On May 26, Anna Alaburda sued her alma mater, San Diego's Thomas Jefferson School of Law, alleging in her state court complaint that the school committed fraud by misrepresenting the employment statistics for its recent graduates. Alaburda was lured to the school by statistics reported by U.S. News & World Report in 2003 indicating that 80 percent of its graduates were employed after nine months, according to her complaint.
Alaburda graduated in 2008 with honors and passed the California Bar exam, but has been unable to find full-time employment as a lawyer, instead working as a document reviewer on a project-by-project basis. "For more than 15 years, TJSL has churned out graduates, many of whom have little or no hope of working as attorneys at any point in their careers," the complaint reads. Notably, Alaburda's suit challenges the legality of a practice that is nearly universal for law schools: that of combining all graduates with jobs into one job statistic, regardless of the nature of their employment.
Groups like Law School Transparency and the American Bar Association are pushing for better graduate employment data, but some law school administrators say it's tough to get information from graduates. Linda Spagnola-Wendling, assistant dean for career services at North Carolina Central University School of Law, recently circulated a letter among law school administrators calling for discussion about ways to improve the collection of graduate employment data.
In a Q&A with The National Law Journal, Spagnola-Wendling notes, "The primary concern, from what I've seen, is what questions will be asked. No one has really said, 'How do I make students answer those questions.'" She also says that it's not safe to assume the nonresponding graduates are unemployed: "There may be students who are employed but are embarrassed by their employment. They can be in nonlegal jobs or they are doing document review. They don't want to report that. They want to wait until they get something better to report back."
When law students transfer to more prestigious law schools, the spurned law schools suffer significantly, says South Texas College of Law professor Jeffrey Rensberger, who examined law school transfers for the past four years for an article in the May edition of the Journal of Legal Education. Rensberger concluded that the transfer system is inefficient and causes more harm to the schools that students leave--including losses in tuition money, quality classroom participation, bar passage rates, and alumni prestige--than benefits to the schools to which they transfer. For instance, in examining the data, he found that the law school that received the most transfers saw a $3.4 million increase in revenue as a result, while the school that lost the most students forfeited $5.2 million.