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Law School Says Lead Plaintiff in Job Stats Suit Against It Turned Down a Full-Time Law Firm Job

Posted Oct 30, 2012 9:00 AM CDT
By Mark Hansen

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A California woman who says she can't find work as a lawyer and is suing the law school she graduated from turned down a $60,000-a-year job from a Southern California law firm shortly after graduation, Thomas Jefferson School of Law says in a court filing.

Anna Alaburda, the lead plaintiff in a class action suit against Thomas Jefferson School of Law, originally accepted the offer from the unnamed firm, but rescinded her acceptance because the firm refused to pay her bar dues and required her to travel to another city to receive one month of job training, according to a document filed in connection with the school's motion for summary judgment.

Alaburda, who is now working part-time as a document examiner, says she was tricked into attending Thomas Jefferson by the San Diego school's misleading post-graduate employment statistics, which indicated that nearly 80 percent or more of its graduates in the past several years were employed nine months after graduation.

Alaburda's lawsuit accuses the school of concealing the fact that those figures include part-time jobs and non law-related positions, misleading prospective students like Alaburda into believing they would be hired as full-time attorneys after graduation, which it says is frequently not the case.

But a memorandum filed in support of Thomas Jefferson's motion for summary judgment, which is scheduled to be heard Nov. 16, says Alaburda now admits that she relied solely on the post-graduate employment figure published each year by U.S. News and World Report to choose a law school and just assumed that figure referred only to permanent full-time attorney positions like the one she turned down.

The actual jobs data provided to U.S. News—and to the ABA Section of Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar and the National Association for Law Placement—is broken down by industry, job type, percentage requiring, preferring and not requiring a law degree, and number of graduates whose employment status is known and unknown, the motion says.

The school also says that Alaburda suffered no cognizable legal injury because she now admits she obtained a full-time attorney position, earning $60,000 a year plus benefits, shortly after graduating.

"Despite successfully obtaining a full-time attorney position within nine months of graduation, Alaburda now alleges that she received 'no value' from her degree because she was 'misled' about her ability to secure a full-time attorney job (even though it is undisputed that she did)," the memorandum (PDF) says.

The memorandum was sent to the ABA Journal by the school Sunday in response to the release last week by the plaintiff's side of a sworn statement by a former law school employee who alleges that she was pressured into inflating the school's 2006 graduate employment data by her former supervisor. School officials said they were doing so in order to "set the record straight." They also said the school would continue its efforts to successfully resolve the lawsuit in the courts.

Brian Procel, Alaburda's lawyer, would say only that the school's memorandum is "wrong on the facts and the law" and that he looked forward to "addressing these issues" in front of the court.

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