A jury has ruled against a 37-year-old graduate of the Thomas Jefferson School of Law who claimed that the school defrauded her when she attended nearly a decade ago, The San Diego Union-Tribune reported.
A San Diego, California, jury ruled 9-3 in favor of the school, handing a victory to TJSL — since civil cases in that state don’t require a unanimous jury vote.
During the trial, a lawyer for the TJSL graduate, Anna Alaburda, argued that the school promoted a misleading employment rate for its graduates. That lawyer claimed TJSL neglected to disclose that many graduates it touted as “employed” were actually working in hair salons or bookstores, or even selling tractors, as the Union-Tribune reported.
The school defended itself by arguing that Alaburda had at one point turned down work and by contending that many of its graduates have successful careers in law.
The so-called Alaburda case is noteworthy.
It was the first case to go to trial that accused a law school of using inflated postgraduation-employment figures and salaries to defraud applicants.
Graduates of law schools filed more than a dozen proposed class-action lawsuits in 2011 and 2012 alone, according to The Wall Street Journal. These suits claimed that the schools defrauded graduates into thinking employment prospects were rosier than they really were.
When contacted for comment on Thursday, Brian Procel, a lawyer for Alaburda, did not mention whether his client would appeal the jury verdict.
“We are proud of the work we did on this case. We called attention to an issue that was not previously discussed,” Procel said in an email. “We are optimistic that future students will have access to better information when deciding to attend college or graduate school as a result of this case.”
Meanwhile, TJSL Dean Thomas Guernsey said the jury affirmed that the school didn’t falsify its postgraduation employment statistics.
“Today’s decision by the jury further validates our unwavering commitment to providing our students with the knowledge, skills and tools necessary to excel as law students, pass the bar exam and succeed in their professional careers,” the dean said in a prepared statement.
As Business Insider has previously reported, TJSL can provide an opportunity for aspiring lawyers who can’t get into more competitive schools.
But for her part, Alaburda claimed that her law school did not give her the tools she needed to succeed in the legal profession, on which she set her sights after graduating from New York University with a bachelor’s degree in 2002.
She decided on the San Diego-based TJSL after reading about its postgraduation statistics in its marketing brochures and in US News & World Report in 2003, according to the lawsuit.
US News & World Report said that “80.1 percent of students [at TJSL] were employed nine months after graduation,” according to the suit.
For comparison, Yale Law School, rated the No. 1 law school in the nation by US News, has a postgraduate employment rate of 88.2%, according to 2016 statistics.
Alaburda excelled at TJSL, graduating in the top tier of her class, according to a story about her case in The New York Times. She also passed the bar exam on her first attempt. She graduated from the school in 2008.
But despite her academic successes, she said, Alaburda has been unable to find full-time employment as a lawyer.
She has sent her résumé to more than 150 law firms and received only one job offer, which “was less favorable than non-law related jobs that were available to her,” the suit says.
In addition, Alaburda said, she graduated with $150,000 in student-loan debt — a figure that has since ballooned to $170,000 when accounting for interest.