December 22, 2012
NY Law School Wins Round 2 In Fraud Case
Gomez-Jimenez v. New York Law School, ____A.D.3d____(1st Dept. Dec. 20, 2012), is an important case which we reported on earlier. It is one in a series of cases challenging reporting practices of law schools across the cournty with respect to employment data. Plaintiff's theory was basically that New York Law School's published statistics were fraudlent and misleading. While the court affirmed the motion to dismiss against New York Law School, it did say some things which greatly trouble me as a member of the adjunct faculty at this school. Specifically, the court stated:
While we are troubled by the unquestionably less than candid and incomplete nature of defendant's disclosures, a party does not violate GBL 349 by simply publishing truthful information and allowing consumers to make their own assumptions about the nature of the information (see Andre Strishak & Assoc. v Hewlett Packard Co. 300 AD2d 608, 609-610 [2nd Dept 2002]; St. Patrick's Home for Aged & Infirm v Laticrete Intl., 264 AD2d 652, 655-656 [1st Dept 1999]; see also Corcino v Filstein, 32 AD3d 201, 202 [1st Dept 2006]). Accordingly, we find that defendant's disclosures were not materially deceptive or misleading (id.). . . .
We are not unsympathetic to plaintiffs' concerns. We recognize that students may be susceptible to misrepresentations by law school. As such, "[t]his Court does not necessarily agree [with Supreme Court] that [all] college graduates are particularly sophisticated in making career or business decisions" (MacDonald, 2012 WL 2994107, at *10). As a result, they sometimes make decisions to yoke themselves and their spouses and/or their children to a crushing burden because the schools have made misleading representations that give the impression that a full time job is easily obtainable when in fact it is not.
Given this reality, it is important to remember that the practice of law is a noble profession that takes pride in its high ethical standards. Indeed, in order to join and continue to enjoy the privilege of being an active member of the legal profession, every prospective and active member of the profession is called upon to demonstrate candor and honesty. This requirement is not a trivial one. For the profession to continue to ensure that its members remain candid and honest public servants, all segments of the profession must work in concert to instill the importance of those values. "In the last analysis, the law is what the lawyers are. And the law and the lawyers are what the law schools make them."[FN3] Defendant and its peers owe prospective students more than just barebones compliance with their legal obligations. Defendant and its peers are educational not-for-profit institutions [FN4]. They should be dedicated to advancing the public welfare [FN5]. In that vein, defendant and its peers have at least an ethical [*6]obligation of absolute candor to their prospective students.
I am not involved in this case and I only know what I read. I have been at New York Law School for about 8 years and everyone has gone out of their way to serve and help students. I do not believe that anyone would intentionally mislead a student. Perhaps, this is why I find the court's language troubling-deeply troubling. As adjunct professors, we do not get to go to faculty meetings and we are not kept informed about the governance of the school, and that is very unfortunate. I would hope that New York Law School puts out some communication explaining its position.
Mitchell H. Rubinstein
My friends and I (class of 2008) have also followed this case with heated interest and debate. I actually welcome the Justice Acosta's well-reasoned and written decision. While I agree that New York Law School did not commit fraud, there definitely is a strange odor coming out the kitchen. This explains why law school matriculation is plummeting (a drop from 98 thousand to 68 thousand in 9 years) http://www.lsac.org/lsacresources/data/lsac-volume-summary.asp.
Fact is that New York Law School (although to be fair, not solely New York Law School) has exorbitantly raised tuition in just the four years since I graduated by an astouding 25%. It was $39,500 a year when I was there. It is now $49,500. This does not include living expenses (any rube knows New York City isn't cheap), books, and interest (6.8%). Someone who matriculates there now, without a scholarship, will owe $250,000 at graduation. This translates to $1629 a month on just their education the student will have to pay, assuming a 30 year payoff- much higher payment on a shorter term of say, 10 years. This, to put it mildly, is a crushing burden (I would state it in more graphic terms in private). Obtaining gainful legal employment to justify this kind of debt payment has become a Sisyphean struggle.
I am not pointing a finger at the law schools for forces beyond their control, but the demand for legal employment is plummeting- many graduates at many schools have dealt with revoked offers (assuming they receive them). Corporations are refusing to pay firms' billing demands. Middle class individuals cannot afford attorneys for divorces, employment discrimination cases, criminal matters, etc. Municipalities have seen their budgets cut and aren't hiring attorneys that I'm sure they would like to hire in-house. Technology advances (Legal Zoom, discovery companies), the outsourcing of certain types of law practice to 'consultants,' 'hr,' 'contract administrators,' claims-analysts (not to mention foreign attorneys being able to do certain work) are also diminishing employment opportunities. While this is not the cause or even problem of law schools, neither New York Law School, nor many if ANY law schools have acknowledged this in concrete terms to prospective applicants. Instead, they throw up a "we follow the ABA guidelines," non-sequiter.
I will not address the intentions of the law school faculty- but it doesn't matter what they say or do, nothing can force a law firm, or government agency to hire an attorney when they cannot afford it, regardless of how much a law professor implores them to do so.
Finally, I will leave a quote regarding the legal academy from the former New York Law School Dean, regarding costs, employment outcomes for graduates, etc- "We should be ashamed of ourselves." http://www.abajournal.com/news/article/law_dean_says_schools_exploiting_students_who_dont_succeed
Posted by: Sujan Vasavada | Dec 24, 2012 9:15:49 AM