It’s Too Bad that the Ethical Canons Don’t Apply to Law Schools – Part II

The lawsuit against New York Law School was tossed from court this week. The story is here.  A key piece of the decision (via the ABA Journal):

“The court does not view these post-graduate employment statistics to be misleading in a material way for a consumer acting reasonably,” the judge wrote. “By anyone’s definition, reasonable consumers—college graduates—seriously considering law schools are a sophisticated subset of education consumers, capable of sifting through data and weighing alternatives before making a decision regarding their post-college options, such as applying for professional school. These reasonable consumers have available to them any number of sources of information to review when making their decisions.”

(Emphasis added).

I think that the evidence is quite to the contrary. If prospective law students do in fact represent a sophisticated subset of education consumers, and they were duped in droves by job placement statistics, then the statistics were, in fact, misleading in a material way.
The question is whether their reliance was “reasonable.” Given how many people did rely to a greater or lesser extent on those statistics (present company included), its hard to argue that our reliance was unreasonable, unless you conclude that the vast majority of prospective law students are unreasonable.  (While there is plenty of evidence to support this, usually reasonableness gauged by what the average person would have done in the same circumstances). This presents a rather unworkable standard.
Until the last couple of years, the prospective student who kicked the tires on his or her potential school’s employment or other statistics would have been in the extreme minority.  The prevailing mood in our society, for generations, has been to place trust in institutions of higher learning as bastions of meritocracy, political and academic independence and integrity. So yes, it was reasonable for prospective students to trust that law schools were not engaging in Enron-style tricks to improve their post-graduation job placement stats.
The education market, by the way, is starting to sort this out.
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