Cooley, New York Law School hit with lawsuits from former students

By J. DeVoy

Two lawsuits were filed today in New York and Michigan against New York Law School (not to be confused with New York University School of Law) and Thomas M. Cooley Law School, respectively.  The plaintiffs, former students of the two schools – which have been in at least the bottom half of U.S. News & World Report’s rankings for as long as I can recall – claim that the schools “knowingly inflated employment and salary statistics to recruit and retain students.” (source.)  Moreover, the article is unclear which of Cooley’s four campuses were sued, but presumably all of them were, including its nascent Tampa outpost.

At the heart of the lawsuit is a question of classification.  The plaintiffs allege that NYLS and Cooley knowingly misclassified students in part-time or temporary jobs as “fully employed,” benefitting from the appearance of employment rates higher than they actually were.  Logically, these employment rates were part of the reason students attended those schools, and thus the schools’ alleged inflation of these employment rates made it easier to attract prospective students and their federal student loans… or so the theory goes. (source.)

The Bloomberg article notes that Cooley is suing the plaintiffs’ firm for defamation related to blog comments it made about Cooley’s business practices. (source.)  In an odd twist of irony, NYLS’ apparently outgoing dean, Richard Matasar, has been an outspoken critic of legal education’s flaws while simultaneously engaging in the practices that leave it so broken, including tuition hikes, dramatically increasing class sizes, and a myopic focus on investing in facilities. (source.)

Some may be cheering that this day has come.  I regret that it has, as the ABA should have been a better steward to the profession and prevented legal education from reaching this point.  Admittedly, it is no easy task, especially with the DOE falling over itself to give hundreds of thousands of dollars of non-dischargable debt to anyone with a pulse, but it must be done.  If the ABA lacks the fortitude to tell some people “no, you cannot be a lawyer,” it should outsource its spine to the American Association of Law Schools (“AALS”).  While trading the ABA for the AALS as an accreditation body may be trading one set of problems for another, at least the AALS has standards (theoretically) and sees the devastation wrought in other education sectors by for-profit toilets and fly-by-night schools concerned more by their own earnings and existence than the detritus they spew into the world – and the young lives they ruin in the process.

Needless to say, a segment of the legal education community likely will follow these cases with considerable detail.  It is, however, an issue with broader implications.  Hey CoOp – this affects your jobs and the legitimacy of the institutions that employ you.  Pay attention to it.  Stop letting the ABA turn your institutions into profit mills while you eat lotus flowers and philosophize the day away.  Even if these lawsuits do not achieve their intended objectives, they finally shine a light on the high cost of worthless graduate education, and the extent to which some programs will conceal their utter failure.

11 Responses to Cooley, New York Law School hit with lawsuits from former students

  1. evrenseven says:

    Remember when people sued S&P for giving credit default swaps and mortgage backed securities AAA ratings? Court kicked the suits on 1st grounds- that giving an AAA rating is constitutionally protected speech. Wonder if the schools will do that? Employment stats as constitutionally protected speech?

    AAA rating is subjective, employment stats should be hard numbers though…

    • J DeVoy says:

      Haven’t read the complaints, just the bloomberg article linked extensively in the post.

      Seems like the kind of thing that could be won on MSJ, depending on what discovery yields, but I would never want to take before a jury.

  2. […] The Legal Satyricon: Two lawsuits were filed today in New York and Michigan against New York Law School (not to be […]

  3. Mike says:

    Law school advertisements are consumer fraud, and in any other context, they’d be hit with huge damages awards.

  4. Rob Cashman says:

    I’ve seen this coming for quite a while. No doubt, law school false advertising has been a problem for quite a while. And in some schools, the “look to the left, look to the right — one of you won’t be here at graduation” is a serious understatement. I’ve heard of graduating classes which were only a fraction of their 1L numbers. Then again, to the extent that a law degree is considered to be purchased rather than earned, caveat venditor.

  5. Are you kidding me? You expect those fucking pussies in their liberal academic circle jerk at concurring opinions to give a shit? Well, they do give a shit, but do you think they don’t have a vested interest in keeping the scam rolling?

    Most of them are incapable of working as my copy boy / copy girl, let alone as real attorneys. What would they do if all of a sudden, the fourth tier was shut down (as it should be) and then the competition for all lawprof jobs got a lot more stiff? You can bet your ass that professors who teach “critical crybaby studies and vegetarianism” would be where they belong, cleaning toilets.

    • J DeVoy says:

      I don’t expect them to do anything, but some are better than others. I think J. Schultz would do something about it, for example. Agreed, though, that it’s a collective action problem, and there are some ossified, tenured profs who haven’t published in years (an act that is of dubious value in the first place). If anything professors at good schools have an incentive to cut down their competitors at the knees and close the entire bottom half of law schools, allowing their institutions (and by extension, them) to charge higher tuitions, be better recognized, etc.

      Your second paragraph goes exactly to why the academé, the AALS and good law profs will be better off if they take control of accreditation. The excrement can be flushed out at long last, and perhaps there can once again be some public dignity to being a lawyer. If the affected law professors can’t hack it IRL, that’s not my problem, nor yours, nor current and prospective students’. Nobody forced them to specialize in a laughably useless niche like antebellum critical whining law. The winners – the better professors and the like – would then take all. It’s not like we’re talking about shutting down Columbia, or even first- or second-rung regional law schools that are not nationally prominent, but still turn out competent lawyers who serve their communities.

      tl;dr, if I were a law prof looking to be more widely published and better paid, I’d be thrilled to knock out 1/3 to 1/2 of my competition and throw up some really high walls to competition.

  6. If you close schools, who is to say that other schools won’t just expand?

    Closing schools may sound attractive, but the underlying problem is the moral hazard of government backed loans and how they muck up the economics. Closing schools would only makes some folks feel better: retribution and moral outrage and all that. But closing schools would do nothing to stop the supply of 0Ls, eager to take on hundreds of thousands of dollars of (government secured, nondischargeable) debt. Nor would closing schools stop the supply lenders eager to loan that money at artificially lucrative rates.

    If anything, I think closing schools would allow schools to gouge students even more. Demand for slots would stay the same because of the government loan pipleline, but the supply of slots would decrease–thus increasing the leverage of the remaining schools over 0Ls.

    And isn’t Barry T4? I thought you said good things about the education there–I could honestly just be remembering things wrong, though.

    • Wholeheartedly agree that government backed loans need to go away. Law students should need to go to a bank and borrow just like anyone else looking to make a business investment. If states want to set up state-accredited law schools where you can go for cheap, as long as you go into public interest law, that would be ok with me.

      Frankly, I wouldn’t go just that far. I think we should pull the plug on ALL government backing of student loans. DeVry and Regent would go down the shitter, where they belong, and I highly doubt that banks would be willing to give loans to anyone who couldn’t get into a better school than Regent.

  7. […] crybaby studies and vegetarianism’ would be where they belong, cleaning toilets.” -Marc Randazza Share this:StumbleUponDiggRedditFacebookTwitterLike this:LikeBe the first to like this […]

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