be irrelevant. Anyway, we will see what the Appellate Division, First Department has to say on the matter.
    -20 years out.

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  72. I hope that bastion of truth, U.S. News, informs its readers that at least three of those columns of numbers, on which hundreds of thousands of prospective law students have based their hope of a better future, are "inconsistent, confusing and inherently untrustworthy."

    I apparently was being unreasonable when I assumed that a high employment rate, coupled with a high median starting salary, meant that graduates were able to find employment in the law or other fields where the J.D. had meaning. Fortunately, it didn't hurt me as much as it hurt some other people, but I would bet that a lot of us in that misty 2006-2007 era of law school applications had similar ideas about what "employed at graduation," "employed 9 months after graduation" and "median starting salary upon graduation" meant.

    Prospective law student reading this, I say unto you: the difference between Cooley and all non-HYS schools is one of scope rather than kind. Use NALP and Law School Transparency's stuff for determining your risk and opportunity cost in attending law school, and apply Deborah Merritt's rules for attendance with total rigor. If you don't have an agenda for yourself going to law school, rest assured someone else will.

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  73. @ 7:48--And the misrepresentation has to be material and the plaintiff has to show an injury.

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  74. College kids are by nature much too trusting of adults. If promising data are published in a (supposedly) reputable news source, or if an admissions office is acting like going to law school is the most rational choice in the world, or if your non-lawyer parents think law school is a good idea, who are you to have doubts? All those adults wouldn't be saying those things if they weren't true, right?

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  75. 8:17, That's correct (I believe I indicated this). The lower court basically said the misrepresentations were not material because the students should have known better. But how is that different from improperly imposing a reliance element? Finally, one week after the NYLS decision came out, the Court of Appeals reversed a First Department decision on the very issue of imposing a justifiable reliance element to a GBL 349/350 claim (Koch v Acker, 18 NY3d 940). That may prove important in the NYLS appeal.
    -20 years out.

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  76. If you count my time in law school and as an A3C, I have been in this profession nigh on 40 years. I wish I could say that these cases were the first time I had seen judges bend themselves into pretzels to give the benefit of the doubt to fellow high status members of the legal profession but, alas, it is not. Not by a long shot. I actually think it is not conscious, but it is a very real and fairly common phenomenon. It is, I am afraid, inconceivable that this result would have been reached if one of those schools that used to advertise courses to be a truck driver or dental assistant had made similar misreprersentations.

    RPL

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  77. I think the chart from 2006 was published in the amended complaint. Why not just post it so we can see that it is in fact much different from the one published in 2010? Also, the analysis is hard to follow when you don't tie it to the specific claims.

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  78. @9:13 -

    I agree with you. That is why I am so mystified since Cooley is hardly a "high status member" of the legal community. If the lawsuit was against Michigan Law School, I would understand the instinct to protect one's own alma matter.

    But this is Cooley - wouldnt the prevailing sentiment be that shutting down said Cooley would in fact protect the legal community as a whole?

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  79. Maybe the judge was worried about exactly the opposite of what's been conjectured above .... Maybe he was worried that a ruling against Cooley would make it look like he's playing favorites, by giving law grads more protection than the typical plaintiff would get.

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  80. @10:06 Cooley's principals are "high status" members of the legal community. It was founded by the Chief Justice of the Michigan Supreme Court and its board includes three judges, a congressman, a law firm chair, numerous law firm partners and a Michagan state housing official.

    RPL

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  81. I keep waiting for today's post . This opinion is so poor reasoning, I hope it's reversed on appeal. The judge made factual determinations that should be left to the jury. Most people don't go to law school to live a certain "lifestyle" they go to earn a living. How silly of them to have expected law school to enable that.

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  82. I love @7:33's response, who proudly proclaimed that he or she was going to get that $160,000 salary and that the rest of us who have experience looking for legal jobs in the current legal market were dealing w/ hyperbole by discussing current salaries. Of course, you current law school students know so much more about the current economy than those currently working in it, don't you? You'll just show all of us how to get those $160,000 a year jobs, won't you, since you'll do everything right, right?

    And your analysis, 7:33, that there are 5,000 spots a year for the $160,000 a year jobs that you're apparently going for misses something rather important: what happens to the remaining 40,000 law school graduates?

    Good luck getting your $160,000 a year, 7:33 (as well as good luck to all the 45,000 graduates competing for those 5,000 jobs as well.) In this market, you will certainly need it, plus a whole lot more.

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  83. The Court of Appeals and other NY Courts have defined deceptive practices under Section 349 as misrepresentations that are "material... to a reasonable consumer". The law is what the courts say it is until the legislature changes it, or the C of A decides to say something else , which they might.

    You are right. We will have to see what the App. Div. and the C of Appeals --if it goes that far) say about this.

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  84. and yes, you are also right that Koch will be important to this.

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  85. 10:46,
    To be fair, far less than 45K people (max 15K) are actually competing for those 5K jobs.

    ReplyDelete
  86. There may be even be significantly less than five thousand available entry level positions left in BIGLaw firms nationwide.

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  87. I have no experience in biglaw, have never wanted such, but I think KEEPING such a 160K job for more than a few years is even harder than getting it in the first place. Everything I read indicates that the odds are against it, long-term.

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  88. That's 5,000 three year jobs of which 2,500 are five year jobs and 1,250 are eight year yobs. You're competing with 15,000 for the first tranche, but more like 20,000 for the second and third.

    All numbers are approximate, but the point is surely clear enough.

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  89. @ Above

    Well, going to Harvard will help.

    ReplyDelete
  90. What was the cause of action? The blog post should state that up front.

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  91. "It is fucking hilarious how judges are taking the decision of what constitutes fraud out of the jury's hands.

    I exasperatedly state, WHAT THE HELL FUCK IS GOING ON? WHAT THE FUCK HAPPENED TO JURIES OF OUR PEERS? WHY THE FUCK ARE THESE JUDGES STRAINING SO DESPERATELY TO PROTECT THESE SCHOOLS? SERIOUSLY, WHAT THE HELL FUCK?"
    - Anonymous, July 23, 2012 6:59 AM

    Because they want the hell fuck to work for these schools once they quit being judges. That's it. "Don't bite the hand that feeds you" is the modus operandi here....Quist the Quisling is scared to rock the boat even a little, possibly because he knows the law school scam will start imploding in a year or two.

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  92. Since when did increased competition hurt anything? It only results in healthy innovation and increased access. I wonder, if Cooley grads are so stupid then why are you all so afraid of competing with them in an open and free market? People should take more responsibility for themselves. If you can pass the bar then you are a certified attorney whether you went to Yale or watched some YouTube videos. Quit bitching and get out there and do a better job and maybe you won't have to blame everyone else for your failures.

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  93. 5:01: tremendous argument. Contact Anziska and Strauss and help out. That's the kind of thinking that makes for a good lawyer.

    A+

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  94. I think the comments show the ignorance of the public with legal matters. No matter what your view on cooley's reporting of the job figures, if they complied with the standars set forth for all law schools they don't deserve to be singled out. It appears that the problem lies with the ABA. The ABA makes these rules for ALL law schools. Cooley shouldnt be singled out.

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  96. I know very little about this situation because I'm not a lawyer, but I am a legal writer and I very much like Cooley Law School. However, that aside, I agree with the poster above: If I were to look at the example chart, I would assume that 76% of the 780 known-employment graduates were employed, and of those 593 people, the AVERAGE starting salary was $54,796. That's not rocket science, and I assume that anyone who could not be analytical enough to figure it out would also flunk out of law school fairly quickly.

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  98. To sum up, law school has become a business transaction and they're unstoppable. The judge dismissed but there's a bigger issue here that will follow us into future situations with these schools. Law schools (like Cooley) will use their students for the money and claim no responsibility after graduation. Why? Because they think it's a business and nothing more, no longer to we classify a graduate or undergraduate program as educational( well, we do, but it doesn't care the true meaning it once use to have). My question is; How do we fix it? What's the next step? Should we, students, continue to file lawsuits and expect results or do we protest against these money grabbing institutions that have diminished our educational system.

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