Recent graduates of two law schools—Thomas M. Cooley Law School and New York Law School (NYLS)—are collectively seeking $450 million in class actions that allege the schools misrepresented employment and salary statistics in order to attract students. The Cooley case was filed in the Western District of Michigan and the NYLS case was filed in the Supreme Court of New York County. In an interesting twist, the New York firm representing the plaintiffs, Kurzon Strauss, is itself being sued by Cooley for defamation, with the school alleging that, in the course of finding named plaintiffs for the misrepresentation class action, Kurzon Strauss damaged the school’s reputation.
Cooley consistently has among the highest admission rates of the country’s 200 ABA-accredited law schools, and in the twelfth edition of the law school ranking book, Judging the Law Schools, Cooley ranks second, to Harvard, and comfortably ahead of Yale (#10), Stanford (#30), and fellow defendant NYLS (#62). Some have questioned the objectivity of these rankings, which are authored by a founder of Cooley Law School along with its current President and Dean.
Both schools (along with Thomas Jefferson law school, defendant in a class action filed earlier this year) are alleged to have inflated their post-graduation employment statistics by hiring their own graduates, excluding from the statistics graduates who did not respond to employment surveys, and classifying graduates with part-time or contract positions as being “fully employed.”
In defending against the misrepresentation claims, the law schools are expected to rely on the American Bar Association’s liberal definition of “employed,” which makes no distinction between law-related jobs and all others, including the barista and telemarketing positions that recent law school graduates appear to land with some frequency.