ABC News, Lawsuits Part of Call for More Transparency at Law Schools:
Nikki Nguyen left a $50,000-a-year job at Boeing Co. in 2006 to pursue a law degree at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, her sister's successful career as a corporate attorney providing a glimpse of the possibilities she imagined ahead of her.
Instead, she struggled for more than a year to find a job after she graduated and watched her student loan debt of over $180,000 balloon.
Nguyen, 34, is among 12 former Thomas Jefferson students who are suing the university in a California court, accusing it of inflating its graduates' employment figures and salaries to attract students. "They weren't transparent," said Nguyen, whose case is scheduled to go to trial in March. "People who have a dream of law school should go into it with their eyes wide open." ...
Nguyen's lawsuit is among more than a dozen similar ones filed in recent years against law schools, including Golden Gate University School of Law in San Francisco and the University of San Francisco School of Law. Though most of the suits have been dismissed, critics say they point to a need for greater regulation and transparency for law schools, so prospective students know their employment prospects, the debt they will incur and even their chances of successfully passing the bar.
"Schools are setting up a lot of people to fail," said Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, a nonprofit legal education policy group that had no involvement with the lawsuits.
Thomas Jefferson reported post-graduation employment figures that exceeded 70 percent and topped 90 percent in 2010, but did not disclose that those figures included part-time and non-legal work such as a pool cleaner and a sales clerk at Victoria's Secret and were based on a small sample of graduates, according to Nguyen's lawsuit and her attorney, Brian Procel. The lawsuit further alleges that the school routinely reported unemployed students as employed and shredded surveys and other documents that reflected a more accurate employment picture. ...
The lawsuits against Golden Gate University and the University of San Francisco also alleged the schools were misrepresenting their post-graduate employment figures. The Golden Gate lawsuit was settled, with each of the five plaintiffs receiving $8,000, according to a May 2015 court filing. The case against the University of San Francisco was dismissed in May. ...
Nguyen said she now owes more than $200,000. Though she works in a paralegal-type position and lives with her sister, she said she has not been able to touch the principal on her loan.
McEntee said many law schools have begun taking students with lower LSAT scores and no chance of passing the bar in order to keep their enrollment numbers up.
Nguyen's lawsuit also accuses Thomas Jefferson of accepting students with lower grade point averages and LSAT scores. The lawsuit seeks restitution and damages believed to be in excess of $1.5 million.