How honest are law schools regarding the sorts of stats they give about student employment? Though it’s uncertain, at least two deans have been reprimanded for fudging another kind of statistic, the LSAT scores and grade-point averages of incoming students to bolster their rankings. Specifically, former Villanova University School of Law Dean Mark Alan Sargent and University of Illinois College of Law assistant dean for admissions Paul Pless have faced discipline for skewing numbers to bolster their schools’ rankings.
University of Missouri School of Law professor Ben Trachtenberg isn’t surprised. His Legal Ethics Blog specifically identified these two as likely candidates. “My article identified these two by name as the worst actors, so I’m not surprised to see that they have been the subjects of disciplinary action,” said Trachtenberg.
What sort of discipline have they received? Sargent was given a three-year suspension by the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court for engaging in “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation,” and “any other conduct that adversely reflects on his or her fitness to practice law,” as the National Law Journal reported. Pless, likewise, faced the disciplinary board of the Washington State Bar Association for fraud and for failing to adequately supervise a non-lawyer.
Furthermore, the ABA censured Pless’s school and fined it $250,000, and this for breaking Rule 8.4 of the ABA’s model rules of professional conduct.
Whether such mis-reporting is widespread or isolated is unknown, but the ABA has hired a consulting firm to audit such numbers, which will kick into action in 2014.