Legal Ethics

Law prof mulls ethics complaints against school officials who publish misleading stats

A University of Missouri law professor says he’s tempted to file ethics complaints against lawyers at law schools who have lied about student data.

Associate law professor Ben Trachtenberg tells Bloomberg Law that such deceit could be an ethics violation under state rules patterned after Rule 8.4 of the ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct, which bars lawyers from engaging in “dishonesty, fraud, deceit and misrepresentation.”

“Almost every day when I get up I have to wonder: Is today the day I’m going to break down and file a complaint?” Trachtenberg tells Bloomberg Law. The timing is probably wrong, he says, because his academic position on the issue could be undercut if he acts as an advocate. He may act, however, if no one else does after the Nebraska Law Review publishes his article on the subject in June 2013. A draft is available here.

The easier case, Trachtenberg says, involves outright lies about grades and LSAT scores of incoming students. But Trachtenberg also believes lawyers at law schools who publish misleading information could also be at risk, particularly if they persist in doing so now that some of the problems are well-known. An example of questionable statistics, he said, is data on average salaries of recent graduates that doesn’t include pay for part-time workers, jobless individuals and people who don’t bother to provide their salary information.

“Lawyers have violated professional conduct rules by engaging in misleading law school marketing, and the worst offenders have thus far avoided professional discipline,” Trachtenberg writes in his draft paper. “Perhaps some bar complaints are in order.”

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