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Class Action

Lawyers sue over inflated ranking


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Rudy Hasl, Dean of Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Rudy Hasl is dean of Thomas Jefferson School of Law.


The students at two well-known San Diego law schools came eager to learn everything they could about contract law, torts, and fraud. Now they are graduates, many are unemployed or underemployed, and they’re turning the tables on their alma maters.

Downtown’s Thomas Jefferson School of Law is one of several law schools defending allegations that they lied about their employment statistics to improve their rankings in U.S. News & World Report’s list of best law schools. For Thomas Jefferson, the defense goes like this:

“There is no way in hell, if I put down 100 percent employment, that would change the ranking in U.S. News,” says Rudy Hasl, the school’s dean. “There is no incentive. We’re a fourth-tier law school.”

And yet, four of Thomas Jefferson’s recent graduates sued the law school last year for $50 million, alleging that the school faked its stats. The suit is one of 15 similar complaints filed nationwide, all of which hope to be certified as class actions, including one against California Western School of Law downtown. For those keeping score at home: Two of San Diego’s three law schools face charges of fraud from their own alumni.

“There is no way in hell, if I put down 100 percent employment, that would change the ranking in U.S. News,” says the school’s dean. “There is no incentive. We’re a fourth-tier law school.”

In essence, the complaints say that the law schools, which consistently reported graduates’ employment rates between 80 and 90 percent, lured students to take on as much as $150,000 in debt to finance their legal educations. Once they graduated, these students expected to find lucrative careers to pay off the debt. But as the economy soured, the legal profession, uncharacteristically, tanked, and these students struggled to get any kind of job, let alone jobs that required their expensive degrees. But the schools, following standards set by the American Bar Association, continued to report high employment rates, attracting ever more students.

The plaintiffs say that had they known the schools were juicing the numbers, they would never have attended law school, or, at least, not these law schools.

And now they want the schools to give them a refund.

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