Law Deans in Jail

That’s the provocative title of a provocative essay by A. Morgan Cloud & George Shepherd, both of Emory University School of Law, now on SSRN. Here’s the abstract:

A most unlikely collection of suspects – law schools, their deans, U.S. News & World Report and its employees – may have committed felonies by publishing false information as part of U.S. News’ ranking of law schools. The possible federal felonies include mail and wire fraud, conspiracy, racketeering, and making false statements. Employees of law schools and U.S. News who committed these crimes can be punished as individuals, and under federal law the schools and U.S. News would likely be criminally liable for their agents’ crimes.

Some law schools and their deans submitted false information about the schools’ expenditures and their students’ undergraduate grades and LSAT scores. Others submitted information that may have been literally true but was misleading. Examples include misleading statistics about recent graduates’ employment rates and students’ undergraduate grades and LSAT scores.

U.S. News itself may have committed mail and wire fraud. It has republished, and sold for profit, data submitted by law schools without verifying the data’s accuracy, despite being aware that at least some schools were submitting false and misleading data. U.S. News refused to correct incorrect data and rankings errors and continued to sell that information even after individual schools confessed that they had submitted false information. In addition, U.S. News marketed its surveys and rankings as valid although they were riddled with fundamental methodological errors.

Which reminds me, I need to write up my analysis of U.Miami’s release of its employment figures.

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7 Responses to Law Deans in Jail

  1. Penury says:

    Please let us know when they will be calling witnesses as I graduated from UM Law 2.5 years ago and still don’t have a job.

  2. Joe says:

    GW Law School in DC had to start a special program for its government contracts graduates who couldn’t find jobs and therefore had no hope of beginning to pay back their student loans.

  3. Penury says:

    I was likewise offered one of these McJobs at UM, (it was called the “Dean’s Fellowship” or something like that in which you would sit on the Bricks and tell people where the bathroom is) not knowing at the time that it was a front to protect and pad stats. What a stooge I feel like.

    • There are what, four people working as assistants in the Dean of Students office? Hardly a blip in our employment figures. No, for better or worse, that’s genuinely part of the Dean’s project to be student-centered.

  4. Chris says:

    If I had a law firm job, I would give up a year’s salary to see law school administrators put in jail. What an epic scam.

  5. Penury says:

    Here’s a writeup on the attorneys filing the suits. I just don’t know what chance of success they will have, but hey, the apparent settlement of the culinary school class action might augur well for them.

    My concern: is someone really going to sit in a depo and say with a straight face: “Yes, 6 years ago, in choosing a law school I considered the figure of 88.9% employment within 6 months of graduation as published in NYLS’s brochure/website. I recall with vivid clarity relying on that figure, the derivation of which now turns out to have been bogus.”

    The truth is for most people those figures were just breezed over.

    • If you look at my analysis of UM’s figures from a few years ago, I think you will see why I concluded it was not deceptive. It could have been even more clear, and the latest releases are even more clear, but there’s a lot of room between “takes a bit of work to fully understand” and “deceptive”.

      And of course there’s also this from 2009, which ought to make any lawsuit against UM quite difficult at least as regards students from that class forwards. Note especially this part of the letter:

      Perhaps many of you are looking to law school as a safe harbor in which you can wait out the current economic storm.

      If this describes your motivation for going to law school I urge you to think hard about your plans and to consider deferring enrollment. Law school requires an enormous investment of work, energy, time, and money. It is very demanding intellectually and emotionally. Beyond this, in these uncertain and challenging times the nature of the legal profession is in great flux. It is very difficult to predict what the employment landscape for young lawyers will be in May 2012 and thereafter.

      That is surely warning and notice sufficient to meet any standard.

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