The Rutgers University School of Law - Camden used misleading employment data in a recruitment letter written by Associate Dean of Enrollment Camille Spinello Andrews, according to a complaint filed with the American Bar Association on Monday by Law School Transparency, a nonprofit legal education watchdog group.
Law School Transparency said the recruiting letter, which Above The Law characterized as using the "Get Rich" rationale for enrolling in law school, misrepresented the average salaries of Rutgers-Camden graduates by relying on responses from less than half of its former students. The letter also claimed 90 percent of grads found jobs in the legal field nine months after graduation, but Law School Transparency said only 64 percent of the school's 242 graduates from the class of 2011 currently work as lawyers, Reuters reports.
"It’s not acceptable to provide prospective students with false and misleading information just because the truth is available somewhere else. Interpretation 509-4 to ABA Standard 509 clearly states that reporting consumer information accurately somewhere does not absolve a school’s responsibility to present such information in a fair and accurate manner elsewhere,” the complaint reads.
The group also notes Rutgers-Camden misreported the average indebtedness of its law school graduates to U.S. News & World Report for three years.
At least 75 recent law school graduates in New York, California, Illinois, Delaware and Florida have filed 15 class action lawsuits against their alma maters saying they received misleading information on their job prospects. Most of the suits are filed against lower-tier schools. Five of the suits have been dismissed, but are on appeal.
In March, a New York judge threw out a suit filed by a group of nine New York Law School graduates who sued over allegedly misleading statistics in marketing materials. The school claimed as many as 92 percent of graduates had full-time jobs as lawyers, but that turned out to include part-time jobs too, the Wall Street Journal reports. The graduates claimed they paid too much for their degrees, but Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Melvin Schweitzer said they should have known better as law students.
Earlier this month, a New York appeals court upheld that ruling, though it did concede NYLS "likely left some consumers with an incomplete, if not false, impression of the schools' job placement success."
Ben Trachtenberg of the University of Missouri School of Law told The Wall Street Journal reports that many law schools are likely violating ethics rules:
[R]eporting salary statistics based on unrepresentative samples of graduates; claiming a high percentage of graduates are employed, without specifying whether their jobs are part-time or full-time or whether the jobs require a law degree; under-reporting student debt.
Such practices could violate Rule 8.4(c) of the American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which prohibits lawyers from engaging in "dishonesty, fraud, deceit, and misrepresentation.” The model rules inform ethics codes adopted by the states.
UPDATE, 3:31 p.m.: Cathy K. Donovan, director of Law School Communications at Rutgers–Camden, submitted the following statement to HuffPost: "The Rutgers School of Law–Camden takes its professional and ethical obligations to prospective, current, and past students seriously. According to American Bar Association rules, the process of examination for this complaint is confidential. If asked, we will present our side fully to the ABA. We are confident that we will be vindicated."
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