Paul L. Caron

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Thomas Jefferson Grad With $170k Debt Working As Uber Driver Sues School Over Misleading Placement Data

Thomas Jefferson Logo (2015)Business Insider, A Guy With $170,000 in Student Loans Who Can't Find a Job in the Legal Profession Is Suing His Law School and Working Full Time for Uber:

Clark Moffatt, 35, says he dreamed of a career in criminal justice when he graduated from San Diego's Thomas Jefferson School of Law in 2006.

But since graduating, he says he's never held a job in the legal profession, or earned more than $25,000 a year. He lives in a rented mobile home and receives food stamps to provide for his wife and two children, he says. ...

Moffatt is one of 12 former TJSL students now suing the law school, which they claim intentionally inflated postgraduation employment figures and salaries in order to lure applicants. ...

Moffatt's story focuses on a young man who once had a seemingly promising future. Moffatt graduated from the University of North Texas in 2003. In college, he says, he excelled academically, making the dean's list every year and graduating with a 4.0 GPA. He was a member of the National Criminal Justice Honor Society and graduated with a bachelor's in degree criminal justice.

TJSL set itself apart by responding to his inquiries quickly, contacting Moffatt to let him know they'd love to have him, he said. That, in addition to the sunny San Diego, California, campus and the good job statistics the school advertised, convinced him that he should attend.

He graduated in May 2006 and immediately started studying for the California bar exam, he said. He failed the bar despite studying, and he took a managerial job at GameStop, a retail video-game store. Though concerned with passing the bar, Moffatt said, he had bigger issues to worry about — like ballooning student-loan debt. He needed a job, any job, to start to pay his bills.

He took the Texas bar exam in 2007, and again he failed. He says he didn't feel that TJSL prepared him well for the exam, a failure he attributes in part to the school's in-house bar-preparation service. ...

Moffatt graduated from college in a virtually unknown position these days — that is, with no student-loan debt. While he won scholarship money to pay for undergrad, Moffatt took out $120,000 in student loans to finance law school. (Tuition at TJSL is $46,000 a year, and law school typically lasts three years.) Unable to pay down his loan on his salary, Moffatt owes more than $170,000 because of accruing interest.

Having not passed the bar exam, Moffatt says he started looking for any job even tangentially related to his law degree. "One of the things they say about a law degree is that it's universal," Moffatt said. "Everyone needs people with legal education. Whether it is for paralegal work or investigations."

With that in mind, he went in numerous directions, applying for jobs everywhere from financial institutions to community colleges. "Oftentimes, I wouldn't even get a call back," he said. "A TJSL degree is not really that highly attractive to employers, I guess."

To date, Moffatt has never held a job in the legal profession. He's the primary caregiver for his children as his wife is terminally ill with cancer and does not have the ability to care from them.

"Currently I'm a driver for Uber full time," he said. Moffatt, like some other Uber drivers, struggles to make ends meet.

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It's a sad story, but it seems that a lot of his problems may be more related to family health issues rather than going to law school:

"To date, Moffatt has never held a job in the legal profession. He's the primary caregiver for his children as his wife is terminally ill with cancer and does not have the ability to care from [sic] them."

This is really a story about the need for universal healthcare and taxpayer funded childcare so that sole breadwinners can work and support their families.

Posted by: sad | Dec 24, 2015 8:21:30 AM

Sy Ablelman:

Yeah, but what if Chevrolet made claims like:
- gets 50 MPG, when Chevrolet knew the real number was 25
- will function for 30 years, when Chevrolet knew the real number was 15
- can drive 75 MPH, when Chevrolet knew the max was 37.5 MPH

Saying that the average starting salary of your graduates is X, when you know that it is half of X, is not analogous to advertising "This truck is like a rock." If this X example is in fact what happened, his suit is not speculative but rather a clear case of fraud, which majorly set back his career, and for which he should be entitled to damages from the tortfeasor both under the law and in terms of basic fairness. Do you disagree?

The sad reality is that there are likely many thousands of victims of this fraud who are in the same shoes as him, but who have chosen not to step forward and pursue legal action. Many schools ranked 15th to 75th are very lucky not to have been sued with respect to what took place. It's actually textbook fraud, but most victims didn't want to start their career bringing lawsuits against law schools.

Posted by: anon. 25 | Dec 23, 2015 8:01:56 AM

This suit is Prima facia evidence in of itself that he did not learn anything in law school. His law suit is speculative at best. Nobody would seriously think about suing Chevrolet Motor Division for false advertising when they claim their trucks are like rocks. Rocks last forever, a Chevy will disintegrate after two Chicago winters. There were no promises made. I see many similarities here. Or to be fair, Ford has Better Ideas? Really? Than what? Law School was a chance, an opportunity.

Posted by: Sy Ablelman | Dec 22, 2015 6:19:28 PM

I fail to understand why this sophisticated consumer simply does not use his $1mm law degree premium to repay his debts and to live a glamorous lifestyle.

In all seriousness, this is a sad case. I would like all law faculty to observe that Mr. Moffatt is "employed!" for purposes of law school marketing. As in "[some percentage North of 90, but South of general unemployment rate] percent of our law graduates are employed within 10 months of graduation!"

Posted by: Jojo | Dec 22, 2015 11:32:45 AM