Friday a federal judge ruled that because “the [employment and salary] statistics provided by Cooley and other law schools in a format required by the ABA were so vague and incomplete as to be meaningless,” those statistics “could not reasonably be relied upon.” Therefore anybody who did rely on those statistics could not claim to have been defrauded, since the statistics were too fraudulent to defraud reasonable people (If this argument makes sense to you, you have what is called a legal mind).
Over the last year and a half enough pressure has been brought to bear on the ABA’s Section of Legal Education that the lower-tier law school deans and faculty who control it have been forced to disgorge school-specific employment (but not salary) information. People who apply to Cooley and other law schools can go to an ABA web page and look up how many 2011 graduates of those schools supposedly got full-time long-term jobs requiring bar admission.
There they will learn that Cooley reported 375 of 999 2011 graduates got such jobs (that’s approximately 37.5% for us English majors). That sounds pretty awful, but even this dire number is probably significantly overstated. Leaving aside the fact that 21.3% of those “jobs” consist of the 80 2011 Cooley grads who listed themselves as solo practitioners, if we go to Cooley’s web page and dig around long enough to actually find the placement data page, we will find this footnote in small print underneath the first employment table (brought to my attention by a law professor who prefers to remain nameless):
NOTE: The ABA advised schools to determine and report every graduate’s full-time/long- or short-term and part-time/long- or short-term employment status, even if a graduate did not voluntarily supply complete information. Of those 2011 graduates reporting sufficient information for Cooley to make this determination, slightly more than 87 percent reported full-time/long-term employment. Based on this high percentage, the default classification for those lacking complete data was full-time/long-term unless Cooley had evidence to contradict that classification.
Note also that graduates working for legal temporary agencies were classified as full time/long term due to the nature of their employment contract with the temporary agency.
Did you get that? Cooley grads who didn’t indicate whether they were employed full-time, or long-term, were simply classified by the school as employed in full-time long-term jobs unless the school “had evidence to contradict that classification.” (I suspect they didn’t look too hard for such evidence).
This methodology produces some remarkable comparative results. For instance, according to Cooley’s calculations, 91.7% of its 2011 grads who had legal jobs were in full-time/long-term positions, which is a higher percentage than Cornell (85.5%), UCLA (72.5%), Notre Dame (72.8%), and indeed the vast majority of ABA law schools.
Of course it helps pump up a bottom-feeding law school’s “full-time/long-term” employment rate when it counts temporary document review positions as full-time long-term employment, which is precisely what Cooley has done. I can only imagine what jesuitical arguments were deployed by whoever decided that the “nature” of temp agency employment contracts required grads on doc review gigs the day their employment status was determined to be counted as employed in “long-term” positions (Most temp agency doc review positions last a few weeks. If you’re curious about the life, JD Underground has a whole section devoted to it).
So even now Cooley continues to pump its employment stats full of as much hot air as its administrators think they can get away with. What’s remarkable is that, even when presented in this gamed-up form, the stats required by the brand new reporting regimes reveal how flat-out crazy anyone would have to be to attend Cooley (with exceptions as always for the independently wealthy and people who just need a law license to step into a guaranteed job).
Those stats indicate that Cooley was able to determine that a total of 10.9% of the school’s 2011 grads were making a salary of $46,000 or more, at a school where the average level of law school debt at graduation (not total educational debt) is now over $115,000. Nearly 40% of the class was either completely unemployed or had an unknown employment status. That the employment status of 263 out of 999 2011 Cooley grads was unknown is perhaps the single most remarkable aspect of the school’s employment statistics. (The other four law schools in the state graduated 1,074 people in 2011. A total of nine of these graduates had an unknown employment status).
I guess Cooley figures that what the school doesn’t know can’t hurt it. Hopefully fewer and fewer law school applicants are employing the same logic.