The lawyer who sued her law school has a cast iron case now

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 full-time, salaried job as a lawyer, she says.

A jury voted nine to three to reject her claims.

Sure, she lost, but she’ll obviously win the next round.

Either the school was negligent in not teaching her which cases to pursue, which could be won, or negligent in not teaching her how to win those that could be won.

That’ll be $5 million plus court fees please!

21 thoughts on “The lawyer who sued her law school has a cast iron case now”

  1. ‘she chose the Thomas Jefferson School of Law after consulting popular law school guides.’

    Sue the guides.

    ‘The San Diego school’s listing said that just over 80 percent of its graduates were employed nine months after they graduated.’

    Now she needs a math degree. Actually, grade school math would be sufficient.

    .80 1.00

  2. The Law School could argue that it didn’t issue the figures; or if it did they didn’t mean what she thought they meant; or if they did, the School didn’t imply that they’d continue unchanged in the future; or if it did, it was unreasonable to assume that it had second sight; or if it wasn’t, ……

  3. It is a bit like this (but not entirely): The Paradox of the Court, also known as the counterdilemma of Euathlus, is a very old problem in logic stemming from ancient Greece. It is said that the famous sophist Protagoras took on a pupil, Euathlus, on the understanding that the student pay Protagoras for his instruction after he wins his first court case. After instruction, Euathlus decided to not enter the profession of law, and Protagoras decided to sue Euathlus for the amount owed.

    Protagoras argued that if he won the case he would be paid his money. If Euathlus won the case, Protagoras would still be paid according to the original contract, because Euathlus would have won his first case.

    Euathlus, however, claimed that if he won, then by the court’s decision he would not have to pay Protagoras. If, on the other hand, Protagoras won, then Euathlus would still not have won a case and would therefore not be obliged to pay.

    The question is: which of the two men is in the right?

    The story is related by the Latin author Aulus Gellius in Attic Nights.[1]

  4. .8 < 1?

    Nah. I used a pair of angle brackets to note "not equal." The server took it as hypertext, and not text.

    The defendant said 80% of graduates are placed. 80% is not 100%.

    I'm thinking the defendant should counter sue the plaintiff for screwing up their placement statistics.

  5. Not too dissimilar to how British universities operate when recruiting students. I’ve yet to come across a single one that promotes employment statistics more detailed than ‘X% of our students find a job within three months of graduating!’. Perhaps that’s down to HEFCE’s limited polling of graduates; perhaps it’s down to the universities being circumspect. Neither help to provide an accurate or meaningful picture for young, prospective students.

  6. Polidorisghost: Good question. This is what Wiki says:

    From a moral standpoint it may be that either party was right, or that both weren’t, due to the ambiguous nature of the scenario. However, as a matter of law, if the Court were to rule in favor of Protagoras, the conditions of the original contract between him and his pupil would be invalid and Euathlus would have to pay Protagoras. If, on the other hand, Euathlus were to win, the Court could also void Euathlus’s obligation of payment.

    However, from an objective standpoint, the way the Court could make its ruling is not necessarily a paradox either. The Court would either rule that Euathlus (as the defendant) had violated the terms of the contract, or had not. The subsequent conundrum would have no legal bearing on the court’s decision.

    In some civil cases the respondent, if he receives the favor of the court, is also shielded from payments associated with the act of going to court. The Court could indeed rule that Protagoras, as the unsuccessful plaintiff, pay Euathlus the amount which it cost to win. In this case, Euathlus would pay Protagoras only to have the money returned by order of the court. The original contract would have been fulfilled, and Euathlus would bear no further obligation to pay Protagoras for his instruction. The net outcome for Protagoras would be to lose his case, receive payment per the original contract, and then have to pay for the defendant’s losses due to his failed suit (Which would be equal to, or exceeding, the cost of Euathlus’s education.)

    Additionally, but contrary to the law of Ancient Athens where defendants were obligated to represent themselves in court,[2] Euathlus could hire a lawyer to take on the case, thus invalidating this case as a standard for payment. Legal counsel in the form of a logographos[3] was only permitted outside the courtroom for both defendants and accusers.

    The Two Case Solution:

    This solution asserts that there are in fact two legal arguments to be resolved

    i) Protagoras argues that an unwritten clause of the original contract is that the student must enter into the profession of law.

    If Protagoras wins this case then Euathlus must pay. If Protagoras loses then Euathlus must pay under the original contract. However, in this event Euathlus may argue…

    ii) An unwritten assumption of the contract is that cases between the two individuals are exempt from the contract. Citing logical rules preventing the application of a condition to itself.

    Euathlus can only avoid payment if he wins both case i) and ii).

    Other versions of the paradox:

    In some versions Protagoras would demand the money if and only if Euathlus wins his first court case.[4] Some accounts claim that Protagoras demanded his money as soon as Euathlus completed his education, others say that Protagoras waited until it was obvious that Euathlus was making no effort to take on clients[5] and still others[6] assert that Euathlus made a genuine attempt but that no clients ever came.

  7. PS, personally, I think it is a question of deciding which forum is going to be decisive. The Court or the original contract.

  8. “Nah. I used a pair of angle brackets to note “not equal.”” I dare say, but “0.8 < 1" is superior anyway, denoting both inequality and its direction.

  9. “Not too dissimilar to how British universities operate when recruiting students. I’ve yet to come across a single one that promotes employment statistics more detailed than ‘X% of our students find a job within three months of graduating!’. Perhaps that’s down to HEFCE’s limited polling of graduates; perhaps it’s down to the universities being circumspect. Neither help to provide an accurate or meaningful picture for young, prospective students.”

    What do you expect them to say? It’s virtually impossible to track ex-students after they leave. Even those ‘after 3 months’ figures (or, more usually, ‘after 6 months figures’) are based on a tiny sample, and Universities only provide those numbers in the first place because the government twists their arm and forces them to make it all about jobs.

  10. So Much For Subtlety

    Gamecock – “Suing a box of lawyers doesn’t sound very bright. Suing the ones that taught you even dumber.”

    It may be a case of mutually assured destruction, but it is also a case where the School cannot win. If they lose, they have to pay. If they win, their education is worthless.

    Either way the publicity is terrible. They should have paid out quietly.

  11. 37 years old and loading herself with $150,000 of debt to try to become a lawyer. People make such strange life decisions.

  12. SMFS,

    “It may be a case of mutually assured destruction, but it is also a case where the School cannot win. If they lose, they have to pay. If they win, their education is worthless.

    Either way the publicity is terrible. They should have paid out quietly.”

    I’m glad that lawyer said that a degree was no guarantee of a good job. That’s probably lost them more income from students not signing up than just paying out $120K.

    I mean, a lot of us know this, but some of us don’t. Some people really see it as the equivalent of a golden ticket. It’s what fills all those psychology and photography degree courses (photography education takes days, the rest is experience).

  13. @ Cal
    It’s worse than that: a lot of them say “X% are in work *or education* six months after graduating”.
    In some Oxbridge colleges a large %age take DPhil/PhDs and go on to be university professors or research scientists, but in third-class universities some of those “in education” are because they couldn’t find a job.

  14. There is no such thing as bad publicity.

    SRsly, who ever heard of Thomas Jefferson School of Law before?

  15. Bloke in Costa Rica

    Christ the HTML escaping on this site is fucked. Ampersand-hash-8800-semicolon, Ampersand-hash-x-2260-semicolon.

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