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Lawyer sues Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Former student can't find a job, seeks to recoup part of education investment

The major story on the New York Times' business page today (March 7) reports that a long-standing lawsuit against Thomas Jefferson School of Law goes to trial today in Superior Court.

Anna Alaburda, a Jefferson grad who passed the bar but can't find a full-time job as a lawyer, claims that Jefferson inflated its employment data to hoodwink students into enrolling.

She originally filed a class action suit, but the judge only permitted her to file on her own behalf. She is asking for $125,000 in damages — less than the $170,000 in student debt she has rolled up.

According to the Times, Dean Thomas F. Guernsey asserts that the school has "a strong track record of producing successful graduates, with 7000 alumni working nationally and internationally."

This is a questionable statement. In recent years, the school's grads have had a low rate passing the bar, and, as City Journal noted in 2014, "the actual placement rate for Thomas Jefferson graduates in full-time legal positions within nine months of graduation is [close] to 25 percent."

In 2014, City Journal and JDJournal questioned if Jefferson can survive. The school built a new building in 2011, and in December of 2013 Standard & Poor's gave it a junk bond rating. In January of this year, the U.S. Department of Education put Jefferson on the "heightened cash monitoring list" because of its high debt.

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The major story on the New York Times' business page today (March 7) reports that a long-standing lawsuit against Thomas Jefferson School of Law goes to trial today in Superior Court.

Anna Alaburda, a Jefferson grad who passed the bar but can't find a full-time job as a lawyer, claims that Jefferson inflated its employment data to hoodwink students into enrolling.

She originally filed a class action suit, but the judge only permitted her to file on her own behalf. She is asking for $125,000 in damages — less than the $170,000 in student debt she has rolled up.

According to the Times, Dean Thomas F. Guernsey asserts that the school has "a strong track record of producing successful graduates, with 7000 alumni working nationally and internationally."

This is a questionable statement. In recent years, the school's grads have had a low rate passing the bar, and, as City Journal noted in 2014, "the actual placement rate for Thomas Jefferson graduates in full-time legal positions within nine months of graduation is [close] to 25 percent."

In 2014, City Journal and JDJournal questioned if Jefferson can survive. The school built a new building in 2011, and in December of 2013 Standard & Poor's gave it a junk bond rating. In January of this year, the U.S. Department of Education put Jefferson on the "heightened cash monitoring list" because of its high debt.

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Comments
34

If this plaintiff can actually document that the graduate employment claims made by TJ were fraudulent, she SHOULD win. But, you never know how these civil trials will go. Yes, she probably needed to do more homework on the true situation for TJ grads locally, but then, if you can't believe the claims made by the school you attend, whom can you believe? Then there's the issue of how many of their grads do manage to get jobs. Not all of them are working as full-time attorneys, and many probably are happy for it to be that way. There are many, many uses for a law degree short of practicing as an attorney.

I have a hunch she'll get little or nothing. But the publicity this will garner for TJ isn't going to help it at all, and may hasten its closure.

March 7, 2016

Some might say, "If you want to be an attorney, you should be able to read the fine print."

Cynical? Maybe. But sadly apropos.

March 8, 2016

Ian Pike: Here's another way to say it: "If you want to be an attorney, you should be able to WRITE the fine print." Best, Don Bauder

March 8, 2016

Visduh: Several years ago, I read about her case in more detail. I can't remember whether I read her complaint or read a good summary of it. She seemed to have a sound case, but you never know. The Times story this morning pointed out that in other jurisdictions, almost all such cases haven't been successful. Best, Don Bauder

March 7, 2016

Bob Hudson: Good line. She does have an attorney. But maybe this is what Jefferson is best at: training people to sue in propria persona. Best, Don Bauder

March 7, 2016

Of course, the devil is in the details (ugh), but do I hear a hollowing-out sound?

March 7, 2016

Is that in the "hollowed" halls of ivy on the TJ campus? That place needs to shut down ASAP.

March 7, 2016

Visduh: It may have to shut down. It sure doesn't represent "hallowed" halls now. "Hollowed" is closer to verisimilitude. Best, Don Bauder

March 8, 2016

Flapper: It has gotten trite with age, but of all apothegms, "The devil is in the details" still packs a lot of punch. Best, Don Bauder

March 8, 2016

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe used to say "God is in the details."

March 8, 2016

Flapper: How did he know? Did he have a map drawn by architects? Best, Don Bauder

March 10, 2016

Maybe a tortilla chip?

March 10, 2016

Flapper: Do you see God in your tortilla chips? Best, Don Bauder

March 10, 2016

Unless Alaburda's lawyer is pro bono, she will lose or the case will stall and get dismissed. Since it isn't class action, it doesn't offer a good reward. If an individual is suing, they have to pay. When you are David suing Goliath it usually works like this. You file a complaint...they respond... you spend a dollar... they spend 10 dollars.... Whoever runs out of money first loses.

Oh, and never ask a low-ball figure like "$125,000"... ask for the moon.

March 7, 2016

Ponzi: It's good advice not to ask for a low-ball figure, but this case is a symbolic one. It appears to me that the plaintiff's real motivation is letting the legal world know what she believes has gone on behind closed doors.

Jefferson has such financial woes that I don't think it can be called Goliath. Best, Don Bauder

March 8, 2016

Any judge worth her salt (or any jury), would add at least a couple of zeros.

March 8, 2016

Flapper: You mean like they do in Congress? Best, Don Bauder

March 10, 2016

Every job I had started at the bottom. I took the first opportunity that came along. When you are working in your chosen field you quickly learn about opportunities within your company and you learn what is out there at other employers in the same field. Employers love to hire someone who is already employed within their industry. It is much easier to get a job when you are employed. As a teen I started as the head man at a gas station. I cleaned the heads every night.

March 8, 2016

AlexClarke: Your title at the gas station was Colonel of the Urinal. The rank of colonel is right below general. Best, Don Bauder

March 8, 2016

TJSL is not the first school to be under fire for this, and other, sneaky practices. What you might call "low end" law schools stand accused of employing all sorts of duplicitous practices to puff up enrolment. Interestingly, it doesn't seem to be much of a phenomenon at more highly ranked law schools (TJSL isn't even ranked on the all-important US News and World Report scale), where competitive applicant pools do a better job of self-regulating, so to speak.

A similar, and even more insidious, NYT story about Golden Gate University up in SF, among other law schools, revealed that the financial aid departments offer massive scholarships which the school has every intention of revoking when the majority of students "curve out" of their eligibility after their first years. The tactic actually appears remarkably similar to the subprime mortgage lending practice of offering "teaser rates" in the early 2000s.

March 8, 2016

Ian Pike: These kinds of practices aren't restricted to low-level law schools like Jefferson. How about San Diego's Bridgepoint Education? It has been (and is) getting spanked for dubious recruitment practices by several states, and is under investigation by the federal government. After a Senate investigation, a Senator denounced the operation as "a scam." Best, Don Bauder

March 8, 2016

I'm not familiar with that....but it doesn't surprise me!

What also wouldn't surprise me is if, despite Senate investigation and castigation, things continued as normals :/

March 8, 2016

Ian Pike: Go to the Reader's search engine and put in bauder + bridgepoint education. There will be columns and blog items going back many years. Best, Don Bauder

March 8, 2016

Well with initials like that, they can always flee across the border and become TJ or Tijuana Law

March 8, 2016

SportsFan0000: It's that spiffy new building that is dragging down the school. Its bonds are now junk. How could they move the building to Tijuana? Best, Don Bauder

March 11, 2016

SportsFan0000: Thomas Jefferson would be turning over in his grave -- in fact, spinning in his crypt. Best, Don Bauder

March 8, 2016

Look, gentlemen, "law" schools are, by definition, Scam Schools.

March 10, 2016

Flapper: Tell that to Stanford's law school. Best, Don Bauder

March 10, 2016

I would, but they wouldn't get it.

March 12, 2016

Doc Politics: It's critical that she get an honest judge. Best, Don Bauder

March 11, 2016

Oh, the IRONY!

March 11, 2016

Flapper: I suppose you think "honest judge" is a contradiction in terms -- an oxymoron. That is often the case, but not always. Best, Don Bauder

March 11, 2016

That's one possible supposition (I suppose, but should I suppose or ask you for the evidence behind your supposition--which applies, of course, to all suppositions, including mine?), but not the irony I had in mind. I was thinking more in terms of what a joke the whole "legal" system is. Certainly there must be some "honest" judges, just as there must be some juries who actually THINK. I don't mean well-intentioned. Juries are commonly hoodwinked by lawyers for the defense and the prosecution who care more about self-promotion than "justice."

But we're getting off the subject of law schools that perpetuate the fantasy of the law being any sort of level playing field--level mine-field, perhaps.

March 11, 2016

Flapper; Of course it is not a level playing field. There are two kinds of justice: one for the superrich, and another for the rest of us. Best, Don Bauder

March 12, 2016

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