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Study at Law School is an “Investment” not a ''Consumer Purchase''

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On July 20, 2012, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Michigan Southern Division dismissed a lawsuit brought against Cooley Law School by 12 former students and graduates. While many of the law graduates were meaningfully employed in the legal arena, and some had their solo or small law firm practices, some had fared so poorly that they deemed it inequitable, given the representations the law school made to incoming students.
Why the lawsuit against Cooley Law School was dismissed

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Why the dismissal of the case against Cooley Law is important

This case, in general, reflects the grievances of law graduates who have failed to find positions aligned with their ambitions. And this is why it is important to learn the weaknesses the court found in the arguments of the former students against their law school.

This article explains what's really going on at Thomas Cooley Law SchoolThomas Cooley Law School Exposed (and Why Much of the Legal Profession is a Scam)

The court papers of the judgment in Case 1:11-cv-00831-GJQ Doc #54 Filed 07/20/12 Page 6 of 22 Page ID#962 mentions “Shane Hobbs has worked as substitute teacher and day laborer at a golf course since graduation. Danny Wakefield manages the deliveries of telephone books. Steve Baron is unemployed.” Without contradiction, these are quite unacceptable futures for persons holding a JD from an accredited law school.

However, the dismissal of the case by former graduates against their law school also shows the stand of the law and why, the decision to borrow or spend money for an education at a law school is seen as an investment and not as a consumer purchase amenable to the protection of consumer rights. Though Cooley Law's case concerned the consumer protection law in Michigan, a similar lawsuit in New York had also been dismissed earlier on similar causes and reasoning.

The grievances the former students of Cooley Law placed before the court

The dismissal order of the case made by the former students of Cooley Law mentions:
“Plaintiffs allege that “Cooley is primarily marketing its product to naïve, relatively unsophisticated consumers – many of whom are barely removed from college – who are often making their first ‘big-ticket' purchase.” In turn, Cooley's alleged misrepresentations led Plaintiffs to take on tens of thousands of dollars in debt so that they could attend Cooley. … According to the complaint, in 2009, twice as many people passed the bar as there were job openings. In addition, the national median salary for recent graduates has declined a great amount.”

In essence, the above grievances sum up all general grievances that any unsuccessful law graduate might possess against his/her law school.

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The court's reasoning in denying the protection of Michigan Consumer Protection Law in the case

Barring the citations and mentions of stare decisis the following passage sums up the reasoning of the court in dismissing the claims of the former law students of Cooley Law:
“Plaintiffs did not purchase a Cooley legal education so that they could leisurely read and understand Supreme Court Reports, or to provide legal services for themselves or family members. Rather, Plaintiffs purchased a legal education in order to make money as lawyers so that they could live a lifestyle that they believed (perhaps naively) would be more pleasing to them. This is a business purpose. Of course, making more money can lead to happiness, or not. … but this would not change the fundamental purpose of the purchase – “primarily for business or commercial.” Plaintiffs “intended” their legal employment to subsequently better their personal circumstances, these better “personal circumstances” would be attained through their work as lawyers, i.e. a business. See Baptichon v. Thomas M. Cooley Law Sch., No. 1:09-cv-562, 2009 WL 5214911, at *6-*7 (W.D. Mich. Dec. 28, 2009) (finding, in an action by a former Cooley student against Cooley, that the “Plaintiff attended Cooley (i.e., purchased its services) so that he could obtain work and start his own business,” and therefore, the MCPA did not apply because the plaintiff purchased the services for a business or commercial purpose). Likewise, this Court holds that the Complaint does not allege a claim under the Michigan Consumer Protection Act.”

The court also denied other counts alleging fraud and misrepresentation in employment data, but that is not the subject of this article. There have been a number of law suits filed against law schools for misrepresenting employment data by former students, but essentially all those complaints boil down to whether the law students have any legal right upon which they can successfully challenge that they had been misled and thus have a cause of action. The rights of a consumer have been claimed in almost all of these lawsuits filed by former law students against law schools. As decisions over such lawsuits start, we find that courts are also following similar reasoning in dismissing such lawsuits and holding law school education as an investment for future gain, and not to be confused with a consumer purchase where the marketer can be sued for misrepresentation.

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About Harrison Barnes
Harrison Barnes is the founder of LawCrossing and an internationally recognized expert in attorney search and placement. Harrison is extremely committed to and passionate about the profession of legal placement. Harrison’s writings about attorney careers and placement attract millions of reads each year. LawCrossing has been ranked on the Inc. 500 twice. For more information, please visit Harrison Barnes’ bio.

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Truly great mentors are like parents, doctors, therapists, spiritual figures, and others because in order to help you they need to expose you to pain and expose your weaknesses. But suppose you act on the advice and pain created by a mentor. In that case, you will become better: a better attorney, better employees, a better boss, know where you are going, and appreciate where you have been--you will hopefully also become a happier and better person. As you learn from Harrison, he hopes he will become your mentor.

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