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Law Schools in the News—Updates

Legal News Reporter

Published: November 13, 2012

Here is a brief compilation of some noteworthy developments in law school litigation and admissions from the past month or so (culled from National Law Journal reports and Law School Transparency):

Class action evidence against Thomas Jefferson Law School.

A former dean admitted cooking up statistics for Thomas Jefferson Law School when she worked there in 2006.

In 2008, Thomas Jefferson became the first defendant law school in class action lawsuits brought by former students against their schools for using misleading statistics to drive up the schools’ rankings and applications. There are now at least 14 such lawsuits, with many more threatened.

The former Jefferson assistant career services dean admitted in case filings that she deliberately, and under orders from her bosses, posted misleading employment statistics on the Jefferson website.

The school responded that it had done nothing wrong. The lawsuit continues.

Another way of ranking law schools.

Speaking of law school rankings, the aforementioned Law School Transparency (www.lawschooltransparency.com). LST is a nonprofit dedicated to holding law schools’ feet to the fire about statistics that the schools supply to the American Bar Association, U.S. News and World Report, and their own websites.

LST has developed a tool, called “Score Reports,” which gives prospective students information that the site’s administrators say provide a more accurate view of the choices available.

Rather than ranking the schools nationally, like U.S. News, Score Reports ranks them geographically, and ties employment statistics in to each school on the basis of geography. Score Reports then creates school profiles based upon a school’s employment outcomes, admissions data, tuition, and projected total costs. A third option then creates various metrics that prospective students can use to compare schools on equal footing.

The site makes definitive distinctions between what a “ranking” provides and what a “score” provides prospective students, particularly in attempting to quantify more precisely what kinds of jobs graduates actually get.

It puts particular emphasis on obtaining jobs that require bar passage, rather than listing all graduate employment in any field without that distinction. Graduates employed part-time are listed as “under-employed.” And it breaks those jobs further into many more categories than the U.S. News rankings do.

Duncan Law School drops its accreditation lawsuit against the ABA.

Last year, the American Bar Association refused to accredit a new law school-- Lincoln Memorial University’s Duncan School of Law, which is located in Tennessee, when it applied for ABA approval. The school promptly sued the ABA, alleging antitrust violations. The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Tennessee ruled that the school first had to exhaust its administrative remedies against the ABA before it could pursue the litigation. The ABA turned down the school’s first appeal, and the school began preparing another one.

Then, on October 29th, the school dismissed its suit against the ABA without prejudice. This action followed close on the heels of the resignation of the school’s founding dean, Sydney Beckman. The school has brought in consultants to figure out its next steps; the next step will be to re-apply and start the process again from the beginning.

LSAC sued for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act. The Law School Admission Council, which administers the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), is the defendant in a new lawsuit which alleges that its rules violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The lawsuit is being brought on behalf of 22 defendants by the U.S. Department of Justice and the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing.

The suit alleges that the council’s accommodations policies violate the ADA, and, in particular, that many of the 22 plaintiffs in the class have disabilities such that the standard LSAT procedures do not allow them enough time to take the complete test.

The LSAC has been sued numerous times over this and other ADA issues since that law was enacted in 1990. The Justice Department may hope that this class action, which estimates say may draw as many as 2000 plaintiffs eventually, may clear up many of those issues.

At the same time, a vision-impaired Michigan plaintiff is suing the LSAC under the ADA in another lawsuit, alleging that the test, by its very nature, discriminates against the blind.