On Wednesday, three law schools in Chicago were sued for allegedly deceiving students by inflating employment information for its students after graduation. The allegations were filed in three separate lawsuits by recent graduates of IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, John Marshall Law School and DePaul University College of Law. Each complaint’s allegations are very similar.
The law schools have been accused of falsely advertising for the past couple of years, since 2000, that 90 percent or higher of its graduates were employed nine months after they graduated. The allegations include that the numbers issued by the law schools included students with any type of job, including ones that were not in the legal industry. Also alleged against the schools is that they inflated average salaries paid to their graduates because the numbers were based on a deliberate sample of high-earning graduates.
The graduates who filed the lawsuits claim that they relied on the information when it came down to deciding which school to attend. Despite the rosy numbers from the law schools, the graduates found limited job opportunities and growing debt upon graduation.
“These deceptions are perpetuated so as to prevent prospective students from realizing the obvious — that attending John Marshall and forking over approximately $120,000 in tuition payments is a terrible investment which makes little economic sense and, most likely, will never pay off,” one of the filed complaints said.
All of the law schools named in the complaints declined comment and said that they had yet to see the complaints made against them.
The lawsuits were filed in Cook County Circuit Court and all of them seek class-action status. There are eight plaintiffs against DePaul, four plaintiffs against Kent and three plaintiffs against John Marshall. The plaintiffs in all of the complaints are seeking tuition refunds and other monetary rewards. The plaintiffs in the complaints are also asking that the law schools hire independent auditors to verify the salary and employment data.
Some of the more elite law schools, such as the University of Chicago and Northwestern University, have not seen much criticism about their job data because their alumni are more likely to find jobs in the legal field in almost any economy. Some of the more lower-ranked law schools are struggling to find jobs for their alumni and are facing the possibility of embarrassing lawsuits now.
“It’s obviously not good for legal education,” said William Henderson, who is a law professor at Indiana University. “I continue to be quite worried about it.”
The president of the American Bar Association, William Robinson, said in January, “It’s inconceivable to me that someone with a college education, or a graduate-level education, would not know before deciding to go to law school that the economy has declined over the last several years and that the job market out there is not as opportune as it might have been five, six, seven, eight years ago.”
The lawsuits filed against the law schools in Chicago were part of a coordinated effort against legal education that was mounted by plaintiffs attorneys David Anziska, Jesse Strauss and Frank Raimond. Nine more lawsuits were filed against law schools in Florida, New York, California and Delaware. The Clinton Law firm in Chicago filed the lawsuits against the Chicago-area schools.
Jorie Johnson, one of the plaintiffs in the Chicago suits, graduated in 2008 from John Marshall.
“It’s not that I asked to be set up with a job, but I believe it’s wrong that the employment data was so inflated,” Johnson said. “If nobody speaks up then nothing will change.”