San Diego’s Thomas Jefferson School of Law is being sued by a former student in a class action for misrepresenting the likelihood of graduates finding employment as lawyers. Recently, Thomas Jefferson School of Law defended its position in court by saying that a reasonable student would not have been misled by its representations about graduate employment rates. More graduates of the school were finding work than were passing the Bar.
The School’s argument seems to be that any idiot would be able to see that graduates were working at whatever jobs they could get, and that obviously those were not jobs in the law. Now that is an interesting admission: the School admitted that consistently lower than 60 percent of its graduates passed the Bar, while as many as 92% found “jobs.” Pardon me, but there is something pathetic about that defense. It makes one wonder if they were counting fast good cooks and janitors.
I see not much has changed in San Diego, or for that matter, the State of California. I attended the University of San Diego School of Law, graduating in 1977, and passed the Bar that same year. The economy was sinking in a serious recession. It was the decade of high double digit inflation and gas shortages.
San Diego was an attractive place to live as a new lawyer, but even then it was saturated with others like me also loving the weather and climate. The dirty little secret then was that lawyers were experiencing serious unemployment or underemployment. The City then had USD School of Law and Cal Western School of Law, the latter unaccredited, and year after year they pumped out more lawyers than positions were available. After 4 years, I left San Diego to take a staff attorney position with the State Fund in Los Angeles. Many years have passed, and after several positions at different firms, I have been in practice for myself the last 15 years in Orange County, California. Orange County just added the U.C.I. School of Law, which will be a fine school producing quality graduates, but the fact is, quality graduates from Ivy League Schools have been laid off in large numbers from mega-firms, and are unable to find work in the current double dip recession.
So how do professional schools deal with a depressed economy and dropping student applications? Perhaps they do us all a disservice if they entice students to enroll at great personal debt, and then release those graduates to glut an already overpopulated work force. There is already a national lawyer surplus. (http://economix.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/06/27/the-lawyer-surplus-state-by-state/).
California will produce more than 6000 attorneys this year. Many of those will be from non-accredited schools that play upon the dreams of students to gain prestige and revenue with a professional license. I assure you there will not be 6000 new legal positions waiting for those new graduates. Probably, only about ½ of them will pass the Bar. Even so, I doubt that there are 3000 positions available. If may very well be that the trend is just the opposite. I suspect that there may be 10 unemployed new and seasoned attorneys seeking each new vacancy. I also know the law schools will not be using this kind of information in their promotional literature. To the contrary, schools like Thomas Jefferson will be touting their graduates’ employment rates.
I do not know the merits of 2008 graduate Anna Alaburda against Thomas Jefferson School of Law, but I have been in San Diego as a new graduate from a fine law school during difficult economic times 35 years ago. I was of a generation that had lower expectations because we did not grow up in the boom times of the 80s and 90s. Still, I was shocked that my dream of power, prestige, and wealth was slammed against a highly competitive field of like minded dreamers.
There are only so many gold rings to go around. Anna Alaburda has found that out, and is angry. Apparently, she learned enough Civil Procedure to become dangerous. If something good comes of this suit, it will be that potential applicants will reassess the value of a law school degree, and Law Schools will reassess how they promote themselves to potential customers.