纽约时报:法学院毕业当不上律师能怪学校吗?陪审团:不能

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法学院毕业当不上律师能怪学校吗?陪审团:不能


纽约时报讯:(文章后附英文原文)

 
上周四——圣地亚哥的一个陪审团驳回了法学毕业生安娜·阿拉布尔达(Anna Alaburda)的申诉。她此前宣称,托马斯杰斐逊法学院(Thomas Jefferson School of Law)虚报毕业就业数据,以此诱骗她入学。

这是此类案件首次到达庭审阶段,大概也是最后一次。现年37岁的阿拉布尔达提出,该校夸大了学生毕业后的就业率数据,而她就是信了这个虚假的数据才选择入学的。

她表示,2008年毕业时自己一共欠下了15万美元(约合98万元人民币)的债务,却一直没法找到一份带薪的全职律师工作。

陪审团以九比三的票数驳回了她的申诉。

不过,与试图将母校告上法庭却以失败告终的其他十多名心怀不满的法律工作者不同,阿拉布尔达在过去五年中挺过了让案子泡汤的多次尝试。这些人控告的原因是,法学院将学生毕业后从事服务员、酒保等职业当作全职法律工作来统计。

托马斯·杰斐逊法学院坚称自己提供的就业数据无误。学校的代理律师迈克尔·沙利文(Michael Sullivan)提出,得到法学学位并不能保证找到薪资优厚的工作。

“我不会在此告诉大家,法学学位就能保证事业成功,保证财源滚滚,”沙利文告诉陪审团。“它办不到。没有任何学位能办到。”

在圣迭戈高等法院本月进行的庭审中,阿拉布尔达表示,她之所以选择托马斯·杰斐逊法学院,首先是查看了一些出名的法学院指南,比如《美国新闻与世界报道》(U.S. News &amp; World Report)的2004年度最佳研究生院排行榜。位于圣迭戈的托马斯·杰斐逊法学院宣称,其毕业生在离校九个月后的就业率略高于80%。

“我明白它的竞争力比不上一二线的法学院,不过数据看起来还是不错的,而且有美国律师协会(A.B.A.)的认证,”阿拉布尔达告诉陪审团。

“所以我以为,申请这所学校是个不错的选择。” 

还有其他一些法学院毕业生以六位数的债务和误导性的就业数据为由试图让母校担责,涉及的法学院分布在全美各地。大约15桩此类诉讼没能见到陪审团就不了了之。

阿拉布尔达援引的法律依据是加利福尼亚州保护民众免受欺诈的条款。这是第一个见到了陪审团的同类案子。不过,法官早前驳回了她试图将其定为集体诉讼的请求,阻止了获得更高赔偿金的可能。阿拉布尔达毕业后从事了一系列兼职的法律援助工作,在本案中要求获得12.5万美元的薪资损失,外加返还学杂费。 

2008年美国经济放缓之后,初级法律工作岗位缩减。法学毕业生背负着六位数的债务,职业前景却颇为渺茫。自那以后,美国律师协会采取了一些措施,要求法学院更为坦诚地告知学生毕业后的就业去向。 

时至今日,这两百多家获得协会认证的法学院必须公布更详细的就业分类数据,包括是否为全职工作。尽管如此,批评人士认为,此次陪审团做出的决定让学校脱了身。

“这次的判决给法学院的系统性欺骗发了通行证,还有美国律师协会的背书,”法学院透明度组织(Law School Transparency)的执行总监凯尔·麦肯蒂(Kyle McEntee)说。这是一家非营利组织,倡导法学院发布更精确的数据。


Law Graduate Who Sued Her School Loses at Trial

A jury in San Diego on Thursday rejected claims by a law graduate, Anna Alaburda, that the Thomas Jefferson School of Law enticed her to enroll by using misleading graduate employment figures.

In the first — and perhaps last — such case to reach the courtroom, Ms. Alaburda, 37, argued that the school reported a higher percentage of its graduates landed jobs after graduation than was actually the case, and that she relied on the bogus data to choose to attend the school. 
 
After amassing more than $150,000 in debt to graduate in 2008, she has been unable to find a fulltime, salaried job as a lawyer, she says. 
 
A jury voted nine to three to reject her claims. 

Still, unlike more than a dozen other disgruntled lawyers who have tried but failed to bring their former law schools to trial for counting their graduates’ postdegree jobs such as waitresses and bartenders as full-time legal employment, Ms. Alaburda survived attempts over the past five years to sink her case.
 
 Thomas Jefferson stood by its employment figures. Its lawyer, Michael Sullivan, argued that earning a law degree was not a guarantee of a well-paying job.  “I’m not here to tell you a law degree is a guarantee of career success, is a guarantee of riches,” Mr. Sullivan told the jury. “It’s not. No degree is.”  

At trial in San Diego Superior Court this month, Ms. Alaburda said she chose Thomas Jefferson after consulting popular law school guides, including the 2004 edition of best graduate schools by U.S. News &amp; World Report. The San Diego school’s listing said that just over 80 percent of its graduates were employed nine months after they graduated. 
 
“I knew it wasn’t as competitive as first- or second-tier law schools, but it still had pretty decent statistics and was A.B.A. accredited,” she told the jury. 

“So I thought it was a pretty decent school to apply to.”  
 Other law school graduates, citing six-figure debt and misleading employment data, have tried to hold law schools around the country accountable. About 15 such lawsuits were derailed before they reached a jury.
 
Ms. Alaburda, who invoked California state fraud protections, was the first to get her case before a jury even though a judge earlier rejected her effort to certify her claim as a class-action lawsuit, with potentially high-dollar damage awards. Ms. Alaburda, who has worked in a series of part-time legal support jobs, asked for $125,000 for lost wages and reimbursement of tuition and fees.
 
Entry-level legal jobs began shrinking after the 2008 economic slowdown, and law graduates were left saddled with six-figure debt loads and limited job prospects. Since then, the American Bar Association has been taking steps to require law schools to be more open about postgraduate job placement.   
 
While the 200-plus accredited law schools must now publish a more detailed breakdown of their employment data, including whether jobs are full time or part time, critics said the jury’s decision lets schools off the hook. 

 “This verdict ratifies the systematic deception by law schools, blessed by the American Bar Association,” said Kyle McEntee, executive director of Law School Transparency, a nonprofit that campaigns for law schools to disclose more accurate data. 


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