Thomas Jefferson School of Law Graduate Loses Lawsuit Against School
Anna Alaburda sued her law alma mater, Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, California, alleging that the school misled her and enticed her to enroll. Alaburda sued for about $125,000 in lost wages and tuition reimbursement, given that she claimed she hasn’t been able to find a full salaried legal job since graduating from the law school in 2008. However, this week Alaburda received bad news–the jury voted nine to three in favor of the school, and she won’t be receiving any money.
Alaburda claimed that Thomas Jefferson Law misrepresented the employment data of its graduates. For example, the 2003 report from Thomas Jefferson Law showed that around 80 percent of its graduates were employed nine months after graduation. Alaburda claims that she relied upon that data when she came to the conclusion to attend Thomas Jefferson Law. She claims that the data was misleading because the school didn’t report that not all of those jobs were in the legal field–according to Gary Wrath of the Los Angeles Times:
Alaburda’s attorney during the trial said the school didn’t disclose that some of those graduates were working in book stores, restaurants, hair salons and even selling tractors.
Alaburda’s attorneys also argued that Thomas Jefferson Law reported some unemployed students as employed and disposed of other employment surveys that would accurately report the school’s true alumni employment outlook.
Law schools were hit hard by the late 2000s recession, mostly because legal jobs became harder to come by. Enrollment is down, and other students have accused their schools of using duplicitous conduct to attract students. There are believed to have been 15 similar suits filed around the country. For example, Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco and the University of San Francisco School of Law have been on the receiving end of similar lawsuits. The suit against Golden Gate University was settled, and five graduates were awarded approximately $8,000 each. However, legal experts believe that Alaburda’s case is actually the first to make it to a jury trial.
While this case ended in a victory for Thomas Jefferson Law, the calls for more transparency and answers from law schools will likely continue for years to come.