NEW YORK, March 21 (Reuters) - A judge on Wednesday tossed a
$200 million suit brought by a group of New York Law School graduates, who accused their alma mater of duping students out
of hundreds of thousands of dollars in tuition by publishing
misleading post-graduation employment and salary data.
Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Melvin Schweitzer dismissed
the class action suit brought last year by nine graduates of the
The students said the school had misclassified graduates
with temporary or part-time jobs as "fully" employed, omitted
information about graduates who didn't respond to employment
surveys and created post-graduate job programs to hire their own
Schweitzer pointed out that the students' own complaint
acknowledged "one of the grimmest legal job markets in decades,"
with 43,000 new lawyers minted each year in the U.S. and only
half as many jobs available.
"In these new and troubling times, the reasonable consumer
of legal education must realize that these omnipresent realities
of the market obviously trump any allegedly overly optimistic
claims in their law school's marketing materials," Schweitzer
wrote in 38-page decision granting the school's motion to
David Anziska, an attorney for the plaintiffs, has joined
other lawyers in filing similar suits against more than a dozen
American law schools.
"We fully disagree with his decision and fully intend to
appeal," Anziska said. He said his legal team plans to bring 20
more suits against law schools by Memorial Day.
"We've maintained all along that the claims have no merit,"
said Venable attorney Michael Volpe, who represents New York Law
'DEARTH OF OPPORTUNITY'
The suit against NYLS was one of three proposed class
actions filed last year by former law students, who claimed the
schools overstated graduates' job prospects. Another wave of
suits was filed in February.
Earlier this year, American Bar Association William Robinson
sparked controversy when he said in an interview with Reuters
that it was "inconceivable" that people in a position to go to
law school would not know "that the job market out there is not
as opportune as it might have been five, six, seven, eight years
ago." An ABA spokeswoman later said Robinson's remarks were used
out of context.
The NYLS complaint sought $200 million -- the difference
between the tuition the students paid and what they called the
"true value" of a NYLS degree. Annual tuition is $47,800.
Schweitzer ruled that NYLS's marketing materials were not
misleading -- given that applicants are college graduates
capable of reviewing other sources of information about
employment prospects before enrolling.
The graduates had argued that the school's statistics were
too rosy because U.S. News & World Report put it in the bottom
tier of its law school rankings, and "logic dictates that NYLS's
true employment rate would be below the statistical mean of the
But Schweitzer said the magazine's low ranking should have
tipped off prospective students that the school's job data
didn't tell the full story.
Schweitzer did acknowledge an unprecedented "dearth of
opportunity" for graduates. He quoted the complaint saying that,
since 2008, the largest 250 law firms in the U.S. have
eliminated 10,000 positions, while legal-entry work such as
document review increasingly is being outsourced to such
countries as India.
"To the extent law schools are turning out too many
graduates for the positions available, market forces will begin
to correct themselves, hopefully in short order," the judge
He added that future graduates are owed transparent data to
make informed decisions about law school.
"It is this court's fervent hope," he wrote, "that all the
heat generated around this issue over the last year will be
replaced with a renewed sense of responsibility to prospective
applicants and students."
The case is Alexandra Gomez-Jimenez et at v. New York Law
School, New York state Supreme Court, no. 652226/2011.
For the plaintiffs: David Anziska, Jesse Strauss, and Frank
For the defendants: Michael J. Volpe of Venable LLP.
(Reporting by Karen Freifeld)
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