Law schools sued by alumni who can’t find work

Amy Scott Feb 2, 2012

Tess Vigeland: The setup to this next story sounds a bit like a bad joke. What do a bunch of lawyers do when they can’t get jobs?

They sue, naturally.

Yesterday, a group of recent law graduates sued a dozen law schools. They say the schools misled them about job and salary prospects. It’s not even the first time this week that a school has been accused of false advertising.

From the Marketplace Education Desk at WYPR in Baltimore, Amy Scott reports.

Amy Scott: When Adam Bevelacqua applied to Brooklyn Law School, its job placement rates were a big selling point. He says the school reported that at least 90 percent of students found work after they graduated.

Adam Bevelacqua: Unless I was like the bottom 10 percent of the class, or something like that, I was virtually guaranteed legal employment within nine months of graduation.

He graduated almost nine months ago — with $100,000 in debt — and passed the bar on the first try. Since then, he’s only been able to find temp jobs outside the legal profession.

Bevelacqua: Anything from data entry to front desk-type work to babysitting, which is actually what I’m doing right now.

Bevelacqua is part of the group suing law schools for allegedly inflating their employment figures by hiring their own graduates for temporary work, or counting employment in other industries. Job placement data influence a school’s standing in the all-important U.S. News and World Report rankings. Earlier this week, Claremont McKenna College admitted it inflated students’ SAT scores to boost its ranking.

William Henderson teaches law at Indiana University. He says the rankings have become too important.

William Henderson: And frankly, I have a lot of sympathy for the deans on that front, because the alumni and the students are inconsolable when the rankings go down.

The American Bar Association, which accredits many law schools, is making changes. It will require schools to report more detailed numbers. Henderson says that won’t take the pressure off, but it will give applicants more useful information.

I’m Amy Scott for Marketplace.

We’re here to help you navigate this changed world and economy.

Our mission at Marketplace is to raise the economic intelligence of the country. It’s a tough task, but it’s never been more important.

In the past year, we’ve seen record unemployment, stimulus bills, and reddit users influencing the stock market. Marketplace helps you understand it all, will fact-based, approachable, and unbiased reporting.

Generous support from listeners and readers is what powers our nonprofit news—and your donation today will help provide this essential service. For just $5/month, you can sustain independent journalism that keeps you and thousands of others informed.