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Law Graduate Sues Former School after Failing to Find Job as a Lawyer

Despite having graduated from Thomas Jefferson School of Law, in the top tier of her class, in 2008, Anna Alaburda still hasn’t been able to find work as a lawyer. The disgruntled 37-year-old is now blaming her alma mater for the unfortunate situation, claiming that the school manipulated the employment statistics of its graduates in a bid to lure students. She’s suing them, hoping to recover the $170,000 she still owes in student loans.

In an ideal situation, working as a lawyer would have more than made up for the cost of Alaburda’s law degree. But since her graduation in 2008, she claims that she’s only served part-time positions and temp jobs reviewing documents for law firms. In her lawsuit she mentions that if she’d known what was in store for her after graduation, she would have never attended the school. Anna also pointed out that the average student debt at Thomas Jefferson was about $137,000 in 2008, but the school’s bar passage rate has been consistently lower than 50 percent.

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Photo: video caption

As shocking as it sounds, Alaburda isn’t the first law-school graduate attempting to sue her own school. Several other graduates who attended law school in the hope of securing a stable, high-paying job are yet to find employment in the legal profession. Many of them have filed cases against their schools, but none of them ever went to trial. In 2012, Justice Melvin L. Schweitzer of the New York Supreme Court, wrote  that students would have to be “wearing blinders” not to see that a “goodly number of law school graduates toil in drudgery or have less than hugely successful careers.” He had dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine students against New York Law School, demanding $225 million in damages for being misled by the school’s employment figures.

But in Alaburda’s case, which went to trial on March 7 in San Diego, Judge Joel M. Pressman ruled against the school’s efforts to scrap the suit. He agreed that withholding transparent and accurate information from students can be damaging, making the Thomas Jefferson the first school to go to trial on such charges. The school, of course, has dismissed her claims as “meritless”, adding that it has a “strong track record of producing successful graduates, with 7,000 alumni working nationally and internationally.”

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Photo: video caption

But there’s one thing even the school can’t deny – the drastic drop in enrollment rates at law schools since 2010. It seems that fewer and fewer students are willing to take the risk of paying off a student debt, when thousands of former law graduates remain unemployed. According to Paul Campos, a law professor at the University of Colorado who studied the legal job market in 2011, nearly 45 percent of the 45,000 students who graduate each year are unable to find jobs in the field. But in that year he found that most law schools were reporting employment rates of about 80 percent or more. The sad reality, he says, is that most of the students currently enrolled in law schools are never going to work as lawyers.

As for Alaburda, she is fighting her legal battle in California, where the protection laws are stronger. If she does end up prevailing in her suit, law schools might finally be forced to be more honest and transparent with their employment statistics.

Sources: The New York Times, CBS News

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